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Posts about reading

The Undoing Project

It’s a Michael Lewis book.
That alone, is enough for me to tell you to go read it.

Kahneman and Tversky’s work has probably been the biggest influence on my life in recent years, since Taleb.1
We cannot think in probabilities in our daily lives.
We keep fooling ourselves, with various biases.
And the intuition we have, is because we are really amazing biological machines. And even that is subject to error. Unless the intuition is backed by extensive experience. And even then we can easily be fooled.
That basically is the gist of their work (to me, so far).
I flunked nearly every experiment in Danny Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.2
We need to think slowly, through every implication, when it comes to the few big decisions in life.

So how did this work come about?
The Undoing Project tells us the story.
Of Kahneman and Tversky’s friendship and years of collaboration.
Of how a MacArthur Fellow and and Nobel Laureate are in the end, only human, and even they could not undo the events in their lives and their relationship.
Of how the world is patently unfair and never treats people equally.

It’s a lovely read.


  1. Taleb was the one, who introduced me to Kahneman’s work, in the first place 

  2. A Lindy book, if there ever was one 

Change is the Only Constant

If Taleb convinced me that Mathematics was beautiful philosophy, Ben Orlin is the one made me fall in love with it.
Change is the Only Constant is beautiful and funny at the same time.

It’s the story of Calculus over the ages and through domains.
It weaves through life and time, through people, interesting and otherwise.
And the way Ben tells it, it bears no resemblance to the dry crap that is taught in schools and colleges.
It’s beautiful and wonderful, but not paramount and still subject to the vagaries and complexities of life and nature.

In their more insufferable moods, the “hard” sciences like to boast and crow, as if “hard” means complicated and “soft” means simple. This is, of course, exactly backward. The softer the science, the more complex its phenomena.
Physicists can predict what atoms will do. But gather enought atoms, and the calculations grow unwieldy. We need new, emergent laws—chemical laws. Then, gather enought chemicals, and complexity overwhelms us again. We need biology to step in with new theories and rules. And so on down the line. At each tipping point, the role of math evolves: from certain to tentative, from deterministic to statistical, from consensus to controversy. Simple phenomena (like quarks) follow mathematical rules with slavish fidelity. Complex phenomena (like toddlers) less so.

Loved it!


Tiny Habits

In a world where Atomic Habits, did not exist, I’d call Tiny Habits the best book on behavioural change and habit building.
Or maybe, I am biased because I read James Clear’s book first.
Just like Cal Newport took Anders Ericsson’s work and ran with it; so did James build on BJ Fogg’s.

Tiny Habits is lovely, has pretty tables and is a lovely engaging read.
If you want to change your behaviour, you simply cannot go wrong by learning from the man, who has taught many of our modern day influencers like Ramit Sethi or Instagram founder, Mike Kreiger.


We Need To Talk About the British Empire


It’s an Audible Original.
And it’s “free”, if you are an Audible member.

A look into what Empire means today.
It’s a series of engaging podcast episodes on what being a part of the British Empire meant/means for its subjects and its descendants, with stories from across the globe.

My only quibble being they did not go deep enough.
The people being interviewed are mostly, subject descendants of British origin (and not as I would expect, an actual survivor from the partition or someone here in India, or Somali coast or Sierra Leone.)

No one knows much of the aftermath of Partion and there’s a lovely little story, tightly told that illustrates the horrors of the period.
Somalia was used, abused, robbed of all they had and then left to find for itself.
Bunce Island, in Sierra Leone was home to a slaver’s bay, where the island hosted a prison for the captured natives who were branded and sold as slaves and a golf course for the gora sahibs.

What struck me (from the interviews and some of the reviews) is that the British have no clue of the generational ramifications of their actions.
They think that enough time has passed by, it’s all water under the bridge and we ought to have picked ourselves by our bootstraps by now.
I realise why Tharoor demanded reparations.

At about three hours, it’s well worth a listen.


A Tale of Two Cities

Just the two popular ones here …
Dickens writes such fluid prose here, I would quote the whole book.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.


It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.