Brown’s concrete, common-sense approach makes this book a useful reference.

An enthusiastic writing coach offers practical support.

In this upbeat self-help book, Brown gives advice for putting words together effectively and efficiently. She covers hundreds of different tasks, from resignation letters to classified ads, obituaries to wedding vows, Twitter posts to press releases. Her “proven process” takes the form of a spinner whose arrow points to one of six words indicating stages in the writing process: purpose, reader, brainstorm, organize, draft, revise. Writing rarely proceeds in a linear fashion, she writes, and she encourages writers to start anywhere: “You can start by brainstorming. You can start by writing an outline. You can start by drafting….The real key to success is not going through these six steps in any particular order but simply in ensuring that you’ve touched all these bases at least once.” For most of the writing tasks she considers, Brown shows both successful and unsuccessful samples. Weak pieces fail to consider the writer’s goals, have little sense of a reader’s needs, unintentionally convey a negative or hostile attitude, or use vague generalizations rather than concrete details. Although she doesn’t cover grammar, Brown insists that every piece of writing needs to be proofread—even emails. Up-to-the-minute sections cover personal blog entries, online reviews and Facebook status updates. The section on writing at school seems more appropriate to high school assignments than the analytical and critical essays required in college classes. More helpful is advice on how to write a high school work resume and an internship application letter, tasks that students often find daunting. The author brings considerable experience as a business-writing consultant to a section on writing at work, including Power Point presentations, minutes, job descriptions, cover letters and candidate rejection letters. Besides hints for language, content and organization, she reminds readers of the legal consequences of what they put in writing.

Brown’s concrete, common-sense approach makes this book a useful reference.

Pub Date: April 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-24014-6

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014


Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


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

Close Quickview