Sports fans and science geeks alike will enjoy these travels in the world where numbers, luck, and superstardom meet.

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THE HOT HAND

THE MYSTERY AND SCIENCE OF STREAKS

Wall Street Journal sports reporter Cohen looks into the odd “science of streaks.”

Is there a “hot hand,” the term basketball players use to describe that magical, endorphin-inducing moment when you can’t miss a shot and “achieve some elevated state of ability in which you feel briefly superhuman”? It’s one of the finest of psychological states, and if most of us don’t land in it regularly, there are people like Steph Curry to study, as the author does. By the numbers, Curry shouldn’t be the superstar shooter that he is—even though he’s 6-feet-3 he’s still smaller than most of the players he goes up against, a key datum point. What changed him was a summer spent teaching himself to shoot all over again: lifting the ball over his head and releasing it as he was jumping up, essentially making himself as tall as the defenders who would otherwise block his shots. That summer involved thousands of shots, and in the end, it made Curry “the best shooter the sport of basketball had ever seen.” This case study provides a springboard for Cohen to look at such things as the construction of data sets. One of the cardinal sins involving data is to make conclusions with numbers that are too small to support them—whence the “law of small numbers,” proposed by the Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who themselves have written an improbably brilliant hot streak of scholarly papers. Cohen examines the use of those data sets to crunch all sorts of perhaps unlikely problems: Is a supposed lost masterpiece by Vincent van Gogh the real deal? Did Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat, really die of a heart attack, as the Soviets proclaimed, or did he die in the gulag? Cohen returns, always, to the game of basketball, but he pauses along the way to provide fascinating looks at coin tosses, investments, farm yields, and other real-world instances of how probability plays out in the world.

Sports fans and science geeks alike will enjoy these travels in the world where numbers, luck, and superstardom meet.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-282072-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

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CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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