I guess it's going to be a personal decision. I loved it. Taleb is way too impressed with himself, and that made the book initially hard for me to read. However, if you can ignore his tone, the content of the book is terrific. Solid examples, well explained, with interesting consequences and implications. It's been a while since I read it, but I still think about the chain of events that made me who I am and how none of the most significant were ever planned for or even expected.
I think the concept of the book is better than his execution in writing it.
Antifragile is better but you will still be put off by his writing style. You don’t need to read much more than the first few chapters of “The Black Swan” to understand the point. Taleb is obviously very impressed with his own intellect but it wears a bit thin.
My personal, very much in the minority opinion is that it's a terrible book, an emperor with no clothes. After picking my way through pages and pages of self aggrandizing anecdotes it seems to me that the basic theme of the book can be summed up as this: the "experts" used the wrong probability distributions; rare events are still rare, but not *as* rare as had been assumed.
Definitely keep reading. But, don't feel bad skimming through pieces that aren't doing it for you. I loved the book, and refer to it still today after reading it years ago. He debunks human behavior and is able to tie in many other industries to his theories which I enjoyed the most.
First factor is that Taleb has a style of writing that is unique in that he jumps from mythology to anecdote to aggressive statements about the false prophets to very illuminating and intelligent comments. I admit it's hard to reach the latter when the former grows a bit annoying after a while.
But I maintain that the fundamental idea is a good one, and in Taleb's later books (I'm thinking Antifragile especially) the concept gets its conclusion and antidote. I'll try to give you a very rough summary of the idea of the Black Swan, which may help guide you through Taleb's tricky style.
The *Black Swan* is that event or object that hasn't been previously observed (or at least very rarely), which is outside the range of past data, which furthermore is an event that is of significance. In fact, Taleb argues that many of the historically most significant events are Black Swans, say wars, massive natural disasters, huge stock market crashes, disruptive political elections etc. While that's the case, so much of the quantitative methods of today as applied to social science in particular are in Taleb's view focused and tuned for the common and ordinary, exemplified by the normal distribution. We are therefore lulled into a belief by these methods that things are and will be "normal" or "linear" or "as they always have been before". Ultimately Taleb argues that Black Swans contain an intractable randomness making them nonmeasurable and nonpredictable. So in short, a false belief in that things will be what they always have been emerges.
That false belief, which Taleb attributes to many academic and political people with his usual style of anger, leads to that we humans design fragile systems that once faced with that Black Swan event causes terrible damage. In fact, we might even design systems that are more prone to generate Black Swans by adding layers of complexity based on a false certainty. Taleb later ties this into his subsequent concept of the antifragile.
One can of course debate how accurate this description is of modern society. However, Taleb offers a challenge, lays out his argument (albeit a bit convoluted) and clearly Bezos thought there was something to it. Plenty debate has been published on this concept after its publication of you're interested.
Thanks for all your help. I pressed on through the second/third chapters, and it does get better (very slowly). I'm going to keep pressing on, but I respect all of your opinions!
What you are missing is likely *the majority of the book*, since you just said you’ve only finished the 1st chapter. Why did you pick the book in the first place? And how did the first chapter not align with that motivation?