"Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman

Brian Gongol

One-paragraph review: "Thinking, Fast and Slow" is a readable research paper stretched out to book length. It's not a narrative, so it sometimes takes some additional effort to digest, but the material is worth the trial. I point out the thinking required to comprehend the book because that's the central premise of the entire work: Our brains work in dual-speed modes. For the most part, we live in the fast mode; this is the function where most things happen intuitively. It's when we're challenged that we have to move into the slower-thinking mode; this is the one where real decision-making takes place. A good narrative can be digested almost entirely in intuitive mode (or what the author calls "System 1"). Material that takes more active consideration (like a high-level scientific paper) forces us into a different mode of thinking (which the author calls "System 2"). The bad news from "Thinking, Fast and Slow" is that we are generally at the mercy of "System 1" thinking. The good news is that we can train ourselves to recognize when "System 1" is likely to fail us, and to engage the more critical "System 2". It's not a simple read, but it's excellent training for those who recognize the value in thinking rationally. And that's the ultimate message of the book: We don't usually think rationally, because we don't really usually think. But with some discipline and practice, we can learn to use rationality at those times when it will do the most good for our lives.

Verdict: Well-worth the read for those who realize the value in training their own brains to behave more rationally, but don't expect a page-turner; this one takes some patience and attention.