A keen assessment of one of society’s secret shames and its little-understood consequences.

CLUTTER

AN UNTIDY HISTORY

A veteran journalist explores our messy lives.

In this illuminating sociological study, Howard, a former contributing editor and columnist for the Washington Post, begins with the discovery that her mother had been living for years in a hoarder’s den. “Squalor and chaos have infiltrated every room—upstairs, downstairs, attic, basement,” she writes. “No space has been left untouched.” Howard then delves into the sordid history of clutter, looking at the intriguing case study of Homer and Langley Collyer, whose Harlem brownstone, in the 1920s and ’30s, “became a death trap of neck-high junk, including hundreds of thousands of newspapers.” In 1947, Langley was crushed under the clutter; Homer, “blind and bedridden and dependent on his brother, starved to death.” The author also explores how industrialization helped create the birth of consumer culture as well as the complex psychology of overconsumption in modern-day capitalism. Howard’s research is thorough, and the prose is clear, well written, and inviting rather than being judgmental, even if she’s exploring complex issues such as activism, entrepreneurship, and the potential impact of clutter on the future of the planet. In addition to her historical narrative and contemporary analysis, the author includes commentary from a variety of interesting characters, including New Yorker and Kirkus Prize–winning cartoonist Roz Chast, British author Matt Haig (“there is, in the current world, an excess of everything”), and even Oscar Wilde: “Have nothing in your house that is not useful or beautiful; if such a rule were followed out, you would be astonished at the amount of rubbish you would get rid of.” Like George Carlin’s infamous riff on “A Place for My Stuff,” Howard’s exploration of one dark corner of consumer culture is quick-witted and insightful—and, appropriately for the subject, refreshingly concise. The author also discusses the phenomenon of the “mild-mannered Japanese organizing guru” Marie Kondo.

A keen assessment of one of society’s secret shames and its little-understood consequences.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948742-72-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Belt Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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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A fond remembrance of a glamorous, bygone era.

MY TRAVELS WITH MRS. KENNEDY

A follow-up to the bestselling Mrs. Kennedy and Me.

Teaming up again with his co-author (now wife) on previous books, Hill, a distinguished former Secret Service agent, remembers his days traveling the world as Jacqueline Kennedy’s trusted bodyguard. After John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Hill received a medal for valor in protecting the president and his wife, Jackie, from Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullets. Later, the medal vanished along with photos of the author's travels with Mrs. Kennedy as a Secret Service bodyguard. Hill recounts how his search for an old award he never wanted yielded an even greater treasure: forgotten images of his globe-trotting adventures with the first lady. The photographs—some in color, some in black and white—immediately transported the bewitched author back to the glittering heyday of Camelot. Images of Jackie in Paris brought memories of the president’s first major state excursion to France, in 1961, where the otherwise very private first lady was “the center of all attention.” Numerous other diplomatic trips followed—to England, Greece, India, Pakistan, and across South America. Everything Jackie did, from visiting ruined temples to having lunch with Queen Elizabeth, was headline news. Hill dutifully protected her from gawkers and paparazzi not only on public occasions, but also more private ones such as family retreats to the Amalfi Coast and the Kennedys’ country home in Middleburg, Virginia. In three short years, the never-romantic bond between the two deepened to a place “beyond friendship” in which “we could communicate with each other with a look or a nod….She knew that I would do whatever she asked—whether it was part of my job as a Secret Service agent or not.” Replete with unseen private photos and anecdotes of a singular relationship, the book will appeal mostly to American historians but also anyone interested in the private world inhabited by one of the most beguiling but enigmatic first ladies in American history.

A fond remembrance of a glamorous, bygone era.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982181-11-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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