Unquestionably hard to read but an important, veil-lifting book.

A sociologist collects candid, pain-drenched statements from teens who have attempted suicide and offers suggestions on how to help them.

Teenage suicide is extremely difficult to discuss, but Williams (Sociology/New School of Social Research; The Con Men: Hustling in New York City, 2015, etc.), no stranger to tough subjects, jumps headfirst into the task, talking to teens and reading their journals, notes, and letters to comprehend why they attempt to take their own lives. Based on his interviews and the excerpts from the personal journals, readers will acknowledge the many deep and painful secrets that teens often hide. Most of these secrets involve bullying, physical and verbal abuse, drug abuse, incest by one or both parents, or rape by other family members and/or strangers, issues that all lead to isolation, loneliness, and despair on the part of the teen. The more they feel separated from their peers, parents, and other adults, the more they turn to drinking, drugging, cutting, and risky sexual behaviors—anything in order to “get the hurt out on their own,” writes Williams. “They cut their skin. They smoke, snort, drink every day. And when things seem like they are going nowhere, they kill themselves and leave letters behind to remind us they once lived.” The author lets these girls and boys from a variety of backgrounds speak for themselves, making no attempt to correct them in their speech or writing, which lends a power to their voices, including those who sadly succeeded in their suicides. Their testimonies are not easy to confront, but the honesty with which they share their stories far outweighs the readers’ discomfort. “What separates the kids in this book from the rest,” writes the author, “is that they have nowhere to go; no one to talk with; no emotional sustenance, attention, or caring; no direction to turn.”

Unquestionably hard to read but an important, veil-lifting book.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-231-17790-0

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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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