As is usual with Ariely, the dismal science is rendered anything but dismal with the use of provocative real-world examples...

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AMAZING DECISIONS

THE ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO IMPROVING BUSINESS DEALS AND FAMILY MEALS

Ariely (Psychology and Behavioral Economics/Duke Univ.; Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, 2016, etc.) and illustrator Trower break ranks to show that money isn’t everything.

There are social norms, and there are market norms. The two do not always coincide: People do things in the market for financial reasons, but they do things in the social sphere out of love, loyalty, desire, and other nonmonetary considerations. According to the author, deciding which norm to put to work is the basis of good decision-making. In an early example in this engagingly illustrated graphic tour, Ariely depicts a character who decides that it’s only right to reward his in-laws with cash in return for their having cooked him a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner. Such a person would rightly be thought a clod even though he would err in the other direction by leaving a restaurant without paying. Situational thinking, then, is in order, and as Ariely’s “social fairy” alerts the poor guy, “you completely missed the point of a social exchange.” Ariely provides a number of other examples, based on economic research, showing that people are not always motivated by money, even in the marketplace. A simple cash bonus often does not prompt better productivity, while a meaning-laden, human expression of appreciation goes a long way. Ariely counsels that thinking about where values and rewards align is the proper way to arrive at decisions about how to motivate workers, how to encourage charitable donations and voting, and other such things. As he writes, winningly, “we can strategically use social norms or market norms to encourage people to act in the best interests of themselves, those around them, and their world as a whole.”

As is usual with Ariely, the dismal science is rendered anything but dismal with the use of provocative real-world examples of how people actually do things outside of the textbooks.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-10376-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

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CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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