Would Albert Einstein read New York Times bestsellers?

I am reading this book:

“Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely

It is a very interesting read. It describes some of the author’s research findings in the (new) field of behavioral economics. And it is a New York Times bestseller.

For a book to be a bestseller it must appeal to a large number of people, i.e., it must appeal to the masses. What are the implications of that? Clearly the average person doesn’t have an in-depth understanding of every field. So a bestselling author must present his material in a way that requires little or no understanding of the field. Research results are oftentimes rather dry. “Dry” doesn’t lend itself well to “bestselling.” So the author must spice things up-emotionalize the material, appeal to the readers emotions. What are the implications of that?

Several years ago, as I was beginning to learn about the field of complex systems, I read a pop-sci book on the topic. The book was very exciting and-to my thinking-it provided profound insights into the field of complex systems. I attended a class at the New England Complex Systems Institute. The instructor was a world-renowned scientist. Being so excited about this book, I approached the instructor to get his opinion about it and, in particular, a certain section of the book. Much to my surprise the instructor had never read the book. I was shocked, “How could he have not read this wonderful book, especially when it’s in his field of expertise?” I asked him to read a certain section because I wanted his feedback. He was gracious enough to do it on the spot. I don’t recall his comments. I only recall feeling that his comments were very controlled, he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. He was clearly not impressed by the book.

I wonder if it may actually be damaging to read bestsellers? Do they lead the reader into ideas and beliefs that are simply wrong?

If Albert Einstein were alive today, would he read New York Times bestsellers?

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One Response to “Would Albert Einstein read New York Times bestsellers?”

  1. Valerie Says:

    I don’t think reading bestsellers is damaging. A bestseller can be a great introduction to a topic. If the book gets you interested enough in a topic you can then further research the topic elsewhere. The bestseller may never impress an expert, but it can still benefit people who no little or nothing about its topic.

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