Oliver Burkeman delivers the rarest of commodities -- a self-help book that actually helps you feel better about life. Beginning with an examination of stoicism and aspects of buddhism, Burkeman proceeds to deliver often contrarian information and advice about how to deal with the inevitable setbacks and challenges life presents. Unlike most such books, which are filled with simplistic, wishful thinking, he provides practical and pragmatic advice, backed with anecdotes and solid research data.
I'm willing to allow the possibility that some life-altering truth might be contained in Mr. Taleb's latest. But I'll never get to it -- at 50 minutes in, I'm throwing in the towel. In a book such as this, within an hour one might hope for some concrete discussion of the author's thesis. What we get here is little more than a screed, a polemic against academics, most of business, government -- actually, pretty much everybody except for Mr. Taleb. We're forced to endure a never-ending stream of straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks, delivered with a ceaseless contempt that is wearying -- and a bit disturbing. On this point, Mr. Ochman shines -- the author's contempt and anger are unflinchingly delivered.
The thesis that emerges -- to the extent it is allowed to -- seems to be that complex systems behave in unpredictable ways, and that efforts to micromanage said systems will inevitably, over time, produce massive failures. Conversely, left to their own devices, unfettered by the hands of bureaucrats, such dynamic systems will prove successful. Oh, and fragile things tend to be, well, fragile.
Who do I see about getting my credit back?
Scott Brick turns in a strong performance with his narration, working well with the limited material he is provided. The story itself leaves a lot to be desired - many events strain the limits of credulity, even for Jason Bourne. Not to give the ending away, but the situation the DCI finds himself in at the ending of the book seem to have come from his own fevered dreams. Perhaps the conclusion is meant as some sort of ham-fisted commentary on politics and the ability to effectively CYA. Unsatisfying.
Kurlansky offers a detailed history of a truly pivotal period in American - and World - history with 1968. Many of the events we see today, especially political, (Judicial fillibusters, anyone?) can be traced back to this chaotic period. Unfortunately, the book is - for me, at least - somewhat difficult to follow. Much of the blame must be placed with the narrator. As others have noted, phrasings and pronounciations are often unusual, inconsistent, or just plain wrong. In addition, the reader's voice tends toward an odd - and to my ears - unpleasant articulation that becomes grating. But I also wonder about the structure of the book - in general, events are transcribed chronologically, and we end up hearing about individuals at many different points in time. Perhaps a more thematic approach would have produced an easier to follow presentation.
Bottom Line: You'll learn a lot - but you'll have to work at it.
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