Friday, July 5, 2013

[Book Review] The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 Rating: 2/5
 Learning Level: 2/5
 Genre: Non-Fiction, Science, Psychology
Book Review:

   A year before I read this book, one of my friends suggested me that this is a must-read book. He did not tell me why I should read this book. I respect his opinion. So, I kept this book in my reading list. And, now, it’s time to read this book. I have a mixed feeling about this book. On one hand it’s informative and provocative. It is full of anecdotes to support the ‘black swan’ theory. The idea is that most theories are built on the average. But in reality, nothing is exactly the same as the average. There’s always a sample which jumps out of the average. This sample is called a ‘black swan’. The problem is that people do not recognize it or they don’t want to recognize it. So, when the impact of the outlier is great, it can lead to catastrophic effect like the crash of the stock market, wars, and so on.
This book is written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and narrated by David Chandler. I read this book in an audible format. I’m not sure who should I blame it on. But, I was quite instigated at the beginning. There is so much focus on religion especially Islam. A large portion of this book contains a lot of difficult vocabulary. Most of the time I like learning vocabulary. But this book is a bit too much for me. Personally, I don’t enjoy reading this book all that much. I won’t recommend this book for non-native English speaker. I think it’s too much.  


  • Be skeptical in theory
  • Probability is next to impossible to measure. Even if the probability is very small, it’s not zero and the things can still happen. 
  • Decide what we should do based on impact, not on probability.

Table of Contents

  • Prologue
    • Chapter 1: The Apprenticeship of an Empirical Skeptic 
    • Chapter 2: Yevgenia's Black Swan 
    • Chapter 3: The Speculator and the Prostitute 
    • Chapter 4: One Thousand and One Days, or How Not to Be a Sucker 
    • Chapter 5: Confirmation Shmonfirmation! 
    • Chapter 6: The Narrative Fallacy 
    • Chapter 7: Living in the Antechamber of Hope 
    • Chapter 8: Giacomo Casanova's Unfailing Luck: The Problem of Silent Evidence
    • Chapter 9: The Ludic Fallacy, or The Uncertainty of the Nerd
    • Chapter 10: The Scandal of Prediction 
    • Chapter 11: How to Look for Bird Poop 
    • Chapter 12: Epistemocracy, a Dream 
    • Chapter 13: Appelles the Painter, or What Do You Do if You Cannot Predict?
    • Chapter 14: From Mediocristan to Extremistan, and Back 
    • Chapter 15: The Bell Curve, That Great Intellectual Fraud 
    • Chapter 16: The Aesthetics of Randomness 
    • Chapter 17: Locke's Madmen, or Bell Curves in the Wrong Places 
    • Chapter 18: The Uncertainty of the Phony
    • Chapter 19: Half and Half, or How to Get Even with the Black Swan
Book or Audiobooks?

Personally, I prefer audiobooks. It's fun, and I can listen when I'm doing something else. It also makes other activities (e.g., jogging) a lot more fun. For more detail about audiobooks, please read [this post].

There is one more reason that may encourage you to go for the audiobook version. You can get it now for FREE. Audible offers you a free trial for 14 days. Even if you get the book and cancel the subscription right away (so that you don't have to pay), you can keep the book. And, don't worry if you lost the audiobook file. Just log into You can keep downloading the over and over again.

About the summary: It takes time to finish up a book. And, when you do, sometimes, you want to review what you learn from the book. If you do not make  notes as you read, you might have to go through the book once again. This can be time-consuming when you are dealing with a book. But you can still flip through the book and locate what you are looking for.

However, when the material is an audiobook, it is extremely hard to locate a specific part of content. Most likely you will have to listen to the entire audiobook once again.

This book summary will help solve the pain of having to go through the book all over again.

I am leaving out the details of the books. Most books have interesting examples and case studies, not included here. Reading the original book would be much more entertaining and enlightening. If you like the summary, you may want to get the original from the source below.

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