The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Fragility"

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I think it only fitting that I begin this review by thanking Taleb for writing this entertaining, informative, and often challenging book. And it is the latter characteristic that makes this book especially worthy of any serious investor's time.
-The Motley Fool

Synopsis

The Black Swan is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are Fooled by Randomness, Antifragile, Skin in the Game, and The Bed of Procrustes.

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.
 
Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities. We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”
 
For years, Taleb has studied how we fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, while large events continue to surprise us and shape our world. In this revelatory book, Taleb explains everything we know about what we don’t know, and this second edition features a new philosophical and empirical essay, “On Robustness and Fragility,” which offers tools to navigate and exploit a Black Swan world.
 
Elegant, startling, and universal in its applications, The Black Swan will change the way you look at the world. Taleb is a vastly entertaining writer, with wit, irreverence, and unusual stories to tell. He has a polymathic command of subjects ranging from cognitive science to business to probability theory. The Black Swan is a landmark book—itself a black swan.
 
Praise for Nassim Nicholas Taleb
 
“The most prophetic voice of all.”—GQ
 
Praise for The Black Swan
 
“[A book] that altered modern thinking.”—The Times (London)
 
“A masterpiece.”—Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, author of The Long Tail
 
“Idiosyncratically brilliant.”—Niall Ferguson, Los Angeles Times
 
The Black Swan changed my view of how the world works.”—Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate
 
“[Taleb writes] in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne. . . . We eagerly romp with him through the follies of confirmation bias [and] narrative fallacy.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Hugely enjoyable—compelling . . . easy to dip into.”—Financial Times
 
“Engaging . . . The Black Swan has appealing cheek and admirable ambition.”—The New York Times Book Review
 

About Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to immersing himself in problems of luck, uncertainty, probability, and knowledge, and he has led three high-profile careers around his ideas, as a man of letters, as a businessman-trader, and as a university professor. Although he spends most of his time as a flâneur, meditating in cafés across the planet, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University's Polytechnic Institute. His work has been published in thirty-three languages.
 
Published May 4, 2010 by Random House. 444 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Law & Philosophy, History, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Education & Reference, Science & Math, Self Help, Computers & Technology. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Black Swan
All: 4 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 3

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Gregg Easterbrook on Apr 22 2007

Ultimately, Taleb’s book shipwrecks on the story of Yevgenia Krasnova...Taleb fabricated her, which he admits only in a footnote and in the index. If Taleb were on to a general theme of history, he wouldn’t have to invent his examples.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Giles Foden on May 12 2007

Taleb and his publishers clearly believe the success of Fooled by Randomness is going to come again. But that book had a persuasive sobriety. The same cannot be said for The Black Swan, which despite the great utility of its insights is badly structured and hurriedly written.

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Daily Kos

Below average
Reviewed by onanyes on Aug 29 2010

I enjoyed the book and found it hard to put down. It challenged some of my thinking and changed the way that I look at things. What I didn't like: the book was very inefficient; he could have conveyed the same message in about 1/3 of the pages.

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The Motley Fool

Good
Reviewed by Jack Uldrich on Aug 10 2007

I think it only fitting that I begin this review by thanking Taleb for writing this entertaining, informative, and often challenging book. And it is the latter characteristic that makes this book especially worthy of any serious investor's time.

Read Full Review of The Black Swan: Second Editio...

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