Books #1

I did procrastinate a lot on my writing this year. This post is about the books I read during January, with some notes on them. Let’s hope I don’t get bogged down by procrastination (in both reading and writing about reading) in the future… heh.

As always, this is more a “brain dump” than a list of proper reviews.

The Sculptor

The Sculptor is a story about an artist that can imagine wonderful works, but is unable to execute them. After a pact with the Devil, the protagonist receives a special power to manipulate matter as he wishes, and uses that to create art. The downside is that he will have only 200 days to live. It was a fun novel, so I expect to read more works from the author in the future (and more graphic novels in general).

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Antifragile, a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is a very different kind of book, one that turned out as very entertaining while talking about exposure to risk in several areas of life.

The concept of antifragility comes from the following thought experiment: if you have a box tagged “fragile”, it will benefit from no randomness, no shocks, no disturbances. A robust box, like when you fill one with bubble wrap, does not benefit from these situations, but is also “protected” against them; it can’t be benefitted or harmed. Thus, a robust box is not the inverse of a fragile one, making it necessary to create a new term — antifragility — for this property.

By applying the idea that it’s better to be in a position that benefits from randomness (in various forms) the author shows why having cash is better than being in debt, a writer takes critics better than a banker, and organic, decentralized systems survive more than planned, top-down ones.

After reading this book, I went on looking for more information about the subject and found an online book by the same author in which he explains the mathematics behind his conclusions. It’s incomplete, a work-in-progress, but a nice read nonetheless: Silent Risk (PDF).

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