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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 65/100: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Finally, I am reviewing something on my "Taking Too Long" shelf, that bookshelf to which I relegate books that stay on my "currently reading" shelf for an embarrassingly long time, and which I, deep down, know I might not ever finish. But I finished it!

My husband and I have been listening to this on audiobook since April of 2013. Circumstances had to be just right for us to decide to listen to it.
1. Neither of us listened to it alone, so we had to be together, and the book was chosen primarily for joint long car trips.
2. Ivan often likes to work on his laptop when we drive, so during that time I listen to my own audiobooks.
3. The narrator in this audiobook had the habit of putting Ivan to sleep, so we could never listen to it when Ivan was driving us -- only when I was driving.

So, we only listened to it when all the above criteria were met, which resulted to once a month, tops. We were interested in it because Kahneman's research is cited in a lot of other non-fiction books, such as those by Malcom Gladwell and Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Since the book presents a detailed overview of studies from throughout Kahneman's career, mostly focused on how people's "system one" (assumptive/intuitive mind) can often be tricked into the wrong choice, it was pretty easy to start and stop, since each study was sort of a self-contained story.

The studies were fascinating, and while I've forgotten much of what was in the book, there are certain findings that I think will always stay with me, such as the fact that computers make far fewer mistakes than humans and that we're "better off" in the hands of computers (that is, when computers fly airplanes or diagnose illness, for example), even though intuitively most of us feel more comfortable in the hands of a competent human expert. I also found the last section, which looked at measures of human happiness and the difference between the "experiencing self" and the "remembering self" to be particularly interesting -- so much so that Ivan and I often stopped the recording to discuss.

Only three stars despite all this fascination -- and I do think books that take a longer time to finish are at a disadvantage just because they feel like less of a cohesive whole -- but some of the sections were pretty boring to me, especially the ones about economics, and the writing overall was pretty dry. Still, it makes me feel smart to have read the "source material" that so many other commentators reference.