Employing superb storytelling skills, Ingrassia explains in head-shaking detail the elements of a wholly avoidable collision.

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THE AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY'S ROAD FROM GLORY TO DISASTER

A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist's pedal-to-the-metal history of America's signature industry.

In the mid 1920s, Henry Ford, mass production's inventor, outsold all competitors combined. General Motors CEO Alfred Sloan pioneered mass marketing—“a car for every purse and purpose”—and hired the auto industry's first design staff. Walter Chrysler was Time Man of the Year in 1928. By 2009 both GM and Chrysler had entered bankruptcy and Ford only barely escaped. American car companies had sunk to a state best summarized by The Economist headline, “Detroitosaurus Wrecks.” Former Wall Street Journal Detroit bureau chief Ingrassia (co-author: Comeback: The Fall & Rise of the American Automobile Industry, 1994) conducts a brilliant industry autopsy, tracing the decline to the ’70s—though Ralph Nader exposed Detroit's shoddy products as early 1965—when the combination of complacent, arrogant management, increasingly mindless union militancy and surprisingly nimble foreign competition began to threaten America's worldwide leadership. Though the Big Three mounted a comeback of sorts during the ’80s and ’90s, the industry soon fell back into the bad habits that led to the current meltdown. A delightful mix of history and first-person reporting, Ingrassia's narrative covers numerous historic episodes, including the United Auto Workers' storied Battle of the Overpass, the introduction of the Corvette and the Thunderbird, the birth of Volkswagen and the rise of Toyota, the Ford Pinto that exploded and the Edsel that laid an egg, GM's failed Saturn experiment, the doomed DaimlerChrysler marriage and the government's bailout negotiations with GM and Chrysler. The tales of bit players like the South Paris, Maine, Chrysler dealer Gene Benner and the father-son UAW members Fred and Gene Young of Belvidere, Ill., are effectively set against the machinations of management big shots like Billy Durant, Lee Iacocca and Richard Wagoner and labor honchos Walter Reuther, Leonard Woodcock and Stephen Yokich.

Employing superb storytelling skills, Ingrassia explains in head-shaking detail the elements of a wholly avoidable collision.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6863-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2009

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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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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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