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The Black Swan Audiobook

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

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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

4.0 (3038 )
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  •  
    Andre 03-05-15
    Andre 03-05-15
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    "Seeing a black swan is believing"

    I saw a real life black swan long before I heard of or read the book. Yet, I will never look at it again in the same way. What a great read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bob 02-07-15
    Bob 02-07-15
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    "Thought Provoking"

    The book really opens your eyes to the subject of risk in the real world. A good read. Well written.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher 01-10-15
    Christopher 01-10-15 Member Since 2007
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    "Powerful."

    Along with Fooled by Randomness, I highly recommend this book. We all could sharpen our knowledge on Black Swans and how they affect our lives. I'm surely less impressed at the success that I see around me - including my own as I have had my own positive Black Swans as we all have as we were born and that is against all of the odds. It's very interesting to me on how we view success or failure in our society in sports, business, Hollywood etc. and then in hindsight create a story about the so called "why" and "how" this or that happened when in reality no one had a clue at the time. It's so easy for us to monday morning quarterback. This book will urge you to THINK.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cale Dansbee 01-08-15 Member Since 2013
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    "A superb brain bender"
    Would you listen to The Black Swan again? Why?

    Yes -- Nassim's book is not necessarily easy to follow, but that is only because he has dedicated his life to this concept, and I've only learned of it from the first pass through the book.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Black Swan?

    When I realized my own turkey moment -- In June 1996, while stationed in Saudi Arabia, I was injured in a terrorist bombing of our Air Force barracks. Without dying, this was as close as I've come to being the turkey, but more importantly, in realizing that while this represented a black swan event in my life, it would not be viewed as one by the world.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    julie & richard mendel wayne, pa USA 12-29-14
    julie & richard mendel wayne, pa USA 12-29-14 Member Since 2014

    Theodore Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" & Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters: Po Lo's account of the dun-colored mare @deadgametheory

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    "Beautiful ideas arise from the page."
    Where does The Black Swan rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    The Black Swan is one of the best books I had read in years, and so I wanted to be able to listen to it as well. I thought that the narration was excellent, and listening to it several times seemed to better prepare me for the way in which Nassim Taleb reconstructs and further refines his ideas for AntiFragile.


    What other book might you compare The Black Swan to and why?

    The only works that I know of are Nassim Taleb's other work. Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan become reference material to be looked back upon after hearing AntiFragile.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Realizing how oblivious most of us are in regard to the exposure we have to "rare" events.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I listened to it in a very compressed amount of time, but I had already read it, and given quite a bit of thought. It is certainly really engaging.


    Any additional comments?

    Really a tremendously good investment of my time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carroll Hilo, HI, United States 11-03-14
    Carroll Hilo, HI, United States 11-03-14
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    "A good way to summarize the surprises of the world"

    While a bit disjointed in the order of delivery, the author has a VERY valid thesis that is often overlooked in the American culture's view of what the world should look like... a hard listen for some, but a key point to remember for all business men & warriors.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B Oak Lawn, IL, United States 04-27-14
    B Oak Lawn, IL, United States 04-27-14 Member Since 2016
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    "Thought provoking, but very indulgent"

    The good: Taleb discusses some very interesting ideas. He is able to clearly articulate some abstract thoughts that I had sorta circled around in the past, but was never able to truly grasp or explain. The core ideas he states are the kind that can actually change your perspective of the world.

    The bad: He is very pretentious and self-indulgent. Take this particular quote for example: "This argument, known as Hempel's raven paradox, was rediscovered by my friend the (thinking) mathematician Bruno Dupire during one of our intense meditating walks in London—one of those intense walk-discussions, intense to the point of our not noticing the rain. He pointed to a red Mini and shouted, 'Look, Nassim, look! No Black Swan!'". Apparently, he's so enlightened that he getting rained on doesn't even register with him? And he says this as a casual aside. Keep in mind, this anecdote kinda comes out of nowhere, is never brought up again, and doesn't even really illustrate the point he's trying to make. It's just obnoxious. There are a few different things like this too: he name drops obscure philosophers as though the average reader will be familiar with them, he lists a series of thoughts in Latin (saying "primo, secondo, terso" instead of "first, second, third"), brings up cocktail parties as though they're a weekly occurrence for most people, and so on. Weirdly, he insults people who are pretentious several times in the book.

    In another bit of irony, he rallies against platonicities (basically, concepts that oversimplify more complicated and abstract realities). Yet, throughout the book, he invents dozens of new terms that seem to be oversimplifying things.

    The narrator, for better or worse, seems to match the author's tone. He's very droll and tends to come off dismissive of others.

    The book is all over the place. First, it's about him growing up in Lebanon, then he discusses a historical event, then he's using one metaphor, then another. There's a story he, at first, presents as though it was an actual account of author. Then a chapter later, he says it isn't. Then, he calls back to an earlier metaphor. It goes from math to philosophy to economics. It all becomes a blur. This book made me appreciate the writing of Malcolm Gladwell a lot more.

    Overall: if you're very interested, check it out. I would recommend Nate Silver's "The Signal and the Noise" or something by Malcolm Gladwell before this though.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shawn Raanana, Israel 03-31-14
    Shawn Raanana, Israel 03-31-14
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    "Important ideas, but terribly written"

    The book's ideas are very important, but the author is so self-important, and the book is so poorly organized you can miss the point.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Noah New York, New York 03-03-14
    Noah New York, New York 03-03-14
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    "Sounds smarter than it is"
    What disappointed you about The Black Swan?

    The tiny shards of real insight are lost in the ocean of pseudo-intellectual windbaggery.


    Has The Black Swan turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No. There are great ones out there.


    What character would you cut from The Black Swan?

    The author? Heh.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    See Reverse 01-06-14
    See Reverse 01-06-14
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    "Compelling Ideas - Understanding the Unexpected"
    Would you listen to The Black Swan again? Why?

    I'd like to listen to the Black Swan one more time to drive home some points that I didn't take note of the first time through - I'll definitely listen on a faster than normal narration speed, though.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The idea of true uncertainty, our compulsion to explain it in simple retrospective stories, and our inherent limitations has changed my perspective of our world.


    What about David Chandler’s performance did you like?

    David Chandler comes across as if he were the author of the Black Swan - he seems to care deeply about the material, and portrays the author's point of view. After seeing Nassim Nicholas Taleb give a speech online, however, I do think Chandler is a bit more over the top than the author would have done himself.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This is a well thought out book - thank you for taking time to write this, Mr. Taleb.


    Any additional comments?

    I love the ideas contained in this book - they are unique relative to my academic background, and well worth covering in some depth beyond how they are covered in this book. The author's style seems a bit pompous at times, but it doesn't detract from the main ideas.

    My biggest gripe with the book is the constant self referencing that occurs through the book. In one chapter he'll tell you about learning more in another chapter, or he'll tell you he'll go into more detail later, or he'll give you a name of a behavior that will be discussed later. I would have preferred to experience the ideas in a more natural environment. I feel that the author was trying to cover more material than could reasonably fit into this book - something like a trailer for a movie does when trying to fit a much longer novel's worth of material into a specific length of time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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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.

    21 of 22 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.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • lousouthend
    6/22/15
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    "highly entertaining moderately informative"

    Nietzschean high tone sneer alternating nicely with carefully constructed argument. Sound if somewhat over worked presentation of the problem of induction. Fascinating extension from this to normative conclusions that are appealingly straightforward. Good to see some old favourites getting coverage but I dont think Mandelbrot, Popper and Poincarre are as hard done by as he seems to suggest. I'll be thinking about some his ideas for quite a while.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • C. Rockne-meyer
    UK
    8/30/15
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    "Engaging story format making subject come alive"

    Robust and expertly written. Naseem's position as philosopher and practitioner provides a practical viewpoint for dealing with a difficult but necessary subject.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Emmi
    5/15/15
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    "A challenging read, but insightful"

    This book has been interesting but at times a strike, couldn't have read it all

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Afuera
    Leeds UK
    9/4/14
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    "Only just started it but I'm not impressed so far."
    What did you like best about The Black Swan? What did you like least?

    I hate the narration. The sounds really arrogant. It makes Taleb sound like soomeone who is really really pleased with himself. Is he?

    At the start of the first chapter he gives an example of a black swan event... and then tells us it's fictional. What!? Did I hear that right? I might have to go back and check it, maybe I wasn't paying enough attention.


    Would you recommend The Black Swan to your friends? Why or why not?

    Not sure yet, probably not at the moment, I'll see if it grows on me.


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

    Anybody!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Colin
    Kew, United Kingdom
    7/10/14
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    "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
  • Shak
    3/1/15
    Overall
    "Basics of life - should have been taught at school"

    As someone who is told I have a high IQ, I ask myself why I'm not out performing my peers by a huge margin - and I've come to realise that an IQ is nothing more than potential... One must be given the tools and be educated; this book does that! Certainly one I'll be listening to again

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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