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Publisher's Summary

Random House presents the audiobook edition of Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don't Make Sense, written by Rory Sutherland.

To be brilliant, you have to be irrational.

Why is Red Bull so popular - even though everyone hates the taste? Why do countdown boards on platforms take away the pain of train delays? And why do we prefer stripy toothpaste?

We think we are rational creatures. Economics and business rely on the assumption that we make logical decisions based on evidence.

But we aren’t, and we don’t.

In many crucial areas of our lives, reason plays a vanishingly small part. Instead we are driven by unconscious desires, which is why placebos are so powerful. We are drawn to the beautiful, the extravagant and the absurd - from lavish wedding invitations to tiny bottles of the latest fragrance. So if you want to influence people’s choices you have to bypass reason. The best ideas don’t make rational sense: they make you feel more than they make you think.

Rory Sutherland is the Ogilvy advertising legend whose TED Talks have been viewed nearly seven million times. In his first book he blends cutting-edge behavioural science, jaw-dropping stories and a touch of branding magic on his mission to turn us all into idea alchemists.

©2019 Rory Sutherland (P)2019 Random House Audiobooks

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What listeners say about Alchemy

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  • NN
  • 23-12-19

enjoyable and informative

A thought provoking work on the merit of things that don't seem rational. Well narrated.

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Simple Interesting Insightful

Rory is a marketing guru rolled onto a stand up comic. Truly loved every chapter!

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  • Kushaaal
  • 03-01-21

Amazing insight

What people say and what they actually do are different. This is one book you can’t even read with speed of 1x, you got to make it less than that to imbibe the concepts and insights. Really amazing work.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 22-09-20

perhaps the only way to solve, the unsolvable

Perhaps it's time to admit logic is great, BUT it's really not how we make decisions (and I started programming in basic at 12) we tried the logical and look where that's getting us. Time is running out for our kids and we are sitting around discussing numbers Perhaps reframing could solve some of our biggest global problems and allow us to actually start getting the planet fixed before we can't breathe the air. Loved the ideas and have used many when the math just was not enough, many times, in the last twenty years as I was looking for solutions not a pat on the back. People's livelihoods were at stake. Now it's our Kids lives we are deciding because we cannot see, past our own supieor intellects as the master of our minds. Shame we value powerful ideas only when they appear logical, fact is, it's not the logical brain that gives us deep insight and soon with AI this type of thinking is the only thing that will have any meaning and we hammer it out of most of our kids Great book good stories Consider the ideas, they have saved the companies I have worked for and with millions And when the reward saves families and pays paychecks? Why not? Take a challenge, try one suggestion it, may just save, your skin, your business, your friend or loved one, or we keep doing the same and we all know which ward that may lead to......

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  • Rhianne
  • 04-08-20

An interesting read

It's a good book but it's really just one idea explained over and over with different examples

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  • Tom
  • 10-03-20

Simply incredible

I read a lot of business psychology books and this may be my favourite. All I can say is that when I get older I hope to be Rory.

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  • meggy
  • 09-01-20

no pdf accompanying the audio book

this is a really interesting book. Rory narrates it beautifully. however the audio book doesnt come with the accompanying pdf , so one cannot refer to the graph which is described with the 4 quadrants of things that dont make sense and work and things that work that do make sense. It really is a disservice to the listener.

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  • Daniel Parry
  • 28-12-19

The author’s reading brings life to a great book.

I’d recommend this book. Many illuminating gems, well written. Perhaps some chapters could be shorter,

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  • Wes Oudshoorn
  • 18-12-19

great listen, great ideas

After I've seen Rory talk at a small conference many years ago, I have been a fan of his way of thinking. As a digital product manager, some new ideas opened up to me; I feel inspired to try things that are more alchemy than science.

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  • Steve Podmore
  • 12-05-19

Simply stunning - by the horse whisperers horse whisperer!

I first met Rory back in 2010, I think at the in house bar at Ogilvy Canary Wharf, when I’d been gifted the use of offices there to work on a project to create a sustainable development bank... Since then I have had the privilege to meet this giant of a thinker from time to time to discuss the merits and methods of changing the world using financial innovation and behavioural psychology. In Alchemy, Rory distills the thinking that many will have been wowed by in his highly successful Ted or other talks, and illuminates how the forces that drive our world and our lives are so rarely the result of chance - but rather the subtle nudges of those who have something in mind for us. Like the skilled shepherd whistling his dog, or the horse whisperer communicating in ways so subtle they are barely perceptible, Rory’s insights help one see what is behind the minds, tools and techniques of those pulling our strings - giving us mere mortals at least a chance of resisting or pulling a string or two of our own!!! Highly recommended.

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  • soozoo
  • 13-09-19

Flowers are just weeds with a larger advertising budget

This book is unexpectedly hilarious. If you like the psychology behind marketing strategies, you’ll love this. It’s easily digestible and doesn’t contain any waffle. There’s an abundance of genuinely perspective changing ideas, and it’s peppered with humour that catches you off guard and makes you ugly laugh. A few of my favourite parts: * When caterpillars don’t use camouflage and instead are brightly coloured, it’s a power move, as it makes the predator question “if it’s not trying to hide, it’s probably for a reason. Probably shouldn’t eat it” * Manual car drivers control the gearbox, but automatic car drivers seduce it. You can prevent an automatic car from shifting down gears on a hill by slowly releasing the accelerator, in the same way the only way to control your sleep is to lower the light in the room, minimise noise and lay down. I keep doing unnecessary errands as an excuse to keep listening. So far I’ve, done all the washing, deep cleaned the fridge and reorganised the silverware drawer.

15 people found this helpful

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  • MR SIMON DAVID LAMEY
  • 26-06-19

Superb

If you’ve ever wondered why your ideas don’t work in business (or life even), this is likely to explain why. It gives hope for entrepreneurs to create their own magic without a boardroom killing their ideas – and it’s a challenge to fusty, rational corporates to change how they approach business problems. I liked this book so much that I recommended it to a random stranger on the train this morning who coincidentally was reading a book on nudge theory. That’s quite an uncomfortable thing for a Brit to do in a public place, so hopefully, that shows you why it’s a worth a buy.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Chris Rawli
  • 14-05-19

Solid gold

Best book I’ve read for a long time. Rory in his unique charming and witty way shares brilliant stories, insights, and ideas on how we can all solve problems and come up with better ideas if we just look at the world in a different way. Super smart, very entertaining and easy to read. Marvellous.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Rutherbooks
  • 10-05-20

Press pause, not repeat

Sutherland is always an engaging, entertaining public speaker. His insights are valuable and thought provoking. But... The book is too long because it's repetitive (it feels a little padded, perhaps trying to justify it's gold packaging and price). The text - printed and audio - would have benefited from an editor. Half the length would have been twice as good.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Harry Frost
  • 08-11-19

Interesting but padded out

Well written and well read by the author, but there's a lot of padding to get a relatively simple message up to book length. the basic premises are all pretty standard behavioural economics, and perpetuates the fashion in that sub branch of economics of pretending indignance that 'classical economists' believe their models are literally true. They don't; they're not idiots, their models are only designed to model things at a high level of resolution. There's nothing special about suddenly taking psychological factors into consideration, except that the people who do so have a brief to do so, whereas others have that of positing a rule that's right more often than not.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-09-20

Don't think twice, just read this book.

“When you demand logic, you pay a hidden price: you destroy magic”. It's great to hear the thoughts of somebody who genuinely thinks differently. This book is really entertaining, funny and thought-provoking. It gives some great perspective on advertising, business and life.

1 person found this helpful

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  • LC
  • 01-07-20

Fun and inspiring look at the benefits of irrational thinking

The world of people and their behaviour often doesn’t follow simple logic. The benefits of solving problems through seemingly non-logical thinking is discussed, with many interesting and enlightening examples. However, it is not obvious how to actually go about thinking in a different way as encouraged in this book, accept for taking time out to think, and not being afraid of stupid ideas.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mr K
  • 19-02-20

Best book i've read this year

Cannot recommend highly enough! I read a lot of books on this topic. Rory is insightful, the book is interesting and relevant and everything is applied and real rather than being abstract and theoretical. Loved every page! Oh and fantastic sense of humour too! When he talks about his wife putting dozens of pillows on the bed nd dropping the F bomb haha Rory thanks for this book. I hope you read this review and feel proud of your output and i do hope you will publish more. I will pre order anything you release next!

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  • Graham
  • 19-02-20

Most excellent book!

I loved this book. It is one of those rare reads that makes you immediately feel more intelligent! Particularly interesting to get an insight into how the psychology of advertising works and to hear the thoughts of someone who genuinely thinks differently! Brilliant

1 person found this helpful

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  • Gareth
  • 14-01-21

Find out why using only logic in decision making can be a load of bollocks

This is a brilliant and insightful book on the limits of using only logic in human decision making. Rory presents a spectacular re-frame on our so called ‘irrational’ or ‘emotional’ decision making behaviour caused by cognitive biases or ‘blind’ spots. Turns out they are not so blind after all. Evolution has made some of these baffling behaviours extremely useful in specific contexts and is what Rory terms ‘Psycho-logic’. He explains these counter-intuitive discoveries with the aid of a list of fascinating stories and vignettes from the world of advertising, marketing and consumer behaviour where the use of logic alone would lead you to think that we are all crazy. For example the use of soap and better hygiene prevented cholera outbreaks, and the addition of a scent makes no difference to this outcome. Scentless soap should make no difference to purchasing behaviour. People did not buy the soap for this purpose or for hygiene initially though - they bought it to signal social status and attractiveness to the opposite sex. The scent is critical for this purpose and useless in the fight against cholera. On a more serious note - a better understanding of the oddities of our psycho-logical behaviour may considerably improve human decision making processes in the future. Even if we are not aware of why it works!

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  • Albert
  • 20-01-21

Phenomenal!

Absolutely fantastic, recommended to all and especially readers who are fans of Nassim Taleb's Incerto series and general works. Enlightening and humourous, I only got half way through this before I went on a Rory Sutherland binge on YouTube.

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  • Paul Stokes
  • 28-11-20

densely packed book of awesome

I highly recommend this on the basis it will get you thinking about things in a new way.

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  • Rob
  • 02-09-20

Alchemy, slow start then grabs your interest

Rory's dulcet tones introduces the reader to the concept that we live in a world endentured to the philosophy of logical explanations. This world view limits our ability to see the power of illogical thinking. The book was recommended as an intelligent discussion on modern marketing and it ticks all the boxes. It is not an academic presentation, rather it's more a relaxed chat around theme of marketing solutions that fly in the face of economic logic. Of course, the intial part covers information that is fairly common knowledge on marketing, however the progression moves into personal motivation and behavioural psychology with plenty of case studies. He finishes, as he began, with a plea for a wider perspective in our thinking.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-08-20

A must read for very marketer

Absolutely loved it; an excellent book on behavioural psycho-logic-ology. If you want to get closer to understanding how customers choose what they choose, it's a must read.

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  • Phill Russell
  • 06-01-20

Great Counterpoint to other Business Books

When I saw that Rory was reading this I was over the moon, his TED talk has to be one of my favorites. A great read and a very important message for all business thinkers.

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  • Nimalan Govender
  • 11-12-19

A phenomenal story on thinking

The book is incredibly well written, with numerous anecdotes to back up alternative views. I’m going to have re-listen to this again to gain a better understanding. Certainly eye opening though.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-10-19

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

I think this is possibly the most interesting and thought provoking book for advertising types that exists today.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-09-19

Awesome book filled with wonder

So many intensely interesting ideas put forward in this title. With a generous splash of British humour 🤣

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  • Anonymous User
  • 18-05-19

loved this book.

If you are in business or have a product or service you want to market for success this is a must read. A somewhat 'crusty' former advertising guru genius with a great sense of humor leads you through the realities and BS of modern marketing techniques and instead introduces the sensible quirk reality of the way people think when they are buying.