An imperfectly constructed but knowledgeable personal-finance book.

Stories of the Indebted

Newbery (Punk Rocker, 2016, etc.) shares stories of cleverly settled debt in this memoir.

During his career as a property owner in the early 2000s, the author accrued his fair share of debt; at one time, he writes, he owned more than 4,000 apartments across the United States. By dealing with his creditors and attempting to negotiate his way back into the black, he says that he learned how the American financial system is stacked against borrowers. Luckily, he also learned ways that borrowers can use that system to their advantage to escape huge amounts of debt without bankrupting themselves or losing their homes: “every debt has a unique set of circumstances,” Newbery explains, “and creditors are constantly making errors. You just need to find the errors and exploit them.” The best thing to do, he warns, is to not go into debt, but for those who already have, he offers some advice. He walks readers through a series of chapters that each deal with a peculiar debt scenario, and he shows how informed and assiduous debtors (real people, with names changed) extricated themselves with minimal damage. In one chapter, for instance, he recounts how he settled a $5.8 million debt for only $225,000. In another, he tells how he helped a friend avoid a foreclosure on her home with a passive-aggressive strategy of inaction. In a third, he reveals how a tumultuous breakup with his beloved Southwest credit card led to embarrassment while trying to pay a bill at an Olive Garden restaurant. Newbery clearly knows his stuff: the scenarios he describes are highly particular, and he spends time going into great detail, weighing the various options available to the person in question. However, his decision to offer lightly fictionalized anecdotes, rather than essays, is curious; they read like Socratic dialogues, and the artifice of the form is somewhat distracting. Even so, readers will be able to glean a great deal of helpful information from Newbery’s experiences, and they’ll walk away with a firmer understanding of the intricacies of his subject.

An imperfectly constructed but knowledgeable personal-finance book.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61961-491-8

Page Count: 166

Publisher: Community Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2016

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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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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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