- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; Illustrated edition (Oct. 2 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1443453072
- ISBN-13: 978-1443453073
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.9 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 513 g
- Customer Reviews: 10 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #152,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Knock on Wood: Luck, Chance, and the Meaning of Everything Hardcover – Illustrated, Oct. 2 2018
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“‘Good luck!’ Something we say almost every day with best of intentions but little thought. What are we really honouring when we say good luck? Knock on Wood is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why things happen.” (Darrell Bricker, CEO, Ipsos Public Affairs, co-author of The Big Shift)
“Rosenthal is a light-hearted and entertaining writer. He reveals quirky numerical facts that may surprise you.” (Toronto Star)
“Even for the math challenged among us, Rosenthal makes numbers understandable. Rosenthal’s style is highly readable . . . . Numbers and logic and probability are not topics you’d think could be made lively or entertaining. But the probability that it can be done well by Rosenthal is pretty high.” (Winnipeg Free Press)
“[Jeffrey Rosenthal is] your favorite professor, the one who made a difficult subject easy to understand by illustrating insights with practical examples from the world around us.” (Michael Adams, author of Fire and Ice)
From the Back Cover
For centuries, people around the world have prayed for good luck and warded against bad. Every language features a good luck greeting. Sailors have long looked for an albatross on the horizon as an auspicious symbol. Jade, clovers, rabbits’ feet, wishbones: these items have lined the pockets of those seeking good fortune. For some, it’s bad luck to walk under a ladder, to enter and leave a home through different doors, or to say “Macbeth” in a theatre. But is there such a thing as luck, or does luck often simply explain common sense? Don’t walk under a ladder because, well, that’s just dangerous. You won the lottery not because of any supernatural force but because a random number generator selected the same numbers that you picked out at the corner store. You run into a neighbour from your street on the other side of the world: chance or pure fate? (Or does it depend on how much you like your neighbour?)
Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, author of the bestseller Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities, was born on a Friday the Thirteenth, a fact that he discovered long after he had become one of the world’s preeminent statisticians. Had he been living ignorantly and innocently under an unlucky cloud for all those years? Or is thirteen just another number? As a scientist and a man of reason, Rosenthal has long considered the value of luck, good and bad, seeking to measure chance and hope in formulas scratched out on chalkboards.
In Knock on Wood, Rosenthal, with great humour and irreverence, divines the world of luck, fate, and chance, putting his considerable scientific acumen to the test in deducing whether luck is real or the mere stuff of superstition.
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I enjoyed this book very much, as I did his prior book (Struck by Lightning) and I hope to see more such books in the future from this gifted author. If I could make a small recommendation, perhaps some formulas/technical details could be included in his future books, if only in appendixes; this would more thoroughly illustrate the nitty-gritty elements that could be enjoyed by mathematics enthusiasts like me.
An excellent read!
I think that George Poirier (above) identified most the reasons I enjoyed this book so much. I have high school and university teachers who would laugh at the thought of this material being easy for me. Jeffrey makes it easy (yes, in some cases easier) by writing and explaining material in a straightforward style you will grasp.
Two approaches stand out for me. First, Jeffrey uses a wide variety of situations to explain his point: it is not all roulette wheels and “the roll of the dice”. Second, he broadened my understanding of probabilities by dealing with some subjects that never occurred to me to be relevant, like superstitions. And he is respectful of people who believe things he does not.
For me this is a rare book: one that I will keep, not only to re-read later but to refer to when I need to refresh myself on some matter of risk and probabilities.