An engrossing behind-the-scenes look at one of America's most successful and familiar brands.

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BITTER BREW

THE RISE AND FALL OF ANHEUSER-BUSCH AND AMERICA'S KINGS OF BEER

Knoedelseder (I'm Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-up Comedy's Golden Era, 2009, etc.) peels away the ubiquitous Budweiser label to reveal an American family dynasty drunk on wealth, power and privilege.

Beginning just after the all-American Anheuser-Busch brand was sold to the conglomerate InBev in 2008, the author examines the company’s golden years. The company began in the mid 19th century when the son of a well-to-do German wine merchant first landed in St. Louis and set about building a brewing empire. Just how that same empire would one day manifest itself in the comic visage of Spuds MacKenzie is at once astounding and abhorrent. Indelible tag lines like "This Bud's For You" and "Bring Out Your Best" were only Budweiser's public calling cards. As the author adroitly points out, the real architects behind "The King of Beers" were far less palatable figures. Self-absorbed A-B leaders like "Gussie" Busch and his heir, August III, may have produced millions of barrels of beer in their time, but they left a lot to be desired in the humanity department. Knoedelseder’s detailed portraits of each man, as well as August IV, are vivid, and their combined histories are enough to outshock even the most scandalous TV drama. No less captivating, however, are the stories behind Budweiser's phenomenally successful advertising campaigns, most notably its tooth-and-nail ad war with Miller Lite in the mid-1970s. For years, Budweiser waged some of its toughest battles across America's TV screens, but it was their largely unseen, interfamily fighting that cost them the most. This comprehensive, fast-paced history adeptly handles both threads.

An engrossing behind-the-scenes look at one of America's most successful and familiar brands.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-200926-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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