Todd's Reviews > The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
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did not like it
Recommended for: Nerds

I only read the first 13 pages of this book, plus the prologue, but that was enough. In the first few pages he name-drops people like Umberto Eco and Nabokov, tells us about people who were rather unknown five years ago (but forgets to tell us that they are still rather unknown now), and compares himself to people in history who are/were actually influential. For a man who claims he is not writing an autobiography, he really works hard to impress the reader. He adds little bits of information in parentheses, between dashes, and then tacks some on with footnotes, all in some bizarre attempt to sound funny or cute or intelligent, but he really just sounds like a jerk. For a guy writing a book that claims "what we don't know is more important that we do know," he really wants the reader to know that he sure knows a whole lot. He also tries to be really conversational and funny, but he isn't funny, and he keeps coming up with examples (some good, some bad) to illustrate and re-illustrate his points. For better or worse, though, he does have a good point - black swans are out there and can change everything we know in instant, and some people refuse to acknowledge or let others know about these potential swans.

Unfortunately, it may have been the worst beginning of any book I have ever read... that's why I didn't get past page 13.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 9, 2007 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Jed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jed If you only read thirteen pages you don't know if he has a good point or not because you don't know what his point is. Actually after finishing the book you will realize that it does not have a single distillable point but rather many points about the limits of knowledge. You are right that Taleb is probably insufferable but you are either secure enough to find that amusing and look past it to the meat of what is actually a very good book or you're not.

ajit I think it is at best unjustified to rate or review any book after reading 1/23rd of its content.

Tippy Jackson Jed wrote: "If you only read thirteen pages you don't know if he has a good point or not because you don't know what his point is. Actually after finishing the book you will realize that it does not have a si..."

You can be secure and still realize some things aren't worth your time. I made it over 2/3 of the way through and still found him insufferable. All I can say about his points about the limits of knowledge shit.

message 4: by Todd (last edited Mar 13, 2011 12:52PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Todd I'm not going to apologize for not liking this or any other book. That would be silly. And I thought I gave that 1/23rd a pretty thorough review.

message 5: by Daniel (last edited Oct 25, 2011 04:55PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Daniel I'm not sure that reading 13 pages of a 300 page book qualifies you to write a review.

message 6: by Todd (new) - rated it 1 star

Todd Daniel wrote: "I'm not sure reading 13 pages of a 300 page book qualify you to write a review."

Really man? Rather than attack your grammar, I'll just ask this: What would make you happy? Should I read twenty more pages? Fifty? All of it? I gleaned enough from the prologue and first 13 pages to know what it's about, where it's headed, how it would get there, and that the author isn't that great of a writer. But I'll cut you this deal: If you send me the book, I'll finish it and write a comprehensive review.

Until it arrives, though, I'll ask this again: What would make you happy? Seriously. It's autumn. Go outside. Take a walk. Maybe you'll find a black swan.

Daniel Todd wrote:
I'll just ask this: What would make you happy? Should I..."

If you haven't read a book, don't write a review of it. It's a pretty simple system. Review books you've read and don't review books you haven't read. I don't know why you're acting all butt-hurt about it.

message 8: by Todd (last edited Oct 25, 2011 09:57PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Todd Oh, Captain Book Review ... Since you don't want to respond to questions of happiness, and you don't seem to notice that you have merely reiterated comments from over three years ago, I'll offer an analogy in my defense. If I go to a steakhouse and order a steak medium-rare, but it comes out medium-well, how much do I need to eat before I can say, "Hey, this isn't what I ordered and it isn't what I want"? Hopefully not much. I can also surmise that the chef who prepared it might not be a very good chef. Can I tell other customers to be careful about ordering steak? Of course I can. It would be silly, and a little mean, if I didn't.

Similarly, with this book, I had enough. I formed an opinion and I presented it to fellow/potential readers. I clearly stated how much I read and then why I stopped. The main thrust of the book, like I said, was good, but I refuse to defend bad writers. It would be bad for readers, for publishing in general, and for other writers if the talent pool became diluted with bad writers.

So, can I tell other readers that this particular writer isn't very good and to be careful about this book? Yes, I can, because my reasons were clear.

And "butt-hurt" was cute, although I still think you need some cheering up.

message 9: by Sosen (new)

Sosen At least you admit that you only read 13 pages, so that those of us who are capable of making it past page 13 of a bad book know not to take you seriously.

message 10: by Todd (new) - rated it 1 star

Todd Now there's a good comment using wit and sarcasm and holding back on the whining. Thank you!

message 11: by Nuno (new) - rated it 1 star

Nuno Salgueiro I read more than 13 pages and still think the book is crap.

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