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10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Tracing the human roots through DNA, literature, and ideologies


10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)
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This world is unpredictable.


It is complex, random, and uncertain.


This is one of the ideas propagated by Nassim Taleb. Not surprisingly, the books recommended by Taleb espouse the same complexity and nuance that he himself proposes.


Another great thing is that the recommendations are very diverse. The list includes books from French, Argentinian, and Russian authors.


If you are a fan of Nassim Taleb, you have to check out the following.


Source: Books mentioned by Nassim Taleb on Twitter/X and Books Nassim Taleb has given editorial book reviews on.



10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

The intermingled roots of humans.


David Reich is a geneticist.


He is currently serving as a professor at Harvard Medical School. He has also won numerous awards.


Reich’s biggest contribution is his work on the genome of ancient humans. Using that, he has studied the mixing and migration of human populations.


This book details his research and the conclusions drawn as a result.


“Prior to the genome revolution, I, like most others, had assumed that the big genetic clusters of populations we see today reflect the deep splits of the past.”

His work cleared up his own misconceptions too. When we see the many ethnic clusters of humans, we assume that they came from different ancestors.


The reality however is that there was never a single population with branches going out. The big clusters of human populations came from mixtures too.


“If the ancient DNA studies of the last few years have shown anything clearly, it is that the geographic distribution of people living today is often misleading about the dwelling places of their ancestors.”

Humans have always been diverse, perhaps even more so in the past. The ancient skeletons of people from different geographical areas don’t match the people living there today. Perhaps, we all are settlers, in one form or another.


The author also tells about how much DNA different ethnicities share and how some of Neanthradal’s DNA is still here.


This book proves the complexity of human history.


Source of Recommendation:




10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Take small losses to cushion against the big ones.


Mark Spitznagel is an investor and hedge fund manager. He is also the founder of Universa Investments, a hedge fund management firm.


Nassim Taleb is a seasoned investor himself. Makes sense why he recommends this book.


Spitznagel is relentless in his critique of conventional approaches dominating the investing world. He himself uses an uncommon approach when it comes to investing.


“Your raw, linear returns are a lie; your true returns are crooked.”

Small losses are good, the author tells us. And by losing a small amount of wealth, one can be protected against the loss from big market events.


The aim is not to mitigate all risks but to mitigate the risks that matter.


Spitznagel is against predictions. (Just like Nassim Taleb.)


Here are Nassim Taleb’s words from the foreword of this book:


“As introduced (and formulated) in Safe Haven, risk mitigation needs to be ‘cost-effective’ (i.e., it should raise your wealth), and to do that it needs to mitigate the risks that matter, not the risks that don’t.”

The book is filled with charts and data. If you are not well-versed in finance or math, you’ll probably have a hard time with this book.


Source of Recommendation:

2. Foreword of book by Nassim Taleb



10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

The disguise Christianity wears…


Tom Holland makes the argument that current Western moral ideals were derived from Christianity.


“The West, over the duration of its global hegemony, had become skilled in the art of repackaging Christian concepts for non-Christian audiences.”

Although the current Western ideology is largely anti-religious, the apparent non-religious ideals are deeply rooted in Christian beliefs and practices. For example: Standing up for the weak and downtrodden.


Holland says that secularism has covered its tracks in presenting itself as a neutral ideology. And those that adhere to it, do become slightly Christian.


“A myth… is not a lie.”

The author traces the roots of Christianity. He takes us to the Greek, Roman, and Persian empires. In Persia, the brutal practice of crucifixion was used.


The author tells us about the Roman spiritual thought of Stoicism and how Jews greatly differed from that. And then came Christianity. The key figures of the Christian faith are Jesus and St. Paul.


“Get rid of pride, and riches will do no harm.”

To me, the author’s argument makes sense. Even if society departs from religion, the richness of religious thought, stories, and ideals continue to exert their influence whether knowingly or unknowingly.


Source of Recommendation:




10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A political novel inspired by true events.


Fyodor Dostoevsky is a Russian novelist.


This novel revolves around the story of a town that descends into chaos following political anarchy.


“God is necessary, and therefore must exist… But I know that he does not and cannot exist… Don’t you understand that a man with these two thoughts cannot go on living?”

We meet Pyotr Verkhovensky who drives the revolution. Nikolai Stavrogin is his friend, who is also the son of the rich and famous lady Varvara Stavrogina. His dad is an intellectual, Stepan Verkhovensky.


The novel takes us through the political alliances, the manipulations, and the social upheaval in society.


Stavrogin is an increasingly disturbed individual who in an originally censored chapter confesses to the rape of an 11-year-old girl.


“People who can speak well, speak briefly.”

There are discussions among the characters about God, religion, and other ideologies.


The novel was inspired by a real-life murder of a student by a revolutionary group. To find out who was murdered in the novel, you’ll have to read it!


Source of Recommendation:




10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Our brains are not wired for logic.


The author gives a simple analogy. He says that just like horses don’t run on petrol, the human mind doesn’t run on logic.


“…when you demand logic, you pay a hidden price: you destroy magic…”

Humans haven’t changed in a million years. And we won’t change in the coming million years.


We try to apply logic everywhere. But logic isn’t what makes humans do or don’t do stuff.


Humans are driven by emotions and intuition. What humans feel and what they say, is greatly different. And this is where market research struggles.


“For a business to be truly customer-focused, it needs to ignore what people say. Instead it needs to concentrate on what people feel.”

A great example that the author gives is of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Donald Trump achieves a lot with one tweet only. Whereas that effect would take years for Hillary to achieve.


“That’s alchemy; you may hate it, but it works.”

I have read enough about humans being unpredictable and illogical. Still, the author’s words have made me reflect even more on this phenomenon.


Source of Recommendation:




10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

The mathematics of big and small.


After entering my twenties, I developed a knack for cooking.


Through my many escapades in the kitchen, I realized that when doubling or tripling the recipe, all the spices and ingredients don’t have to be doubled or tripled. In short, the scaling of a recipe is not linear.


This book applies the phenomenon of scaling on living things, human dwellings, and more.


“If you tell me the size of a mammal, I can use the scaling laws to tell you almost everything about the average values of its measurable characteristics… Given the extraordinary complexity and diversity of life, this is pretty amazing.”

Elephants are 10,000 times heavier than rats. They have 10,000 times more cells to support. But… their metabolic rate is only a thousand times larger than a rat’s.


Metabolic rate scales with an exponent of ¾. Other biological processes might follow ¼ exponent when scaled.


The author answers many interesting questions. Why do humans stop growing? Why is there no organism larger than the blue whale?


“A major intent is to show that underlying the extraordinary complexity, diversity, and apparent messiness of the world we live in lies a surprising unity and simplicity when viewed through the lens of scale.”

The author applies this phenomenon of scaling to cities. If one knows the size of a city and has an understanding of scaling, the average wage, and the crime rate can be calculated quite accurately.


This book is an important contribution. It acquaints us with the mathematical yet simple (still mind-blowing) reality of this world.


Source of Recommendation:




10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Wisdom from 16th century France.


Reading books from centuries ago has its own appeal.


When reading the words of a person who has been long gone, there is a certain mystery that engulfs you. Who was this person? What did he look like? What was his life like? Did he write this book under a lamp?


Michal de Montaigne is one such person who lived in the 16th century. ‘Essays’ was published in 1580.


Originally written in French, Essays have grown in their influence and have inspired a wealth of literature.


Since the writing is largely based on introspection, Montaigne warns us that he himself is the subject of his writing.


“I am myself the matter of this book; you would be unreasonable to suspend your leisure on so frivolous and vain a subject.”

The author shares stories, anecdotes, reflections, and more. From simple to complex, he doesn’t shy away from discussing any subject. He touches on = education, marriage, clothes, smell, etc.


“I propose a life ordinary and without lustre…”

This book is for all to read and reflect on.


Source of Recommendation:




10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

We are not the ‘enlightened’ ones.


This book challenges the view of human history put forward in the backdrop of the Enlightenment. This includes the views of Steven Pinker and Yuval Noah Harari.


“The history of human society is not a progression from savagery to civilization, but rather a constant cycle of creation and destruction.”

The authors want us to accept the contradictions and complexities of the past. It isn’t that ancient humans were savages and evolved into sophisticated modern humans.


The authors cite the example of ‘Romito 2’, a 10,000-year-old skeletal remains of an adult male who suffered from a genetic disorder. Despite his many health complications, he was nursed and cared for till adulthood.


“…our species is a nurturing and care-giving species, and there was simply no need for life to be nasty, brutish or short.”

Graeber and Wengrow want us to accept that we came from complex origins. The timeline of human history or the way it happened is neither simple nor linear.


Source of Recommendation:




10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A labyrinth of stories.


Jorge Luis Borge was a short story writer from Argentina.


He is a notable figure in Spanish literature. His works have been widely translated.


This book is his collection of short stories. From fantasy to murder and from dreams to detectives, the stories sport a variety of themes and plots.


“His many years had reduced and polished him the way water smooths and polishes a stone or generations of men polish a proverb.”

The fascinating thing is that stories are diverse. There are Indians, Chinese, Germans, and people from many other ethnicities.


Labyrinth is mentioned time and again in the stories. It symbolizes the complexity and diversity of the world.


“Fate is partial to repetitions, variations, symmetries.”

The stories, despite being short, have a lot of twists and turns and keep the reader on edge for what’s to come.


Source of Recommendation:




10 Eye Opening Books Recommended by Nassim Taleb — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Thoughts of a Stoic Philosopher from 65 AD.


Seneca is a Roman Stoic Philosopher.


This book is a collection of letters that he sent to his friend. They are filled with Stoic wisdom and many reflections.


“Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.”

Some spiritual pathways require humans to give up worldly pleasures. But Stoicism teaches a path of moderation. To nourish our bodies with nutritious food but to avoid overeating.


There is a lot of reflection on friendship. The author advises us to make friends with only those whom we trust like we trust ourselves.


“There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with…”

Seneca tells us how humans and animals differ. We forget the present moment and jump to the past and future with our regrets and worries.


Animals, on the other hand, forget about the danger after successfully running away from it.


Stoicism is a great philosophy and this book is another great resource to understand it.


Source of Recommendation:

2. ‘’A more human version can be read in Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic, a soothing and surprisingly readable book that I distribute to my trader friends (Seneca also took his own life when cornered by destiny).’’ — Fooled by Randomness, Nassim Nicholas Taleb


 

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