A deeply researched and nicely handled biography.



A study of the Founding Father encapsulating some of the early American values of industry, parsimony, and prudence.

It’s no surprise that George Washington was a prosperous man, from landed Virginia gentry to building and growing Mount Vernon. Historian Lengel (Thunder and Flames: Americans in the Crucible of Combat, 1917-1918, 2015, etc.), whose stewardship of Washington’s papers at the University of Virginia allows him intimate access into his subject’s mindset, emphasizes the founder’s motivating belief that a free exchange of virtuous interests would ultimately unite the young country. Owning land was the first definer of wealth in the Colonies, and in his capacities as surveyor and land investor, Washington also understood the necessity of harnessing the growth of tobacco. Marriage to the wealthy widow Martha Custis “offered George a shortcut to fortune” and greatly increased his vast acreage, allowing the couple and her children to live rather luxuriously, even frivolously, until the Revolution tempered Washington’s ideas about self-sufficiency and frugality. Henceforth, the not terribly educated but creative and incisive Virginian resolved to replace tobacco at Mount Vernon with wheat, thereby skirting British merchants directly, and he also added an innovative gristmill so the wheat and flour could be sold domestically. Washington’s own road to economic freedom mirrored that of the nascent nation. In his delineation of Washington’s role as military chief, Lengel makes some compelling assertions about the general, especially when he was mired in Valley Forge with scant supplies and a mutinous army. “Money is the sinews of war,” Washington declared, advocating for soldiers’ wages, eliminating waste, upholding transparency, and even establishing at the fort a “public market” with local farmers and tradespeople to sell directly to the army. The author organically traces the evolution of Washington’s free market thinking through his first and second presidential terms: building a national economy, encouraging domestic manufacturing, establishing a central bank, and developing a sense of unity of purpose.

A deeply researched and nicely handled biography.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-306-82347-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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


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

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