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Adrian Booth (Godalming, UK)

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Gold: The Once and Future Money (Agora Series)
Gold: The Once and Future Money (Agora Series)
by Addison Wiggin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 23.49

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Balanced, too focused on minutia, 26 Jan 2009
Firstly, if you are a beginner, like me, to the gold standard, I recommend not buying this book. I give this book four stars from an objective point of view, as my own experience with it would warrant three or maybe two stars. I give four due to the intense research put into the book and the well balanced, pragmatic arguments the author puts forward for a pegged gold standard. The book does, however, go into too much detail than is necessary. Towards the middle, the author uses every other sentence to type the value of gold vs. ABC currency at which exact date. This becomes incredibly dull. For the first few chapters, the author had me in his hands as I was engrossed by an introduction to this form of ancient money which came about through trial and error from thousands of years of human history. I was expecting more of a history on the very roots of gold as money. Instead the author goes through a detailed history of economic crises related to currencies that become too bogged down on minutia. I applaud the author for his analysis and clear cut argument, but as a beginner to the gold standard, it just wasn't suited for me. This doesn't mean, of course, that it is not a good book in an absolute sense. It is well detailed and thought provoking, and gives one a good background of knowledge to work with on this ancient form of money.


Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)
Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)
by Tom Vanderbilt
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and Informative, 21 Oct 2008
Tom Vanderbilt is a great author. He has managed to write a book about one of the most mundane, boring, simplistic topics and turn it into an exciting, interesting and informative piece of work. Every single sentence backed up with years of studies from experts in the field of traffic (yes...experts on traffic) makes for an incredibly interesting read. I won't got too much into detail but Vanderbilt cites many examples of how our eyes can easily deceive us on the road, and also talks about 'risk homeostasis' where we tend to adjust are our behaviour relative to the risks involved e.g. Wearing seatbelts = Faster driving etc. This part at the end was most interesting.

All in all, after reluctant to read it, as it was given as a present, I have learnt never to judge a book by its topic, not matter how boring or dull it may sound. It's a truly enjoyable read.


Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion
Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion
by Noah J. Goldstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do Not Read this Rubbish., 14 Aug 2008
Having recently read Cialdini's previous book on Influence, I was drawn to this current work. If a book is extremely good, I will recommend it to friends and colleagues alike. However, this is one book I will never recommend to anybody I know; Why? Because it is just too good. Like Cialdini's last book, this one which he contributes to has a very succinct writing style and beautifully laid out sources to point you in the right direction to research it yourself. Each chapter contains thoroughly interesting comments on research conducted over the previous decades on persuasion, and I must say, this book has just nailed it.

I normally do not trust authors or books that attempt to publish the "secrets" of something. But having read this now, I can safely claim that I was wrong. The authors present a fully credible set of sources that back up their claims and always seem to stick to the point in each brief chapter. There is no drifting off topic and is has a perfect writing style.

Now you may ask why I could never recommend this book to a friend but feel compelled to write a review on Amazon for many people to see. The reason is because when you're in a social situation with colleagues and friends, it's hard at times to influence them to do the things YOU want to do. It's for this reason I cannot mention this book on social outings.
However, I feel I owe it to all three authors of this book to write a 5 star review for presenting me with this fabulous read. Overall, it is a book that must be on the desk of every businessman and is one that I cannot praise any more than I have.

Excellent read. Thanks Goldstein, Martin and Cialdini; you've surpassed yourselves.


Irrationality
Irrationality
by Stuart Sutherland
Edition: Paperback

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Irrationality- A virus to be treated, 6 July 2008
This review is from: Irrationality (Paperback)
Stuart Sutherland has prepared a psychology book that's accessible to anybody, from the professor to the layman. He cites so many examples of irrationality through research and experiments conducted in the past few decades. The book is packed full of references to experiments and situations where humans behave in foolish ways sub-consciously. The only criticism I have is, like most books, he tends to digress too much towards irrationality in medicine which can become rather dull during the middle of the book. The text explains very well to the reader how the use of rewards, incentives and punishments are dangerous in many instances, and leads you to think about how our education system can be fully improved by eradicating the incentives we have for children today. He also proves how those with strong beliefs are acting irrationally, as they only search for evidence that fully confirms their belief, therefore encouraging extremism. The rational thing to do if one is so confident in a belief, he adds, is to seek evidence contradicting those beliefs. Sutherland also provides guidance to avoid irrationality after each chapter.

Overall, the book is incredibly thought provoking, yet his tendency to digress on many subjects leads to self-indulgence which can become tiresome towards the middle. All in all, I would recommend it to anyone.


Naked Economics - Undressing the Dismal Science
Naked Economics - Undressing the Dismal Science
by Burton G. Malkiel
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An book that unveils the beauty of economics., 23 Jun 2008
Charles Wheelan has provided us lucky readers with an economics book that truly makes you think. This being my first EVER economics book, I was left wanting more. I considered myself a believer in free-markets, and this book only reinforced those beliefs. Wheelan's main point in the book is to explain briefly and simplistically the beauty behind economics. From an amateur point of view, I would recommend this book to anybody interested in the subject; from an A-level student to a PhD Scholar, since the latter study the mathematical side of things more than the underlying principles of economics covered in this book. Overall, thoroughly insightful, and like all good books, leaves you wanting more.


Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
Offered by Game Gadgets
Price: 12.39

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, but not for MGS Beginners, 21 Jun 2008
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This game is, for use of a better work, mind-blowing. The graphics are crystal and the new tools available to Snake are incredible. On the other hand, I would have given this 2-3 stars if this was my first MGS game. I respect Konami for not selling out on this one and sticking to the games core principles. Yes there are cut scenes that go on for well over an hour and there is not that much shooting in the game; so for those that do not prefer games that make you think and develop a strategy, go for GTA IV. This game however, tests the gamer, and although the storyline can become convoluted at times, it has a very unique narrative. This is a great ending to the MGS saga, and I thank Konami for providing me with these adventures for the past decade.


Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear
Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear
by Dan Gardner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Fear Industrial Complex, 21 Jun 2008
This being Dan Gardner's first book, I am thoroughly impressed. From the language he uses, you can detect in many instances his journalistic background. He starts of perfectly by introducing to us System One (intuitive, quick and emotional) and System Two (calculating, slow and rational). He progresses and simply refers to System One as 'Gut' (gut instinct) and System Two as 'Head'.

Without getting into too much detail, the overall conclusion of the book is that the System One side of our brain (gut instinct) is damaging to our rational thought processes. By following our ancestors' mindset and preferring to listen to stories rather than statistics, we become irrationally fearful of the wrong things and force the media to tell us irrelevant, albeit entertaining stories that subsequently induce fear into our minds. He outlines the dangers of becoming irrationally fearful from the very beginning, such as how 1,500 extra people were killed on the roads as a result of the fear of planes following 9/11 in America.

Some cases in the book seem ambiguous. For instance, it became somewhat confusing as he, within the space of 15 pages, contradicts himself very clearly. On page 83 he talks about how the human mind responds to the presentation of statistics. He mentions how humans do not respond emotionally to `percentages' the same way they respond to absolute figures. "Whats a `per cent'? Can I see a `per cent'? Can I touch it? No. But '20 out of every 100 patients' is very concrete and real" he mentions on page 83. On page 98 he then writes "Even saving `85 per cent of 150 lives' garnered more support than saving 150 lives. The explanation lies in the lack of feeling we have for the number 150. It's vaguely good, because it represents people's lives, but it's abstract. We can't picture 150 lives and so we don't feel 150 lives. We can feel proportions however." It's these few lines that I find contradicting in the book.

Overall though, the book is very insightful, if not a bit verbose, and witty. Gardner reminds the reader of the incentives to invoke fear in every area of society. He covers a wide range of areas, from psychology, sociology and biology which make the book even more unique and a thoroughly enjoyable read. It leaves you slightly more incredulous and forces you to question any news story, or politician that even slightly plays to your fears; Rudy `9/11' Giuliani....I'm looking at you.


Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media
Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media
by Nick Davies
Edition: Hardcover

185 of 194 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why are Newspapers so Cheap?, 12 April 2008
I brought this book after reading a few snippets in Private Eye. All I can say is that Nick Davis has written a fascinating insight into the journalism business in the UK. By writing a truly insightful book with an abundance of hard facts, Davis answers the question indirectly as to why newspapers are so cheap in the UK. The Sun can be purchased for 20p these days; I wonder why? Davis not only addresses why the UK media is so distorted; but how.

As he mentions in the chapter `The Private Life of Public Relation', PR firms inject falsehood into the British media so surreptitiously which the weekly columnists are completely oblivious to. For instance, he cites the case of the Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips who wrote "a series of outspoken columns denouncing the whole concept of man-made climate change". Davis goes on to mention one of her articles in the Mail in February 2002 which said `The latest evidence is provided in a report published today by the European Science and Environmental Forum, in which a group of the most eminent scientists from Britain and America shed the theory'. Fair play to Phillips for doing her research, but was it researched enough? Davis gives us the pleasure of looking deeper into the roots of the story and writes "the forum whose work she {Phillips} was quoting was, in truth, yet another pseudo-group, created with the help of two PR agencies (APCO Worldwide and Burson-Marsteller) with the specific intent of campaigning against restrictions on corporate activity". He also mentions how the report "Phillips referred in such glowing terms was recycled work which had been funded by Exxon".

This is just one of many fascinating examples on how the minds of ordinary British folk are distorted so unnoticeably that many people regard what they read as the truth. And its not just the tabloids. Davis cites many examples from the likes of the Times to the Guardian that have been proven guilty of misleading their readers on a mass scale. If there is one book I could recommend anyone it would be this. I have been reading papers for some time now, and this book will completely change the way you read and look at things. It can even be quite fun reading the papers and trying to pick out stories that have been influenced by PR; it's amusing to make a game out of it.

Overall I would give this book 5 stars for its plethora of research (although backpage references would have been nice) and insights that can prove beneficial to anybody who likes to be informed.
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