An inspiring industrial comeback story infused with possibility.

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CAR WARS

THE RISE, THE FALL, AND THE RESURGENCE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR

An update on how the electric car is poised to emerge as the preferred, climate-friendly transportation of the future.

Fialka (Sisters: Catholic Nuns and The Making of America, 2003, etc.), a former writer for the Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau and founder of the online environmental publication ClimateWire, breathes new life into a topic that seems to perpetually run hot and cold: the production of clean-energy automobiles. With an inquisitive journalistic slant, the author integrates the electric car’s early beginnings into its current market resurgence. Of particular interest for readers not aware of the electric car’s enduring, seesawing struggle in the marketplace, Fialka offers a swift history reaching back to the development of early-20th-century hybrid models through subsequent decades, when innovative pioneers like Wally Rippel and Hans Tholstrup measured the power and performance of their energy-efficient inventions with prototype road racing. To their credit, manufacturing behemoth General Motors also investigated the feasibility of electric-car development even as the technology became plagued with endurance challenges and home-charging snafus and as gas prices slumped in the 1980s, making combustion engine–powered transportation more attractive. A decade later, Fialka took interest in the Clinton administration’s proposed idea for an electric-powered “Supercar,” which then positioned Al Gore’s climate change initiative directly against vehicles spewing harmful carbon dioxide emissions. The launching of the Toyota Prius and other breakthroughs in battery and fuel cell–driven technology further ushered in a new, ever durable era in electric automation—though progress was fraught with engineering challenges and competitiveness with the hyperlucrative oil industry staunchly “set in its ways.” Still, Fialka, along with pioneering innovators like Tesla’s Elon Musk, firmly predicts a true electric automobile (and motorbike) resurgence in 2016, manufactured by brand-name automakers and heavily endorsed by environmentalists. “In the end,” however, as he notes, “it will be consumers who wave the checkered flag.”

An inspiring industrial comeback story infused with possibility.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04870-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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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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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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