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The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds Hardcover – December 6, 2016
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“Lewis has written one hell of a love story.”
- Jennifer Senior, New York Times
“Lewis is the ideal teller of [Tversky and Kahneman’s] story… You see his protagonists in three dimensions―deeply likable, but also flawed, just like most of your friends and family.”
- David Leonhardt, New York Times Book Review
“Fascinating stories about intriguing people.”
- Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, The New Yorker
“Brilliant… Lewis has given us a spectacular account of two great men who faced up to uncertainty and the limits of human reason.”
- William Easterly, Wall Street Journal
“Compelling… The Undoing Project is a history of the birth of behavioral economics, but it’s also Lewis’s testament to the power of collaboration.”
- Peter Coy, Bloomberg Businessweek
“Intellectually mesmerizing and inspiring.”
- Harper's Bazaar
“Mind-blowing… [The Undoing Project] will raise doubts about how you personally perceive reality.”
- Don Oldenburg, USA Today
“Michael Lewis has a genius for finding stories about people who view reality from an unusual angle and telling these stories in a compulsively readable way.”
- Geoffrey Kabat, Forbes
“A fantastic read.”
- Jesse Singal, New York Magazine
“Lewis [is a] master of the character-driven narrative.”
- Charlie Gofen, The National Book Review
About the Author
Michael Lewis, is the best-selling author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, and Flash Boys. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.
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It is a story that only Michael Lewis could write. With his characteristic accessibility and knack for turning the complex into palatable pieces, Lewis presents the foundations of the science by crafting a story about its two visionary scholars, Daniel Kahneman and the late Amos Tversky.
In so doing, Lewis gives a face to the theories and ideas that we have all become so aware of in the last ten or fifteen years: The Anchoring Effect, Framing, Overconfidence Bias, Regression to the Mean, Halo Effect. These and other “cognitive biases” have become familiar scientific concepts. The story of the friendship between Kahneman and Tversky brings to life what could otherwise be dull and mathematical.
This book is admittedly less plot-driven than other Lewis gems like The Blind Side,The Big Short, and even Moneyball. The story of Kahneman and Tversky is not necessarily made of the big screen. And Lewis does pay attention to the math to a degree that some readers will have to skip ahead (as he suggests). Still, Lewis’ mastery of storytelling makes even this kind of material a gripping and endearing tale.
One thing that stood out to me is just how different Kahneman and Tversky were. How they came together from similar backgrounds, approached life from different angles, agreed to set off on their intellectual journey together, and collaborated on some of the greatest psychological studies of the 20th century sets us up for a classic buddy story—an intellectual Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid if you will. On second thought, it might be good for a movie after all.
I was introduced to the work of Tversky and Kahneman as a college sophomore in 1988 by my teacher, hydrologist Joseph Harrington, who was a great admirer of their ideas. The beauty of what is now called “Prospect Theory” has inevitably stuck with me since. It is only in retrospect that I have come to understand it was radical for its time.
So I swallowed whole “Thinking About Thinking” within a week of having read the Michael Lewis review on Bloomberg. And I’ve since really enjoyed the recent near-autobiography of Richard Thaler’s, as well as many of Dan Ariely’s books.
Well, you don’t have to believe me on this, but Michael Lewis actually explains the concepts better!
No joke, he really does.
And he provides an unbelievably deep, personal and sensitive account of the explosive relationship between the two giants. A very believable account too. The research done by Michael Lewis really shows. He’s had phenomenal access too, it seems.
And yet, the book does not hang together terribly well. Chapters 1 and 8 should not have made it into the book, they ought to have been relegated to the pages of Vanity Fair, where the author regularly provides fantastic material.
More to the point, what we have here is a bunch of chapters that, chronological order notwithstanding, do not constitute a book. The incredible material, the wonderful expositions, the deep insights are all present and correct, but they fail to meld into a narrative. Even the title of the book, much as it has its roots in the work of Tversky and Kahneman, does not do justice to their contribution.
It really pains me to say this, especially because the author’s previous effort, “Flash Boys,” was a genuine five-star book. Perhaps that’s the problem. Maybe if I was reading this straight off of “Boomerang” I’d have found it great. As it stands, I’m not sure I could recommend it to the general public.
If, on the other hand, you have the remotest interest in Behavioral Economics, you genuinely can’t not read “The Undoing Project” and you are guaranteed to enjoy it.