Stimulating reading for those seeking enlightenment and joyfulness throughout middle age.



Exploring the struggle for satisfaction at midlife.

Brookings Institution senior fellow and Atlantic contributing editor Rauch (Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy, 2015, etc.) profiles an assortment of individuals who found themselves discontented in their 40s and 50s. Their lives had followed a classic trajectory: energized with motivation in their 20s and flush with responsibilities throughout their 30s, they eventually experienced a drastic downswing in happiness and fulfillment that proved challenging to overcome. In Rauch’s search for answers, he gleans perspectives from everyday people, notables such as former blogger Andrew Sullivan and historical figures such as landscape painter Thomas Cole. Also illuminating are the author’s frank reflections on his own personal life. While Rauch stresses that the scientific phenomenon of the “U-shaped life-satisfaction curve” is real and the midlife disillusionment slump perfectly natural, he also acknowledges the ways in which to counterbalance its effects and find an optimistic vantage point. “Time and aging fight happiness in midlife,” he writes, “then switch sides.” Rauch examines the nuances of human contentedness through the work of several “happiness economics” researchers who determined that social, not material, factors were most at play when measuring the happiness of people in later life, and he notes that the “curve” of midlife dissatisfaction is not necessarily an inevitability for everyone. Rauch’s keen research, partly based on statistical and polled data yet more largely substantiated by interviews and profiles of everyday people, documents how happiness levels trend downward as midlife approaches but also charts a return to enjoyment, wisdom, and an uptick in overall fulfillment once midlife is crested. He convincingly scrutinizes this harmonic resurgence of overall satisfaction (a “rebirth of gratitude”), attested to by survey respondents who attributed it to stress reduction and emotional regulation. This uplifting report offers hope and encouragement for aging readers doubting the longevity of bliss.

Stimulating reading for those seeking enlightenment and joyfulness throughout middle age.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-07880-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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