A skillfully written and emotionally engaging account of buying and selling houses.



A veteran real estate agent shares stories and lessons from her career.

In this professional memoir, Sheehan, the author of Wang Kuo-Wei: An Intellectual Biography(1986), recounts tales from her years in residential real estate—her second profession, following an academic career focused on Chinese history. The stories in this book range from the mundane to the absurd to the heartwarming, and Sheehan uses them to explain her overall philosophy of real estate success and also to counsel readers who may be considering the purchase or sale of a house themselves. The book explores the challenge of being both a salesperson and a therapist for some clients, the difficulties involved in bringing all parties together for an agreement, and the satisfaction of developing one’s knowledge and skills over the course of many years. The clients in these stories, who are fully anonymized, represent a wide variety of personalities, motivations, and financial situations. Her fellow realtors are variously portrayed as allies, opponents, or merely marking time until retirement, and Sheehan makes it clear that she has little patience for those who don’t share her sense of ethics and professional responsibility. But although some of the tales here focus on bad behavior, the book never takes a salacious or gossipy tone, and Sheehan's evident sympathy for her clients—even when their indecisiveness and capriciousness cost her time and money—turns even the most outrageous accounts into object lessons.

Sheehan is a proficient storyteller, and she turns her tales of last-minute negotiations, questionable septic systems, and stubbornly overpriced fixer-uppers into high drama: “I had never seen fungus on an interior wall before,” she notes at one point, “much less redfungus.” The book is informative as well as entertaining, and readers will come away with solid knowledge about home inspections and contingencies, purchase and sale agreements, and the intricacies of setting a correct price when a property enters the market. Buying or selling a home is as much an emotional transaction as a financial one, and Sheehan gives full weight to the significance of the process for all parties involved. She also displays a soft spot for the houses themselves, arguing that a buyer or seller may be wrong about a place’s worth, but the house itself is never at fault. The author’s repeated references to the prestigiousness of various properties can be grating; one, for instance, is described as being “on Crestview Lane, one of my sales region’s most desirable addresses,” and several others are noted as being “upscale” or “luxury” homes. However, these descriptors can also be taken as evidence of Sheehan’s clear pride in her work. The book’s tone also tends toward the extravagant (“Aside from a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, is there anything more beautiful than this?”), but it generally avoids melodrama and makes for a fast-paced and enjoyable read. Overall, she manages to turn even the most difficult parts of the real estate process into good stories.

A skillfully written and emotionally engaging account of buying and selling houses.

Pub Date: May 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64704-329-2

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Canterbury Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2021

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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