David McRaney – You Are Not So Smart

Two very minor things bothered me about this book. First of all, the repeated use of the refrain “You are not so smart” in almost every chapter. The book is adapted from David McRaney’s blog. If you’re reading an article a week, then the repetition might just be a fun running joke. When I was reading many chapters in quick succession (they’re very short), it quickly became annoying.

The second thing was that many of the cultural references and analogies just felt…weird. It wasn’t until I read the acknowledgements at the end that I discovered that the book’s manuscript has been “adapted” for the UK edition. Here’s an example from chapter 39, “The Anchoring Effect”

Does a £500 Louis Vuitton purse function better than a £10 handbag from Tesco? … If Tesco offered a purse at £500, it would never leave the shelf.

I don’t have a copy to the US edition to compare it with, but I suspect that “Tesco” would have been WalMart, and that the pounds would have been dollars.

Every time I came across such an explicitly British reference in a book whose tone felt so American, my internal proofreader knew that something was wrong. I understand why the publisher would do such an English-to-English translation, but I found it jarring. Maybe it wouldn’t bother you. But if you’re planning to buy a copy, I’d recommend getting the US edition just in case.

Great book, otherwise. Lots of fascinating nuggets that prompted self-reflection.

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