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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

Critic Reviews

"[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 Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall

Taleb should get the Nobel prize in economics

Hayek and Kahneman could use the company.
Taleb has a playful way of discussing profound philosophical ideas that, to this reader, at first seemed facile. Then, about halfway through the book, I suddenly realized that my understanding about a lot of important things was undergoing a paradigm shift. I have read this book probably ten times. I take the book as an antidote to my compulsion to conspire with the world to delude myself. But, of course, probably his most important argument is precisely that there is no antidote.
Years ago I reacted in a similar way to the writings of Hayek and Mises.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • Carroll
  • Hilo, HI, United States
  • 11-03-14

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.

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  • B
  • Oak Lawn, IL, United States
  • 04-27-14

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.

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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. <br/><br/>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.

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The Probability of the Improbable

What about David Chandler’s performance did you like?

David Chandler was very engaging in this book.

Any additional comments?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb views on the Black Swan phenomenon were eye-opening. Just because you only see white swan does not mean that all swans are white. This book explains that not all events are predictable.Great read!