Less a guide to success in relationships, creativity, or even business than an astute analysis of problem-solving.



An appealing pop-science guide to creativity.

Books on problem-solving, including this one, tend to be directed toward aspiring businesspeople, but Economist senior editor Cukier and business school professors Mayer-Schönberger and de Vericourt offer a text that should have wider appeal. Unlike animals and computers, humans do not make decisions according to fixed rules. We operate with a mental model of a situation, a frame, that becomes critical when solving problems. Among the authors’ numerous illustrative anecdotes is the story of Nokia. For decades, handsets steadily became smaller, cheaper, and more convenient. That was the model, and Nokia led in sales. When Apple introduced the “bulkier, pricier, and buggier” iPhone in 2008, many companies did not realize that Apple had reframed the model, and Nokia barely escaped bankruptcy Although an accepted tenet in psychology for a century, framing entered the mainstream only when human intelligence bumped up against the limitation of computers. Computers calculate, solve complex problems, and even learn, but they remain helpless without human input: “AI is brilliant at answering what is asked; framers pose questions never before voiced. Computers work only in a world that exists; humans live in ones they imagine through framing.” This incredibly efficient means to reaching a decision requires three key elements: “causal thinking,” which predicts in advance what an action will produce; “counterfactuals,” which serve as “a form of dreaming—but wisely channeled, deliberately focused”; and “constraints,” which place limits on our imagination, allowing us to focus on actions that matter. The authors conclude with a long plea for pluralism, “friction,” and diversity in business, our personal lives, and society as a whole. “Uniformity is the end of successful framing,” they write. While tribalism and groupthink remain the default modes for many humans, the authors put forth solid theories supported by scientific researchers, educators, expert consultants, philosophers, and other thinkers.

Less a guide to success in relationships, creativity, or even business than an astute analysis of problem-solving.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18259-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 14

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist


A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?