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Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations Hardcover – November 22, 2016
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One of The Wall Street Journal's "10 Books to Read Now"
One of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2016, Kirkus Reviews
One of the Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2016, Publishers Weekly
"Thomas L. Friedman is a self-confessed 'explanatory journalist'―whose goal is to be a 'translator from English to English.' And he is extremely good at it . . . it is hard to think of any other journalist who has explained as many complicated subjects to so many people . . . Now he has written his most ambitious book―part personal odyssey, part commonsense manifesto . . . As a guide for perplexed Westerners, this book is very hard to beat . . . Thank You for Being Late is a master class in explaining . . . As usual with Friedman, it is all backed up by pages of serious reporting from around the world . . . After your session with Dr. Friedman, you have a much better idea of the forces that are upending your world, how they work together―and what people, companies and governments can do to prosper. You do have a coherent narrative―an honest, cohesive explanation for why the world is the way it is, without miracle cures or scapegoats. And that is why everybody should hope this book does very well indeed." ―John Micklethwait, The New York Times Book Review
"[An] ambitious book . . . In a country torn by a divisive election, technological change and globalization, reconstructing social ties so that people feel respected and welcomed is more important than ever . . . Rather than build walls, [healthy communities] face their problems and solve them. In [Friedman's] telling, this is the way to make America great." ―Laura Vanderkam, The Wall Street Journal
"Engaging . . . in some senses Thank You For Being Late is an extension of [Friedman's] previous works, woven in with wonderful personal stories (including admirably honest discussions about the nature of being a columnist). What gives Friedman’s book a new twist is his belief that upheaval in 2016 is actually far more dramatic than earlier phases . . . Friedman also argues that Americans need to discover their sense of 'community,' and uses his home town of Minneapolis to demonstrate this. In two of the most engaging chapters, the author returns to the town and explains how it has created a relatively inclusive, harmonious and pragmatic style of government . . . It is a wonderful sentiment. And it injects a badly needed dose of optimism into the modern debate." ―Gillian Tett, Financial Times
"The globe-trotting New York Times columnist’s most famous book was about the world being flat. This one is all about the world being fast . . . His main piece of advice for individuals, corporations, and countries is clear: Take a deep breath and adapt. This world isn’t going to wait for you." ―Fortune
"[A] humane and empathetic book." ―David Henkin, The Washington Post
"[Friedman's] latest engrossingly descriptive analysis of epic trends and their consequences . . . Friedman offers tonic suggestions for fostering 'moral innovation' and a commitment to the common good in this detailed and clarion inquiry, which, like washing dirty windows, allows us to see far more clearly what we’ve been looking at all along . . . his latest must-read." ―Booklist (starred review)
"The three-time Pulitzer winner puts his familiar methodology―extensive travel, thorough reporting, interviews with the high-placed movers and shakers, conversations with the lowly moved and shaken―to especially good use here . . . He prescribes nothing less than a redesign of our workplaces, politics, geopolitics, ethics, and communities . . . Required reading for a generation that's 'going to be asked to dance in a hurricane.'" ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
About the Author
Thomas L. Friedman is a three-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for his work with The New York Times and the author of six bestselling books, including The World Is Flat.
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Top Customer Reviews
Though I could have done without the plethora of folksy interjections, as a whole the argument made is compelling, well documented and (for me) fairly frightening. In the closing chapters of the book, Friedman offers several common sense, pragmatic solutions and manages to convey a sense of optimism that eventually, the world will be capable of adapting in a manner that improves global civilization. Given the facts and strong arguments made in preceding chapters however, the optimism seems unfounded;; particularly given the lack of political will for the heterodox approach that the author justifiably feels that circumstances require.
I've given this work five stars because it has helped me, more than any other source I've read, to develop a reasonably clear understanding of how we got to where we are. I do not share the author's optimism, but I appreciate the clarity of thought, the ability to synthesize what appear to be disparate trends, and finally, the insightful, cogent analyses.
People sense the dislocation occurring in this country and the reaction has caused the rise of Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald Trump on the right. According to Mr. Friedman, the wrong response is to try to keep things as they were. This is analogous to keeping your paddle in the water to try to slow down when whitewater kayaking. What you should do is paddle as fast or faster than the current to keep stability. How does one “paddle faster?” Turn AI into IA. Huh? Turn Artificial Intelligence into Intelligent Assistance. Internet tools will help people identify their interests and train them to be proficient in them e.g. the Khan Academy. Companies can also assist their employees in this process, identify employees with desired interests and skills and guide them into future jobs. AT&T is already doing this. Of course, not everyone will be able to succeed this way. Too many people will be dislocated and our current government is woefully unprepared to help people adjust to the new economy. Mr. Friedman suggests an 18 point plan that is a combination of right and left ideas e.g., eliminate the corporate tax which will eliminate corporate tax loopholes and allow corporations to repatriate offshore holdings, revisit Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley to facilitate rational risk taking, establish a Regulatory Review Commission to eliminate regulations that are strangling business development- but also, institute a single-payer health care system, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and expand free trade while providing wage insurance for those people affected by the loss of their jobs.
Mr. Friedman is optimistic but, as other reviewers have pointed out, his optimism doesn’t seem to follow from his narrative. Ultimately, he does not solve the problem posed by John Maynard Keynes in 1928 and reiterated by many recent authors- in a consumer driven economy what do we do when artificial intelligence and robots eliminate so many jobs that people can’t afford to purchase the goods and services produced? That is the most important question for today and tomorrow.
With about 100 pages to go, I felt the book was a bit disjointed, but gaining momentum and waiting for a masterful section to tie together the wandering narratives and deliver on the promise of the title to serve as an optimist's guide. What followed instead was an approximately 100 page nostalgic rambling about how awesome his hometown in Minnesota is - it was painful to trudge through, I much preferred John Galt's 70 page speech. The passion Friedman has for this topic of community and his hometown jumps off the page, but he really does a disservice to his readers in the way he finishes this book.
To be fair the book does stay faithful to the model Friedman lays out in the first chapter (though not to the title):
"What is my value set and where did it come from? How do I think the Machine works today? And what have I learned about how different people and cultures are being impacted by the Machine and responding to it? "
But honestly, it feels like the first chapter was written after the fact in a weak attempt to offer some framework to Friedman's disjointed and self-satisfying musings.