Not exactly an independent point of view but one that will surely provoke much curiosity.

BERKSHIRE BEYOND BUFFETT

THE ENDURING VALUE OF VALUES

Cunningham (Business Law/George Washington Univ.; Contracts in the Real World: Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They Matter, 2012, etc.) discusses whether Berkshire Hathaway, the investment vehicle for billionaire Warren Buffett, will outlive the death of its founder and why.

As the editor and publisher of Buffett's annual letters to Berkshire's shareholders and someone who knows his subject personally, the author will no doubt be considered an authoritative source by most readers. Cunningham also consulted with other Berkshire insiders, including owners—e.g., Buffett's son Howard, a co-director of Berkshire, and Buffett’s partner, Charlie Munger, formerly of Wesco Financial—and managers of operating subsidiaries. The author provides a full history and profile of Berkshire's major subsidiaries, as well as the company's Class A shareholders. Cunningham isn’t just interested in the history of Buffett and Berkshire, however. He is in search of the protective “moat” that shelters Buffett's creation from competitors seeking to increase their market shares. Initially, the author thought it might be Buffett himself or that it was predicated on the “float” of his insurance companies (the difference between claims paid out and premiums paid in). The author concludes that Berkshire is protected by its unique culture, which constitutes its potential for survival. Organizationally complex and “highly decentralized,” with twice the number of separate business units as General Electric, Berkshire embraces family-owned businesses, like Benjamin Moore Paints, as well as self-starters. It is a publicly quoted company that also owns private companies and franchises like Dairy Queen. Cunningham believes that the disparate businesses are held together by their shared beliefs about the ethical purposes and responsibilities of business. These traits have also combined to allow them to successfully avoid the pitfalls of buyouts, asset stripping, public offerings and indebtedness.

Not exactly an independent point of view but one that will surely provoke much curiosity.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0231170048

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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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