Sunday, November 28, 2010

From Philip Roth to El Bulli and from subprime mortgages to Hedonic Adaptation

Here's my roundup of Thanksgiving reading - all of it in paper this time, no kindle, no ipad.

For the first time in a long time I actually read 5 books (courtesy of the NYPL) over the last few weeks, especially last week on the beach in Mexico. For starters, two of Philip Roth's latest books - I admire his clean, crisp writing, descriptive language and concise storytelling. I read Indignation and The Humbling and enjoyed both stories and the dark endings (death) in both cases. I'd probably recommend Indignation over the Humbling, it's a quick read (4 hours) and has some vivid descriptions of Jewish Newark in the 1950ies and college life in Ohio at a conservative school.

Next I read the latest Ferran Adria book that proclaims the Catalan chef to be not only a gifted chef but a creative genius and credits him with having changed the face of Haute Cuisine by pushing the envelope and elevating an "anything goes" approach and an experimentation approach to his food. The book is somewhat repetitive but nonetheless a worthwhile read for foodies and aspiring chefs. Being of the several million applicants who never got to eat at El Bulli I've decided to identify his top alumni in New York and will scout for those restaurants shortly (I believe WD-50 is on top of the list).

The next recommendation is Dan Ariely's latest called The Upside of Irrationality which takes the reader on a tour of the mind's not-always rational ways of thinking when it comes to popular business themes such as bonus payments (in summary: low to mid-sized bonuses are great, large bonuses will lead to the wrong sort of results), the power of NIH (not-invented-here) and how you can use it to your advantage (hint: plant your ideas with your boss as if they were his), why sense of ownership is a powerful motivator and how you should take a deep breath before reacting to perceived unjustice and plot your revenge. 

The second part of the book is of a more personal nature and the key chapter is on Adaptation, especially hedonic adaptation - the concept of human beings being able to rather quickly get used to positive things (a new TV, a higher salary, the dream apartment). Ariely analyses the issue using experiments and comes up with an interesting recommendation: when faced with positive experiences, interrupt them frequently as you will enjoy the more. In the case of tedious tasks, force yourself to complete them rather than taking breaks - that would only prolong the pain. Overall this is an interesting read although it does require some attention to detail and is at times a bit verbose; recommended to all fans of behavioral psychology and business psychology; also pay attention to his entertaining analysis of the online dating market and his tests around "virtual dates" - which as far as I know, none of the dating sites haven't yet adapted.

The final read of the month was The Big Short by Liar's Poker author Michael Lewis. This is the second summary of the subprime mortgage crisis I've read after The Greatest Trade Ever and was fairly repetitive in terms of storyline. Lewis looks at a few of the same players as Gregory Zuckerman and comes up with a lot of the same conclusions. The Big Short is a quick read but not as detailed as Greatest Trade Ever - if you're in for the more fictional approach, go for Michael Lewis, if you're a bit of a finance geek yourself, pick Greg Zuckerman.



Posted via email from digbits's posterous


My Personal DNA

Template Designed by Douglas Bowman - Updated to Beta by: Blogger Team
Modified for 3-Column Layout by Hoctro