An unwanted and unread guide to weathering troubled times

This is an anti-book review. Anti in the sense that I don't like the book, but also anti in the sense that I haven't read it either, and know I never will.

This is an anti-book review. Anti in the sense that I don't like the book, but also anti in the sense that I haven't read it either, and know I never will, even though I've bought it and it sits ostentatiously on the coffee table in my living room.

I was at the checkout counter at Kinokuniya in Dubai Mall recently with an armful of children's books and noticed, right by the till, Antifragile, the latest book from Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

I don't know what came over me - maybe it was the cover blurb "a superhero of the mind" - but I forked out Dh85 (US$23) for it. I knew almost instantly it was a waste of money, that I'd never read it, but it was too late then.

I should have realised, because much the same thing happened with Taleb's earlier work, The Black Swan. I'd bought it on the basis of rave reviews, just everybody was talking about it. But I struggled through the first chapter then dropped it, never to return.

A quick dip into Antifragile confirmed I wouldn't even get that far with the new book. I had an idea what it was about, from reviews: broadly (and I probably do Taleb an injustice of précis) the need for super-resilience in these troubled global times.

But the format and structure just seemed guaranteed to make the book unreadable for me. Chapter headings such as "the cat and the washing machine", or sub-heads such as "can a whale fly like an eagle?" promised page after page of self-help philosophy mixed with a fashionable dash of geo-economic-political "message".

Anyway, it's a "blueprint for living in the black swan world", according to one reviewer.

If you already live in that world, I have a virtually pristine guide, yours for Dh50.

***

Jumeirah Lakes Towers, the growing residential and commercial area of "new" Dubai, has a pretty efficient road system to get you to and from all those high-rises, and I recently found out one reason why.

The area falls under the authority of the Dubai Multi-Commodity Centre, the market that deals in everything from precious metals and diamonds to rice futures and Indian rupee futures contracts.

Ahmed bin Sulayem is executive chairman of the DMCC. During a recent visit to his office on the 49th floor of the imposing Almas Tower he explained to me how, in the early days, some of the posh residents of one of the nearby lakeside residential developments didn't like being so close to an "industrial area".

It didn't matter that the industry in question wasn't anything as obnoxious as a cement factory or sewage plant, for example; it was gold-smelting and working, and therefore rather glamorous, but they were dead against it.

So Mr bin Sulayem agreed to a "buffer zone" between the posh villas and the gold factory, and this remained a kind of no-man's-land, some 200 metres or so wide, keeping the smell of gold away from the poolside barbecues.

Finally the transport authority decided that empty land was too good to waste, and built a six-lane motorway through it.

"So we've got the best road system in Dubai, but they've got the smell of car exhausts rather than gold," says Mr bin Sulayem with a pitying nod over to the posh villas.