Easterbrook’s assurances, however well-based, will ring hollow for many, but it’s an argument worth considering.

IT'S BETTER THAN IT LOOKS

REASONS FOR OPTIMISM IN AN AGE OF FEAR

Cheer up, world: we’re killing each other less, except in our cars, and living in a boom. Thus this contrarian pep talk by longtime Atlantic contributor Easterbrook (The Game’s Not Over: In Defense of Football, 2015, etc.).

Optimism is out of style, but by the author’s account, it shouldn’t be. When Donald Trump came into office, the unemployment rate was low enough that the number “would have caused economists of the 1970s to fall to their knees and kiss the ground.” Just so, crime is down almost everywhere, inflation is low, food cheap, fuel abundant despite dire warnings of peak resources. Even so, writes Easterbrook, Trump rose on a wave of warnings that America was going to hell in a handbasket, and he had a willing audience that accepted his dire admonitions without question. Why? Well, argues the author usefully, nations as well as people feel their age, and an aging society is naturally going to subscribe to the “declinist” view that things now are worse than when they were in its youth. One has only to go to an American city to see that things are vibrant, blessedly quiet compared to the clamor of a city in the developing nations, and blessedly pollution-free compared to other parts of the world. In his somewhat scattershot argument enumerating all the good things that are going on, though, Easterbrook sometimes inadvertently offers support for the gloomy view. For instance, while it may not be true that American jobs are being shipped off to China, it is true that in China, the same jobs no longer exist for humans because robots are doing them. That gloomy view is unhealthy, he suggests, especially in its Trumpian manifestations of white victimhood, which has little basis in reality but still channels those declinist feelings into widespread aggrievement.

Easterbrook’s assurances, however well-based, will ring hollow for many, but it’s an argument worth considering.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61039-741-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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