This is my first review in weeks, in part because reading this took soooooo long, and I knew I’d be reading this book for a solid year if I didn’t commit to finishing it. As it stands, it took me three months of false starts to completely read its four hundred pages. It’s a hard book to assess, in part because I found the subject matter interesting, and my favorite parts of the book probably would need to be trimmed in order to make it more cohesive and more engaging. For content it’s a five star book, but for organization it’s a two at best.
The book is pop-economy/sociology, aka Octothorp catnip. I’m very much the target audience for a book that outlines why people think in unexpected ways and uses logic problems to illustrate, lettting you solve – or demonstrate your own cognitive biases – along the way. An example: are you more likely to take a bet with a 10% chance of winning 95 dollars and a 90% chance of losing 5 dollars, or to buy a 5 dollar ticket for a raffle with a 10% chance at a 100 dollar prize? Logically the two are the same, but people overwhelmingly prefer the latter option. I loved these little interludes, but there are SO MANY that I often forgot the overarching point the author was trying to make in each chapter, as the frequent thought experiments and personal anecdotes disjointed the text.
The author’s attempt to construct thematic unity, regrouping at the end of each chapter with “real world” examples of his topic fell flat for me, as they lent the book a textbook quality that was off-putting. Moreover, the author repeats his points frequently; I did not need eight examples of regression to the mean to understand the concept, and by the time I read the last one, I’d forgotten what Kahneman was using it to illustrate about how we think. Part of my delay in finishing this book came from reading six examples and having to go back to figure out what concept they were in service of; by the last hundred pages I stopped caring.
If the book were slightly more edited, I may have liked it more as a whole, but I’m loathe to recommend cutting what was most enjoyable about reading it.