The future of the post, Gallagher argues in this readable, straightforward history, depends on citizens’ awareness of its...

READ REVIEW

HOW THE POST OFFICE CREATED AMERICA

A HISTORY

A history of the United States postal system, which George Washington believed would “tranquilize” the country’s restless citizenry.

In 1792, the new nation’s Congress passed the Post Office Act, giving citizens access to mail service. As Gallagher (New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change, 2011, etc.) makes clear in this well-researched history, the law did not make such service “a basic right, like freedom of speech or religion,” but merely stipulated that the government would meet citizens’ demands. Benjamin Rush and James Madison believed postal service essential to “ensure democracy…educate the people, and change society.” With newspapers dominating mail, keeping citizens informed was a major function. From the beginning, though, postal service was undermined by bad roads and high costs for postage. Independent delivery services arose, undercutting the government’s rates and providing quicker, more reliable service by its own couriers. As the nation expanded westward, these competitors vied to meet the needs of Californians, who demanded “a reputable, regularly scheduled, twice-weekly stagecoach service that would carry both mail and travelers.” The short-lived Pony Express, and later Wells and Fargo, offered delivery through treacherous territory. Gallagher cites a Pony Express ad: “Wanted: Young, skinny fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” During the Civil War, the South scrambled to set up its own postal service, including issuing stamps. One enslaved man “successfully mailed himself to freedom inside a wooden crate” that was delivered to Philadelphia abolitionists. Gallagher traces the way a burgeoning postal service created a market for pens, stationery, and other letter-writing accouterments. The United States Postal Service was created in 1970, transforming a government agency into a government-owned corporation. The author regrets Congress’ “dysfunctional relationship” with the USPS and suggests ways to modernize “the world’s most productive postal system.”

The future of the post, Gallagher argues in this readable, straightforward history, depends on citizens’ awareness of its history. For a somewhat livelier, personality-driven account of the USPS, see Devin Leonard’s Neither Snow nor Rain (2016).

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59420-500-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

more