What I’ve been reading

Consumer.ology
I enjoyed the first part of the book, which explores the fallacy of market research and the complex reality about consumers and the psychology of shopping. A summary paragraph:

“The unconscious mind is the real driver of consumer behavior. Understanding consumers is largely a matter of understanding how the unconscious mind operates; the first obstacle to this is recognizing how we frequently react without conscious awareness. As long as we protect the illusion that we ourselves are primarily conscious agents, we pander to the belief that we can ask people what they think and trust what we hear in response. After all, we like to tell ourselves we know why we do what we do, so everyone else must be capable of doing the same, mustn’t they?”

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Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think
Our sacrifices and fears stem from deep misconceptions about nature and nurture. According to economist Bryan Caplan, research shows that the long-run effect of parenting is surprisingly small. If you want to rationalize having kids or are interested in becoming a “free range parent” you might find this book interesting.

As you might expect from an economist, the book deals with a lot of research. An interesting example of this revolved around parenthood and age: parents under 30 are less happy than their child-free peers. However, once parents hit 40, the relationship reverses. More kids means happier parents too — that is, once you hit 40.

My favorite book in this category remains the Tiger Mom Book.

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Kafka’s The Trial
The tale of Josef K., a responsible bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. To me this was a chilling tale on the excesses of bureaucracy. This book will resonate with anyone who deals with a large bureaucracy. (If you work in a large bureaucracy, in addition to this, you might also enjoy The Pale King.)

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The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
A great primer for anyone wishing to understand mass movements, be they religious movements, social revolutions or nationalist movements. A sample:

Discontent by itself does not invariably create a desire for change. Other factors have to be present before discontent turns into disaffection. One of these is a sense of power.

Those who are awed by their surroundings do not think of change, no matter how miserable their condition. When our mode of life is so precarious as to make it patent that we cannot control the circumstance of our existence, we tend to stick to the proven and the familiar. We counteract a deep feeling of insecurity by making of our existence a fixed routine.

and this telling passage:

For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and potentialities of the future. Finally, they must be wholly ignorant of the difficulties involved in their vast undertaking. Experience is a handicap. The men who started the French Revolution were wholly without political experience. The same is true of the Bolsheviks, Nazis, and the revolutionaries in Asia.