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J. S. White

Midwest USA | Listener Since 2008

65
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 8 reviews
  • 26 ratings
  • 157 titles in library
  • 2 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
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FOLLOWERS
7

  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Narrated By Joe Ochman
    Overall
    (574)
    Performance
    (492)
    Story
    (492)

    In The Black Swan Taleb outlined a problem, and in Antifragile he offers a definitive solution: how to gain from disorder and chaos while being protected from fragilities and adverse events. For what Taleb calls the "antifragile" is actually beyond the robust, because it benefits from shocks, uncertainty, and stressors, just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension. The antifragile needs disorder in order to survive and flourish. Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner.

    PHIL says: "Some good ideas, smart guy, not smart as HE thinks"
    "Self aggrandizing anti-intellectual polemic"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I really wanted to like this book. I enjoyed "Fooled by Randomness" and "The Black Swan". I'd forgotten how arrogant and self-important Taleb is by the time I purchased this book. In the other two books, interesting thoughts and data made the arrogance tolerable. After three or four chapters of this book, I had to give up.

    I'm the *FIRST* one to be excited by discovering that the "conventional wisdom" is wrong. It means new and interesting thoughts and wider future possibilities, and I've got a perverse attraction to such things. But I don't - not for one minute - believe that the researchers that accept the "conventional wisdom" are fools or idiots. I can believe someone has drawn the wrong conclusions, yet still believe that they are intelligent people of good will and intent. I've been wrong myself, so I understand that it is possible to do so - be wrong, that is - without being an idiot, a fool, or mendacious and malicious.

    The concept "I understand, but disagree" is completely foreign to Taleb's mindset. He asserts repeatedly that those who disagree with him are fools and simpletons. He spends more time deriding them than he does illustrating his evidence. He often substitutes anecdotal evidence as authoritative, then cherry-picks research to support the idea he's chosen. This doesn't mean the idea is *wrong*; it means that it doesn't provide the necessary evidence to choose it over other possible explanations. I don't mind the occasional well-placed, witty jab at one's intellectual opponents in the arena of ideas, but Taleb's incessant sniping at everyone from "academics" (which he speaks of with a decided sneer) to "bankers" (which he speaks of equally sneeringly) grates on my nerves after a while. "All right, Mr. Taleb, I get it. You don't like academics or bankers, nutritionists, cardiologists, fitness scientists, etc. Can we get past this now?"

    I hope someone else repackages these ideas in a more palatable package. If they're as earthshaking as Taleb thinks they are, it won't be long. Until then, I guess I'll be behind the curve, as this is unreadable.

    46 of 53 people found this review helpful
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Daniel Kahneman
    • Narrated By Patrick Egan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2131)
    Performance
    (1662)
    Story
    (1643)

    The guru to the gurus at last shares his knowledge with the rest of us. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman's seminal studies in behavioral psychology, behavioral economics, and happiness studies have influenced numerous other authors, including Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman at last offers his own, first book for the general public. It is a lucid and enlightening summary of his life's work. It will change the way you think about thinking. Two systems drive the way we think and make choices, Kahneman explains....

    Mike says: "Difficult Listen, but Probably a Great Read"
    "Must-read Title for Students of the Human Mind"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Kahneman lays out the foundational research of the recent crop of books on "irrationality", though he decries the use of the term in this context. I've read many of those books, and his name is a constant refrain in them - along with Tversky.

    If the way the human mind works is your fascination, this book is a page-turner that you won't want to put down. He explains many of his (now classic) experiments, the thought behind them, how the experiments of others relate or expand on his own, and where he'd like to see more research done.

    An all-in-all excellent read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mastery

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Robert Greene
    • Narrated By Fred Sanders
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (664)
    Performance
    (588)
    Story
    (584)

    What did Charles Darwin, middling schoolboy and underachieving second son, do to become one of the earliest and greatest naturalists the world has known? What were the similar choices made by Mozart and by Caesar Rodriguez, the U.S. Air Force's last ace fighter pilot? In Mastery, Robert Greene's fifth book, he mines the biographies of great historical figures for clues about gaining control over our own lives and destinies. Picking up where The 48 Laws of Power left off, Greene culls years of research and original interviews to blend historical anecdote and psychological insight, distilling the universal ingredients of the world's masters.

    Chlo-bell says: "Mastery is both a goal and a destination..."
    "Another well-written and conceived Greene title"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is standard Robert Greene work - and that's a good thing. Like "The 48 Laws of Power", he breaks down his topic (Mastery) into bite-sized chunks and then provides interesting glimpses and interpretations of historical (and current) events in light of the particular topic at hand. His stories are interesting and his points fascinating.

    There are things in this book for everyone. I wish I'd read this book when I was sixteen. I'll probably give it to my daughter to read when *she* is sixteen. If your ambition is mastery of *anything*, I recommend this book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Jonathan Haidt
    • Narrated By George K. Wilson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1779)
    Performance
    (959)
    Story
    (946)

    This is a book about 10 "Great Ideas". Each chapter is an attempt to savor one idea that has been discovered by several of the world's civilizations - to question it in light of what we now know from scientific research, and to extract from it the lessons that still apply to our modern lives.

    David says: "Exceptional synthesis of psychology and philosophy"
    "Great Read for those who want to be happy... :D"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    After the first chapter, I was certain this was going to turn into another preachy self-help book that cherry-picks research to support the author's pre-existing biases. As soon as he said he'd read lots of old religious texts and modern psychology, neurology, behaviorism, etc, as research for the book, I groaned in anticipation of some saccharine claptrap.

    I was pleasantly surprised. Haidt doesn't shy away from conclusions and evidence that opposes his own views, and his chapters and points correspond closely with a considerable amount of modern research that I've read separately. I'm familiar with many of the studies he cites ( as a reader and enthusiast, not as a professional "neuro" or "psycho-" anything - I'm an engineer ) and he doesn't extrapolate beyond the evidence without being very clear about the difference between the study's evidence and his own conclusions.

    It's well-researched and well written. It's a great read as an academic pursuit, but there is much here that can *absolutely* improve your life happiness, and he makes that clear. His tie-ins with ancient philosophy and religious texts are interesting and not at all preachy. HIGHLY recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Rachel Maddow
    • Narrated By Rachel Maddow
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1348)
    Performance
    (1229)
    Story
    (1222)

    Rachel Maddow's Drift argues that we've drifted away from America's original ideals and become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war, with all the financial and human costs that entails. Sensible yet provocative, dead serious yet seriously funny, Drift will reinvigorate a "loud and jangly" political debate about how, when, and where to apply America's strength and power - and who gets to make those decisions.

    Dolf says: "Half the National Debt?"
    "Preaching to the Choir, but fun anyway."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Ms. Maddow does an admirable job narrating her book, but you can tell she's not a professional at this particular art. Didn't interfere with the book, however.

    There's a lot of interesting information, and a lot of conclusions drawn. I've not found any of the information to be false - and some I checked on immediately, as I wasn't aware of it.

    While I agree with many of her conclusions, they're often not inescapable or inarguable, so be careful in building your own views. If, however, like me, you're an informed liberal, you'll find much of her work here interesting and compelling. She's not going to convert many people with this, though; it's mostly by a liberal for liberals - but, of course, reality has a well known liberal bias... :D

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Irrationality

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Stuart Sutherland
    • Narrated By Kris Dyer
    Overall
    (141)
    Performance
    (64)
    Story
    (68)

    Why do doctors, generals, civil servants and others consistently make wrong decisions that cause enormous harm to others? Irrational beliefs and behaviours are virtually universal. In this iconoclastic book Stuart Sutherland analyses causes of irrationality and examines why we are irrational, the different kinds of irrationality, the damage it does us and the possible cures.

    Michael says: "Excellent"
    "Entertaining exploration of human irrationality"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was an entertaining journey through the various ways that humans make bad decisions - with some hints and outright guidance on how to mitigate those failures to some extent, using statistical methods. I loved the "morals" at the end of each chapter - amusing and interesting. And the final chapter puts a fine point on the question many will be asking themselves at various points in this book - "Is it desirable to be rational all the time?" . But I think most can agree that there is some dividing line between a decision that we make for its own sake (playing blackjack because we like it, not because we think we'll get rich) and decisions that could definitely use the methods outlined in this book (What house should we buy in which neighborhood?).

    Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Lierre Keith
    • Narrated By Joyce Bean
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (60)
    Performance
    (55)
    Story
    (54)

    We’ve been told that a vegetarian diet can feed the hungry, honor the animals, and save the planet. Lierre Keith believed in that plant-based diet and spent twenty years as a vegan. But in The Vegetarian Myth, she argues that we’ve been led astray - not by our longings for a just and sustainable world, but by our ignorance. e truth is that agriculture is a relentless assault against the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. In service to annual grains, humans have devastated prairies and forests, driven countless species extinct, altered the climate, and destroyed the topsoil - the basis of life itself....

    J. S. White says: "Interesting take on sustainability"
    "Interesting take on sustainability"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The author has a very interesting take on agriculture and sustainability. I think her expressed hatred of "masculinity" detracts from the other messages. In all of her assertions about "adult knowledge" and "accepting truths" and "evolutionary truths", she seems to have completely missed that we, too, men and women, are the products of evolution, and like our primate relatives, males tend to be bigger and more aggressive because those are the ones that reproduced the most - evolution in action. Not saying we're slaves to it, but if we don't acknowledge it, we can't effectively develop non-harmful means of expressing it. if we assume that it's all socialization, we'll spend our time 'fixing' the wrong problem.

    She also engages in hyperbole (I hope) or ignorance (perhaps) or just plain lying (I hope not). The melting of the polar ice caps might release all that sequestered methane, but there's no current model I'm aware of that has the Earth looking like Venus. She also still seems to think that petroleum is from dinosaurs; yeah, we were taught that, but now we know it's probably not true - why doesn't she? There were quite a few 'facts' of this sort.

    That said, when I've researched other claims, I find much important information. For instance, despite the epidemiological studies' claims, when scientists engage in causal studies comparing diets rich in animal fats vs low-fat diets, the low-carb diets usually win. I know weight loss results have been mixed, but health studies (like a recent study that compared low carb vs low fat for treatment of metabolic syndrome) the low-carb diet had profoundly better outcomes.

    I was surprised to discover that grains do, indeed, contain opioids, and in quantities sufficient to cause some people to have issues with them specifically. Interesting stuff.

    I don't know that I accept her assertion that the only answer is a return to some hunter-gatherer luddite pseudo paradise, but I think she makes good arguments for population control, re-factoring of the "food pyramid", and an effort to approach some form of long-term sustainable living.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Steven Johnson
    • Narrated By Alan Sklar
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (480)
    Performance
    (66)
    Story
    (65)

    Brilliantly exploring today's cutting edge brain research, Mind Wide Open allows readers to understand themselves and the people in their lives as never before. Using a mix of experiential reportage, personal storytelling, and fresh scientific discovery, Steven Johnson describes how the brain works and how its systems connect to the day-to-day realities of individual lives.

    Chris says: "Fascinating, fascinating... but short"
    "Not a bad read at all"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you like best about Mind Wide Open? What did you like least?

    Great, accessible approach to thinking about the mind, but gets a bit breathless at times.


    What aspect of Alan Sklar???s performance would you have changed?

    He's a decent reader, but in this title his voice seemed less than authentic. Hard to explain, but sometimes readers *become* the story, other times they *tell* it.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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