Notes on a few books


Jason Collins


April 13, 2016

The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour by Adam Ferrier

If you’ve read a couple of behavioural economics/behavioural science books, it doesn’t take long to become bored with hearing the same experiments and examples over and over again.

Ferrier manages to largely avoid that problem. He works in advertising, so has plenty of new stories to tell, and it’s interesting to hear how advertisers go about their job (and desperately try to win the beer accounts). It also helps that Ferrier is a trained psych, so he brings a bit more psychology to the task than you typically see in the pop behavioural science literature.

That said, when The Advertising Effect does stray into those familiar studies, you start to run into the problem that many of them aren’t standing the test of time particularly well (power posing being one example).

Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money by Nathaniel Popper

Even though this book is less than a year old, it already feels like it is missing a chapter or two at the end. Still, it’s an easy and entertaining history of Bitcoin.

Mine-Field: The Dark Side of Australia’s Resources Rush by Paul Cleary

As Cleary notes, “regulation is more focused on flora and fauna than on the people affected by mining end energy developments.”

Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers by Tom Wolfe

New York society throws a party to raise funds for the Black Panthers. Many great passages - here’s one instance:

One rule is that nostalgie de la boue – i.e., the styles of romantic, raw-vital, Low Rent primitives – are good; and middle class, whether black or white, is bad. Therefore, Radical Chic invariably favors radicals who seem primitive, exotic and romantic, such as the grape workers, who are not merely radical and ‘of the soil,’ but also Latin; the Panthers, with their leather pieces, Afros, shades, and shoot-outs; and the Red Indians, who, of course, had always seemed primitive, exotic and romantic. …

Rule No. 2 was that no matter what, one should always maintain a proper address, a proper scale of interior decoration, and servants. Servants, especially, were one of the last absolute dividing lines between those truly “in Society,” New or Old, and the great scuffling mass of middle-class strivers paying up to $1,250-a-month rent or buying expensive co-ops all over the East Side. …

In the era of Radical Chic, then, what a collision course was set between the absolute need for servants—and the fact that the servant was the absolute symbol of what the new movements, black or brown, were struggling against! How absolutely urgent, then, became the search for the only way out: white servants!

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation)

Another classic well worth reading.