Books January 2016
A review of The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley.
I am not a fan of “airport nonfiction”: the kind of book featured at airport bookstalls and purchased by intelligent young businesspeople to while away a cross-country flight. This genre has brought wealth and fame to Malcolm Gladwell (Blink), Nassim Taleb (The Black Swan), the Levitt–Dubner partnership (Freakonomics), and others. Jolly good luck to them all. I’m just happier with a novel, biography, or history book.
An airport nonfiction book is built around a single big idea. By thirty pages in I have grasped the idea and found it neither original nor interesting. Then . . . oh, the guy has three hundred more pages of examples and case studies? Uh . . .
The thing can be done well or badly, though, and Matt Ridley does it decently well. His big idea is the one in his title: that most of the change that takes place in...
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