A new book from Michael Lewis is always a thrill.
His energetic dissection of financial booms and busts, always peopled with eccentric characters and amazing costs have all been bestsellers. Wall Street workers are usually anxious to know what he will write about next! This time prepare to be surprised – for The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed the World is about psychology (and of course mathematics). I am beginning to believe that all the problems of the world could be solved with an algorithm! It is a pity we don’t all speak that language.
This time Lewis is writing about two seemingly disparate Israeli scholars, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, who together worked on how we make decisions, especially in uncertain conditions. Eventually, after the death of Amos, Kahneman was awarded a Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences (which he says was mostly for work he had done with Amos). This is not a book to be dipped into at bedtime – pay attention and work it out!
In typical Michael Lewis style, it is filled with anecdotes and character assessments, and somehow you can manage to understand the developments in cognitive psychology and how we make decisions, how we spend, how mistakes can be made in medicine or in basketball even.
Michael Lewis has thirteen other titles to his name, beginning with Liar’s Poker and including Flash Boys, The Big Short, Moneyball and The New New Thing as some of the books which have been made into movies. Terrific, entertaining reading, but this time you’ll have to work at it.
Here are two recommendations for readers interested in Literary Fiction. If your interest is in the writers of the thirties such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway you will of course be interested to read about their legendary editor at Scribers. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A Scott Berg is full of fascinating and useful information, not only about these famous authors but also about the world of literature generally. Hendrix Willem van Loon even gets a mention. Who has heard of him these days? (He wrote The Story of Mankind and other popular treatises).
The second book is by Elizabeth Strout and is called My Name is Lucy Barton. The novels by Elizabeth Strout are the sort of steady sellers which are usually recommended by one reader to another. If you don’t remember her name perhaps you remember the name Olive Kitteridge, which was the title of one of her earlier remarkable books and which won the Pulitzer Prize. Don’t miss this new one. It was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and I think it should win.
The story concerns a young woman whose rural childhood is indeed poverty-stricken, both emotionally and financially, but who later becomes a successful writer, wife and mother although, as her mother-in-law says, “she comes from nothing”. Heartbreakingly true writing. Two more of her books are Amy & Isabelle and The Burgess Boys. I’m going to read them now.
If you’ve been an Abbey’s customer for a long time you probably know we didn’t have a Sports section, despite intermittent calls for such stock. This has changed now and there is a Sports section near the information counter at the front of the store. I became aware of this when I wanted a book given a terrific review by Michael Heyward, the publisher at Text Publishing. It is called String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis with an introduction by John Jeremiah Sullivan. It is a very nice edition, green hardback with a fantastic photo of a tennis ball for the end papers - it would make a lovely gift for tennis fiends. There are five essays including a very funny one on David Foster Wallace’s own junior tennis career in the windy state of Illinois. Judging angles comes into it, so once again mathematics is useful. The final essay on Roger Federer is a gem, as is Roger Federer.
David Foster Wallace was famous for his novel Infinite Jest, set in a drug rehabilitation centre in Boston, but he became more famous for his essays as a cultural critic. Two we have in stock are A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again or Consider the Lobster: Essays and Arguments!
You might find some other surprising titles in the Sports section such as a book on Australian Rules by Chip le Grand called The Straight Dope: The Inside Story of Sports Biggest Drug Scandal or The Ugly Game: The Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup by Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert. I think there will be many people who would enjoy The Meaning of Cricket: or How to Waste Your Life on an Inconsequential Sport written by Jon Hotten, who is a rather famous cricket blogger. I liked this quote from the blurb: “Cricket is a team game entirely dependent on individual performance.”
I’m now going to read Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a New York Times bestseller. This looks fascinating. Lots of photographs, index, bibliography and 169 pages of notes. The blurb says “this is an affecting portrait of a man who, driven by destiny and duty, forever sought, ultimately, to put the country first” and goes on to say “should be required reading for every president-elect”. I don’t suppose it is much use offering it to Donald Trump.
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