A highly readable combination of significant topic, deep reporting, endlessly fascinating anecdotes, and vivid writing.



The former executive editor of the New York Times examines how and why American journalism has changed drastically in the past decade and what those changes mean for an informed citizenry.

Better than many in her business, Abramson (The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout, 2011, etc.) understands the roiling craft of journalism from the inside. Refreshingly, she writes candidly about her own complicated role in the tsunami of change washing over the industry. In 1979, prominent journalist David Halberstam published The Powers That Be, which looked at a then-turning point in American news media, specifically as related to the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, CBS News, and Time Inc. Abramson notes that Halberstam’s book influenced her to choose journalism as a career, and now she has adopted Halberstam’s structure to drive her latest work. To illuminate the current big picture, the author focuses on four news outlets: the New York Times, Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and Vice Media. She examines these contemporary news organizations at three different intervals since the financial meltdown of 2008, and the fifth presence looming over the narrative is Facebook—and its billions of users. As Abramson delves into the Washington Post, one of the surprising positive elements (in a sea of negatives) is the ownership of Jeff Bezos, whose substantial cash infusions have brought growth, quality, and hope to the newsroom. Regarding her beloved New York Times, Abramson offers a cautionary tale, but she understands that the newspaper, in print and online, still sets the standard of quality in many ways. As for BuzzFeed’s transformation from a lighthearted digital playground to a serious news presence, the author seems impressed. Vice, on the other hand, comes in for harsher treatment, mostly due to founder Shane Smith’s refusal to truly understand news and his oversight of a misogynistic culture. The author also deftly weaves in important information about Breitbart, the Drudge Report, and other relevant outlets.

A highly readable combination of significant topic, deep reporting, endlessly fascinating anecdotes, and vivid writing.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2320-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


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 declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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