A masterly work best suited to those who study marketing and are undaunted by the dense, detailed narrative.

EMPIRE OF THINGS

HOW WE BECAME A WORLD OF CONSUMERS, FROM THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY TO THE TWENTY-FIRST

A wide-ranging exposition of the human life of buying, selling, and trading from the Renaissance until now.

This book is the result of a lifelong study of man and his need to acquire, and Trentmann (History/Birkbeck Coll., Univ. of London; Free Trade Nation: Commerce, Consumption, and Civil Society in Modern Britain, 2008, etc.), who directed Birkbeck’s Cultures of Consumption research program, seems to cover every single aspect of trade and markets since the Renaissance. He begins with early Ming dynasty China and 17th-century England and the Netherlands. The Black Death created a new labor market, raising wages, making for cheaper goods, and fostering the growth of the middle classes. The discovery of the New World brought Spanish silver to the marketplaces, monetizing trade for travelers to the Far East as well as those in Europe. New settlers provided cheap new commodities and an additional customer base. Class distinction plays an enormous part in consumerism, especially the way people dressed. The elite demanded sumptuary laws to prevent lower classes from dressing above their stations. Novelty was the fuel for consumer societies, fed by adaptation, innovation, and imitation. As people moved to the cities, their desire for goods only increased. It’s hard to find an area the author missed, though he is distressed over having to omit Brazil. Throughout the book, the quotes from economists demonstrate how the values of things change, from being defined by the producer to being demanded by the consumer. The growth of literacy and the arrival of piped water, gas, and electricity all worked together over the years to make a field of study as broad as can be imagined. In an exceedingly comprehensive, overlong narrative, Trentmann takes it all in and explains the importance of coffee, tea, cotton, pensions, credit cards, and household waste. Most fascinating, perhaps, is how little the facts of consumerism have changed over centuries.

A masterly work best suited to those who study marketing and are undaunted by the dense, detailed narrative.

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-245632-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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

NIGHT

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...

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

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