Many reviews of this book point out that the author is arrogant, and I agree, but
this arrogance probably comes from his insecurity of, after all, still being in the
financial industry that he seems to despise. He cannot get out of it.
The issue of "fooled by randomness" applies to so many aspects of life,
not just financial industry. There are some insightful comments in the book.
If you expect to learn many things from this book,
you may be disappointed. For the first couple of hours, his snideness and arrogance
bothered me, but then I began to enjoy listening to this frustrated flawed character
who occasionally speaks truth in a tragicomedy style.
When I plan listening to audiobooks, I try to alternate the ones that I want to read (for fun and pleasure) and the ones that I need to read (for knowledge). This book definitely belongs to the latter group. Who wants to read about genocides? For 22 hours! But I am glad that I read it because the book gave me a good review of all the major genocides/atrocities in the 20th century. This makes me more responsible for my actions in the future problems, but I would rather know about these facts than remain ignorant. So, yes, I am glad that I read it.
The book mainly focuses on U.S. foreign policies (or lack of) about these genocides and how the politicians at the time acted. Naturally, politicians are reluctant to choose unpopular policies with unknown risks, especially when there are serious domestics problems. There are of course examples of failed foreign interventions. But, to me, the problem is that the people may not always be aware of what is going on in a remote places in the world (though this may be less of a problem now because of the Internet). Of course, people would demand better domestic economy and national security policies over foreign interventions. But at what cost? We as citizens need to be better educated about what goes on in other countries and demand any necessary intervention actions from politicians.
This was a difficult book to read emotionally. But this must have been a really difficult book to write. The book does amazing job of depicting facts and events as they were (well researched) with minimum emotional interpretations. I have tremendous respect for Samantha Power for this.
As far as I can tell, there was no companion PDF file for figures to download as of mid-December 2014. It definitely needs one. Without it, the information in this audiobook is only 50% (maybe less) effective. Nevertheless, I am giving four stars because I still got the gist of it and know that I just have to look at the figures in the actual book without spending time reading the text. So I don't regret buying this audiobook. I peeked at one figure of this book (pose, fall, and pull) at Amazon.com and found it useful already, so I ordered one at $10.75. If you are patient enough to actually read the text, go straight to the printed version and skip this audiobook.
Or, maybe it is easier for a non-dog-lover, like me (I own cats), to enjoy this book. The unrealistic premise that this dog fully understands the human language did not bother me once I got pulled into the story. The silly, tragic, depressing, wonderful, sad, and at times hopeful aspects of the complicated animal called human are depicted so naturally in this book. I am sorry that I did not know anything about this author till I listened to this book. So, I put a couple of his books on my wish list. The narrator was perfect for this too.
There is no question that Dostoevsky is a great writer. I love it when his characters say outrageous things (more fun than Tolstoy's stories, I think). But the motivation of the murder was not strong enough for me. I liked Brothers Karamazov better.
The narrator was outstanding. I am giving 4 stars to the narrator rather than 5 only because his voice's dynamic range is so wide (from whispering to yelling) that it was not suitable for listening during my commute, which consists of subway riding and walking through busy streets, even with a good pair of earphones. The narrator's voice got lost in the surrounding noise when he was whispering, but his yelling (during the characters' arguments) got too loud when I was walking through less noisy areas so that I had to be constantly re-adjusting the sound level. After listening to more than a hundred audiobooks, this is the first time I faced this technical problem, not because the narrator was not good but because he was too good! So, if you are a commuter like me, be warned.
I often smelled dishonesty in the personal finance industry ads. This book tells me that the reality is much worse than I had imagined. The author's arguments seem backed by well-researched information and credible, and I could tell that she is honest, as she herself was once a financial columnist. I wished that she could provide some concrete recommendations to fix the problem, but pointing out all the problems is a very good start. The narrator could have done better though - she did not sound she had rehearsed at all. But overall, I highly recommend this book.
I don't have a problem falling asleep, but I always thought I don't sleep long enough. This book gave me enough information about the danger of not getting sufficient sleep. For example, brains apparently clean up toxins while we sleep. Imagine what happens if we don't sleep enough. This is just one example. Brains do all kinds of other processing tasks that don't happen while we are awake. So, I now trust my brain and let it do what it needs to do, just by sleeping. The book also explains why taking a nap can be so beneficial. The book is full of useful information, and the author has a great sense of humor. The narrator is also excellent. Highly recommended.
Because I liked "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" and "Kafka on the Shore" so much, it's hard for me to get satisfied as much with his other stories available as audiobooks so far. And I am running out of Murakami's audiobooks. But I do appreciate that Murakami experiments with a different approach every time. In this story, you feel like you are walking with a movie camera to observe a sequence of scenes and characters during one evening (until morning). Because of this format, I wasn't upset that story did not resolve. Nice. Not great, but nice.
I agree with the other reviewer who warned that the PDF has 106 pages of figures and tables and that the audio format may not be the best way to "read" this book.
However, in my case, there is no way for me, who is not an economist or a student, to get through 685 pages (577 pages of main text and figures plus notes, index, etc.) in the hardcover copy just by, uh, reading. While the audiobook's 25 hours is longer than the length of an average audiobook, I got through it in less than 10 days just by listening during my daily commute and chores, and I feel I got the gist of the content. It was interesting enough and, I felt I missed some important aspects of the argument depicted in the figures, so I went out and got a hardcopy and a notebook so that I can even take notes. Yes, this audiobook got me interested in this book.
An unexpected bonus of this book for me was the author's references to the characters and the financial/societal backdrops of stories by Jane Austen and Honoré de Balzac. I did not realize how much I missed and did not comprehend the important nuances of the stories from the 19th centuries world (or 18th or 20th for that matter). We don't usually pay attention to how culture is influenced by the distribution of capital in the society and how that affects day-to-day mood of people in it.
I noticed that this book has been greatly politicized. But to me, the book simply provides DATA-DRIVEN analyses and recommendations for a fair society.
Since the advent of the Internet, it was probably a matter of time that the society became more data-driven. But the two founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, definitely pushed this process forward like no other people could. As mentioned in the book, this probably had to do with the fact that both guys happened to be educated in Montessori schools (which encourage students to question the authority and follow one's own quest) earlier in their lives. The book provides a fair assessment of how they evolved as Google became a big company, and yet they tried to retain their original goals. Google tends to be criticized for their invasion of privacies, and I admit that I also always felt nervous about what data they were collecting and how they were using them. But after listening to this book, at least I understand their original intentions and appreciate what they have done to a large extent. I thought the book was a bit too long (nearly 20 hours) - perhaps the author could have delivered the same information with a 2/3 of the length. The narrator was very good.
This is an important book that everyone should read, but, after I bought it, it took me several months before I finally got around to listen to it because the title, "Willful Blindness", (I thought) also hinted at my own problem of this nature operating in my own life. But the book is not so much about psychological analysis at personal levels but more about how the societal structure (e.g., division of labor) lead to major catastrophes due to willful blindness of those who were suppose to be in charge (yes, I know, I could be causing a catastrophe) . The author goes through many examples of this problem (e.g., Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 financial crisis, etc.).
Yes, yes, I get it - the author's analyses and observations are convincing, and we need to do something about this type of problem, but it is unlikely that corporate executives or federal officials would read this kind of book. So, we need structural changes (regulations) in society. It is not just those who are at the top - the whole town could be going along with it, in some cases. Thus, the purpose of the book is to raise awareness on this issue.
I am generally against authors narrating their own books, and this is another example that reinforces my opinion on this. The upside is that you get to hear her frustrations with the nature of the willful blindness in these examples. The downside, to me, was that, of many examples she went through, she was often quoting those whom she researched or interviewed, and sometime I got confused if "I" in the segments was the author or the person whom she was quoting. A professional narrator could have clarified the distinction by using different tones.
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