Weekend Reading: The Undoing Project

I have read most of the books of Michael Lewis. When The Undoing Project came out last year, I grabbed a copy to read right away.

Mr. Lewis picks the story of Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky who created the field of behavioral economics. Their work came to the attention of Mr. Lewis after Moneyball came out. Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler pointed out in their review that Moneyball was really about behavioral economics and mentioned the work of Kahneman and Tversky. That reference lead Mr. Lewis to write this book.

It seems like the classic formula for Mr. Lewis: take a complicated topic and explain it using interesting people.

But when I started reading The Undoing Project, I kept putting it down. A year later, I finally decided to read it. (I needed to read a book about social science for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.)

I found this to be the least favorite of the Michael Lewis books I have read. I think the problem is that the book is much more of a biography than a concept study using people. It’s not that Kahneman and Tversky are uninteresting. I just didn’t find the lengthier biographical sections of the book to be compelling to read. Most of the first half of the book is biographical.

The book really shines when it focuses on the work of Kahneman and Tversky.

Kahneman and Tversky showed that in decision-making and judgment human beings did not behave as if they were statisticians. Instead our their judgments and decisions deviate in identifiable ways from theoretical models. Human errors are common and predictable.

It’s not that The Undoing Project is a bad book. I just that I had much higher expectations. A mediocre Michael Lewis book is still better than 90% of the books on my shelf.