An invigorating reality check for anyone thinking about starting a business in a developing country.

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BRIGHT LIGHTS, NO CITY

AN AFRICAN ADVENTURE ON BAD ROADS WITH A BROTHER AND A VERY WEIRD BUSINESS PLAN

The story of the trials of running a startup company in Africa.

“I never cared about Africa,” writes Alexander, a former executive editor of Variety and senior editor of People. “I never wanted to join the Peace Corps, raft the Zambezi, haggle in Fez or climb Kilimanjaro.” Nonetheless, he accompanied his brother, Whit, on one of his entrepreneurial quests there. Whit’s company, Burro, which rents batteries to people in villages in Ghana that lack electricity, aims to help the villagers save money while making a profit. It has been a worthwhile but arduous venture, and Alexander documents the many challenges of running a profitable business in an unfamiliar country. Burro is not Whit’s first company, however; he was also co-founder of the board game Cranium. Alexander notes that getting a startup off the ground is complicated even for the experienced entrepreneur, and sure enough, Burro ran into problems such as unreliable workers, faulty batteries and missed payments. There were two main issues underlying most of the complications: selling to a consumer base with extremely limited disposable income and working in a country without a viable infrastructure. Whit’s insistence that the company operate as a profitable business without handouts has made it an even more difficult, yet more rewarding, journey. After the author’s yearlong stay, Burro was still not breaking even, but it was closer to doing so with the help of a few interns and new advertising strategies. Alexander vividly describes the landscape of Ghana’s urban areas and villages; the portrait is beautiful at times, but the poverty is astonishing. Ultimately, the author’s colorful writing and humanitarian drive make the book well worth reading.

An invigorating reality check for anyone thinking about starting a business in a developing country. 

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2417-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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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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