comment by djcb
· score: 4 (4 votes) · LW
The Guns Of August - Barbara Tuchman. Tuchman's classic book about the first month of World War I. It's written in a somewhat informal way, and Tuchman seems to be especially interested by the various character's mustaches, for some reason.It's a good introduction into that first month, when the German's got so close to winning, and then... didn't.
Moonwalking with Einstein - Joshua Foer. In short: a book a journalist how writes a story about the US memory competition, then decides to try himself, and wins the next year. While doing so, he discusses the various tricks that 'mental athletes' use (many of which are known since ancient times), the differences with the inborn talents of idiots savants and the little subculture of people taking part in these competitions. I liked the book -- it constantly tries to understand why things work the way they seem to work, leaves room for alternative explanations etc., while keeping the book fascinating.
Feeling Good - David Burns. This book is (mostly) about Behavioral Therapy (BT), a therapy for treating depressions. I happily do not suffer from those, but I was interested in what the field has come up with, a field which still has bit of a proto-scientific smell.
BT is based on the thought that depressions are often based on errors of thinking (such as being too negative, having unrealistic expectations, all-or-nothing thinking and so on), and that patients can be help by systematically exposing these thinking errors, and making them think in more realistic terms. One of the ways to do this is to keep lists of expectations what will be happen in many daily things ('it's going to be a disaster'), and then later adding what actually happened ('it wasn't too bad'). Sounds almost /too/ rational, but apparently it worked. The end of the book also discusses chemical treatments at length, and sees them as something that is sometimes necessary, but always in combination with other therapy. This part interested me less. Overall, I liked Dr. Burn's writing style -- concise, precise and self-critical, and he seems to anticipate this reader's "but what if" responses quite well.
Antifragile - Things That Gain from Disorder - Nassim Taleb. In this book, Taleb discusses antifragility, i.e., the property of flourishing in the face of randomness, rare events, and so one, and he contrasts this with many of the world's systems, which are fragile -- strongly depend on their environment being predictable.
Prime examples of this would be the world economy (fragile) and the human body (gets better at fighting pathogens the more it is exposed to them).
Taleb fills the book with this -- and even more with gratuitously throwing around references to ancient philosophers etc., and shamelessly adding anecdotes with himself being the hero (not just the smartest, but also an impressive weight-lifter 'looks like a body-guard'). If you can overlook that, it's an interesting book.
comment by NancyLebovitz
· score: 1 (1 votes) · LW
Taleb's boasting and self-congratulation are tiresome, but he's got an interesting tidbit even in the part about weight-lifting-- he recommends looking at what people who have achieved something do, not what they say works for other people to achieve it.
On the other hand, he took up weight-lifting/body-building because he was getting threatened, which wouldn't do much good if someone shoots him.