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Books recent September 29, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in America, contemplation, economics.

Been reading 2 books sort of concurrently these days :

1. The Millionaire next door :

Its based on a study of millionaires in America and their findings are rather different from common perceptions that we have of rich people, almost to the point that most things we know about rich people (in America at least) ain’t true. Here are some :

* Only 19 percent receive any income or wealth of any kind from a trust fund or an estate.

* Fewer than 20 percent inherited 10 percent or more of their wealth.

* More than half never received as much as $1 in inheritance.

* Ninety-one percent never received, as a gift, as much as $1 of the ownership of a family business.

* Nearly half never received any college tuition from their parents or other relatives.

And they are rich because they are hardworking and lead mostly frugal lives and when its men, their spouses are almost always more frugal than they are. A typical millionaire is self-employed, and not on Wall street.

So, yeah while some are probably filthy rich, but some are just tidy rich. You can read the first chapter for free here.

2. The origins of life – Although this might end up as yet another failed attempt to become seriously knowledgeable in biology and genetics, what I have read so far has been interesting.

Last month I read “How Doctors think”. If you think that you will starting thinking even higher of doctors than you already do, then you will be disappointed. Its a very honest account of mistakes doctors can make, and how, especially in case of specialists, the rate at which they see new cases means they are not sure of the diagnosis. And most importantly, how they are susceptible to biases – action bias (doing something is better than doing nothing), confirmation bias (once you see a symptom that matches your hypothesis, stop searching for evidence against hypothesis), availability bias and anchoring. Do your own research if you think the doctor is not sure – there is enough online material that can help you get some idea on what the problem is and alternate approaches out there. Surgery is over-rated – once you cut through, its never the same again. MRI scans don’t always help because they give so much detail that you can find something wrong in even healthy people. And finally, the quote of the book :

There is nothing in biology that is so complicated that if explained in clear and simple language cannot be understood by any lay person. Its not quantum physics.

Read this book review, dont miss the part about the Vietnamese woman and her child.



1. yhac - September 30, 2007

“How Doctors Think” reminds me of “Complications”
Btw, a book I’m reading right now and recommend
The Scientists .

2. Sharath Rao - October 1, 2007

yhac – yeah Gawande has written another one recently “Better” …plus his NYTimes articles are available on his website –


3. yhac - October 1, 2007


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