The Art of Thinking Clearly

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli is a collection of very short essays exploring the many mistakes humans are prone to making when we think about things. There’s not much new in this book, but I find however often I read about confirmation bias and the sunk cost fallacy I find myself slipping back into that kind of thinking. It’s hard work because our brains aren’t actually wired for logic and rational thinking. This is an easy and accessible guide to some of the concepts that can be found in much denser books like Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

There are 99 thinking errors in this book which address things like how the availability of examples makes us forget about probability and how we regularly mistake correlation for causation.

If you want to understand why people sometimes say and do things that you think are ridiculous, then this book will help. Although it might also make you realise that the things you say and do are also ridiculous. so be warned.

The Rent Trap

rent-trap-coverThe Rent Trap by Rosie Walker and Samir Jeraj
Published by Pluto Books in 2016

The Rent Trap explores the world of private renting and how rising house prices make home ownership out of reach for many renters. It looks at the instability caused by short term contracts and the impact on families. The book covers the de-regulation of the housing market and what that means for tenants.

Most landlords aren’t property developers. Most are individuals who’ve bought a second house as an investment for their retirements, or owner-occupiers renting a room to help with the mortgage payments. But what this means is that the people paying for the house aren’t the ones who’ll eventually own it and this is creating wide inequality. It’s interesting to see how individual small decisions, made for good reasons, create a huge problem in the absence of regulation.

Worth a read.

The Curious Affair of the Deodand

20160930_092151The Curious Affair of the Deodand by Lisa Tuttle
Published by Jo Fletcher Books in 2016 as a sampler

I went to FantasyCon last weekend and had a fabulous time. In my goody bag were a number of samplers for books. Unusually The Curious Affair of the Deodand is a complete short story and is what inspired Lisa Tuttle’s recent novel, The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief.

It is a Victorian detective story, very much an homage to the Sherlock Holmes stories, in which Jasper Jesperson and his newly hired assistant Miss Lane investigate an unsolved murder with supernatural elements. As I was reading I was sure I’d read or heard the story before and I think it was made into a radio play, but I can’t find it now. However the story appears to be available on the internet and was also published in the anthology Down these Strange Streets.

Lisa Tuttle’s writing is wonderful. I don’t often enjoy short stories but this I liked a lot. I suppose I could call it a cozy horror. It’s creepy and the horror is hinted at, but like a cozy mystery it is genteel, the detectives are amateur, and has an intimate feel to it. I’m sure I’ll be reading the novel at some point.

Why do you choose books?

At FantasyCon 2015 one the panels discussed why people choose a book out of the thousands available to them. Some people go for covers, some like a good blurb, a few will read the first page. Me, I love a great title.

What about you?

The return of book mountain

Some years ago, I found myself with hundreds of unread books due to buying more books than I was reading. I set myself a challenge to read all those books.

I didn’t quite make it. I read a lot. I gave away a lot; ones I’d never read and classics that I could get free for my kindle (still largely unread).

Thanks to FantasyCon 2015 and a friend emigrating to Spain, I’ve just added 120 books to my unread collection. Book mountain lives again! Which is fortunate because I’ve just enrolled in a Diploma in Transformational Coaching and I need to pay for it. There will be no money for new books for a little while. Well, not as many new books…

Snow Falling on Cedars

SnowFallingOnCedarsSnow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson is the story of a murder trial and all the social and cultural factors that lead to a false accusation. It is set on an island off the coast of Washington State in the US where the main industries are timber, soft fruits and fish. The island has a small population with a minority of Japanese inhabitants who were all interned during the war.

Guterson switches between the murder trial in the present of the book, which is the early fifties, and the past of the events that link the deceased and the accused together. These events span thirty or forty years and include land deals gone sour, racism, unrequited teen love, war trauma, lazy detective work and some really bad luck. The switches are handled effortlessly and sometimes happen within a paragraph. Much of the book is spent in the past and on the love story between the Japanese wife of the accused and her childhood friend, the son of the white newspaper owner.

This is a dense and long book. Guterson creates a lushly detailed picture of the island and what life on it was like. I saw the film a few years ago and enjoyed it. I had a suspicion that there might be more to the book and there is. The author touches on some big themes and handles them delicately. The final reveal of what really happened to the deceased shows how all those other things led the Sheriff, the coroner and the Judge to jump to conclusions and stop looking for evidence.

It was slow going but for the most part absorbing, beautifully written and thoughtful.