Not for the numerically faint of heart, and those who are numerate may argue at points—just as Piketty’s masterwork has...


In a work that is aligned with but antecedent to his grand synthesis, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013), French economist Piketty examines the structural causes of inequality.

Capital and income are intertwined, of course, and unevenly distributed. Just how unevenly has been a subject of much economic-historical work lately. In this book, published in 1997 and updated here and there since, Piketty observes that he does not “take fully into account the results of the past fifteen years of international research on the historical dynamics of inequality,” but the eternal verities hold. As the author writes, in a moment worthy of Marx, “the question of inequality and redistribution is central to political conflict.” Redistribute broadly and equitably, and you have the possibility of social justice; redistribute into the hands of the wealthy, and you risk turmoil and revolution when the have-nots catch on to what’s going on. Piketty’s argument is more descriptive than prescriptive; he notes that capital income, for instance, is subject to more unequal distribution than wage income, which makes good sense inasmuch as the rich tend to live on capital gains instead of salaries. The writing tends to be white paper–ish and technical (“in the United States…the P90/P10 ratio for income rose from 4.9 to 5.9 between 1979 and 1986”), and although training in economics isn’t strictly necessary in order to follow the author’s argument, it certainly wouldn’t hurt in tracking such concepts as the relative elasticity or inelasticity of capital and, particularly, human capital. The latter contributes strongly to Piketty’s case, which ends with a consideration of how Keynesian stimuli can influence long-term redistribution, if at all.

Not for the numerically faint of heart, and those who are numerate may argue at points—just as Piketty’s masterwork has inspired controversy. Still, a discussion worth having and a book worth reading.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-674-50480-6

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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