65 of 81 people found the following review helpful
Confusing and carelessly written - but a lovely cover,
This review is from: Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book is not written for the reader. There is an 8 page contents list, but it's one of those that is designed to be mysterious and intriguing rather than show you what's in the book. Then it has 'chapter summaries and map', also written to tease you about possible meaning without actually providing any usable information. There's a graphical summary at the back, and that gives some hints, but I soon got lost, even though he doesn't seem to be saying anything that is not already well known and obvious.
There is a 7 page glossary for terms invented by Taleb, but 'antifragile' isn't one of them. The glossary appears to be far from complete, but it is hard to establsh exactly how incomplete because the glossary is not in alphabetical order - or any apparent order at all.
Don't expect much enlightenment from the definitions themselves. Here's the first definition I picked at random: "Naive Rationalism: Thinking that the reasons for things are, by default, accessible to university buildings. Also called the Soviet-Harvard illusion." Accessible to university buildings? This kind of bizarre logical slip is quite common in the book.
The writing has many grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes. It definitely needed more attention from a copy editor. There are also readablity glitches that make reading unnecessarily hard. For example, the third paragraph of the prologue says "We just don't want to just survive uncertainty, to just about make it." The first 'just' should have been removed because it causes your mind to spin. This is basic stuff.
The arguments often rely on analogies and anecdotes, rather than just using them for illustration.
There are also many stories included to illustrate how clever and honest Taleb is and how mistaken and dishonest lots of other people are. Here's a typical paragraph of this kind of material to give you a flavour: "For a minute I wondered if I was living on another planet or if the gentleman's PhD and research career had led to this blindness and his strange loss of common sense - or if people without practical sense usually manage to get the energy and interest to acquire a PhD in the fictional world of equation economics. Is there a selection bias?"
From a technical point of view, potential readers should understand that Taleb is a frequentist when using probability. If you are any kind of Bayesian then the technical content, if you can find some, could be annoying.
I haven't read all the book. Actually all I could do was start, then skim and sample. I found it unbearable and a waste of time.
However, I would guess that if someone else had presented the same basic ideas it would have been a bearable 100 pages; Taleb makes it 500+ pages of torture for the reader.
There might be some usable, novel ideas on how to design businesses, strategies, or portfolios in ways that limit their downside but not their upside but I couldn't find them. That may be because of the unhelpful headings, or because there aren't any such ideas in the book.
The front cover quotes a journalist, saying "A superhero of the mind" Well, Taleb is not my idea of superhero.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Nov 2012 14:22:34 GMT
What do you actually expect from the book? Its quite clear much academic thinking is poor quality. It was a Professor of Comp Sci who said 'Linux is dead' a few months into its lifetime - and today its THE most important innovation in the field of computing. Prof Robert Wiston says PhD is a woefully bad qualification (at a lecture I attended), with utterly pointless obscure contrived and dull thesis topics. Taleb is NOT Superman, just trying to challenge tired old ideas !
Posted on 4 Dec 2012 20:33:31 GMT
Yi Zhang says:
I have to agree with most of what you said.
I think Taleb knows far less and thinks far less critically than he thinks he does.
Posted on 8 Dec 2012 14:20:04 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Dec 2012 14:21:55 GMT
B. J. O'Brien says:
Seems a pretty convincing negative review. Mr Leitch doesn't just criticise the quality of the writing; he gives some examples; thus we can decide for ourselves whether the reviewer's judgement is valid.
He says of the book 'The arguments often rely on analogies and anecdotes, rather than just using them for illustration.' Making an analogy and then taking it literally as a step in a chain of reasoning is indeed a bad fault. If Mr Leitch had given an example of Taleb doing that it might have made his review doubly devastating.
As it is he's told me enough for me to cross the book off my Christmas list.
In reply to an earlier post on 9 Dec 2012 14:52:03 GMT
Posted on 14 Dec 2012 10:03:21 GMT
Mr. W. Cairns says:
I agree - I read reviews of the book in the newspapers and was excited to read it. But I just thought I'd download a sample to my Kindle first before spending the money. I'm so glad I did! It's SO badly written, so turgid that I gave up reading every word after a few pages, then started skimming, then gave up on the whole thing and deleted the sample altogether without finishing it. I particularly dislike the way so many sentences are made up of unexplained jargon strung together. Compare this book with well-written nonfiction - like Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene, for example, or more recently Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind, and you realise just how bad it is.
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2012 21:59:17 GMT
What is it with Richard Dawkins? Is your education severely limited? There are surely many scientists who write much better, and more interesting and relevant material - he is such a predictable and formulaic man, a dreadful bore, highly unpleasant to the ear, and very bigoted.
In reply to an earlier post on 4 Apr 2013 12:50:17 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Nov 2013 18:23:11 GMT
Andrew Dalby says:
I find Dawkins Selfish Gene turgid as well he certainly improved his style in his later works, although he goes down hill in scientific credibility. I have found that there is a correlation between how well someone writes and how much they know. Bad science and philosophy always seems to be well written (Haidt is an exception).
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