Sunday, December 04, 2005

Latest books I've read (Allen)

I've been on a string of books lately that all seem to be loosely connected. I'm not sure what you would call the class of books, maybe NNF (Nerd Non-fiction). I think it started with a book review I read in Wired magazine earlier this year. The book was blink by Malcom Gladwell, which is largely about how our minds work in split decisions, first impressions, and what he calls "thin slices" of time. He digs into things like blind taste tests (coke vs. pepsi), how we are marketed too, how we make better decisions with fewer choices, etc. I enjoyed it a lot, I like books that give ideas about how the world works, and Gladwell keeps it interesting.

I liked Malcolm Gladwells style enough that I just finished reading another of his books, The Tipping Point, which goes into how fads are started, how little things can push a scenario over the edge, etc. I'm not doing justice to either of these books, Malcolm Gladwell has a way of taking research from so many different fields, combining them and coming up with some very interesting real world applications.

Another book that I just stumbled onto at the library, was Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order, by Steven Strogatz. This one definitely leans more in the direction of Nerd, you need to at least appreciate math to read this one, or you might glaze over and flip to the end. It starts with a look at how some fireflies will spontaneously begin flashing in mass at exactly the same time, then finds parallels in how our Circadian rhythms and sleep cycles work, even the whole 6-degrees of Kevin Bacon thing. When I picked up the book, I was also interested to see if the author ever made the small jump from "spontaneous order" to "a Master Designer", and while I highly doubt he is a Christian, he did devote about 2 sentences to the possibility of there being a Creator involved.

Last, but not least, is Freakonomics, which is in the same vein as Tipping Point and blink. Written by Steven Levitt, it presents some interesting, unorthodox conclusions, when the author digs into the actual statistics that the media tends to skew. For instance, many people wouldn't want their kid to go to friends house if the know that the parents have a gun in the house, but they wouldn't think twice about letting their kid go to someone's house who has a pool in the backyard. Levitt points out that the chances of a child being shot accidentally are an order of magnitude smaller than the chances of a child drowning in swimming pool.

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