Fool’s gold would be too generous a description.

READ REVIEW

GOLD!

THE STORY OF THE 1848 GOLD RUSH AND HOW IT SHAPED A NATION

An uneven study of the California Gold Rush.

Former New York Times columnist Rosen (Cremation in America, not reviewed) argues that the Gold Rush changed American culture and character, and well as the essence of the American Dream. Before the 1848 discovery of gold in California, Americans were more apt to believe in diligence and hard work. If you did not achieve material success in this world, well, no worries: God would reward you in Heaven. Then suddenly it was possible for anyone, regardless of merit, birth or intelligence, to make big bucks. The author suggests that this get-rich-quick mentality persisted throughout the 20th century and that it explains everything from stock-market crashes to the dot.com explosion of the ’90s. Less innovatively, he argues that the Gold Rush accelerated the growth and development of America, as antebellum railroad barons fell over themselves to lay tracks across the continent. Too many shortcomings diminish the sparkle of Rosen’s argument. The prose is mediocre. Occasionally, lovely turns of phrase are greatly outnumbered by awkward clinkers straight out of a high-school term paper (“regardless of the president’s policies, what no one in the world of the 1850s disagreed with was that the president of the Untied States told the truth”). The self-indulgent autobiographical preface and epilogue are out of place and irrelevant, and Rosen never adequately explains or interprets the many long quotations from primary sources.

Fool’s gold would be too generous a description.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-56025-680-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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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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