A dense but worthy effort to explain how the economy went off the rails in recent years—and how we ended up in that...

ALL THE PRESIDENTS' BANKERS

THE HIDDEN ALLIANCES THAT DRIVE AMERICAN POWER

A revealing look at the often symbiotic, sometimes-adversarial relationship between the White House and Wall Street.

When it comes to the tactics of modern bankers, former Wall Street insider–turned-journalist Prins (It Takes a Pillage: An Epic Tale of Power, Deceit, and Untold Trillions, 2009, etc.) makes her disapproval known in no uncertain terms; their predecessors fare only slightly better in this sweeping history of bank presidents and their relationships with the nation’s chief executives. The narrative begins circa 1900, when bankers began to supersede industrial tycoons as the nation’s most powerful private-sector prime movers. Financial titans like J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller figure prominently, along with lesser-known but equally important men like Winthrop Aldrich and Thomas Lamont, as they navigate the treacherous terrain of World War I and the 1929 crash, both butting heads with and coming to the aid of presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover. As Prins writes, ties proved strongest during wartime, with banks working alongside politicians to sell bonds and bolster the finances of U.S. allies. As the 20th century rolled on, however, power shifted north from Washington to New York, where deregulation and globalization created opportunities for bankers to create complex financial products that neither the public nor they themselves seemed to fully understand, which led to a series of market collapses and global recessions. Even wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been enough to galvanize the banking industry as prior wars did. At times, the author talks over the heads of a general audience, and her anti-banker bias, even if it’s largely justified, cries out for some balancing commentary. Still, this is a valuable contribution to a growing body of books trying to make sense of an increasingly complicated financial world. The glossary of financial terms will prove helpful for general readers.

A dense but worthy effort to explain how the economy went off the rails in recent years—and how we ended up in that situation in the first place.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-56858-749-3

Page Count: 554

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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