For business readers, this insider’s tale informs and entertains.

Saving Investa


A retired CEO weaves memoir, management philosophy, and career advice in this well-crafted debut.

MacDonald, a specialist in corporate real estate, draws the title from his capstone assignment—rescuing Australia’s largest property company, Investa, from collapse during the global financial crisis. His saga began in 2008, six months after Morgan Stanley took Investa private in an ill-timed, highly leveraged $6.5 billion buyout. He accepted a six-month stint in Australia that turned into five years of organizational scrambling and nick-of-time refinancing to avoid insolvency. He saved the company but lost his marriage. Alternating chapters backfill his biography, connecting decisions at Investa with lessons from his hardscrabble childhood, teenage factory jobs, college struggles, military service, and “globe-trotting” rise to the boardroom. MacDonald turns the same eye for detail that scrutinized balance sheets to rendering scenes. The volume of tangential, personal details could have shrunk his potential readership to his grandchildren, but he is an adept storyteller with a colorful past. Poignant, well-told recollections keep the reader engaged. MacDonald’s writing, like the management style he chronicles, is deliberate and nuanced, not flashy. Understatement and pacing magnify inherent tensions, as in a passage describing three executives awaiting a bank decision on renewing a $650 million loan: “The loan would mature the next day. I asked Jonathan at exactly what time; after checking the documents, he told me 11 a.m. No one had ever asked him before at precisely what time of day a loan matured.” MacDonald draws his characters concisely. A chief financial officer is “a quiet guy, the type who knew all the answers but was reticent to disclose any.” An Australian banker speaks in “an earthy vernacular, reflecting his early days as a union organizer and Labor Party activist.” In closing, he summarizes 25 key lessons, emphasizing teamwork, ethics, win-win solutions, decentralized decision-making, open communications, and respecting workers. None are entirely original, but his life experiences elevate platitudes to practical guidance. MacDonald puts a compassionate face on the CEO stereotype and reveals real people, not caricatures, caught in the executive-suite dramas spawned by the financial crisis.

For business readers, this insider’s tale informs and entertains.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68102-080-8

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Next Century Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?