Just the book for students of the human mind as well as geography and travel buffs.

A scientifically rich look at how humans manage to get around in the world.

The ability of the human species to construct and file away mental maps of the world, writes former New Scientist senior editor Bond, allowed our highly social kind to find its way out of Africa, spread all over the world, and establish and maintain contacts and trade with faraway populations in a comparatively short amount of time. Those whose business it is to know many ways of getting around—taxi drivers, say, famously those negotiating the fabulously illogical plan of London—have more “gray matter” and better developed hypothalamuses than those who stay at home. On that note, adds the author, we are creating whole generations of geographically stunted children by not giving them room to roam and opportunities to get lost. “Free play,” he writes, “makes us less likely to suffer from spatial anxiety and more proficient in wayfinding,” and one of the crueler aspects of dementia disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease is their way of robbing victims of their sense of where they are in the world. Bond consults psychologists, neuroscientists, geographers, and other specialists in building his narrative of our kind’s devotion to “learning about the space around us and how we fit into it.” M.R. O’Connor’s standout 2019 book Wayfinding covers much of the same ground, but Bond offers a solid contribution that complements rather than competes with its predecessor. Of particular interest is Bond’s look at gender differentiation in how people perceive the world. Men, he writes, are likelier to use cardinal directions and distances in describing a route; conversely, “ask a woman and you’re more likely to get a rich description of the things you’ll pass along the way.”

Just the book for students of the human mind as well as geography and travel buffs.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-24457-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020


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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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