Ferociously lucid and witty.

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CUBED

A SECRET HISTORY OF THE WORKPLACE

An editor of n +1 offers an illuminating study of the modern office and its antecedents.

Many Americans spend most of their working hours in cubicles, but 93 percent of those individuals report disliking their work environments. Yet this Dilbert-esque disgruntlement with office life is nothing new. Saval shows that from the beginning of its existence in the 19th century, cultural observers like Herman Melville and Charles Dickens considered the office a suspect space. The activities that took place there were “weak, empty and above all boring” since they lacked the dynamism of the deal making that went on in the business world they supported. At the same time, the office has also been “a source of some of the most utopian ideas and sentiments about American working life.” Through analyses of historical, sociological and cultural texts, Saval examines the double-edged promise that the office has held to American workers over the last 150 years. In the 19th century, life behind a desk offered social respectability and security while providing an apparent refuge from the physical hardships of factory work. As the business world expanded and work became increasingly rationalized for maximum output and efficiency, so did the office. This gave rise to the hyperefficient offices of the 20th century, where managing workers—down to their very movements and behaviors—as well as data and space became a frighteningly exact science. In the 21st century, technological shifts and global economic downturns have wrought still further changes in office life. Freelancers now inhabit homes and cafes, transforming leisure and living spaces into work spaces. These developments have not only stripped office professionals of the illusion of security; in a wickedly ironic, but perhaps predictable, historical twist, they have also cast them back into the “contingency and precariousness” from which the office was supposed to save them.

Ferociously lucid and witty.

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-53657-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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