Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Upheaval - Jared Diamond

Pandemic book list. 20th item.
In “Guns, Germs and Steel” and “Collapse” (see previous posts), Jared Diamond explains why civilisations respectively rise and fall.
In “Upheaval”, on the other hand, he tries to understand how countries cope with momentous crises. He takes into account six examples that for a reason or another he’s related with: Finland (USSR invasion), Chile (Allende’s politics and Pinochet’s coup), Germany (post WWII shock), Japan (Commodore Perry’s fleet threat), Indonesia (Suharto’s counter coup) and Australia (post colonial era shock). He also tries to trace a parallel between nations' and individuals' approach to crises, and concludes that the two levels have a lot in common.
In the final chapters Diamond speculates on whether the US, Japan and the whole world are taking the right steps to cope with their current crises.
Interesting book, even if you are just curious about the six crisis examples.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Blink - Malcolm Gladwell

Pandemic book list. 19th item.
The year is 2005. The location is Borders bookstore, Wheelock Place, Orchard Road, Singapore. A store that, for all I know, might not exist anymore. I’m leafing through a copy of Blink. I’ve just read a review which tickled my curiosity. After skimming through a couple of passages I close it and think: “Nice introduction! Interesting subject! I won’t buy it!” Just like that. A sudden, unconscious decision, based on a very first impression and pure intuition. Not much thinking involved, or not at all. I used the very mechanism described in the book to reach that conclusion. Malcom Gladwell beautifully explained why I didn’t purchase his masterpiece and opted for a collection of short-short stories instead.
Fifteen years later I did Blink justice: I bought it and read it. It’s typical Malcolm Gladwell: witty, original, full of insightful examples. An excellent introduction to the subject of the adaptive unconscious, the mechanism that enables us to make decisions and reach conclusions rapidly, without much information. How it works, when it kicks in, its strengths and weaknesses. Read the book if you wanna learn how to use it well and avoid its pitfalls.