Heady, fruitful explorations of ill-charted terrain destined for a population explosion.

THE THIRD CHAPTER

PASSION, RISK, AND ADVENTURE IN THE TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AFTER 50

Insightful vignettes of people navigating the squirrelly years between 50 and 75.

Lawrence-Lightfoot (Education/Harvard Univ.; The Essential Conversation, 2003, etc.) profiles 40 individuals who had, by one measure or another, successful working lives and then took a new tack after age 50—voluntarily or not. They may be educated and financially secure, but they are also fragile and assailable in ways they haven’t experienced for many years as they make their way over foreign ground. They frequently find it discomfiting to be scrutinizing their identities and seeking to align their values with their actions, notes the author: “Something in us feels we are being irresponsible, or inappropriate, or maybe even unseemly, when we admit our lust for new learning,” especially when society assumes it’s time for them to be put out to pasture. Lawrence-Lightfoot’s investigation is anything but a dry, academic study. Her voice is by turns thoughtful, soothing and plaintive, as well as hungry for understanding what does and doesn’t work for these pilgrims. Standardized educational formats aren’t much help, she discovers; “school values and practices may distort organic learning across the life span, compromising and masking the impulses that might make us productive and creative learners.” It’s eye-opening to witness all the heavy lifting involved in these skirmishes with the new, including a lot of inefficiency and circling. (Happily, readers also learn that “old burdens become lighter.”) Tension, strangely enough, may prove crucial—not the kind of tension that leads to stress, but the kind that demands reconciliation between opposing forces or the charting of new scenarios by confronting ancient traumas. Other qualities worth having in your quiver: “openness, fearlessness, humility, and [the] capacity to look foolish.” It helps to be surrounded by a caring society—which is either the good news or the bad news, depending on your reservoir of another helpful virtue: hope.

Heady, fruitful explorations of ill-charted terrain destined for a population explosion.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-27549-5

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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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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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