Friday, March 17, 2017

The Confidence Game - Maria Konnikova

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: 19/01/17

Publisher: Canongate Books

ISBN: 978-1782113911

Format: Paperback, 340pp

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

Summed up in one word

First Impressions
Thank you to Becca at Canongate for this review copy. Non-fiction is my favourite genre because the content has real world applications. Maria Konnikova has written The Confidence Game not only to entertain and inform, but to also teach us to defend ourselves against the fraudsters that target us day-to-day. It is easier than you think to fall into a trap, I myself have been conned out of money, and it is more difficult to get yourself out of that web once you are in. TCG is an informative and interesting piece of non-fiction that also acts as a guide to watch your back when the next to-good-to-be-true opportunity arrives at your door. Check out more of what Canongate Books has to offer in 2017 here:

Book Synopsis
The con artist: from Bernie Madoff to Clark Rockefeller to Lance Armstrong – all elegant, outsized personalities, artists of persuasion and exploiters of trust. But how do they get away with it? And what keeps us falling for them, over and over again? In The Confidence Game, Maria Konnikova investigates the psychological principles that underlie each stage of the swindle, from the put-up all the way to the fix. Exploring the psychological profile of both the con artist and his mark, we learn how grifters can be so persuasive, and how we can train ourselves to discern the signs of a story that isn’t quite what it seems. Telling the unbelievable stories of the most seductive imposters in history, The Confidence Game leads us into the world of the con to examine just how easily our sense of truth can be manipulated by those around us. (Official Canongate Synopsis)

The Review - None of us are truly safe from the effects of a con-artist.
Everything I know about confidence tricks has come from the BBC program Hustle so I was eager to read about a more true-to-life perspective of con artists. I have actually been on the receiving end of a scam that left me £175 out of pocket and to this day I still have not figured out how he got me. I have always been fascinated by the behavioural and psychological aspects of everyday cons so I was pleased when I received a copy of The Confidence Game for review. 

My overall experience with this book was both good and bad. I found the content/writing both informative and incredibly interesting. I also felt that MK may have gone into too much depth with her detail for my own personal tastes and this caused me to be reading this book far past the point that I felt it should have ended. The format was perfect, MK has split the book into the various stages of a confidence trick from the put-up (process of picking a individual) to the blow-off (getting away with the con without involving the authorities). The information about each stage was well explained and I definitely learned quite a few tricks to avoid being scammed in the future. MK uses her own personal research, lots of cases studies, narratives and other scientific research to guide the reader through the psychologically daunting arena of con-artists and their bag of tricks.

MK uses both practical and theoretical scenarios to inform the reader of how/why a con-artist can get away with his scam and how/why we all fall for it. I was informed about copious amounts of biases, fallacies, psychological flaws and emotional blindness. The narratives that span each chapter gives us a real-life picture of how easily an individual can get caught up in a long term scan without even truly recognising the fact until it is far too late. There is content related to famous cons that took place throughout history as well as plenty of details and information on well-known con artists that have had extraordinary careers in crime. 

The psychological effects of confidence tricks is MK's main topic and there is an absolute ton of research to sink your teeth into. MK discusses what psychological flaws may lead someone to becoming a con artist. There are details on psychology, physiology, spirituality, emotional stress, mysticism, luck and belief. My main issue with The Confidence Game is the fact that this book is just packed far to tightly and I found my interest in the content dipping quite regularly due to overloading of information. MK is a talented, well published author and I enjoyed her work, but she is rather thorough. If you are worried about getting your money's worth then believe me, you will get more than you ever bargained for. Personally I just believed in this case, too much content made for a slow read.

Non-fiction is so important to me. Anytime I have a free second I am usually reading something that will make me smarter, more conscientious and thoughtful. The Confidence Games achieves this 10x over. I have given the book 3.5/5 because thought it is worth every penny, it is far from an easy or smooth read. The information is there but it may take a few reads for it to sink in effectively.

Pick up a copy of The Confidence Game here: Amazon UK/Canongate Books/Goodreads 

About the Author: Maria was born in Moscow, Russia and came to the United States when she was four years old. Her first ever book was written in Russian. It was five pages long and had something to do with trolls. When Maria was in fourth grade, she wrote a play. It took what felt like years to complete and all of fifteen minutes to perform. The audience (of proud parents and siblings) raved. Maria cried when she realized that the sounds she kept hearing were not tears but suppressed—and then not so suppressed—laughter at the dead king who couldn’t stop wriggling as he lay on top of the two chairs that were supposed to symbolize his tomb. You know how the story ends. The chairs slid apart. The deceased monarch crashed to the floor. The room erupted. It was not how Maria had envisioned her first theatrical production.

Maria is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Confidence Game (Viking/Penguin 2016) and Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (Viking/Penguin, 2013). She is a contributing writer for The New Yorker, where she writes a regular column with a focus on psychology and culture, and is currently working on an assortment of non-fiction and fiction projects. Her first book, Mastermind, has been translated into eighteen languages. It was nominated for the Agatha Award and the Anthony Award for Best Non-fiction and was a Goodreads People’s Choice Semifinalist for 2013. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, California Sunday, Pacific Standard, The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, The Boston Globe, The Observer, Scientific American MIND, WIRED, and Scientific American, among numerous other publications. Maria is a recipient of the 2015 Harvard Medical School Media Fellowship, and is a Schachter Writing Fellow at Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center.  She formerly wrote the “Literally Psyched” column for Scientific American and the popular psychology blog “Artful Choice” for Big Think. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where she studied psychology, creative writing, and government, and received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Columbia University. She previously worked as a producer for the Charlie Rose show on PBS. She still, on occasion, writes in Russian. She no longer writes plays. ( Official Bio + Picture from

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