A PIECE OF THE ACTION

HOW THE MIDDLE CLASS JOINED THE MONEY CLASS

A wonderful pudding of a book that serves up large helpings of US socioeconomic history over the past 35 years or so. The title and subtitle notwithstanding, GQ columnist Nocera never makes clear precisely what he means by the middle class. Nor does he provide a systematic reckoning on the financial times since 1958 (when BankAmerica launched what became the Visa credit card). What he does offer, though, are thoroughly engrossing takes on the breakthrough innovations that democratized America's monetary life. There are tellingly detailed briefings on the largely unsung creators of money-market mutual funds (including the first to give investors check-writing privileges), NOW accounts, negotiable CDs, no-load mutual funds, and other financial services that an affluent society now takes for granted. The author also profiles the bankers, Wall Streeters, and others who played leading roles in a revolution that profoundly altered Main Street's attitudes toward credit, debt, investment, and savings. Cases in point range from Peter Lynch (Fidelity's star portfolio manager until his 1990 retirement) through Charles Schwab (of discount brokerage fame), Citicorp's Walter Wriston, and Marshall Loeb (former editor of Money, which continues to overstate the rewards while minimizing the risks of do-it-yourself capitalism). Assessed as well are the convulsive consequences of Paul Volcker's conquest of inflation, deregulation of depository institutions, the stock market's 1987 crash, and the low interest rates that channeled increasing amounts of money into equities during the early 1990s. Conspicuous by its absence, though, is any sustained coverage of the S&L scandals, insider trading, the takeover boom, junk bonds, the assets controlled by insurance companies, derivative securities products, exchange-listed options, futures contracts, and allied aspects of the domestic financial scene. Even so, Nocera delivers a savvy rundown on the landmark developments that in less than four decades have made consumer finance a multilateral bazaar in which beating the markets is a populist pastime.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-66756-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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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