"The hubris of predictions - and our perpetual surprise when the not-predicted happens - are themes of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's engaging new book....It concerns the occurrence of the improbable, the power of rare events and the author's lament that 'in spite of the empirical record we continue to project into the future as if we were good at it.'" (The New York Times)
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Peter on 05-12-08
A magazine article posing as a book
I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately, it was way too long for the very simple message that the author tries to convey. The book is split into four sections - by the end of the first section it was a 5-star triumph, after the second section it had dropped to a passable but somewhat repetetive 4-star text, but by the end of the book it had collapsed to a teetering-on-3-star irritation. As a driving listener, by the time the books last paragraphs are being squeezed out, I was fighting the compulsion to drive into a hedge, just so the noise would stop.
The reader also conveyed the impression that the author was intensely arrogant and self-satisfied, which put me off somewhat.
26 of 27 people found this review helpful
By Keith on 23-12-12
Best left unread in Umberto Eco's library
The author recommends leaving many books unread in the library. This should probably be one of them. The style is arrogant, condescending with frequent personal attacks on those he disagrees with. His idea that extreme unpredictable events occur, are often of enormous significance, need to be considered and are routinely ignored is a point worth making and elaborating. The first part of the book explains this idea at a length that sometimes becomes tedious. He then goes on a tirade against use of statistics. But instead of explaining how stats are used badly he launches an attack on the tools themselves, particularly the Normal distribution, not its use but the tool itself as if it were evil incarnate. I thought that maybe he did understand something about the mathematics he was ranting against although he so often seemed to get it wrong but gradually changed my mind as his interpretations became more misleading. What underlies his apparent hatred for Carl Frederick Gauss is not clear but I gave up with any sympathy for his approach when he started attacking the Uncertainty Principle as not relevant because (he says) it is Gaussian. He litters the book with the names of famous people, many of them mathematicians, he appears to adore Benoit Mandelbrot and Henri Poincare but oddly enough not Rene Thom. I found the book quite objectionable not because I disagreed with it or because of its style but because it has so much disinformation; this is presumably intentional as the author tells us early on that information is nearly always bad for us. If there is an abridged version of the book, cut down to less than fifty pages it might be worth reading, otherwise give it a miss.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Judd Bagley on 27-05-09
Worth it in the end...I think.
I spent most of my time with this book cursing the author for his ego and inability to get to the point.
Yet, I stuck with it until the end.
That's because the story Taleb tells is fascinating, relevant, and probably worth the mediocre job he does telling it.
And he really does do a mediocre job.
I recommend this book, but also recommend looking for an abridged version first.
69 of 69 people found this review helpful
By Douglas on 28-02-08
I have mixed feelings about the book. It is very repetitive, and approaches its thesis from many angles. Yet, it is a very interesting subject matter.
The reading of the book is good, although someone who is not familiar with the mathematics may have trouble following the tables read aloud in the final chapters.
20 of 20 people found this review helpful