A timely study that will help readers interpret the headlines, though it offers little comfort to those hoping for a quick...



Should we feel better that the chairman of the Federal Reserve is an authority on the Great Depression?

Perhaps so, suggests Belgium-based economist Van Overtveldt (The Chicago School: How the University of Chicago Assembled the Thinkers Who Revolutionized Economics and Business, 2007)—if only because Ben Bernanke is more sensitive to market movements and trends and more forthright in his assessments of them than his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, whose gnomic public utterances were “usually vague and restrained.” The central bank that both headed is, at least as ideally conceived, responsible for helping maintain the overall health of financial conditions that drive the economy. Yet the power of the Fed has grown, perhaps unintentionally, and it has become less accountable, more secretive and obscure, and perhaps less effective. Van Overtveldt examines this evolution in light of the current financial crisis, noting provocatively that whereas Greenspan was once viewed as something of an economic magician and an exemplary manager of money, “recently…there has been a considerable re-evaluation of some of his decisions.” As a regulator, the author writes, Greenspan was mediocre. But previous efforts to regulate diligently, guided by Keynesian views that neglected the supply side, were none too successful either, impeded by the politics of self-interest and greed. Van Overtveldt’s enumeration of the succession of crises that Greenspan oversaw will make the reader wonder why anyone ever held him in esteem; this account also does much to explain the actions that Bernanke has been taking of late. The author’s analysis of savings rates, deficits, monetary contraction and other matters, backed by ample graphs and plenty of hard data, is not for the numerically faint of heart, but it is accessible. Van Overtveldt is particularly clear when he examines pronouncements on the part of both Bernanke and Greenspan that he considers “spectacularly wrong.”

A timely study that will help readers interpret the headlines, though it offers little comfort to those hoping for a quick solution to the present mess.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-932841-37-4

Page Count: 264

Publisher: B2 Books/Agate

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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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 timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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