(K. Brent Tomer),
Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives. By Tim Harford. Riverhead; 327 pages; $28. Little, Brown; £20.
SELF-HELP books offer ways for readers to whip their lives into shape. A new book by Tim Harford, an economist and columnist at the Financial Times, argues that we need to whip our lives out of shape. According to his new book “Messy”, the order that we crave is our own worst enemy, and disorder sets us free.
Mr Harford’s book strays well beyond mess of the physical sort (though he devotes a whole section to railing against oppressive tidy-desk policies, which he argues disempower workers and make them unproductive). Most of the book is about other types of mess: randomness, experimentation and human autonomy.
Intellectual mess, such as flitting between projects, breeds insight and helps make connections. Paul Erdos, a nomadic mathematician, leapt between collaborators, cross-fertilising projects with abandon. The chaos he brought with him was tiresome for some (if he felt peckish in the middle of…Continue reading