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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Review: Thinking Fast and Slow

In recent years, there's been a spate of non-conventional economics books, two of which are Freaknonics and Dan Ariely's The Upside of Irrationality. After all this, you might think hey, I'm over-saturated with books, I don't have time for another one, and you'd be wrong.

First of all, Thinking Fast and Slow was written by Dan Kahneman, whom with Amos Tversky started the entire field of behavioral economics, so you're hearing this from the guy whose shoulders everyone else is standing on. Secondly, the book is packed. I have nothing against Levitt or Ariely, but every 4 pages of this book would correspond to entire chapters of one of their books. This is a book packed densely with information. For instance, the chapter on Intuition vs Formula would alleviate the need for you to read any of John Gottman's books if you took it seriously (he has a very simple formula for determining of your marriage will last, and the minute you see it you'll realize that it works and works well). And that's not even the point of the entire chapter, it's just something that Kahneman threw off while discussing other, more involved topics. The last third of this book, for instance, would alleviate the need for you to read Thaler's Nudge. Not that Thaler's book is not good, but Kahneman is so much better a writer and gets his points across with such economy of prose and ease that he gets done in 100 pages what lesser writers would take an entire book to do. Many books that cover an area with such detail would be dry and difficult to read, but Kahneman's book is fantastic, filled with humor (including some sight gags that will have you giggling with delight when you see them) and examples (frequently the experiments that created the results) that will let the point stick to your head.

The range and breadth of this book is tremendous, yet every topic is covered well and (clearly) by the person who pioneered the field. All I can say is, don't waste your time reading anything by the other writers in this field, just read this book and be done with it! I don't usually consider buying books after reading them since usually most books deserve only one read, but I will likely buy this book the next time I want to reference an idea in it. Highly recommended

As an aside, if you have a choice, buy the Kindle version of the book. The hardcover is poorly designed, and will not stay flat no matter what you do (yes, even if you cracked the spine of the book!).

After you've read the book, if you want more of Kahneman, his Multimedia Page has tons of lectures, talks, etc.

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