Next book

X + Y

A MATHEMATICIAN'S MANIFESTO FOR RETHINKING GENDER

A carefully developed argument that urges us to discuss character traits without reference to gender.

Can mathematics break down barriers to entry—in markets, in society—imposed by gender? Mathematician and math popularizer Cheng takes a positive view.

“Math isn’t just about getting the right answers; it’s about dreaming up different worlds in which different things can be true.” The author writes inductively of her experiences as a woman in a field dominated by men to arrive at an alternate world in which gender is not a determinant in who fails, who succeeds, who has access, and who does not. A specialist in category theory—a branch of mathematics in which theories and not theorems govern—Cheng proposes that many arguments about supposed gender absolutes can be reframed. For example, she breaks down the logical implications in the syllogism that says that men are better at math than women, because they are better at systematizing—ergo, “being a man implies being better at math.” But what if the frame were moved to encourage decomposition of the terms? “Men have been observed to be statistically more likely to be stronger at systemizing than empathizing, for some very specific definitions of these words,” a strength that often resolves in ways such that “we might expect more men than women to become mathematicians.” The onus is not on numeracy but instead on structures that push people into different endeavors. In a spry—and not number-heavy—text, Cheng suggests that inherent ability is not as important as how math is generally taught: the ponderous lecturer at the front of the class, the mostly bewildered students trying to follow along. She proposes a “congressive,” group-oriented solution to problem-solving to replace the “ingressive” model, which presupposes that learning is a sort of Darwinian matter of survival of the fittest. Most truisms about gender difference, she notes, are “because of bias, not biology,” and the reframing she suggests makes this bias clear.

A carefully developed argument that urges us to discuss character traits without reference to gender.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5416-4650-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

Next book

WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

Next book

WHAT WENT WRONG WITH CAPITALISM

Sure to generate debate, and of special interest to adherents of free market capitalism.

A book-length assertion that capitalism’s woes can be traced to government interventionism.

Sharma, an investments manager, financial journalist, and author of The 10 Rules of Successful Nations, The Rise and Fall of Nations, and other books, opens with the case of his native India. The author argues that it should be in a better position in the global marketplace, possessing an entrepreneurial culture and endless human capital. The culprit was “India’s lingering attachment to a state that overpromises and under-delivers,” one that privileged social welfare over infrastructure development. Much the same is true in the U.S., where today “President Joe Biden is promising to fix the crises of capitalism by enlarging a government that never shrank.” Refreshingly, Sharma places just as much blame on Ronald Reagan for the swollen state that introduced distortions into the market. Moreover, “flaws that economists blame on ‘market failures,’ including wealth inequality and inordinate corporate power, often flow more from government excesses.” One distortion is the government’s bloated debt, as it continues to fund itself by borrowing in order to pay for “the perennial deficit.” As any household budget manager would tell you, debt is ultimately unsustainable. Wealth concentration is another outcome of government tinkering that has, whether by design or not, concentrated wealth into the hands of a very small number of people, “a critical symptom of capitalism gone wrong, both inefficient and grossly unfair.” Perhaps surprisingly, Sharma notes that in quasi-socialist economies such as the Scandinavian nations, such interventions are fewer and shallower, while autocratic command economies are doomed to fail. “[T]oday every large developed country is a full-fledged democracy,” he writes, and the more freedom the better—but that freedom, he argues, is undermined by the U.S. government, which has accrued “the widest budget deficit in the developed world.”

Sure to generate debate, and of special interest to adherents of free market capitalism.

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9781668008263

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

Close Quickview