An elegantly engaging book aimed at everyone from the off-the-rack crowd on up.

THE COAT ROUTE

CRAFT, LUXURY, AND OBSESSION ON THE TRAIL OF A $50,000 COAT

Lush writing and eagle-eyed reportage uncloak the insular world of bespoke fashion.

More than distance separates the awe-inspiring highlands of South America, where curious, four-legged creatures known as vicuna placidly graze in between carefully choreographed roundups, and the sober English shopping district of Seville Row, where equally fascinating bipeds known as tailors turn the vicuna wool into unparalleled items of luxury, including a $50,000 overcoat. This is the rarified realm of "bespoke," or made-to-order, garments. Globe-trekking travel writer Noonan is well-equipped to bridge the chasm and bring back a narrative every bit as finely rendered as the title's subject. Outfitted with an infectious curiosity and enviable eye for detail, the seasoned correspondent executes a sartorial odyssey that spans a remarkable portion of the planet. The fantastic journey is both fast-paced and rich—from Florentine factories where marvelous mechanisms sprung from the mind of Michelangelo still whirr alongside modern-day computers, to obscure English villages infamous for their oppressive work histories and exquisitely made buttons. The author’s descriptive prose is consistently illuminating and occasionally poetic. "It is impossible to look at the factory grounds and not be struck by how succinctly it telegraphs a twenty-first-century tale: the soulless modernity, the beautiful ruin,” she writes. While delving deep into the unseen universe of complex dyes, magical silkworms and gold-laced textiles, the author also understands that it is the far-flung personalities dedicated to transforming these varied elements into a one-of-a-kind jacket that make this tale of topcoats and tailors so tantalizing.

An elegantly engaging book aimed at everyone from the off-the-rack crowd on up.

Pub Date: July 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6993-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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 declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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