Many condemn this book claiming that its sole premise is to shout that practice makes perfect. Not so. The author actively seeks out other explanations--innate talent, large memory, and intelligence--and finds that these qualities do not, statistically speaking, correlate with talent, especially in the beginning. Colvin doesn't exclude precocious children or people from the study, he just states that for the majority of people there is an obvious and strong statistical correlation betwixt time invested and competency, and the organization of the invested time, whether it focuses on improving weaknesses/aspects of performance or involves repeating a task which the one is comfortable with is also statistically shown. The latter seems to just maintain the current level of talent. The information in the book is scientifically sound. Instead of solely studying exceptional people, the author collects data from the mediocre as wells as a spectrum between these extremes to compare, establishing control groups for the data.
Others have compared this with Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. The biggest difference between Outliers and this, is that Gladwell's work focuses on the combination of social influences, available opportunities, and developed skills to become an outlier. This book focuses almost exclusively on the development of skills, only mentioning the other factors as side notes. Because the other factors can't be easily controlled, but practice can, this book is more highly applicable, but I will say that Gladwell's work is more artfully written.
No observation of white swans can tell you that black swans do not exist. These arguments will not sound that revolutionary if you've taken a survey philosophy class. What makes Taleb's work interesting is that he applies these ideas to economics, statistics, and other real world situations.
Now, although I'm all for skepticism, I cannot say that I like this book primarily because I find the author dripping with hubris. Nearly all the characters and authors that Mr. Taleb bothers to mention are there to be belittled. Though Mr. Taleb warns the reader against being too full of oneself, he name-drops to the point of impeding his argument. Also, his writing is rather weak. Instead of using large examples that can serve in several situations, he makes so many examples that it is hard to concentrate on the point of the example, and instead of stating his argument first, he'll provide an example without really connecting things to the main idea. In addition, Taleb mentions concrete details which in no way serve to add to his examples. His writing becomes stronger toward the end, but honestly, I found Malcolm Gladwell's article entitled Blowing Up describing Mr. Taleb, which you can read at Gladwell's website, as a better description of Taleb's methods.
The story was longer than necessary (which, I suspect, is the reason the abridged version is one-third the length of the unabridged). This unnecessary length adds an almost whiny tone to the novel as the narrator informs us of how hard her job is again and again, and again. All I needed as a few impossible tasks to get the picture.
In comparison to the movie's character development, the book's character development pales in comparison. In the novel, the reader never sees the humanity of Miranda Priestly, and so in the book, she is a hollow apathetic antagonist. I like fleshed-out villains, characters which have depth and layers, but I can't seem to crack Miranda's upper crust in this book. We never learn her motives or clarify her reason for her actions--which is something the movie strove to correct.
One point that I do approve of, neglected in the movie, was the Lily's alcohol addiction, which accentuates the disconnect between the narrator and the characters which she has left behind before her pre-Runway life.
All together, however, the book seemed superficial. The characters are one-dimensional, and it feels like a debut novel to me. This was not a book which I was particularly motivated to finish.
This book starts strongly, ends strongly, and is consistent all the way through. The characters are memorable, and the narrator, Oliver, is so fleshed out, you could probably imagine him sitting in your living room. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this book, and that's not an exaggeration--even the voice acting is superior. As a credit-hoarder, this is the utter definition of a credit-worthy novel, and I found myself laughing and smiling throughout my listen.
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