An in-depth (sometimes excruciatingly so) financial history of a complex organization.

THE FED

THE INSIDE STORY OF HOW THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL FINANCIAL INSTITUTION DRIVES THE MARKET

A somewhat dense, albeit informative, history and overview of the Federal Reserve System and its impact on the global economy.

Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, has sheparded the US economy through the longest period of sustained growth in the nation’s history. Financial columnist (and Wall Street Journal contributor) Mayer’s analysis of the Greenspan era includes a history of the early stages of central banking in Europe and the US, highlighting the often-bitter struggles that took place between bankers and regulators for control of the central banks. Although this story has been told many times before, the author provides some new insights into the bureaucratic rivalries that have resulted in the Fed’s independence and extraordinary economic and corporate power. These rivalries have also, on occasion, given rise to near-comical financial transactions—such as a standoff that took place between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury in the early 1950s, resulting in the issuance of government bonds that were immediately purchased in toto by Fed officials who had opposed the issue. Mayer is a sharp observer, and he offers some blunt commentary on many of the players involved (referring to John Snyder, former Treasury Secretary under Truman, as a “total lightweight”), as well as an in-depth look at the differences in the development of American and European central banking systems. He offers a pretty thorough portrait of the Fed’s current role in the financial marketplace, describing the Fed’s wire system and supervisory functions (and sometimes losing the reader in an alphabet soup of government-agency acronyms). Anecdotal illustrations showing the Fed at its best and worst (such as its intervention in the markets following the 1987 crash and the failed supervision in 1998 of Long Term Capital Management) add some light and air to a fairly heavy work.

An in-depth (sometimes excruciatingly so) financial history of a complex organization.

Pub Date: June 11, 2001

ISBN: 0-684-84740-X

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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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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