Grant breaks little to no ground but offers well-intentioned, valuable advice on periodically testing one’s beliefs.

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THINK AGAIN

THE POWER OF KNOWING WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW

The bestselling author of Originals (2016) returns with an exploration of the theoretical and practical values of rethinking and mental agility.

Though rethinking and unlearning are not new intellectual exercises (Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living”), they are worth revisiting. Our worldview—that assemblage of instincts, habits, assumptions, and experiences—is something we hold dear. Grant, who teaches organizational psychology at the Wharton School of Business, challenges readers to rethink their outlooks on an ongoing basis, and he often makes time-tested concepts feel fresh. The author consistently emphasizes the importance of lifelong learning and maintaining an open, flexible mind. Grant investigates rethinking in three areas—the individual, changing others’ minds, and collective environments—and supports his text with research in numerous disciplines as well as entertaining anecdotes on a variety of topics, including the Blackberry, the presidency of Iceland, confirmation and desirability biases, the mindsets of totalitarians, and the values of scientific thinking (“favors humility over pride, doubt over certainty, curiosity over closure”) and confident humility. Regarding the last, leaders of all stripes can learn from Grant’s incisive discussion of how “you can be confident in your ability to achieve a goal in the future while maintaining the humility to question whether you have the right tools in the present.” As in his previous books, Grant employs earnest, crisp prose and thorough research. While readers will nod along in agreement with many of his points, some may give pause. For example: “Even if we disagree strongly with someone on a social issue, when we discover that she cares deeply about the issue, we trust her more. We might still dislike her, but we see her passion for a principle as a sign of integrity. We reject the belief but grow to respect the person behind it.” Activist readers, especially those involved in anti-racism work, will certainly disagree.

Grant breaks little to no ground but offers well-intentioned, valuable advice on periodically testing one’s beliefs.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984878-10-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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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