For serious readers interested in keeping up with what serious thinkers are thinking about thinking, this book offers...

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THINKING

THE NEW SCIENCE OF DECISION-MAKING, PROBLEM-SOLVING, AND PREDICTION

Another compendium derived from the online salon Edge.com, this time essays from its section called “Mind.”

Literary agent and Edge founder Brockman (editor: This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works, 2013, etc.) assembles 16 pieces from academics and researchers in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, linguistics and statistics. Like Brockman’s other compendiums, this one presents an assortment of experts holding forth on what they know best, what research is revealing in their respective fields, and what the impact of that research may be. The book lacks an introduction, but more than half the pieces feature introductions by other experts, whose credentials are briefly cited, adding layers of authenticity to this assortment. The presentations vary in style and complexity, with some decidedly more challenging than others. Daniel Dennett’s “The Normal Well-Tempered Mind” is a well-delivered lecture, as are Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s “The Adolescent Brain” and Daniel Kahneman’s “The Marvels and the Flaws of Intuitive Thinking.” Simon Baron-Cohen’s “Testosterone on My Mind and in My Brain” is a talk before members of the London cultural scene that concludes with a lively question-and-answer session with the distinguished audience. “The New Science of Morality,” which is labeled a conference, features a series of speeches by seven researchers delving into questions in the field of moral psychology. Especially engaging is Vilayanur Ramachandran’s “Adventures in Behavioral Neurology—or—What Neurology Can Tell Us about Human Nature,” in which the author looks inside the brain for the source of some mysterious syndromes. Much more demanding for lay readers is “The Fourth Quadrant: A Map of the Limits of Statistics” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

For serious readers interested in keeping up with what serious thinkers are thinking about thinking, this book offers nourishing food for thought.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-225854-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

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CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

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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