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Customer Review

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge a (very good) book by its cover: A cautionary tale, 21 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Thinking, Fast and Slow (Paperback)
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Other reviews here more than cover the content of this book but I want to review it anyway, mainly to offer a cautionary tale about not judging a book on the basis of disliking... other books. Because I was initially highly wary about this book, mistaking it for one of these pop science/social psychology-types which have become so successful in the last decade. I'm talking about books like Nudge or the Freakonomics series or those by Malcolm Gladwell (e.g. Blink), Nassim Nicholas Taleb (e.g. The Black Swan), Tim Harford (as the Undercover Economist) etc... all very loosely akin insofar as, despite having substantive statistical contents, they apply their own (seemingly dry discipline) to everyday situations and offer quirky `behaviouralist' ways of understanding the world. They seem to have arrived at a shared formula for making maths palatable to the general reader. Indeed their readability has led to their adoption by corporate culture and a rather odd state of affairs whereby `economics' books have become airport reading. Not a problem itself but in order to make the technical accessible, many of these authors have traded off scientific rigour in favour of readability. In sacrificing the maths, a certain degree of imprecision has been accepted as OK (see for example the lamentable (non)coverage of regression analysis in Freakonomics). Whereas I don't think it's OK. So I pretty much wrote-off `Thinking, Fast and Slow' when I saw the endorsements by Levitt (Freakonomics), Thaler (Nudge) et al on the cover. But I was wrong to do so. First, Kahneman knows his apples. Unlike Gladwell, he's won the Nobel Prize (in economics, despite being a psychologist). Second, much like Leonard Mlodinow (see `The Drunkard's Walk' for a stats equiv.), Kahmenn is a translator of behavioural economics into English but he doesn't jettison scientific rigour in so doing. He trusts the reader's intellect sufficiently to actually show you the correlation coefficients AND spin a good yarn. The chapters here all are short, beautifully clearly written, and none requires any special learning... but some are borderline taxing. But rather than detracting from the experience, my thinking is that this makes for greater intellectual satisfaction for the reader.
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