Posted in All Book Reviews, Non-fiction (Business and Other Stuff)

Book Review: The Data Detective (By Tim Harford)

The Data Detective is the first thing I’ve ever read from Tim Harford. And it was definitely unlike many non-fictions that I’ve read in the (recent) past. Read on to know what works and doesn’t work in this book on statistics by the famous economist.

Genre: 

Non-fiction

Length: 

336 pages

Blurb:

Statistics are all around us. With more and more studies becoming the basis upon which sociological discussions and debates take place, it’s becoming even more important for people to really understand statistics, and how they’re applied. Tim Harford delves into how statistics can offer great insight into human behavior, but only if they’re understood correctly.

Overall Rating:

10 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

10 out of 10 stars (for the flow of the book and the subject matter)

Writing Style:

10 out of 10

Part of a Series:

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

One of the most fun non-fictions I’ve ever read, that explains serious topics through beautifully presented and easy-to-consume stories.

What I Liked:

A few things really stood out for me in Tim Harford’s writing style and the presentation of the subject matter:

  • Tim Harford comes across as humble and conversational – both qualities that I’ve often found lacking in other non-fictions (for example, Zero to One by Peter Thiel) that tend to be too preachy. It made it really easy to follow what he was trying to explain.
  • The use of case studies and real-world examples adds immense value, making the concepts simpler and their impact that much more real.
  • The ideas in The Data Detective are refreshing and can guide anyone on how to maintain an objective and information-centric outlook, especially in this often-polarized world that keeps throwing information and misinformation at you.

What I Didn’t Like:

There was nothing to specifically dislike in the book. Smooth reading through and through.

Who Should Read It:

I have been recommending The Data Detective to everyone, regardless of whether they usually read non-fiction or anything economics and statistics-related. For those new to non-fiction, Tim Harford’s book is easy to read, making it a good starting point. For those who regularly read non-fiction, it’s a refreshing change of voice. And for those who normally don’t find statistics interesting, I share that I don’t love statistics either – and this book is way more than that. It is a whole new outlook.

Who Should Avoid:

People who spend a lot of time working with numbers and the prevalent themes may find that this doesn’t add great value (as per some Goodreads reviews). I still think it’s a book everyone should read at least once.

Read It For:

The Data Detective is a lot more than being just about statistics. It incorporates sociology, psychology, and a lot of themes that are underlying in our day to day activities and thinking. It is for that very reason that it offers usable tips to help navigate today’s world a little better. If there’s one thing to read it for, it’s the simple yet highly useful eye-openers.

After The Data Detective, I’m definitely looking forward to following more of Tim Harford’s work. Although I borrowed this one from the library, it definitely should be on an ‘owned’ list for easy reference. Share your thoughts on the book or Harford’s other work in the comments below. And as always, thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read my review.

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews, Non-fiction (Business and Other Stuff)

Book Review: Zero to One (By Peter Thiel and Blake Masters)

I found out about Zero to One: Notes on Startups, and How to Build the Future through Goodreads’ Giveaways. I found a copy at my library and dove right in, super excited about the unique perspective that this book claimed to provide.

I’m not going to go into a detailed blurb (shocking, I know!) but I will quickly touch upon the topics the book covers: technical stagnation ongoing today, the potential of incredible innovation and “unchartered frontiers”, and the technique to overcome the former to tap into the latter. All by genius entrepreneur and investor, Peter Thiel!

Does the book actually go into all of that?

Not until the first 40% is over, at least. I may be in the minority with my lack of love for this book. But at about 40% in, after finally being unable to ignore many cringe factors, I gave up and marked it as DNF.

So what’s the rest of this review about? My unpleasant journey with Zero to One: Notes on Startups, and How to Build the Future, and the reasons for this discontent as summarized into the points below:

  1. Peter Thiel loves himself, and does not tire of showing you how smart he is by putting down a lot of opinions. I accept that self-promotion is part of any non-fiction, business book. But he does it by outright dismissing tried and tested ideas, and I genuinely felt it was for nothing more than giving a shock factor. I’m not denying that he has his skills (at all), but the sensationalism in his writing ends up just putting you off.
  2. The arbitrarily selective focus was another huge turn off for me. In short, his entire approach is “US innovation is the best, everyone else mostly fails”. There is nothing wrong in focusing your book or your research to a specific geographical area. But if that is what you choose to do, you can’t pick and choose examples from other regions when it suits your narrative – positively or negatively – only to completely disregard other examples that don’t suit you. Targeting, in research and readership, needs more consistency, especially if you’re talking about better business strategy.
  3. And last but not least, Zero to One is terribly preachy. It’s true that most business books come with some amount of preachiness; but coupled with actionable tips, they tend to offer some key takeaways that you can apply to your own work/business. But I found Peter Thiel’s writing lacking the actionable part. The end result is just a long literature review, seen from Thiel’s sensationalizing point of view.

Before ending this review, I’m going to share a disclaimer: Thiel may be an incredible business-person and strategist, and I am not commenting on his capabilities. I am only commenting on the book and how I felt about it as a reader and as someone who’s always curious to learn (which, I don’t think, is too far from the intended audience for Zero to One).

What did you love (or not) in Peter Thiel’s Zero to One: Notes on Startups, and How to Build the Future? Tell us in the comments below! And as always, thanks for stopping by and reading my review.

– Rishika