Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing
by Jamie Holmes
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.
I was really eager to read this book as the whole concept behind it seemed really interesting. I admit I was first drawn in by the cover which is eye catching but the premise had me wanting to give it a go. I’m fascinated by psychology and know that I often have trouble with ambiguity myself. I started reading and was bored but assumed it was a slow start. I pushed myself to keep reading until about page 75 before giving up completely because it just wasn’t interesting me or holding my attention. It’s a little strange that I couldn’t get through it because it’s not poorly written. The book seems to be made up of a series of anecdotes that lend themselves in some way to the wider theme. At least, I think they do. For me, it often felt random and mismatched and much like the title, full of nonsense trivia. The stories were sort of interesting by themselves but I wasn’t able to connect them to anything beyond the little bits and pieces. Some of them were amusing but without that connecting drive to read them I found myself losing momentum rapidly. I had to force myself to keep going with the book and by page 75 found myself completely zoning out. I’m fully willing to admit this might just be me. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction which probably added to my disinterest in this. I’d recommend anyone who is interested in more abstract nonfiction related to psychology to give this a try. Don’t be pushed off by my disinterest. It may not be the right book for me but I can see the merit for others.
I’d like to thank Blogging for Books for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.