An examination of how the A&P food stores dominated American retailing decades before Wal-Mart.

Levinson (The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, 2006, etc.) delves into the origin and growth of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, known informally at "the A&P." It began as a little tea shop in New York City in the mid 1860s, the brainchild of businessmen George Gilman and George Huntington Hartford. But as the shop grew into several and then many, with far more diverse merchandise than tea, the Hartford family became identified as the scions of the A&P, eclipsing the Gilman name and accumulating massive personal wealth. Throughout the narrative, Levinson demonstrates how innovative retailing strategies and price-cutting to force out mom-and-pop competitors hurt local economies while simultaneously making food more convenient and affordable to purchase for individual consumers. The end result, the supermarket, counted as the fourth retailing revolution through which the Hartfords guided the A&P. In the 1890s, they had altered a tea company into a grocery-store chain. In the second stage, just before World War I, they changed the grocery business from a haphazard enterprise of uncertain profitability into a large-scale operation with costs and prices carefully monitored. The third stage began in 1925, as they instituted the concept of vertical integration to benefit from economies of scale and raise profit margins by increasing sales volume. Mom-and-pop businesses, championed by Texas Congressman Wright Patman, fought the increasing domination of the A&P, and President Roosevelt's antitrust lawyers also sought to diminish the giant retailer's oligopoly. But it was not until the deaths of the Hartford brothers that the A&P began a decline that Levinson considers surprisingly precipitous. The decade of the 1960s sealed the company's unhappy fate, as other supermarket chains, plus Wal-Mart, became ascendant. A well-conceived, lively history with obvious contemporary relevance.


Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9543-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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