spock: logic is sexy

What Are You Reading Wednesday

What are you reading now?
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a very interesting book whose engaging writing style covers up some serious logical inconsistencies. The primary argument is that no one succeeds without help; extraordinary people are always born into some kind of advantageous circumstances or have some great stroke of luck that enables them to reach an otherwise unattainable level of success. At first, the argument makes sense. The author cites a famous study in which children of genius-level IQ's were tracked over several decades. Those who were born into wealthy and middle class families succeeded; those who grew up in poverty had lower rates of success. The reasoning sounds logical until you reach the next chapter, which examines a particularly wealthy group of elderly, Jewish lawyers in New York. These lawyers graduated from prestigious law schools in the fifties and sixties, when fancy law firms were too prejudiced to hire Jews. The Jewish lawyers then started their own firms, taking in whatever work they could find -- most often litigation, which was too "trashy" for the more established firms. Thus, when litigation became a lucrative and accepted branch of the law in the seventies and eighties, this particular group of litigators happened to be perfectly poised to make millions upon millions of dollars. So basically, their "advantageous circumstances" were that racists wouldn't hire them? And then they figured out how to make money anyway? Right. Then the book also has a lot of facile examples written as if they are revelations, like that you could be very successful in the computer industry if you graduated from college just as it was developing. And also there are inductive fallacies everywhere. All in all, it's interesting reading, but not recommended for Vulcans or debate coaches.

What did you just finish?
Um, nothing. I usually only read one book at a time, but I had an episode of book sluttiness and started reading Outliers while I was reading something else.

What will you read next?
I'd better finish The Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar, which I reported on last week. I'm kind of annoyed with myself for cheating on it.
...the next chapter, which examines a particularly wealthy group of elderly, Jewish lawyers in New York...So basically, their "advantageous circumstances" were that racists wouldn't hire them?

Hm. Perhaps he was trying to say that one path to success is finding a niche that no one else is filling? Or, if you're rejected by the mainstream, find your own path? IDK.

This has been on my to-read list for a while but now I'm not so sure. On the plus side, if I drop it that means I can move something up into its place :)

I'm currently re-reading All Creatures Great and Small -- happy stories!
It's lovely to hear a review of an influential book by a trained debate coach who knows how to find the flaws in an argument. Malcolm Gladwell is an interesting guy. I'm always intrigued by folks like him and Jared Diamond who are able to put their fingers on the pulse of what will interest people.

With the Jewish Lawyers, it is an interesting quandary. I have a nonfiction book club for which I am very grateful because otherwise I would just lie about in a neverending stew of incredibly engrossing John/Sherlock. :D anyway in my non fiction book club we've recently read some interesting books that touch on European Jewish culture prewar. One was The Red Leather Diary, which a journalist found in a prewar trunk in New York City and tracked down the old woman who wrote it and fleshed it out into a very interesting narrative. Another was Madeleine Albright's story about discovering her Jewish origins in Prague Winter. Then we also read a couple of adoption narratives which were just so fascinating, and one of them had to do with the fact of Being Jewish. What strikes me is how despite hundreds, thousands of years of persecution, have somewhat honed Jewish culture into valuing two things above all: learning (which cannot be taken away) and persistence. So with those two core values, you see the eventual success of the Jewish litigators laid in place by their immigrant forebears of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Wow, I will never forget the portrait in Prague Winter of a crowded camp full of Czech jews putting on a fully scored opera from memory. In a camp where they barely had access to fresh water. WOW. And a weekly literary review that was handwritten on one sheet of paper and passed around. To 50,000 people. Wah.

Sometime I want to read these books that are coming out about Jews in the comics industry and in early Hollywood.




http://www.amazon.com/An-Empire-Their-Own-Hollywood/dp/0385265573 (this book is written by a guy, our book club only read nF by women! so I have to read this on my own, or make my husband do it )



(re icon, still not reading Jude the Obscure :P )
Have just added Red Leather Diary to my (admittedly monstrous) to-read list. Recently I added My Mother's Secret to my list and am really looking forward to it.

thousands of years of persecution, have somewhat honed Jewish culture into valuing two things above all: learning (which cannot be taken away) and persistence

I can't think of anything better to have ingrained in one's life/culture/genes.

FWIW, Jude the Obscure is REALLY depressing ;)

Edited at 2013-09-27 02:20 am (UTC)