Solid raw material with plenty of value added. Just the thing for economics wonks, then, but lively enough to make for good...

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AN EMPIRE OF WEALTH

THE EPIC HISTORY OF AMERICAN ECONOMIC POWER

Forget about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: American history is all about the Benjamins.

America’s present poised-for-empire stance is the logical consequence of American supremacy in the marketplace, writes financial historian Gordon (A Thread Across the Ocean, 2002, etc.). It’s not only that the present economy is so vast and so varied, but also that “virtually every major development in technology in the 20th century—which was far and away the most important century in the history of technology—originated in the US or was principally industrialized and turned into consumer products here.” It has not always been so, Gordon goes on to report. But he makes it clear that the European presence on the North American continent, in a variety of successive regimes, has always involved finance somewhere in the equation; as Gordon notes, Columbus’s expedition included an accountant, the Jamestown settlement was a corporate venture, the founding of the Carolinas was a result of an overcrowded sugarcane industry in the Caribbean, and so forth. Some of what Gordon writes about is not news, but he brings considerable nuance to bear on his interpretations of our history: Massachusetts was able to take the world lead in shipbuilding, he writes by way of example, because, although its labor costs were very high, its material costs were so low that “New England could build a ship for about half the cost of building one in England,” and this helped build an American economy that would soon become self-sufficient—one more reason not to be governed from abroad. Gordon’s narrative is full of rich data on such matters as the growth of the transcontinental railroads, the origin of income and other common taxes, the abandonment of the gold standard, the rise of the consumer economy, and—most interesting of all—economic misjudgments and their reverberations throughout history.

Solid raw material with plenty of value added. Just the thing for economics wonks, then, but lively enough to make for good airplane reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-009362-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2004

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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