A smart and subtle delight—highly recommended for fans of cards and brain-hacking alike.

THE BIGGEST BLUFF

HOW I LEARNED TO PAY ATTENTION, MASTER MYSELF, AND WIN

Russian American writer and psychologist Konnikova explores the mathematically and psychologically rich world of high-stakes poker.

In her latest, the author opens at the World Series of Poker, where, “for a neat ten grand, anyone in the world can enter and take their shot at poker glory”—and a chance to win up to $9 million. Konnikova seeks to explore the fine line between skill and luck, “to learn what I could control and what I couldn’t.” If ever there were a game to illustrate those categories, poker is it: There’s a numeracy and a logic to the game, to say nothing of the psychology of such things as the tell, the gestures or betting behaviors of one’s opponents at the table. There are other lessons to learn along the way, including forgoing complacency and simply paying attention to everything that’s unfolding before you: “Presence is far more difficult than the path of least resistance,” writes the author with oracular economy. The theme of untangling what might be attributed to skill and what to chance engages Konnikova throughout: How much of her success has turned on hard work and how much on being in the right place at the right time? Whatever the case, she traveled to all the right places—Macau, Las Vegas, Monte Carlo—and even made some money along the way. The payoffs for readers are more cerebral, including Konnikova’s observation that we think we have much more control over our lives than we really do. She peppers her reflections with the sage advice of experts (“Less certainty, more inquiry”) as well as headier stuff from the scholars, including John von Neumann’s game theory, which turns out to have been inspired by, yes, poker and the “little tactics of deception” that it involves.

A smart and subtle delight—highly recommended for fans of cards and brain-hacking alike.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52262-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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