In Zweig’s fascinating world, the limelight doesn’t hold a candle to the satisfaction of hard work well done.

INVISIBLES

THE POWER OF ANONYMOUS WORK IN AN AGE OF RELENTLESS SELF-PROMOTION

An encouraging salute to the world behind the scenes, where the “Invisibles” allow the show to go on.

Journalist Zweig suggests, with considerable merit, that, in our culture of wanting it all, we have forgotten the hard work of getting there—that to be Tom Brady quarterbacking on Sunday, you must also be a game-film drudge and a gym rat. More to the point, that invisible work has its own beauty and meaning. The author points to people who take pride in elevating anything to an art, who lose and find themselves in projects that make a significant impact on our lives, leaving us happy while delivering the pleasure and self-respect from doing the job properly. Zweig profiles a handful of highly skilled individuals “whose roles are critical to whatever enterprise they are part of”—e.g., the perfumer behind Sean Combs’ fragrance Unforgivable (Combs became “the first male celebrity with a prestige cologne”); the structural engineer who enables the architect’s vision of a skyscraper; and, perhaps most impressive, the U.N interpreter who “hears one language, interprets it into another language in her head, then speaks the new language while at the same time continuing to listen to and interpret the next lines of the original language, a practice known as simultaneous interpretation….As long as the speaker is talking, she is interpreting.” Zweig notes three traits that these unsung individuals possess: responsibility, meticulousness and ambivalence regarding recognition. These traits are fine, to be sure, but the author’s vignettes really drive the point home. Guitar tech, fact checker, piano tuner, cinematographer, ghostwriter et al.—it is workmanship, curiosity, demanding internal standards, deep immersion and cooperative instincts that bring a rewarding life.

In Zweig’s fascinating world, the limelight doesn’t hold a candle to the satisfaction of hard work well done.

Pub Date: June 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59184-634-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more