A lucid study of a well-remembered war’s forgotten soldiers.

SOLDIER FROM THE WAR RETURNING

THE GREATEST GENERATION’S TROUBLED HOMECOMING FROM WORLD WAR II

A sympathetic, wide-ranging look at unseen casualties of World War II—those psychologically damaged by battle.

The last battle of the men and women traumatized by combat was fought, writes Childers (History/Univ. of Pennsylvania; In the Shadows of War: An American Pilot’s Odyssey Through Occupied France and the Camps of Nazi Germany, 2003, etc.), not “on the fields of Europe or on the jungle islands and coral atolls of the South Pacific, but on the main streets of American towns.” Hundreds of thousands of soldiers came back shattered, suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder and all that malady can bring, from difficulties holding jobs and maintaining relationships to substance abuse, mental illness and criminal behavior. None of this is news, of course; the 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives limns the larger outlines of that story. Childers digs deep into the historical data, however, to show how widespread the alienation of the much-heralded Greatest Generation was after the war had ended, when more than two million veterans found themselves at home but out of work and without much to do. They had given the best years of their lives to their country, but now felt more than a little disgruntled about the experience. The passage of the GI Bill helped, as did a reviving economy that put veterans back to work. But the more seriously damaged soldiers, including one from Childers’s hometown to whom he pays touching homage, remained outsiders forevermore—and, as he notes, some are only now being diagnosed with PTSD, 65 years after the war’s end. Hardest of all for many, he writes, was the shame of having survived under terrible conditions to return to safety, “surrounded by the omnipresent family, stumbling over one another, everyone striving to behave well.”

A lucid study of a well-remembered war’s forgotten soldiers.

Pub Date: May 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-618-77368-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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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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