A fascinating, vigorously argued work that probes deeply into the way “WEIRD people” think.




The chair of the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard limns the social and mental conditions that have made the West wealthy.

Other writers, notably Carlo Cipolla, have linked the rise of literacy to prosperity in the developed world. Henrich takes the argument further to correlate it to being “WEIRD”—i.e., "Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic.” Literacy is a major component, especially the Protestant literacy that placed the vernacular Bible into the hands of individuals, emphasized free will, and encouraged the cultivation of individual traits and interests. So it is that Westerners—and members of societies that have emulated the West, such as Japan—also have peculiar, novel, and relatively recent mental markers, including a bias toward the right hemisphere of the brain and for analytical processing of data in the place of “broad configurations and gestalt patterns.” There are emotional and sociological sequelae, including the development of cultures that favor guilt over shame and of notions of justice and social organization that accord high levels of trust to strangers as opposed to kin-based groups. This last represents a significant break with primate tradition, with its preference for “kin altruism.” There are all kinds of wrinkles to this engrossing story, which Henrich illustrates with graphs and charts. Where there are high rates of cousin marriage, he writes, the more likely it is that people mistrust strangers; concomitantly, there are few “impersonal trust levels” that allow for the flourishing of credit and trade. Throughout, the author dives deep, even correlating the willingness to donate blood to the extension of kin altruism to those who aren’t related to us. “Many WEIRD people,” he writes, “have a set of folk beliefs that lead them to assume that any observed psychological differences among populations are due to economic differences.” In fact, the opposite is true: First come the psychological differences, then comes the money, which, the author allows, isn’t perfectly understood.

A fascinating, vigorously argued work that probes deeply into the way “WEIRD people” think.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-17322-7

Page Count: 747

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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


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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A cleareyed, concise look at current and future affairs offering pertinent points to reflect and debate.

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The CNN host and bestselling author delivers a pithy roundup of some of the inevitable global changes that will follow the current pandemic.

Examining issues both obvious and subtler, Zakaria sets out how and why the world has changed forever. The speed with which the Covid-19 virus spread around the world was shocking, and the fallout has been staggering. In fact, writes the author, “it may well turn out that this viral speck will cause the greatest economic, political, and social damage to humankind since World War II.” The U.S., in particular, was exposed as woefully unprepared, as government leadership failed to deliver a clear, practical message, and the nation’s vaunted medical institutions were caught flat-footed: "Before the pandemic…Americans might have taken solace in the country’s great research facilities or the huge amounts of money spent on health care, while forgetting about the waste, complexity and deeply unequal access that mark it as well." While American leaders wasted months denying the seriousness of Covid-19 and ignoring the advice of medical experts, other countries—e.g., South Korea, New Zealand, and Taiwan—acted swiftly and decisively, underscoring one of the author's main themes and second lesson: "What matters is not the quantity of government but the quality.” Discussing how “markets are not enough,” the author astutely shoots down the myth that throwing money at the problem can fix the situation; as such, he predicts a swing toward more socialist-friendly policies. Zakaria also delves into the significance of the digital economy, the resilience of cities (see the success of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taipei in suppressing the virus), the deepening of economic inequality around the world, how the pandemic has exacerbated the rift between China and the U.S. (and will continue to do so), and why “people should listen to the experts—and experts should listen to the people."

A cleareyed, concise look at current and future affairs offering pertinent points to reflect and debate.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-54213-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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