Authoritative and important.

BOND OF UNION

BUILDING THE ERIE CANAL AND THE AMERICAN EMPIRE

A comprehensive history of the building of the Erie Canal.

Author of Water for Gotham: A History (2000) and a contributor to Water-Works: The Architecture and Engineering of the New York City Water Supply (2006), former CBS News editor Koeppel continues to explore the subject of the Big Apple’s crucial connections to its waterways. The commitment to extensive research he brought to previous works is evident here as he ably tells the story of the many strong-willed visionaries who helped bring the Erie Canal into being. Chief among them was frontier merchant Jesse Hawley, who in 1807 wrote a series of essays from debtor’s prison expounding on his dream of an overland waterway. Possessing little education and no engineering background, Hawley studied books and maps to craft a plan for a canal to connect Lake Erie with the Hudson River. His essays caught the attention of many prominent New Yorkers, including surveyor and city planner Joseph Ellicott, influential businessman Elkanah Watson and Gov. De Witt Clinton, who began to argue forcefully, in the face of widespread skepticism, for the building of the canal. Koeppel details the political twists and turns that surrounded the conceptualizing, funding, engineering and building of the Erie Canal. Finally completed in 1825, it was the first major link between the seaboard states and the landlocked interior. It proved an unmitigated boon for merchants, and the author convincingly argues that the canal hastened the birth of America as a continental nation. At times, the level of detail can be daunting—the author spends several pages expounding on a controversy about a patent for waterproof cement, for example—but there is little doubt Koeppel’s history is the most complete and well-researched to date.

Authoritative and important.

Pub Date: March 15, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-306-81827-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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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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