Feb 242016


Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Crown (October 13, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385348371
ISBN-13: 978-0385348379

An illuminating look at the surprising upside of ambiguity—and how, properly harnessed, it can inspire learning, creativity, even empathy

Life today feels more overwhelming and chaotic than ever. Whether it’s a confounding work problem or a faltering relationship or an unclear medical diagnosis, we face constant uncertainty. And we’re continually bombarded with information, much of it contradictory.

Managing ambiguity—in our jobs, our relationships, and daily lives—is quickly becoming an essential skill. Yet most of us don’t know where to begin.

As Jamie Holmes shows in Nonsense, being confused is unpleasant, so we tend to shutter our minds as we grasp for meaning and stability, especially in stressful circumstances. We’re hard-wired to resolve contradictions quickly and extinguish anomalies. This can be useful, of course. When a tiger is chasing you, you can’t be indecisive. But as Nonsense reveals, our need for closure has its own dangers. It makes us stick to our first answer, which is not always the best, and it makes us search for meaning in the wrong places. When we latch onto fast and easy truths, we lose a vital opportunity to learn something new, solve a hard problem, or see the world from another perspective.

In other words, confusion—that uncomfortable mental place—has a hidden upside. We just need to know how to use it. This lively and original book points the way.

Over the last few years, new insights from social psychology and cognitive science have deepened our understanding of the role of ambiguity in our lives and Holmes brings this research together for the first time, showing how we can use uncertainty to our advantage. Filled with illuminating stories—from spy games and doomsday cults to Absolut Vodka’s ad campaign and the creation of Mad Libs—Nonsense promises to transform the way we conduct business, educate our children, and make decisions.

In an increasingly unpredictable, complex world, it turns out that what matters most isn’t IQ, willpower, or confidence in what we know. It’s how we deal with what we don’t understand.

This book was not what I expected. I was thinking it would be more like a textbook, and less than a novel. It wasn’t. It was mostly different stories about people and how they dealt with certain situations in their lives.

In this book, Holmes says it’s not how smart we are, but how we deal with what we don’t understand.

One example was:
A truck driver was driving his delivery truck under an overpass and wasn’t paying close enough attention. The truck was too tall and got wedged.

How could he get the truck unstuck without damaging the truck?

Ok, maybe that example was a bit easy, so here’s another one:
A desk lamp is screwed to the wall by it’s base. How can you remove the lamp from the wall without damaging the wall or the lamp?

Overall this is a very interesting book, and I learned a lot of facts about a variety of things, including Absolut Vodka, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, and Waco.

There are also stories about medical misdiagnoses, diversity and even race cars, bikes, and so much more.

While this book wasn’t anything like I was expecting, it was full of interesting facts and situations, and how those situations were addressed.

I enjoyed this book very much. What I took away from it the most was that we shouldn’t be too quick to make decisions. We need to decide if we are in the right frame of mind to make the decision at that time. Are we stressed, tired, or have something else on our mind that may distract us from making the right decision.


I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review

 Posted by at 3:24 PM

  7 Responses to “Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes”

  1. I would have thought that would be more like a text book too.

  2. Vicki, this book sounds rather interesting! Excellent, thoughtful review!

  3. Sometimes when books turn out to be different than previously expected they can be very good. Though I had a couple of my recently read books not turn out as expected, so it can go either way 🙂
    It implies from the blurb to be more of a reference style book and not anecdotes, but I’m glad that you got some enjoyment from the trivia and history facts. Thanks for sharing a new to me title and review.

  4. I like the examples you gave about this book. I think I will try and get it next from Blogging for Books

  5. This sounds like one my husband would love!

  6. I’d love to try Nonsense sometime. Glad it wasn’t too instructional.

  7. Sounds like a really interesting read – I’ll add it to my teetering TBR list!

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