Books : reviews

Jim Lovell, Jeffrey Kluger.
Apollo 13.
Coronet. 1994

Jeffrey Kluger.
Simplexity: the simple rules of a complex world.
John Murray. 2007

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 18 May 2009

Kluger arranges his discussion of complexity into a series of chapters subtitled "Misled by X". These go on to describe how we can be misled to think that things are more complex than they really are, or more simple than they really are. He covers the stock market, historical events, crowd psychology, probability and risk, and more. It covers things not usually covered by books on complexity, such as how skilled certain jobs really are, how complicated some sports are, why technology is complicated, and health care.

This is all well-written, and has lots of interesting snippets, but left me feeling a bit flat. I think this is for two reasons. The first, and lesser, is it has that typical pop science anecdotal style: "Geoffrey West, the president of the Santa Fe Institute, remembers the day he began thinking about heartbeats...", "In the late 1990s Oliver was toiling away at an environmental engineering firm...", plus lots of little quotes from various people that make this the written version of a sound-bite talking heads documentary. Now there's nothing actually wrong with this style; it just palls on me after a bit.

Second, and more serious for me, is that this scatter-gun style didn't leave me with any over-arching theme (beyond the subtitle). Each individual chapter is interesting in its own right, but it didn't add up to more than the sum of its parts. (Also, there are no notes, further reading section, or index.) But if you want something to provide interesting and counter-intuitive insights into a range of aspects of modern-day life, this will do the job.