A low-key, meandering memoir about an admired grandfather.

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WHEN MONEY WAS IN FASHION

HENRY GOLDMAN, GOLDMAN SACHS, AND THE FOUNDING OF WALL STREET

Henry Goldman’s granddaughter looks at his Wall Street accomplishments and his family life.

Of German Jewish heritage, Goldman wanted for little after his parents settled in the United States and combined with the similarly situated Sachs family to enter the investment-banking industry. Today the two families play little role in the influential investment bank at the center of so much recent controversy. Fisher does not stretch to offer contemporary relevance, other than noting that Wall Street has ridden out booms and busts before, some of them during her grandfather’s tenure. The author offers superficial anecdotes that suggest her grandfather was a financial genius whose backing led to the growth of not only Goldman Sachs, but also many corporations he backed, including Sears, Roebuck and Co., F.W. Woolworth, May Department Stores and the Studebaker Corporation. Frequently shifting her focus from the investment-banking realm, Fisher explores the souring of the social relationships between the Goldman and Sachs families, her grandfather’s acquisition of world-class art, his friendship with Albert Einstein and his financing of the career of child-prodigy violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Goldman found it difficult to let go of much of the conventional wisdom of the day, such as the support of the gold standard as the basis for the world economy; defense of the German state despite its predations before, during and after World War I; and the denial of virulent anti-Semitism around the globe. Goldman believed in tirelessly creating wealth for himself and his favored clients and would repeat the phrase, “Money is always in fashion.” At times the book reads more like a family album rather than a history of Wall Street.

A low-key, meandering memoir about an admired grandfather.

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-230-61750-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2010

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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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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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