General readers seeking enlightenment should skip the middle 75% of the book and go read Voltaire.

PIRATING & PUBLISHING

THE BOOK TRADE IN THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT

A dusty window into the obscure world of the burgeoning publishing industry in 18th-century France and its environs.

At the time, the regulation of the industry and the resulting economics engendered a new enterprise: pirate publishing. Only a narrow band of elites could afford to produce and buy books, an economic reality that created a market ripe for counterfeiting. Without copyright laws, however, it was not technically illegal to reproduce these works outside of France. Thus began the “Fertile Crescent” of underground bookmaking. “From Amsterdam to Brussels, through the Rhineland, across Switzerland, and down to Avignon, which was papal territory in the eighteenth century, publishers pirated everything that could be sold with any success in France,” writes Darnton. “The foreign houses also produced everything that could not get past censors employed by the French government.” Though these literary bandits operated legally within their own countries, as soon as they smuggled their goods into France, they were on the wrong side of the law. In this erudite yet dry text, Darnton seems to have included every detail that emerged from his meticulous research, devoting attention to every book deal that did, or did not, occur for authors both familiar and unknown. Darnton offers some intriguing economic insights, though few are unique to the publishing industry. Still, literary-minded readers will be impressed with the process by which a small number of men and women transformed a small book club for nobles into the massive cultural force that we know today. To be sure, many were just trying to make a living, but we owe them a great debt nonetheless. Unfortunately, the dense scholarly prose may fail to capture an audience beyond academics and students of the business of the Enlightenment.

General readers seeking enlightenment should skip the middle 75% of the book and go read Voltaire.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-514452-9

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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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