In many ways, this is You Are Not So Smart II with all that implies: it’s a similar catalogue of cognitive biases and heuristics that affect our ability to be rational, most or all of which you’ll here on the podcast.
One major difference is the chapters are longer; rather than focusing on one bias every few pages he focuses on aspects of a major bias, or a combination of biases, for whole chapters. So it’s a little more conventional than the first book, at least in its format.
I found this one funnier than the original. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe McRaney got funnier as a writer. Maybe I was just in a better mood.
Also, I will say I learned something more this time around. The first book almost exclusively covered studies of biases and heuristics I was already aware of. Part of that was my fault for waiting to read it after all these other books I’ve read on the subject. But this one actually had a chapter on something I wasn’t aware of, so that’s good.
As with the first book, a big issue here is that this was published before the replication crisis really became widely known and so there’s no acknowledgement of the problems in the field. I guess that’s more of an issue for books that are more serious, but it still strikes me as an issue.
Much like the first book, it’s very much an introduction and very much intended for an audience that isn’t reading the heavier stuff. That’s fine but it’s basically a second introduction to the subject. In that sense it’s even more inessential, even if I found it funnier.
Still, these two books are a good place to star if you’ve never read any pop psychology and you’re intimidated by the subject.