A short, scattered introduction to Thiel’s worldview in his own words.

Peter Thiel

PLAYERS, COMPANIES, LIFE

A compilation of entrepreneur Peter Thiel’s thoughts on seemingly everyone and everything.

Thiel—the co-founder of PayPal, a major investor in Facebook, and the current chairman of software company Palantir—has become one of the premier tech-company businessmen and investors in the world and has amassed a multibillion-dollar fortune. However, he’s just as famous for his wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, and he seems to have considered opinions on a very broad range of subjects, including democracy, Hollywood, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, and nuclear weapons. Investigative journalist Reilly (The Frigate Bird, 2013) was unable to secure access to Thiel as an interviewee, but in this book-length effort, he tries a less-conventional route, scouring available podcasts and other sources in order to create a collection of Thiel’s ruminations. The result is 67 brief chapters, some barely a paragraph in length, offering Thiel’s insights from a variety of forums. The chapters thematically cover the businessman’s views on famous people of all stripes (“players”); his thoughts on well-known companies, such as Uber and Facebook; and his more general musings about life. A compelling, if scattershot, view of a deeply thoughtful, ambitious man emerges from what’s essentially a portfolio of sound bites. However, Thiel’s worldview is capacious enough to make it difficult to neatly compartmentalize him. For example, despite his avowed libertarianism and spirited advocacy on behalf of entrepreneurialism, he also shows sensitivity to the dangers of competition run amok: “We tell people to try and compete for the same short list of jobs. I don’t think that’s actually the best way for our society to function. It shouldn’t just be that you ‘go to Yale or you go to jail.’ ” Reilly provides an informative portrait of his subject in an introductory chapter and prefaces the quotations with helpful commentary. The bulk of his labor, though, appears to have been in his curation of quotations. Overall, this book is best understood as something other than a biography, as the author makes no attempt to weave the material into a fully unified view of its subject. Readers who are intrigued by Thiel and other businessmen of his ilk will likely find this book fascinating, even if he does remains nebulous.

A short, scattered introduction to Thiel’s worldview in his own words.

Pub Date: May 12, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 89

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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