Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Review of Exile and the Kingdom by Albert Camus

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Novel
Book Club Event = Book List (06/15/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) To Cooperate Or To Defect?, 2) Relationships, Right?

Watch Short Review


Is This An Overview?

A collection of short stories about choices that need to be made.  Each story reflects the complexity of values and identities.  Choices that challenge the values of the character.  Challenge the character’s loyalty and belonging.  Choices that are about change.  Each choice is bound in conflict, a personal dilemma that effects who the person is, wants to become, or has no choice but to be.  In each story, the character is both part of and exiled from the people or places they love.  Their interactions indicate their struggle to reconcile the opposing demands on who they are.  The characters come from different backgrounds, have different lives, and share their different experiences.  The stories are a reflection of the author’s political values, given rise due to people’s conditions. 



The writing quality of the stories is mixed.  The stories are short, therefore have limited details.  But, what the stories have is depth of meaning.  The stories raise valuable questions about values.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What effect do authors have on their readers? 
•What inspired these stories?
•What are the themes of the stories?
•What choices are presented to the characters?
•What backgrounds do the characters come from?
•How are the characters challenged? 

Book Details
Forward by:           Orhan Pamuk
Forward translated by: Maureen Freely
Introduction by:      Carol Cosman
Translator:              Carol Cosman
Original Language: French
Translated Into:       English
Edition:                   First Vintage International Edition
Publisher:               Vintage Books [Random House]
Edition ISBN:         9780307278586
Pages to read:          180
Publication:             2007
1st Edition:              1957
Format:                    Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall          3

Friday, October 27, 2023

Review of The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good Robert H. Frank

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (07/06/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) How Competitive Is Competition?, 2) The Evolution of Evolution

Watch Short Review


“Darwin’s analysis revealed a systemic flaw in the dynamic of competition.  The failures he identified resulted not from too little competition, but from the very logic of the process itself.  The central premise of his theory was that natural selection favored variants of traits and behaviors insofar as they enhanced the reproductive fitness of the individual animals that bore them.  If a trait made the individual better able to survive and reproduce, it would be favored.  Otherwise, it would eventually vanish.  In many cases, Darwin recognized, the same variant that served the individual’s interest would also serve the interest of its species.  But he also saw that many traits promoted individual interest to the detriment of the species.” – Robert H. Frank, Chapter 2: Darwin’s Wedge, Page 33

“Many other traits, however, increase the reproductive fitness of each individual while simultaneously imposing significant costs on large subgroups of the species.  Such conflicts are especially likely for traits that confer advantage in an individual’s head-to-head competition with members of its own species.” – Robert H. Frank, Chapter 2: Darwin’s Wedge, Page 34

“In a stripped-down version of an arms race, one nation gains advantage over a rival by building additional armaments, which prompts the rival to build additional armaments of its own to restore the balance.  The first nation then acquires still more weaponry, provoking yet another response from its rival, and so on.  When the dust settles, neither side enjoys greater security, despite having spent a substantial share of its national resources on armaments.” – Robert H. Frank, Chapter 5: Putting the Positional Consumption Beast on a Diet, Page 75


Is This An Overview?

Competition is usually thought of as favorable, as the better competitor will be rewarded while worse competitors will be removed.  Making the system better for everyone.  But, competition is not always beneficial, and can lead to harmful consequences for the group.  A consequent that occurs through the process of competition.  An insight that comes from Charles Darwin.  Evolution by natural selection favors the fittest, those who have favorable traits for survival and reproduction.  Traits such as behaviors and physical features.  Those who are fittest, pass on their favorable traits which become broadly shared with the group.  While there are traits that enhance the group, there are also traits that hurt the group.  The individual’s traits can make the individual more competitive within the species or group, but also make the individual more vulnerable to predators or other groups.  Leading to traits being passed on that are better for the individual but worse for the group, reducing the groups intergenerational fitness.  Traits that are to the detriment of the species.

The effect that competition has on a group depends on whether the individual and group interests are aligned.  If the interests are aligned, everyone benefits.  If they are not alighted, everyone loses.  Interests tend not to align when the competition is among members of the same group.  Another feature of harmful competition, is that fitness depends on conferring a relative advantage, rather than an absolute advantage.  The competitor just needs to be more helpful than the competition. 

In this way do individuals within various fields and industries, escalate their claims and change their behavior to appear relatively better while imposing costs on society.  Sparking collective action problems.  Within politics, political competition to maintain political independence depends on defending the state from opposition.  This can lead to an arms race, in which every state builds armaments to make sure they are secure from their opposition.  But the opposition does the same, build more armaments.  As every state builds armaments, creates a situation in which every state pays more for armaments without greater security.   


Are There More Examples Of Problems Caused By competition?

There are various examples of competition creating collective action problems, one is about hockey.  Hockey players have an advantage when they play without a helmet, but that is risky.  But if everyone does not wear a helmet, then there is no advantage.  This incentivizes the collective restriction on behavior by imposing a policy of wearing a helmet.


How Does Government Effect Behavior?

Neither markets nor government are perfect.  There are tasks that government does better, such as collective actions tasks that include national defense and pubic infrastructure.  Favorable opinions of government occur when there are good public services.  Weakest governments that provide little public benefits are deemed ineffective and corrupt.  As government is needed, especially to resolve collective action, better to have an effective government.

To operate and resolve the collective action problems, government needs to be funded by tax revenue.  Without a tax, there would be no government to resolve collective action problems.  Taxes generate revenue and discourage the activity being taxed.  Taxes are problematic when they discourage useful activities such as job creation, but taxes can be helpful when discouraging activities that are harmful to others.  Taxes on harmful activity produce revenue while discouraging harmful behavior.



This book is mired in group polarization.  Within politics and economics.  The oppositions claims are simplified, and appear to have only one or a few explanations and reasons to provide.  The author is ready with chapters filled with explanations to prove the opposition’s few ideas wrong.  Much of the author’s argument is about defending the value of government, and about the role of taxes.  That taxes can be used to discourage the detrimental competition while providing tax revenue. 

The author repeats the simplified claims about an opposing political framework, as if the opponents make the same claims that the author can counter using various arguments.  Making much of the disagreement, a one-sided argument against political claims that are not represented in the book.  The attacks become contradictory, for the author attacks a political claim but recognizes that in practice the opposite happens, but still blames those making the disapproved political claim. 

The author proposes that Charles Darwin takes precedence as foundational for economics.  But, the author acknowledges that Darwin learned from economists such as Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo.  The main reason for favoring Darwin is due to the concept of relative advantage, which is superior to the absolute advantage of Adam Smith.  The author’s favor is contradictory, for two reasons.  First, Ricardo identified relative advantage, in what economists call comparative advantage.  The author keeps claiming that economists failed to recognize context and relative position, even though they do and the ideas are not original to Darwin.  Second, for a book about evolution, the author implies that ideas do not evolve.  The author keeps referencing all economic opposition as claiming favor for a single term from Adam Smith, the invisible hand.  Besides the fact that Adam Smith’s work was not limited a single term which was not central to Smith’s work, and that economists do not use that term to explain all their views.  The ideas of Smith were also improved, changed, and transformed.  Economic ideas evolved.  The views about competition have evolved. 

There are also plenty of contradictory economic arguments being made.  In a chapter, the author claims that safety is costly and that it does not make sense to be completely safe.  This claim was made in a chapter about private firms.  In another chapter, arguing that safety is beneficial because it prevents more expensive harm.  This claim was made in a chapter about public funds.  The reason the claims are contradictory is because the author does not consider the same variable when making the claims.  As in, the author chooses the variables that support the author’s claims, but dismisses the other variables.

In chapters about taxes, there is a claim that those hurt by the tax system, specifically those who lack appropriate income, can be monetarily compensated.  Many economists make the claim about compensating those who are losing due to economic policy or activity.  The problem is that historically, claims about potential compensation did not materialize into actual compensation.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What are the effects of competition?
•How can competition have harmful consequences? 
•Who was Charles Darwin? 
•Who are the fittest by evolutionary standards?
•How does the relative position have on competition?
•What is a positional good? 
•What is an arms race?
•What is Coase Theorem? 
•What is the Invisible Hand? 
•How does competition effect the bull elk? 
•What are the collective action problems with hockey players?
•What is the role of the government? 
•How to overcome the destructive competition? 
•What happened to labor-managed firms? 
•How does government use tax revenue?
•How do taxes and their use effect incomes? 
•Why do some societies regulate behavior more than others? 
•How to transfer income? 
•How does success and merit effect incomes?
•How does luck effect income? 
•What is trickle-down theory? 
•How does regret effect cognitive errors? 

Book Details
Publisher:               Princeton University Press
Edition ISBN:         9780691153193
Pages to read:          211
Publication:             2012
1st Edition:              2011
Format:                    eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall          4

Monday, October 23, 2023

Review of SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (07/13/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Get To Know The Peoples Of The World (Roman Empire), 

Watch Short Review


“Electioneering at Rome could be a costly business.  By the first century BCE it required the kind of lavish generosity that is not always easy to distinguish from bribery.  The stakes were high.  The men who were successful in the elections had the chance to recoup their outlay, legally or illegally, with some of the perks of office.  The failures – and, like military defeats, there were many more of those in Rome than is usually acknowledged – fell ever more deeply into debt.” – Mary Beard, Chapter One: Cicero’s Finest Hour, Page 28

“Edgy in a different way was the idea of the asylum, and the welcome, that Romulus gave to all comers – foreigners, criminals and runaways – in finding citizens for his new town.  There were positive aspects to this.  In particular, it reflected Roman political culture’s extraordinary openness and willingness to incorporate outsiders, which set it apart from every other ancient Western society that we know.” – Mary Beard, Chapter Two: In The Beginning, Pages 66-67

“For this system of alliances became an effective mechanism for converting Rome’s defeated enemies into part of its growing military machine; and at the same time it gave those allies a stake in the Roman enterprise, thanks to the booty and glory that were shared in the event of victory.  Once the Romans’ military success started, they managed to make it self-sustaining, in a way that no other ancient city had ever systematically done.” – Mary Beard, Chapter, Page 164


Is This An Overview?

SPQR refers to The Senate and People of Rome.  With this book showing the political and social aspects of Rome.  How the politicians and people influenced Rome, and lived their lives.  Roman culture was very inclusive.  Willing to incorporate outsiders.  Anyone could become a citizen of Rome.  Even the senate became multicultural.  Rome developed the values of the Republic over time, and became less tolerant of those with too much power.  Although only those with financial means could become politicians, they could not get into power without the people.  It was the people who elected politicians, and made laws. 

Even in their mythological history, Rome has a political culture of civil conflict.  Transferring power over violence and death.  As Rome expanded, Rome relied more on individual’s power.  Producing rivalries that threatened the Republic.  Gradually turning violence more against Rome than a foreign power.  Eroding peaceful politics.  The political and social unrest incentivized powerful individuals to move the public political process, into their private decision making.  Ending the Republican government, values of liberty, which facilitated the rise of the emperors.  Emperors did provide a stable structure, but they also changed how politics and society affected each other. 

SPQR stands for Senatus PopulusQue Romanus, which means The Senate and People of Rome. 


How Much Of Roman History Is Known?

Much of Roman history is shrouded in mystery and uncertainty.  Mythology bridges the gap between the unknown and what Romans perceived to be the past.  A past composed of their own interpretations.  History becomes a reflection of how the Roman people perceived themselves, and explained their contemporary behavior.  Sources that do exist are limited, for they provide their own biases and interpretations. 

Detailed information begins to be documented during the 1st century BCE.  During this era, the Romans started to systematically study their history and culture.  Much of what is known about the past, even before the 1st century, comes from the Romans during the 1st century. 

The author challenges many of the claims being made, and shows the variety of explanations.  Showing the different sides to a narrative.


How Did Rome Expand?

There is uncertainty about the motivations of Roman expansion and conquest.  Later Romans consider it their obligation to expand, but those were not the original claims.  Rome was claimed to have expanded unintentionally.  Romans insisted that the expansion came from a series of just wars.  Wars that the gods supported, were in self-defense or defense of an ally, or for those who asked for Rome’s help.  That the wars were not due to aggression.

Rome has faced various dangers and defeats.  Opponents foreign and domestic.  Rome has generally been involved in conflict.  Rarely was there a time of peace.  Enormous resources were used for war, and paid for with a lot of human life for even victorious conflicts.  Wars were not paid just by public funds, but by private funds.  Rather than accept defeat, they used citizens and allied powers to continue fighting wars.  The more powerful Rome became, or perceived to be, the more various warring states sought Rome as an ally and for influence.

War had made Rome the richest region of the known world by mid-2nd century BCE.  Captives became slave labor which could then be exploited to fuel economic growth.

The people conquered by the Romans were not necessarily innocent people living in peaceable harmony.  Although the viciousness of Roman conquest was recognized even by the contemporaries. 

Those who came under Roman control, were required to provide troops for the Roman army.  There were no occupying forces, or a Roman-imposed government.  This tactic was used, in part, because it was the least labor intensive.  This system of alliances enabled defeated enemies to be part of the Roman military machine, while also giving them a share of the Roman enterprise as the booty and glory was shared in a victory.


Who Could Become A Roman Citizen?

Rome was a welcoming place even from their mythological origins.  Rome was an asylum and welcome to all, no matter if they were foreigners, criminals, or runaways.  Rome was willingness to incorporate outsiders.  All could become citizens.  People of the conquered territories were gradually given Roman citizenship with all the rights and protections associated.  Roman senate also gradually became a multicultural body. 

Slaves were not given a life sentence, and could even be given their freedom or they themselves could buy their freedom.  At which point they became Roman citizens, without any disadvantage of their previous status.

Roman power made Roman culture aspirational to others.  This enabled inclusion of Roman values to other people, and fostered stable Roman rule. 


What Defined The Roman Politician During The Republic Era?

Senate could decree, but did not have the force of law.  They advised the consuls.  The influence of the people is not fully known, but only the people could elect political officials, and the people made law. 

It was expensive to become a dominant politician, to obtain the consulship.  Requiring generosity that is not readily distinguished from bribery.  The successful politician could recoup their costs with legal or illegal perks of office.  The failures fell further into debt. 

The rich could have united to determine results without the poor, but the rich were rarely united, and the elections were competitive.  Political culture required the popular voice.  The wealthy sought office which depended on popular election, on obtaining votes from people who did not have the financial means to stand for themselves.

Political ancestry carried weight.  Reputation and fame depended on word of mouth and publicity.  Many used artists to write tributes, such as poems. 

For the Roman Republic, king was a loathing term, even thought many defining institutions were borne during the regal period.

As Rome became more republican, the privileges of the elite, the patricians were eroded.  Strikes and mass violence gradually equalized their status, and the major offices were opened up to the lower class, the plebeians. 


What Turned The Republic Into An Empire?

A major dilemma for Roman political culture was balancing individual achievement with how the elites shared power.  As Rome expanded, Rome relied on individuals whose power and rivalries threatened the Republic’s political values.  Over time, conflict turned against other Romans rather than foreign enemies.  It was a gradual destruction of peaceful politics.  To gain political power, violence replaced the ballot box.   

Pompey was a major figure who can claim to be the first emperor, given the independent power that Pompey wielded.  Along with honors and status given to Pompey. 

Against increasing political and social disorder, three politicians made an informal deal.  Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Marcus Licinius Crassus.  They took public policy and turned them into private decisions.  They chose the consulship, military commands, and other key decisions.  It is claimed that the Republican government fell not when Caesar and Pompey became enemies, but when they became allies.  A political process that was determined behind the public was seen as worse than the open violence of before.  When the civil war began with Pompey and Caesar on opposing sides, the choice was not between a freedom fighter and autocrat.  As both were autocratic.  No matter which side won, meant slavery for Rome. 

Caesar pardoned rather than punished enemies, which was against Republican tradition.  This provoked opposition rather than gratitude.  The ability to show mercy was a monarchical one.  Only those with power can exercise mercy.  For Rome, this was against liberty.  Removing the tyrant Caesar did not dispose of tyranny.


What Happened When Rome Became An Empire?

Majority of Romans preferred Caesar’s reforms which supported the poor, over the ideas of liberty which were seen as an excuse for elite self-interest to continue exploiting the underclass.

Under Augustus regime, Augustus influence reduced the value of the popular democratic process.  Augustus does not appear to have abolished anything.  The governing class remained the same, and the senate was enhanced.  Augustus appeared to be very generous, which shifted people’s relationship with power.  People began to see the emperor as their patron, a protector and benefactor. 

Augustus ensured that no private army could be raised.  Augustus monopolized the military force, but the regime was not a military dictatorship.  Augustus army pension reform severed the dependence and personal loyalty between army and individual commanders.  Army employment terms and conditions were standardized, with the public paying the expense.  This created its own problems, for the armies were expensive to maintain. 

Free elections meant that politicians were dependent on the people.  But with an emperor, politicians needed to gain approval of the emperor rather than the people.  Politicians no longer needed to attract the support of the people.  Decisional hierarchy was made clear with an emperor.  The emperor needed to approve matters even in the provinces.  Even minute details needed the emperor’s attention.

Emperors provided a stable structure.  A stable set of problems and tensions.  Focused less on conquest and expansion, and more on management and taxes. 



The focus of the book is on the uncertainty about Roman history, not what is known.  The reader can get lost in what is and is not known about the Roman people.  The different views and interpretations of the events provide for an understanding of how the Roman people defined themselves, but lack the specific reasons for events.

This book covers a long period of time.  Sometimes covering a few events, their uncertainty, and different interpretations.  Sometimes covering a lot of events with brief descriptions.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What does SPQR stand for?
•What were characteristics of Roman culture?
•What were the values under the Republic era?
•Who could become a politician? 
•How did Rome expand?
•How did Rome’s expansion effect the political process? 
•How much of Roman history is known?  What are the sources for Roman history? 
•How was the Roman army used? 
•For what reasons did Roman’s fight wars? 
•How were the conquered people treated?
•Who could become a Roman citizen? 
•Who was Pompey?
•Why did Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Marcus Licinius Crassus create a partnership?
•When did the Republic government fall?
•How did Augustus change Rome?
•How have the Romans influenced contemporary society? 
•What is the relationship between Greece and Rome? 
•Why was there a conflict between Cicero and Catiline? 
•How did Cicero rule as consul? 
•What were the Roman punishment options? 
•How did information about Rome survive time? 
•What is the story of Romulus and Remus? 
•What does the name Romulus mean?  
•When was Rome founded? 
•What is the regal period of Rome? 
•How did Rome count the years?
•When did Rome become a Republic? 
•What happened to Carthage? 
•What did Lucius Cornelius Sulla do? 
•Why did Caesar cross the Rubicon? 
•What were the reforms of Gaius Gracchus? 
•What was the Social War? 
•What did the supporters of Spartacus want?  
•What was the role of women?
•What were the features of a Roman marriage? 
•How did Augustus explain the war against Antony and Cleopatra? 
•Who became heir after Augustus? 
•What were the characteristics of the emperors after Augustus? 
•What did Romans think of adoption?
•What was the succession plan for emperors? 
•What was the social status of people living in storied buildings? 
•What was work to the average Roman person? 
•Did the Romans have a childhood?
•What was the point of a Roman bar? 
•What was the point of Hadrian’s Wall? 
•Who was Boudicca (or Buduica)? 
•How did Rome influence Christianity and vice versa? 
•What was the effect of social programs? 

Book Details
Publisher:               Liveright Publishing Corporation [W. W. Norton & Company]
Edition ISBN:         9781631492228
Pages to read:          522
Publication:             2016
1st Edition:              2015
Format:                    Paperback 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          5

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Review of A Voracious Grief by Lindsey Lamh

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (02/03/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) How To Have A Conversation?

Watch Short Review


“On our return journey, I endure wordless hours.  Never in my life have I felt such deep bitterness toward another person.  Never have I been so misunderstood, ill-used, and mistrusted as I have been by the one person I’m trying to help.  There are no niceties capable of mending the yawning chasm separating Mattie and me.  What ought to be done eludes me.  All I do comprehend is my recoiling anger, simmering undiminished, in the wake of this betrayal.” – Lindsey Lamh, Chapter 7, Page 65

“”That’s your scheme, is it?” I say, crouching like a frightened rabbit, ready to spring.  “I don’t doubt you’ve tempted countless people with such an invitation.  But I’ve guessed your game, and I know what you are, demon!  I know your secrets, even if Mattie doesn’t.  Illusions of happiness don’t reach the soul.  She’ll still suffer, no matter how many diversions occupy her mind. But I won’t give in.  I’m going to destroy you and save my sister!”” – Lindsey Lamh, Chapter 15, Page 128

“”You think the pain is too great.  That it’ll eclipse you.  But it actually has the power to transform you.  Grief breaks you down to your most elemental parts.  It’s a little killing, from which you’ve naturally recoiled.  Instead, you must press in.  Be reborn.”” – Lindsey Lamh, Chapter 21, Page 166

Excerpts with permission from author.


Is This An Overview?

Death stalks the Bancroft family.  Only Ambrose and Mattie remain after close family members pass.  The siblings return to London after their period of mourning.  London carries with it many remembrances of the departed.  Ambrose wants to reenter society, by going to soirĂ©es.  But Mattie is resistant, as Mattie wants to remain secluded.  Ambrose wants the best for Mattie, and tries to get Mattie to reenter society.  Ambrose thinks that reentry is what is best for Mattie, that reentry would make Mattie happy.  But wanting what is best for someone, is not the same as what is best for someone.  Mattie knows that Ambrose loves Mattie, and understands that Ambrose is only trying to help, but the more Ambrose presses decisions unto Mattie, the more Mattie becomes frustrated.  Leading to Mattie’s betrayal of Ambrose, and going back to Linwood Manor. 

Mattie has discovered a secret within Linwood.  A way for Mattie to not feel the burden of grief.  A realm that enables Mattie’s fantasies.  For Linwood is connected to a realm beyond the physical.  In the physical realm, Ambrose witnesses Mattie’s health decline.  Wants to help Mattie, but the only way to help Mattie would be to listen to Mattie.  To follow Mattie into the realm.  A realm that appears to want to help Mattie, but Ambrose sees how the realm hurts Mattie.  Can Ambrose save Mattie, even if Mattie does not listen to Ambrose?  This is a story of grief, the power of listening, and letting loved ones make their own decisions. 



The reader needs to be emotionally prepared for the topics.  Character interactions reflect genuine choices and thoughts, but they can be misunderstood by those who have not gone through the same emotional experiences.  The characters values reflect their era, which can make certain decisions and interactions that are significant appear insignificant, odd, or wrong to those without a cultural reference. 

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•Who is left in the Bancroft family?  Who do they mourn?
•Who was Bennett?
•How does Ambrose treat Mattie?
•What does Ambrose think of Bennett?
•What reminders are there in London? 
•Why does Ambrose want to reenter society?
•Why does Ambrose think that Mattie should reenter society? 
•Why did the Lawrences place Ambrose at the end of the dining room? 
•Who is Anna Holm?
•What advice does Anna Holm give Ambrose? 
•Who is Godfrey?
•What is the appropriate mourning period? 
•How well does Ambrose know Mattie? 
•What deal does Ambrose make with Tom? 
•Who is Matilda? 
•Why does Ambrose and Mattie need to go back to Linwood?
•What happened in the boarded-up room in Linwood?
•Where does Mattie take Ambrose? 
•Who is King Bonne and Queen Beatrix?
•What games do King Bonne and Queen Beatrix have?
•What deal does Ambrose make with Bonne?
•Do illusions make people happier? 
•Who is Thuris?
•Who is the Magna Regina?
•How does Ambrose interact with Beatrix? 
•How to handle grief?
•How to listen?
•How to help those that appear to need help?

Book Details
This book was provided by the author
Edition:                   First Edition
Publisher:               Lamh Books LLC
Edition ISBN:         2940167305175
Pages to read:          210
Publication:             2023
1st Edition:              2023
Format:                    eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall          5

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Review of Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism by George A. Akerlof, Robert J. Shiller

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Intriguing Connections = 1) Learning Economics: Basic to Advanced

Watch Short Review


“The multiplier theory explained that a small dip in expenditure could have greatly magnified effects.  If there were a small but substantial decline in consumption expenditures because people overreacted in fear to a stock market crash, such as the one in 1929, then this would act just like a negative government stimulus.  For each dollar that people cut their consumption, there would be another round of expenditure cuts, then another and then another, resulting in a much larger decline in economic activity than would be attributable to the initial shock.” – George A. Akerlof, and Robert J. Shiller, Chapter One: Confidence and Its Multipliers, Page 44

“The need for consumer protection is always a cause of some importance, but for a variety of reasons it is not the Achilles heel of capitalism.  Consumers are sufficiently knowledgeable that, for the most part, they do not buy things frivolously.  Most of their purchases are recurring, and they learn quickly if a product does not produce results.  Retail stores also certify, at least to some extent, what they sell.  In addition there are government safeguards.  These are particularly important in cases in which the consumer cannot easily assess a product’s attributes.  Many products are subject to safety requirements that are a matter of law.  For example, building codes protect homeowners from shoddy workmanship hidden behind the walls.” – George A. Akerlof, and Robert J. Shiller, Chapter Three: Corruption and Bad Faith, Page 57

“The human mind is built to think in terms of narratives, of sequences of events with an internal logic and dynamic that appear as a unified whole.  In turn, much of human motivation comes from living through a story of our lives, a story that we tell ourselves and that creates a framework for motivation.” – George A. Akerlof, and Robert J. Shiller, Chapter Five: Stories, Page 82


Is This An Overview?

Animal spirits are thoughts and feelings of animate people.  The psychological causes of economic activity.  Animal spirits are the noneconomic motives of decision making.  Decisions chosen by more than just rational actors wanting mutual economic benefits.  Economists tended to dismiss individual variations in the aggregate, but it is the variations produced by animal spirits that cause economic fluctuates.  There are consequences to animal spirits, which leads to a role for government, to prevent the consequences from escalating. 

The elements of animal spirits include confidence, fairness, corruption, money illusion, and stories.  People make decisions based on the confidence they have in an option, rather than considering all possible outcomes of all options.  Confidence in economic activity leads people to participate more, while a dip in confidence can prevent participation that escalates into an economic crisis.  People care for fairness, and are willing to punish those who they deem are acting selfishly.  Purchasing products and services risks corruption, as the claims about what was purchased can be misleading.  Consumer protection is needed for purchases whose quality is difficult to verify, while consumers tend to know the effectiveness of frequently repeated purchases.  People tend to think that the value of money is static, which is the money illusion, for in practice money purchases different amounts of the same product over time.  Stories build the narrative of events, which defines and motivates human behavior. 



The authors bring back the psychological aspects of Keynesian economics, with John Maynard Keynes being the originator of the term, animal spirits.  While they propagate an underrepresented idea of Keynes, to rectify the misunderstanding, they also propagate misunderstanding about Adam Smith’s ideas.  Smith’s work contained many noneconomic motivations for behavior.  The authors recognize how Keynes’s views were stripped of their psychological values, but do not recognize that the same was done to Smith.   

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What are animal spirits?
•What are the elements of animal spirits? 
•What is the role of the government? 
•How do animal spirits explain economic activity?
•How do animal spirits explain economic crisis?
•What is confidence?
•Do people care about fairness?
•How does corruption effect economics?
•What is the money illusion?
•Why do people tell stories?
•What is Keynesian economics?
•What is the Invisible Hand? 

Book Details
Publisher:               Princeton University Press
Edition ISBN:         9781400834723
Pages to read:          204
Publication:             2010
1st Edition:              2009
Format:                    eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          2
Overall          2

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Review of When Women Ruled the World: Making the Renaissance in Europe by Maureen Quilligan

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (05/25/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Biographies: Auto, Memoir, and Other Types

Watch Short Review


“When later Elizabeth came to the throne, she often used this same language to her people, understanding that even a virgin queen could claim the power of being “mother” of her nation as Mary had.  Although these were not necessarily gifts Mary consciously gave to Elizabeth, as the first independent queen of England it was she who established a powerful rhetoric for female rule, which Elizabeth quite literally inherited.” – Maureen Quilligan, Chapter One: The Device for Succession, Page 10

“Catherine had suppressed all jousting performances in France after her husband Henri II’s death from the wound he’d taken during a joust, and in place of these dangerous combats, she had presented brilliant musical concerts, classical ballets (the elaborate geometric patterns of which she often personally choreographed,) and various feats of equestrian skill, such as running at the quintain, a small metal ring hanging from a swiveling armature.” – Maureen Quilligan, Chapter Four: “Sister” Queens, Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor, Pages 108-109 

“With a far smaller army, she lost the battle of Langside, and the Queen of Scots was finally out of both men and money.  At that point she threw herself fully on the mercy of her sister queen in England, whom she trusted would cherish her as that sister had seemed to want to cherish her son; that sister whose gift of the gold font had sustained her wars.” – Maureen Quilligan, Chapter Five: Regicide, Republicanism, and the Death of Darnley, Page 141


Is This An Overview?

This is the story of Mary Tudor Queen of England, Elizabeth Tudor Queen of England, Mary Stuart Queen of Scotland, and Catherine de’ Medici Queen of France.  Showing how they interacted with each other, learned from each other, and resolved their conflicts.  The queens gave each other gifts.  Some were physical, as devices to influence decisions and garner cooperation.  Some were intellectual, as they learned from the others experiences to change how they ruled.  They made different relationship choices, and faced the consequences.  The queens were often divided by religion.  As their regions were engaged in the conflict between Protestants and Catholics.  The queens sometimes tried to reduce political friction, to engage in religious toleration, but their choices were limited due to competing powers. 

They were women who ruled during a time when many in their regions, and even relatives, wanted a male sovereign.  The role of women was to produce a male heir for succession.  Being female was not the only challenge to their sovereignty, as regions were also challenging the divine authority of monarchy.  An era of growing demand to turn monarchies into republics.  Political competition was another challenge, for the expansion of a kingdom or religion could had threatened the other kingdoms or religions.  The queens, and other leaders, used various maneuvers to try to obtain or prevent a kingdom from gaining more power. 



The focus of this book is on a few events, which emphasize decisions being made on account of the sovereigns being queens rather than kings.  References are made to international influences, but were given little information.  This book provides an introduction to the queens era’s political schemes, which the reader can use to search for more information about the related sovereign entities and political decisions. 

This book showcases sexist claims against women from the people during the era, that effected the era’s decisions.  Some of these claims are being reflected on and remarked with sexism against the author’s male contemporaries.  The remarks do not take up much space, but create contradictions in how the author approaches sexism.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•Who was Mary Tudor?
•Who was Elizabeth Tudor?
•Who was Mary Stuart?
•Who was Catherine de’ Medici? 
•How did the hereditary title work in practice?
•What was the purpose of royal gifts?
•How did the Queens handle religion? 
•What were the challenges to the Queens sovereignty? 
•When Mary Tudor was Queen, did Elizabeth Tudor betray Mary? 
•What succession decisions did Henry VIII make?  
•How did Henry VIII treat the daughters? 
•How did Mary Tudor handle traitors? 
•Why did Philip not return to England for Mary’s funeral?
•Why did Philip want to propose that Elizabeth become Philip’s wife?
•Why did France transition from jousting to other pursuits that were less risky? 
•What happened to Darnley? 
•How did the Roman Empire effect English life? 
•Who was James Hepburn?
•How did Darnley perish? 
•What decisions did Mary’s child, King James make?
•Why Did Mary, Queen of Scots decide to seek the help of Elisabeth after the battle of Langside? 
•What strategies did Cecil use to trap the Queens? 
•How was Mary, Queen of Scots executed? 
•How was Catherine de’ Medici treated in France?
•Why did Catherine revoke the ban against revenge?  
•Who did Mary, Queen of Scots decide was a suitable heir to the kingdom? 

Book Details
Edition:                   First Edition
Publisher:               Liveright Publishing Corporation [W. W. Norton & Company]
Edition ISBN:         9781631497964
Pages to read:          258
Publication:             2021
1st Edition:              2021
Format:                    Hardcover 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall          3

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Review of The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Novel
Book Club Event = Book List (04/20/2024)

Watch Short Review


“”If these men you spoke to were typical,” she said, “it would be the Everybody’s Association already.  Oh, all right, go ahead and join; I’ll think up slogans for placards.  I’ll have plenty of time when school starts.”” – Ira Levin, Page 6

“She hung up and sat looking at the phone and her hand on it.  The thought struck her – ridiculously – that Bobbie had changed the way Charmaine had.  No, not Bobbie; impossible.  She must have had a fight with Dave, a major one that she wasn’t ready to talk about yet.  Or could she herself have offended Bobbie in some way without being aware of it?” – Ira Levin, Page 80

“”No,” she said, shaking her head.  “No.  Whatever it is takes four months to work, which means I’ve got one more month to go.  Maybe less; we moved here September fourth.”” – Ira Levin, Page 84


Is This An Overview?

Joanna and family moved to Stepford.  A place of welcoming people.  Joanna is part of the Women’s Liberation movement, and is bothered by the fact that there is a Men’s Association, but no Women’s Association.  Joanna’s husband joins the Men’s Association in part to connect with the neighbors, but also to try to turn the association into Everybody’s Association.  As Joanna becomes familiarized with the neighborhood, strange interactions occur.  The women seem to be willing to do housework, and not much else.  Joanna meets others who arrived in Stepford shortly before Joanna, who are also interested in women’s empowerment. 

But for some reason, even independent minded and empowered women become compliant and submissive housewives eager to please their family and nothing else.  This change happens about four months after moving to Stepford.  Leading to questions about what can turn women’s personality in such a drastic way.  Maybe it is chemicals in the soil or water.  Maybe the wives are turned to robots.  Maybe it is just women changing their minds.  Maybe it is Joanna losing a grip on reality.  Based on what Joanna thinks, Joanna does not have long to figure out what is happening in Stepford until Joanna might change into someone Joanna does not want to be. 



A short and easy to read book.  There is a long buildup of information until the suspense is actualized.  The importance of some information would be more readily recognized by those who know the era’s history of women’s empowerment movements and leaders.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is happening at Stepford?
•How do the people interact with each other?
•What suspicious interactions does Joanna have? 
•Should Joanna leave Stepford?
•What happened to the Women’s Club?
•What is the Men’s Association?
•Who is Bobbie?  
•Who is Charmaine? 
•What are Joanna’s beliefs and values?  
•Why does Walter join the Men’s Association?  
•How do the wives in Stepford behave? 
•How do the women change?  
•Why do the women change?  
•What happens to Joanna at the end? 

Book Details
Introduction Author: Peter Straub
Edition:                   Perennial edition
Publisher:               HarperCollins Publishers
Edition ISBN:         9780060080846
Pages to read:          130
Publication:             2002
1st Edition:              1972
Format:                    Paperback 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall          3

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Review of The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live, and Love by Mel Schwartz

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Psychology
Book Club Event = Book List (01/20/2024)

Watch Short Review


“What we think of as reality is actually no more than the current worldview.  Yet as each new theory and discovery arises, we reenvision the world and how we come to live in it, and our new vision has profound consequences on most aspects of our lives.” – Mel Schwartz, Chapter 1: The Promise Of The Quantum Worldview, Page 5

“We often seek these exciting, uncertain experiences as compensation for living lives dulled by our need for certainty and predictability – a need that tends to rule our thinking and decision-making.  When we become addicted to this need, we live out our lives in a formatted way, less present and mindful than we could be.  Being bound up in the straitjacket of certainty makes us like a character in a novel for whom the plot is already written.  We’re simply living according to our script.” – Mel Schwartz, Chapter 2: Why We Need To Embrace Uncertainty, Page 11

“You are more than your experiences, and an infinite potential awaits you as you allow your identity to evolve.  Once you learn to see how your beliefs are informing you, you are free to break into new terrain and achieve a defining moment.  Witness your thoughts and recognize the story they are telling you.  Don’t confuse them with the truth.  You can learn to rewrite your story.” – Mel Schwartz, Chapter 3: Recovering Our Lost Potential, Page 30

Excerpts With Permission From The Author


Is This An Overview?

The way the individual perceives the world depends on currently available information about the world.  As discoveries are made that change the understanding of reality, so does how people perceive the world, how they filter information.    Changing how they interact, think, and live.  In this way, did quantum physics effect psychology.  Ideas from quantum physics such as uncertainty and inseparability effect everyday experiences.  Quantum physics perceives the universe in a state of uncertainty, which implies a state of pure potentiality.  Which informs the core of the Possibility Principle, which is that possibility brings with it more possibility. 

The implicit elusiveness of certainty can constrict behavior and bring with it anxiety.  Embracing uncertainty gives the individual control over their life by taking up the opportunities life provides.  Reconsidering the value of uncertainty is an application of quantum physics, another is inseparability.  The mind creates divisions without realizing it.  Divisions can be helpful, but often are not.  There is synergy between the divided parts, that make them greater as a whole.  Fragmented knowledge misses vital information contained in the other parts.  A group of people might be composed of individual units, but they are not separable.  The way each individual treats others, affects others and oneself.  Someone else’s problem, effects oneself.  Mistreating others, hurts others and oneself.


Why Embrace Uncertainty?

People seek certainty, but can become dependent on the predictable.  Seeking certainty can create anxiety, because certainty is often elusive.  Seeking certainty can prevent the individual from being present in the moment.  Seeking certainty means becoming stuck in the familiar, which means that the individual will miss valuable life opportunities. 

People seek uncertainty in compensation for their lives being more certain and predictable.  Uncertainty attracts attention and engages the individual.  Uncertainty needs to permeate life more generally, as uncertainty implies possibility.  Changing perception and thinking from fixed to a flow of possibilities.  That the individual has the ability to create their own outcomes.

Thoughts create reality, and are a reflection of the past.  Changing thoughts means changing how reality is experienced.  To let go of previously wrong beliefs, and constraining behaviors.  This should be based on positive self-reflection.  Reflection that overcomes negative thoughts.  There is more to an individual than just experiences, as there is infinite potential.  Beliefs inform identity.  The individual can learn to rewrite their story.  To not confuse beliefs with truth. 


How Are Things Indivisible?

Indivisibility is another idea from quantum physics.  Dichotomy of though, seeing things in contrast with another to differentiate things shapes reality.  Looking at the opposition can lead to forgetting about another path, where the oppositions can coexist.

The whole is more than the sum of its part.  The parts are connected to a system.  Even with knowledge, too much specialization and fragmentations leaves each part without vital information.  Reality is more complex and pluralistic than a desired simple solution with clear morals.

The perspective of Indivisible wholeness and participation implies that doing harm to another is a form of self-harm.  The brain can microwire itself through neuroplasticity, without the need for drugs.  Microwire itself based on how each individual treats another, which effects their own body chemistry.  Illusion of separation occurs when thinking that someone else’s problems, especially that of a partner, are separate from the individual’s. 



This book does not add new understanding to quantum physics or psychology.  What this book does is combine them.  Enabling a reflection on ideas from a different perspective.  Sometimes it can be easier to understand the application of quantum physics to psychology if the reader knows some quantum physics, but that is not necessary. 

There are limits to potential change.  There are physical, biological, psychological limits to change.  Change that is possible also takes time.  Individuals need time to transform themselves. 

Some of the references and explanations are culturally specific.  Their applications need to adjusted for cultural relevance. 

Uncertainty might need to be embraced, but does not mean certainty is valueless.  There is value is certainty such as limiting the amount of energy the brain uses to think about the interaction.  Enabling more energy to be devoted to more uncertain interactions.   

Science is an ongoing trial of limitations, which includes quantum physics.  Some observations and comparisons lack scientific rigor.  There are many other explanations for the events.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•How did the author come to unite psychology and quantum physics?  
•How does quantum physic apply to psychology? 
•How do scientific discoveries change behavior? 
•How do beliefs effect behavior?
•What is the Possibility Principle?
•Why embrace uncertainty?
•Why is separation an illusion?
•Are things inseparable? 
•Why does the mind create divisions?
•How does how a person treat someone effect themself? 
•Why seek certainty?
•How to use self-reflection? 
•What is the epidemic of emotional and psychological unrest? 
•What should therapists focus on when they are helping someone? 
•What is other-esteem? 
•How to have a conversation? 

Book Details
This Book Was Provided By The Author 
Publisher:               Sounds True
Edition ISBN:         9781622038633
Pages to read:          166
Publication:             2017
1st Edition:              2017
Format:                    Hardcover 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall          4