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Book review: Outliers

Outliers: The Story of Success , by Malcolm Gladwell, is a book about how people got where they are. It’s about dispelling the american capitalist myth of the self made man and the boy who can grow up to be president.

The underlying theme of Outliers is there’s a number of people with enough IQ or skills to get to the top of industry, professional sports or any other field but only a limited number get the necessary breaks and have the fenomenal number of opportunities needed to get to the top.

If you’re serious about raising a child Outliers is a definite must read (as opposed to tons of psyco-mumbo-jumbo out there).

Get Outliers: The Story of Success from Amazon UK.

/books | edited on 2009/01/18 -- permalink, click to comment

Book Review: The Tipping Point

In The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell outlines his theory of how trends and ideas jump from the forward edge of society into the mainstream. Throughout the book Malcolm describes the required three types of people, the way context changes everything and how the stickiness of the message make the difference between being ignored and being huge.

Malcolm Gladwell does an excellent job illustrating his theory with vibrant examples and life stories. Everything seems to be a covered, from Paul Revere’s ride to Airwalk shoes. One example is particularly interesting because it was covered from a totally oposite angle in Freakonomics, the New York abrupt crime drop in the 1990s. The drop in New York was sooner, faster and more abrupt than most anywhere else in the USA. Levitt and Dubner argue the tipping factor that made New York’s crime rate start falling in 1990 was the legalization of abortion 20 years before, in 1970. As usual, their case is fully backed by numbers and statistics leaves no margin for doubt. Gladwell on the other hand looks at the social side of the equation and point to one specific event and a context change. Near Christmas of 1984 one seemingly middle class white man got on the crime infested NY subway and made himself an easy target for 4 young black muggers. He then proceded to shoot all 4 with a revolver. Shortly after the New York Transit Authority started a new policy of creating a no-crime context in the subway, cleaning up the cars and cracking down on fare beating. According to Gladwell the way the shooting event was iconic and the change of context changed the criminal prevailing mindset into an order mindset.
Did the social effects Gladwell describes shave a few percentage points off the impact of abortion ? Is Levitt’s explanation the whole story and extraordinary events and context don’t make a difference in the long run ? (truth be told, Levitt’s statistics are well anchored in nationwide data so there isn’t a considerable margin for error there. can both explanations be related and not oposed ?)

Buy The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference from Amazon UK.

/books | edited on 2009/01/18 -- permalink, click to comment

two neil gaiman books

It’s pretty obvious by now Neil Gaiman only has one story. It goes like this, a quite normal person, preferably a child, somehow falls through a crack in space-time and finds herself in a strange, magical, parallel world. She procedes to become a hero in that world, defeating a great evil and managing to make it back to her own reality.
It’s also pretty obvious every single time Neil Gaiman tells it, he manages to spin a wonderful tale. All the versions are special, delightful and new. And he’s a really good reader too so go listen to Neil reading The Graveyard Book and pre-order The Graveyard Book from

That reminds me of The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish which is as close as Neil Gaiman can come to a children’s book. It’s a much lighter story than The Story but it’s highly fun and not childish at all. Why does The Graveyard Book reminds me of The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish ? Because the edition I have is not only beautifully illustrated but also comes with a bonus audio cd with Neil reading. That, I believe, is well worth buying The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish even if you don’t have children.

/books | edited on 2008/10/08 -- permalink, click to comment

The Undercover Economist, review

The Undercover Economist is not an economy text book. It won’t teach you how to economize, nor how to balance double ledgers nor about how the fluctuations of oil interact with rice market in Kuala Lumpur. It’s a book about open markets and how they can make mostly everything better. Marxists, don’t stop reading.

The Undercover Economist tells how “free market” or “open market” are not the same as capitalism. It guides through how the USA managed to create an absolutely non market on some fields and how european socialism can create much more efective markets for the same services. It also recounts the last century of China’s history from an undercover economist point of view and discusses globalization, from sweatshop workers in Indonesia to coffe farmer in Vietnam, using the tools at hand.

In short, The Undercover Economist is a book about understanding market forces intuitively and in human terms instead of with formulas. That’s the hardest path for the professor and the easiest for the student, in this case Tim Harford comes through with straight AA.

Buy The Undercover Economist from

/books | edited on 2008/09/21 -- permalink, click to comment
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