Book Review – The Undoing Project

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis (Penguin) ISBN: 9780393254594

Michael Lewis, author of the best-sellers The Blind Side, The Big Short, and many others doesn’t have anything left to prove, and it’s quite fun reading an author with this degree of confidence.

The story of an unlikely friendship that changed the way we think is interesting at best. Forty years ago, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky collaborated to write a series of articles that changed the way we think, and explored decision-making theory from an original perspective.

The Lewis magic, which takes interesting and explodes it into the fascinating, page-turning and breath-taking, was only partially in operation here. The friendship and collaboration between these two was wonderfully explored. Their personalities and fascinating histories came alive, and at times I felt like a fly on the wall. The sentimentality of the relationship, rich in generosity, then sad in its unravelling, was poignant. I loved the way that they were better together, and the moments where their ideas fed off each other were a little magical, well expressed.

But Lewis missed a trick. The world these two academics cracked open is very interesting. Apart from telling a few of their stories from their more famed papers, he defaulted to the story of the probabilistic mistake that we all make, explored over and over again, until it affected my reading. A little more depth of explanation, such as is found in Misbehaving by Richard Thaler, for instance, would have helped.

The Undoing Project is still worth a read if you enjoy behavioural psychology and are interested in the Kahneman and Tversky story.

Bev Bouwer

Posted on: 6th April 2017