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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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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