Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models Hardcover – June 18, 2019
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–SHANE PARRISH, creator of the Farnam Street blog and host of The Knowledge Project podcast
“An invaluable resource for making sense of the world, making good decisions, and placing smart bets. A fast-paced and fun read, jam-packed with useful information on every page. I wish I’d had this book ages ago!”
–ANNIE DUKE, author of Thinking in Bets
"Internalizing these mental models will help you understand the world around you. Once you can spot them, you can change your own behavior to avoid common traps, adjust how you interact with people to get better results, and maybe even articulate new mental models of the world that have yet to be discovered."
–BRIAN ARMSTRONG, Cofounder & CEO of Coinbase
About the Author
Lauren McCann is a statistician and researcher. She spent nearly a decade at GlaxoSmithKline, where she designed and analyzed clinical trials and authored articles in medical journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine. She holds a Ph.D. in Operations Research and a B.S. with honors in mathematics, from MIT.
Lauren and Gabriel reside in Valley Forge, PA with their two children.
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In 2016 I stumbled upon Gabriel's article on Medium called "Mental models I find repeatedly useful" which is a compilation of many concepts with a short explanation of each one. I would say it's been the best article I've read so far (and I read a lot of them). So, of course, I ordered the book as soon as it became available.
I learned some new important concepts from it, but if this book had been available earlier it could have saved me a lot of time. Sure, reading a whole book on one topic could give you more insights and examples to better grasp the concept but at the end of the day you can't retain all nuances in your head and are left with the most important idea from the book. This is what "Super Thinking" is all about - it gives you an array of useful ideas with vivid examples so you could understand every concept without you reading an elaborate 300 pages explanation on every single concept.
I would suggest not just read this book and put it on the shelf thinking "okay, I got it, it's simple" (actually all well-explained concepts are fairly simple), but to refer to it as many times as needed until you are completely satisfied with your life and can be proud of yourself. The main point is - we know so much more in theory than we apply in practice. Even the models which look like buzzwords and you think you're already familiar with them - ask yourself if you actually use them. There was a saying of Richard Feynman in the conclusion of this book that there is a difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something. I strongly believe that every person could reach their fullest potential if really applied these models to their every single step, every single decision. If you want to achieve success in every area that's important to you, take "Super Thinking" seriously.
Thank you Gabriel and Lauren for this amazing book.
Aside from the mediocre materials used to print this book, I have many problems with the content and to cut to the chase, would not recommend it.
- most of the examples that accompany a model’s introduction are fine. What bothered me are the many examples where the authors introduce their own biases and social “leanings” into the text.
I expected, (perhaps naively) for a “pure” overview of the ideas promised in the book description. This is not the case.
- most of the book is needlessly verbose to the point that it becomes tedious to read.
- illustrations included are boring and uninspiring.
Gabriel is the founder of DuckDuckGo.com and that should tell you enough of the thought he has put into thinking of our world and the privacy issues now coming to light in the world of information we live in. As a bonus, the artwork is great throughout the chapters.
Top international reviews
If you liked the "Head First" books I would say this is similar in some respects; explaining abstract concepts and relating them to the real world in memorable ways.
The summaries at the end of each chapter are really all you need to read as the authors have pulled together a huge collection of ideas from lots of other people but added nothing of their own. Maybe, that is all they intended but I'd have appreciated some more insights into how they had deployed some of these in building Duck Duck Go for example.
After getting half way I found it a little repetitive, but struggled to the end and continued to learn some things.
If you are already far along in your career, or in your thinking, much of this will be familiar, but it’s still a useful synthesis of lots of things that you should know, or had forgotten that you did. This book should certainly be on the virtual bookshelf of everyone who is just leaving school or college or just starting out in buisness or adult life.
Over long passages it feels the author copy-pasted from Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow, Rolf Dobelli's The Art of Thinking Clearly, Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, etc. for his own notebook and decided to publish it afterwards.
Don't expect anything original, but a good light read nevertheless.
Over large sections it just feels like a bullet point list of mental models and metaphors artificially woven together to appear as if there’s something like a narrative. Unfortunately, more often than not I was really missing a coherence in this stirring pot of ideas.
I’d dare say that cutting out 30%-50% of the mental models and instead honing in on the most important ones (80/20, you’ve said it yourself) could have provided much more value to the reader, especially with regards to retaining all these ideas.
Because come on, you really don’t need to explain to people what a “red line” is.
There are useful information in this book, but it reads like a notebook, copy and pasted together from the original sources. Thus, I followed the books own advise and, to prevent falling into the sunken cost fallacy, stopped reading.