I had to wonder, as I was reading The Undoing Project, whether Mr. Lewis would really respect his subjects’ doubts about experts or follow the imperative that any book on any problem must conclude with experts confidently solving the problem. Mr. Lewis passed the test. There is a brief mention of a few expert nudges to trick people into making decisions in their own interest on things like retirement savings, but the nudge approach correctly seems like small beer. In a world of overly certain predictions and policy prescriptions from consulting firms and think tanks to politicians and book authors, Mr. Lewis has given us a spectacular account of two great men who faced up to uncertainty and the limits of human reason.
At its peak, the book combines intellectual rigor with complex portraiture. During its final pages, I was blinking back tears, hardly your typical reaction to a book about a pair of academic psychologists. The reason is simple. Mr. Lewis has written one hell of a love story, and a tragic one at that. The book is particularly good at capturing the agony of the one who loves the more ... this book could stand a bit of trimming, and readers should ready themselves for tougher meat than they might be expecting to chew ... In The Undoing Project, Mr. Lewis has found the granddaddy of all stories about counterintuition, because Dr. Kahneman and Dr. Tversky did some of the most definitive research about just how majestically, fantastically unreliable our intuition can be.
Our skepticism was misplaced. The book, titled The Undoing Project captivated both of us, even though we thought we knew most of the story—and even though the book is just what Lewis had said it would be, a book about Amos and Danny, two men who changed how people think about how people think. Lewis accomplishes this in his usual way, by telling fascinating stories about intriguing people, and leaving readers to make their own judgments about what lessons should be learned.
...a well-researched and lively biography ... Despite the penetrating impact of the pair’s findings, the ideas seem obvious enough in retrospect that most people should grasp them easily ... The Undoing Project is an odd book. In describing Kahneman and Tversky’s findings and lives with equal attention, it appears to cater to readers not interested enough in their work to read Kahneman’s book, and yet so interested that they want to read about the scientists’ childhoods and the details of their careers ... Nevertheless, Lewis does as fine a job as anyone could with the formula. He makes the science easy and relatable. And with in-depth interviews and access to personal files, he also creates a convincing portrait of Kahneman and Tversky as an odd couple.
[Lewis] immerses himself in big ideas — about finance, technology, sports and, ultimately, the human condition — and then explains them to readers with sophistication and clarity. But he is also a vastly better raconteur than most other writers playing the explication game. You laugh when you read his books. You see his protagonists in three dimensions — deeply likable, but also flawed, just like most of your friends and family ... the full message of Kahneman and Tversky’s work, I think, is more subtle than it often seems — and even more important in the new political world than the old. The human species is fantastically complex and often doesn’t know what it is doing. The search for a better understanding of our behavior is vital.
Michael Lewis, with his great gift for humanising complex and abstract ideas, is exactly the storyteller Tversky and Kahneman deserve ... It is rooted, brilliantly, in the biographies of the two men...Lewis presents the pair of academics partly, like all the greatest double acts, as star-crossed lovers – in their formative years, each of them seems, in retrospect, to have been waiting for the other to arrive in order to find out exactly what he was capable of.
Whatever subject strikes his?fancy, Lewis renders it clear?and understandable while?showcasing its human drama. In this realm of exalted journalistic wizardry, he is surely kin to Tracy Kidder and Malcolm Gladwell ... Lewis ably explains their discoveries, and his crisp prose has an admirable quality of cutting to the chase.
Prominent among Lewis’ considerable achievements in The Undoing Project is the presentation of abstruse but important ideas in a compulsively readable braided narrative pulsing with the singular spirit of the duo behind them.
Lewis is gifted at making scientific and financial jigsaw puzzles fit together easily. But, as Tversky and Kahneman are dismantling conventional economic theory later in the book, it’s slow going ... A lot of thinking goes on in this book, electrifying thinking that will raise doubts about how you personally perceive reality. Not one of the most effortless books you’ll read, this may be one of the best.
...equally engagingly, it is a book about an unlikely and extraordinarily fruitful friendship. And, yes, as Lewis has demonstrated since Liar’s Poker, he writes like a smoothie feels — silken ... There’s more here, however, than the lessons: the story of Tversky and Kahneman’s friendship is tear making in its humor and pathos.
All this is well known to anyone who has read Kahneman himself or popularisations of his work, so what does Lewis add? He’s a far better writer than most, meaning that even the familiar is fresh. And there is a great deal here that feels new. Lewis has done his homework; he has evidently talked to the right people — with the inevitable omission of the much-missed Tversky — and he knows how to tell a story simply, powerfully and with an eye for the telling detail ... By writing less about behavioural economics Lewis gives Kahneman and Tversky’s ideas room to breathe ... vivid, original and hard to forget.
...a fine showcase of Mr Lewis’s range ... Like Mr Lewis’s 13 previous books, The Undoing Project is a story of remarkable individuals succeeding through innovative ideas. Here, the balance is geared more towards the ideas, and the pace is slower than, say, Liar’s Poker, his first book. Yet, with his characteristic style, Mr Lewis has managed the unusual feat of interweaving psychology and the friendship between the two men. Two decades after he died, Tversky’s partnership with Mr Kahneman is still changing the world.
Half of the book is largely redundant; Kahneman himself wrote an excellent 2011 popular book, "Thinking, Fast and Slow." Lewis skillfully highlights the wide-reaching implications of some of these ideas, but much of what makes his new book original is his deep reporting on the personalities and biographies of the two psychologists ... Lewis' tone is often quite worshipful. In a presumably unintentional demonstration of the hindsight bias, he lingers on details and episodes from both men's past that seem to prefigure future greatness ... Lewis overstates both the intellectual significance of their research and its power to do good.