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RIGHT THING, RIGHT NOW

JUSTICE IN AN UNJUST WORLD

Time-honored advice, if not always timely.

Handy tips toward more upstanding social behavior, informed by Stoicism and history.

Holiday has developed a cottage industry popularizing Stoicism via a newsletter, store, and books like this, the latest in a series on “Stoic virtues.” Here, the author focuses on justice, with chapters stressing the importance and merits of old-fashioned verities like honesty, forgiveness, social engagement, and more. All respectable ideas, and Holiday has mastered a tone to deliver them that’s firm but compassionate, somewhere between New Age concepts and Jordan Peterson–esque moral scolding. Still, for a book purportedly rooted in the teachings of the ancients, Holiday gives surprisingly little attention to Stoic standard-bearers like Cato the Younger, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus. Instead, many of his examples come from the annals of the Greatest Generation, particularly President Harry S. Truman, who is presented as an underrated, rock-ribbed ethical figure. (To bolster the point, the author notes Truman’s deep admiration of Aurelius.) The parade of mid-20th-century eminences—Martha Graham, Gandhi, Clarence Darrow, Rosa Parks, Albert Schweitzer—is relevant, though it has the curious effect of making all of this justice seeking feel distant from the present moment. Stray examples of contemporary ethical leaders like NBA coach Gregg Popovich or former German chancellor Angela Merkel are exceptions that prove the rule. More interesting in some ways than Holiday’s delivery of unimpeachable examples of good behavior is an afterword about how he has managed hiccups in his business in terms of ethical sourcing, co-workers’ bad behavior, and readers resenting his engagement in politics: “It’s a test we face in a world driven by algorithms—do we tell people what they want to hear? Or do we say and do what we think needs to be done?” Fresher examples might better sell the philosophy as fit for the current moment.

Time-honored advice, if not always timely.

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780593191712

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A JEW

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Two bestselling authors engage in an enlightening back-and-forth about Jewishness and antisemitism.

Acho, author of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, and Tishby, author of Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, discuss many of the searing issues for Jews today, delving into whether Jewishness is a religion, culture, ethnicity, or community—or all of the above. As Tishby points out, unlike in Christianity, one can be comfortably atheist and still be considered a Jew. She defines Judaism as a “big tent” religion with four main elements: religion, peoplehood, nationhood, and the idea of tikkun olam (“repairing the world through our actions”). She addresses candidly the hurtful stereotypes about Jews (that they are rich and powerful) that Acho grew up with in Dallas and how Jews internalize these antisemitic judgments. Moreover, Tishby notes, “it is literally impossible to be Jewish and not have any connection with Israel, and I’m not talking about borders or a dot on the map. Judaism…is an indigenous religion.” Acho wonders if one can legitimately criticize “Jewish people and their ideologies” without being antisemitic, and Tishby offers ways to check whether one’s criticism of Jews or Zionism is antisemitic or factually straightforward. The authors also touch on the deteriorating relationship between Black and Jewish Americans, despite their historically close alliance during the civil rights era. “As long as Jewish people get to benefit from appearing white while Black people have to suffer for being Black, there will always be resentment,” notes Acho. “Because the same thing that grants you all access—your skin color—is what grants us pain and punishment in perpetuity.” Finally, the authors underscore the importance of being mutual allies, and they conclude with helpful indexes on vernacular terms and customs.

An important dialogue at a fraught time, emphasizing mutual candor, curiosity, and respect.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668057858

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon Element

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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