There’s not much that’s new here, but that’s the point. A modest, enjoyable look at the care and feeding of creativity.

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RETHINK

THE SURPRISING HISTORY OF NEW IDEAS

When seeking inspiration, Guardian columnist Poole (Unspeak: How Words Become Weapons, How Weapons Become a Message, and How that Message Becomes Reality, 2006, etc.) writes, it’s not a bad idea to sift through the junk pile for second thoughts.

How does inspiration happen, and how can it be leveraged into reality? That question has nourished a stream of self-help, psychology, and business literature on creativity and its capture, including books such as Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From (2011) and Daniel Levitin’s The Organized Mind (2014). In this lightly written narrative, Poole looks at a number of case studies that show how actionable new ideas are often reiterations of old ones. For instance, the modern electric car draws on 150-year-old technology, while medical treatments using maggots and leeches stretch back hundreds of years. “The story of human understanding is not a gradual, stately accumulation of facts, a smooth transition from ignorance to knowledge,” he writes. “It’s…a wild roller-coaster ride full of loops and switchbacks.” Those old ideas need not even be good ones, since merely examining them can prompt better ones, and of course not all old ideas are good. In this respect, Poole conjures up the 19th-century craze for big-game hunting and then invites us to consider what happened to the dentist who recently shot a beloved lion. Some of the author’s examples run a little long, as with his extensive discussion of how placebo drugs came into being; still, his extension of the placebo effect into other realms is interesting, as are his musings on the political applications of old ideas such as basic income and governance by peers rather than professional politicians. More than a compendium of anecdotes about the forerunners of the Tesla car or the sideways history of Viagra, Poole’s book is a jog on how to think, closing with exhortations to make a little room for the absurd and to “abandon common sense and bet against the market.”

There’s not much that’s new here, but that’s the point. A modest, enjoyable look at the care and feeding of creativity.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4560-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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