A rewarding exercise in understanding where we are and how we got there.



The sprawling saga of a national economy that has gone through several phases, the lion’s share of ownership becoming ever narrower.

Capital, writes economic historian Levy, is “the process through which a legal asset is invested with pecuniary value, in light of its capacity to yield a future pecuniary profit.” The word invested is an important component, since investment, the trust that the future will reward present outlay, is critical. In early U.S. history, the wherewithal for investment was limited to White men, who enjoyed the benefit of an economy fueled by slaves. Racial domination was central, effected in part by “an assortment of odd tasks that masters and overseers ingeniously invented to keep their slaves busy” when they were not harvesting cotton. The current doctrine—fomented primarily by evangelists and so-called conservatives—that poverty is the poor person’s fault goes back a surprisingly long time. Levy links it to the social Darwinism of the 1870s and ’80s. “What the social classes owed to each other was, essentially, nothing,” he writes of that doctrine. Union membership helped improve the lot of many workers in the decades following, but even so, a certain social Darwinism prevailed, through which one can detect the origins of pay disparity between White and minority workers and, especially, male and female workers. As Levy notes in this detailed, discursive narrative, union political power was grudgingly granted after the owners of capital battled workers endlessly: “Between 1880 and 1930, according to one estimate, U.S. courts would issue no less than 4,300 injunctions against labor union activity.” In time, though, union power would erode as Richard Nixon and other right-wing politicians exploited “white blue-collar dissatisfaction,” a divide-and-conquer motif that continues into the present. It helps to have some knowledge of economics to read this book, though it’s not essential. Levy is an uncommonly lucid interpreter of numbers and theories and a nimble explainer.

A rewarding exercise in understanding where we are and how we got there.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9501-5

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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Gucci demonstrates all the bravado and ferocious self-confidence that he counsels—and the photos are a nice bonus.


A hip-hop star who went on his first international tour wearing an ankle monitor explains how to succeed.

“The words you are about to read can help you,” writes Gucci. “That’s because there is truth in them. These are words of wisdom, like the Bible and its proverbs.” Unquestionably, Gucci likes to aim high, as many of his proverbs attest: “Stop Underestimating Yourself”; “Whatever You’re Thinking, Think Bigger”; “Nobody Cares. Work Harder”; “When They Sleep, I’m Grinding”; “Do More, Get More.” And never forget, “Women Are Brilliant.” Gucci not only shares his recipes for success. As in a cookbook that shows pictures of the end result, the author includes dozens of dazzling photos of himself and his beautiful wife, among them a series on his surprise wedding proposal at an Atlanta Hawks game. After the success of his bestselling debut, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane, Gucci has realized there is money to be made in the book business. In addition to the Bible, he has his eye on Malcolm Gladwell and his reported $5 million advances. While he is “cool with Malcolm Gladwell being more celebrated than me as an author…the difference between Malcolm Gladwell and me is that I’m going to make more money because I’m going to make so many books for my following….You can enjoy this book or not, but I’m going to make my fifty-second book, my hundred and eighth book.” Many readers will hope that one of them will be a diet book, as the 100-plus pounds Gucci has lost and kept off are a frequent topic—alas, he doesn’t reveal his weight loss secrets here. Until the next book, try to live the Gucci Mane way. “Avoid lazy and miserable people,” and “Find something to be excited about every day.”

Gucci demonstrates all the bravado and ferocious self-confidence that he counsels—and the photos are a nice bonus.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982146-78-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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