Feel like I’ve managed to read a decent amount in 2015, as always would like to have read more though!
With a bias to non-fiction, here are the 3 the books that really stood out for me in 2015.
1. The Success Equation (Michael Mauboissin)
I wrote about this one in more detail here, but in short I loved the approach the author took in laying out various quantitative frameworks for distinguishing the roles of skill and luck (most were illustrated using sports data). There were a number of interesting takeaways for finance.
2. The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)
Hardly an original choice, given this book was riding high in the best seller lists for most of the year. I don’t read much fiction, but couldn’t put this one down. I also recommended it to several other other people who all ended up feeling the same. A real thriller brilliantly told from several perspectives, I really felt like I got to know the characters. If you are one of the few people that hasn’t already read this then I recommend you get your hands on a copy asap. I am certainly waiting keenly for Paula Hawkins next novel.
3. Incognito (David Eagleman)
I seem to be reading a lot of books about meta-cognition (thinking about thinking) recently. Unsure if it’s just a “phase” or reflective of a glut of books being published on the subject. Anyway, I found this one, which ranges over a wide area of neuroscience hugely interesting, difficult to put down and really well written. There were real “aha” moments on each page and at no point did I feel “bogged down” by weight of thought as I sometimes do with these sort of books. I think Eagleman does a great job of keeping the subject matter readable and accessible, making good use of examples and stories where appropriate.
The main takeaways or themes of the book I would say are as follows:
Our perception of the reality around us isn’t quite what we think it is, and by understanding the way the brain creates this perception we can understand how it can be led astray.
A huge amount of our behaviour is governed by automated neuro-programs that are “burned down” into the circuitry of our brains, with little or no access from the conscious level (and this is much more efficient)
This calls into question the extent to which free will is actually “free” (are we making a conscious choice, or responding in a pre-programmed way)
This poses challenging questions for the legal system, which currently operates on the assumption that humans more or less start out the same. Perhaps as our understanding of neuroscience evolves we will need to revisit the principles behind the legal system.
One of the amazing things about our brain’s evolution is the flexibility to conquer new problems and “burn-down” into our unconscious neuro level the programs for solving them – so that they become automatic (such as learning to drive or ride a bike)