mostly nonfiction listener
I love short books. Can you recommend any good, but concise, nonfiction? Great reads under 200 pages?
Here are my 5 concise reasons to read Robert Reich's latest book "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future"
Reason #1 - Conciseness: Most books are too long. Aftershock is a blessed 192 pages; 4 hours and 29 minutes short in audiobook format.
Reason #2 - Originality: Reich's big argument is that out economy is fundamentally unbalanced. That the growth of inequality that has concentrated economic gains among the top 5 percent of the populations has resulted in an inability of most Americans to adequately consume. We cannot afford to buy what we produce (a problem near and dear to the heart of any parent who works in higher education).
Reason #3 - The Higher Education Plan: Reich actually has a plan for higher education. He would make tuition free (to public institutions), and recoup the costs with a levy on future earnings for anyone who participated. His proposal is more complex than this description, and wildly unlikely to ever be enacted anywhere, but still fun to debate.
Reason #4 - History: Reich was one of the first academic popularizers that I discovered. Back in 1992, he wrote The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism, in which he argued that economic gains and options would accrue to the "symbolic analysts" - those who manipulate and create information. Reich was ahead of the game in 1992, and if we had listened more carefully to his warnings we might be in better shape today.
Reason #5 - Narration: Reich narrates his own book - and does it beautifully. Usually reading what you have written does not work out so well. Narration is a skill best left to professional readers. But in this case, Reich is the right person to read his own words
I think that Taleb is probably an S.O.B. and a nut....but his argument that the world (and our lives) is in reality ruled by unpredictable large-scale events (black swans) is intriguing and forcefully argued. Taleb's background is in quantitative trading...and while arrogant beyond belief his arguments seem hard to dismiss.
I loved "Free" for 3 reasons:
Reason 1: Anderson is a terrific storyteller. Free is one of those books where you learn some, think some, and have fun during the ride. The main argument for Free is that the economics of digital goods pushes the price of these goods to their marginal cost of production, which in the case of digital copies is close enough to zero to set that price at free. Further, the price of free enables all sorts of businesses and opportunities, providing opportunities for new business models, profits and services.
Reason 2: The growth of free has all sorts of implications for higher education. Nowadays a lifelong learner can receive a wonderful education from Web content ranging from TED talks to lectues on iTunesU and YouTube/EDU. Educational content is now free. This forces us in higher education to rethink our own value propositions and where we exist in a digital economy built around abundance of quality curricular and lecture content as opposed the scarcity model that traditional lecturing/courses is built upon.
Reason 3: Anderson made the unabridged audio edition of Free available for free on Audible and some other outlets. This price encouraged a bunch of us at Dartmouth to read the book together, generated some great discussions and debate. Having the book freely available to our community proved to be an excellent argument for the library overcoming the scarcity of digital books to have them available to our community. I admire Anderson to no end for putting his money where his mouth is and offering the digital copy at the price of production. I'd gladly pay more in Educause conference fees to listen Anderson keynote one of our conferences.
Old & fat, but strong; American, Chinese, & Indian (sort of); Ph.D. in C.S.; strategy, economics & stability theory; trees & machining.
The book assumes that you sort of know that the normal distribution is grossly overused in all kinds of science and pseudo-science. It explains in very easy to understand terms why this leads to a host of misunderstandings about the way the world really works. Examples include the recent sub-prime problems.
At some level this is something that serious students of mathematics have understood for a long time, but few are able to explain it this well and this systematically.
The style of the book will strike many who prefer more traditional prose as juvenile and narcissistic. But the brilliance of the book tends to overcome these annoyances.