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The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable | [Nassim Nicholas Taleb]

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Maverick thinker Nassim Nicholas Taleb had an illustrious career on Wall Street before turning his focus to his black swan theory. Not all swans are white, and not all events, no matter what the experts think, are predictable. Taleb shows that black swans, like 9/11, cannot be foreseen and have an immeasurable impact on the world.
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Publisher's Summary

Maverick thinker Nassim Nicholas Taleb had an illustrious career on Wall Street before turning his focus to his black swan theory. Not all swans are white, and not all events, no matter what the experts think, are predictable. Taleb shows that black swans, like 9/11, cannot be foreseen and have an immeasurable impact on the world.

©2007 Nassim Nicholas Taleb; (P)2007 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

"[Taleb] administers a severe thrashing to MBA- and Nobel Prize-credentialed experts who make their living from economic forecasting." (Booklist)
"The hubris of predictions - and our perpetual surprise when the not-predicted happens - are themes of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's engaging new book....It concerns the occurrence of the improbable, the power of rare events and the author's lament that 'in spite of the empirical record we continue to project into the future as if we were good at it.'" (The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (1963 )
5 star
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4.0 (841 )
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4.0 (846 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Yuan-Yuan Zurich, Switzerland 08-18-10
    Yuan-Yuan Zurich, Switzerland 08-18-10 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    45
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    300
    24
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    "Don't quite understand the hype"

    Yes, the thesis is interesting, and in essence it's quite interesting. But he just goes on and on expostulating and expounding, repeating himself. It could all be said in about half the space (at most) and nothing would be missing. At the start I found it interesting. At the end I was just so tired of it I wanted him to finally stop.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stanley Germantown, WI, United States 08-11-10
    Stanley Germantown, WI, United States 08-11-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    59
    16
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Snarky"

    I agee with many of the comments and won't expand.

    While I enjoyed the book I am shocked that an editor would allow so much narcissism of any author to show through. It substantially detracted from the books content. A compounding error was made in the narration by not reducing the sarcasm quotient with softened less cyncial voice inflection.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Texas 03-23-10
    Amazon Customer Texas 03-23-10 Member Since 2007

    JCO

    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
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    90
    4
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    FOLLOWING
    2
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    Overall
    "Well done"

    As others have remarked, Taleb has an ego.

    A friend joked that he was "supposed to meet with Taleb who couldn't make it...he sent God in his place."

    Overall, a great message and an important argument to add to your view of the world.

    -----

    Side note: I do find it unseemly that the publisher of this audiobook (Recorded Books) found it necessary to pimp a book about global warming at the end.

    I don't mind a company promoting its wares in general, but for Recorded Books to do so for a book on such a controversial topic is unwelcome for the myriad readers who may not agree with the stance they support.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gregory Nappanee, IN, United States 07-27-09
    Gregory Nappanee, IN, United States 07-27-09

    Tell us about yourself!

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    1
    Overall
    "Big Vocabulary; a bit long"

    Priding myself of a large vocabulary, Taleb's large, numerous words and complex analysis was unnecessary. No doubt there were some great and salient points, but waded deep to get'em. Some interesting points and obviously the credit for the expression "the black swan." He could have distilled his message in half the length with twice the effectiveness. Someday I will have to read the abridged version to find out.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Irene Adler La Habra, US 06-21-09
    Irene Adler La Habra, US 06-21-09 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    4
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    "There is a lot of truth and insight here"

    Most of the things other reviewers have said about the book are true. It is poorly written, redundant, egoist, wandering, unfocused, and twice too long. It is also imprecise, especially statistically. It entirely ignores the Central limit theorem that tends to turn wildly non-Gaussian data into 'bell curves', and he repeatedly implies that there is something wrong with the mathematics when the error is the application of mathematical results to situations in which their assumptions are not met. There are a lot of unsupported generalizations that may not be true. He uses the words knowledge, data and information without the slightest understanding of what they actually are. Nonetheless, …

    He is right about a bunch of stuff, in particular the completely irrational and erroneous way that most people process information, and he is correct that this fact dominates our world and our view of it. It is the central fact for modern human kind. The world really is as stupid as Taleb implies, which accounts for why so many people have reacted as they have to his 'narcissism' and 'arrogance'. Indeed, the reviews of the book prove Taleb’s point.

    Ok, so what to say … this book is not for many of you, you won’t get it, in no small part because of the author’s bad writing, but for a few it will be an eye opener.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ray Glendale, AZ, United States 11-29-08
    Ray Glendale, AZ, United States 11-29-08 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Timely"

    This book takes what many of us traders, advisors and part time speculators have known for years; that when one hears or sees the word expert used in the media, beware.
    Without hyperbole or hogwash, Taleb lays out a rock solid case as to why and how the global financial system is largely built on a foundation of fraudulent schemes disguised as high science and knowledge.
    Black swans are events that cannot be predicted, but are planned for endlessly AFTER they have occurred. Only to have the experts blindsided by the next black swan.
    Taleb doesn't say that we should never take risks, only that we should recognize the various kinds of risks for what they are. This isn't a book on how to trade, or how to make a million dollars, and in fact, it's only barely a book on finance at all.
    I've recommended it to many people who have no interest in finance at all simply because his accurate treatment of the fraudulent expert disease we have in the media effects our lives in so many ways.
    And by the way, the current financial situation is not a black swan. Read (listen to) the book to find out why.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LeakyB 03-02-08
    LeakyB 03-02-08 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    46
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    8
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    1
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    Overall
    "Snide"

    Perhaps some interesting ideas, even for statisticians, who know that probability is the best we can do -- that is, a good reminder. However, it's hard to hear what the author is saying through his snide, smarter-than-you attitude. It's too bad his insecurities stand out more than his intelligence.

    8 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KENNETH Exton, PA, United States 06-28-11
    KENNETH Exton, PA, United States 06-28-11 Member Since 2011

    Always listening ...

    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    1
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    "Interesting analysis, ... but so what ..."

    The topic is well developed (in some ways repetitively) and certainly allowed me to consider the previously unappreciated effect of the randomness aspect of life's turns - personally and globally. At the same time, after the issue is supported, there is very little "as a result of this conclusion, we should ..." Left me wanting.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    roxann Olathe, KS, United States 07-24-12
    roxann Olathe, KS, United States 07-24-12

    family tree buff

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    41
    26
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    "He spent hours saying nothing"
    What disappointed you about The Black Swan?

    The author was arrogant and inferred that only he and a few select intellects have figured out the meaning of life and the rest of us just don't get it.


    What was most disappointing about Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s story?

    He could have presented his theories in an hour or less.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of David Chandler?

    Anyone but David Chandler. He contributed to making me think the author was arrogant.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Black Swan?

    He could have summed it up in two words - stuff happens.


    Any additional comments?

    Worst book I've listened to yet.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ivan Prague, Czech Republic 08-04-09
    Ivan Prague, Czech Republic 08-04-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    7
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    0
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    "good, but too repetitive"

    This book is good, there're some great concepts in it, but many things in it just repeat over and over again. This book should not be longer than 30 minutes.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 91-100 of 102 results PREVIOUS191011NEXT
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  • Peter
    Beulah, United Kingdom
    12/5/08
    Overall
    "A magazine article posing as a book"

    I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately, it was way too long for the very simple message that the author tries to convey. The book is split into four sections - by the end of the first section it was a 5-star triumph, after the second section it had dropped to a passable but somewhat repetetive 4-star text, but by the end of the book it had collapsed to a teetering-on-3-star irritation. As a driving listener, by the time the books last paragraphs are being squeezed out, I was fighting the compulsion to drive into a hedge, just so the noise would stop.

    The reader also conveyed the impression that the author was intensely arrogant and self-satisfied, which put me off somewhat.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Keith
    London, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Best left unread in Umberto Eco's library"

    The author recommends leaving many books unread in the library. This should probably be one of them. The style is arrogant, condescending with frequent personal attacks on those he disagrees with. His idea that extreme unpredictable events occur, are often of enormous significance, need to be considered and are routinely ignored is a point worth making and elaborating. The first part of the book explains this idea at a length that sometimes becomes tedious. He then goes on a tirade against use of statistics. But instead of explaining how stats are used badly he launches an attack on the tools themselves, particularly the Normal distribution, not its use but the tool itself as if it were evil incarnate. I thought that maybe he did understand something about the mathematics he was ranting against although he so often seemed to get it wrong but gradually changed my mind as his interpretations became more misleading. What underlies his apparent hatred for Carl Frederick Gauss is not clear but I gave up with any sympathy for his approach when he started attacking the Uncertainty Principle as not relevant because (he says) it is Gaussian. He litters the book with the names of famous people, many of them mathematicians, he appears to adore Benoit Mandelbrot and Henri Poincare but oddly enough not Rene Thom. I found the book quite objectionable not because I disagreed with it or because of its style but because it has so much disinformation; this is presumably intentional as the author tells us early on that information is nearly always bad for us. If there is an abridged version of the book, cut down to less than fifty pages it might be worth reading, otherwise give it a miss.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Colin
    Kew, United Kingdom
    7/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I'm so clever"

    This is an interesting read if you can get past his bragging. You've probably heard of it and it does a pretty good job of demonstrating (a) the fierce power of the unexpected to trip up the unwary and (b) how much cleverer the author is than anyone else. Not necessarily in that order.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Niall
    Longniddry, East Lothian, United Kingdom
    7/25/09
    Overall
    "Another Peach"

    I re-listen to this book once every month or so. The author prides himself on his original thinking. This pride comes over as smugness, but that aside this is a very interesting take on the world we live in.
    Thoroughly enjoy this and highly recommend it.

    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-4 of 4 results

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