Book Review

october 19 black swan
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Publisher: Random House (400 pp)
đź“·Prediction is that our universe will come to an end in ten billion years. China will surpass the USA economically by the year 2030. Arctic will become ice free in another 25 years from now.
What if those predictions don’t happen? Yes, improbable is possible and this is the theme of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, “The Black Swan.” People used to think that all swans are white until they found a black swan swims by in Australia. The improbable happened. At the same breath, Taleb gives the example of stock market predictions. According to him, stock market predictions are useless because no one can say accurately where the stocks are headed.
What experts predict are liable to be wrong because experts usually use bell curves where most distributions gravitate towards the center. In real life, this doesn’t always happen increasing the chances of improbable happening.
The book cites examples of events such as the collapse of the Soviet Union or the fall of the Berlin Wall that very few foresaw. Taleb wants the readers to expect what may be unlikely to happen such an s asteroids colliding with earth. Taleb’s mistrust in academicians’ forecasts is obvious from his ridicule of economists like Harry M. Markowitz and William F. Sharpe, winners of the 1990 Nobel Prize. He states that they are nothing more than quacks and swindlers.
The Black Swan is not an easy read. It systematically goes through examples and situations that are complex and sometimes difficult to comprehend. Taleb is painstaking, almost encyclopedic, in his enumeration of ways in which our understanding of information breaks down. He draws on ideas from Greek, Roman, Arab, French, and English thinkers spanning more than two millennia.
After reading “The Black Swan,” I started feeling extremely skeptical of anybody who makes any prediction about the future. I don’t know that’s good or bad.  –Reviewed by Musafir
The Art of Racing
Author: Garth Stein
Publisher: Harper Collins (338 pp)
📷“This was a good read… not in an ebullient way that I suspected at first when I picked it up, but on a different level. A bitter sweet story.
I loved the perspicacious dog Enzo, the true protagonist of the book, who tells the story and ruminates on the meaning of life, who longs to be a human being in his next life (“Here is why I will be a good person. Because I listen….”) – ha!…; even though he wonders “…how difficult it must be to be a person. To constantly subvert your desires. To worry about doing the right thing, rather than doing what is most expedient” (hmm… indeed!); who discerns so well what people are all about: that “be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves”…; who likes “to live every day as if it were stolen from death, that is how I would love to live”… (much agree!); a dog who loves to eat pancakes and bananas!… And I truly don’t think that the idea for this book is too uncanny – in my own experience dogs are extremely sensitive and intelligent creatures.

What I didn’t care for was the “car racing” metaphor for “life”, or, rather, I didn’t care for the technicalities and history of car racing itself (I really felt like skipping those parts…). Even though it is so interconnected with everything that’s going on in the book – Enzo’s master being a car race driver… But for me, it didn’t take away much from the novel. A case in point is this quote: “There is no dishonor in losing the race… There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose” (even though it’s a bit of a clichĂ©).

This is not a book where you rapturously re-read this or that sentence, just for the beauty of expression. The characters are at times over-simplified in their description. But it’s nevertheless, a good, fast, and even poignant read.”  -Reviewed by Clara

 

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