A painstakingly researched and often charming look into the nuances of human calculation.


The Monty Hall Dilemma


A book offers a rigorous analysis of the famous Monty Hall dilemma and the consequences for the nature of human decision-making.

Although technically the Monty Hall dilemma was first formulated by a biostatistician in 1975, it gained its popular notoriety from a 1990 column in Parade magazine. The columnist asked the reader to imagine she’s on a game show and is given a choice among three doors, one of which has a car behind it and two of which conceal goats. The contestant picks one, but then the game show host reveals which one of the remaining doors has a goat behind it. Should the contestant now change her choice or remain firm with her original decision? The columnist argued she should switch, because her original choice has a one-third chance of being correct, while the new choice would have a two-thirds chance. The magazine was subsequently flooded with angry letters calling into question the columnist’s math as well as her intelligence. It turns out, however counterintuitively, that the columnist was correct. Granberg (co-author: A Most Human Enterprise, 2010, etc.), a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Missouri, Columbia, reproduces many of the letters, some of which are not only venomous, but also hilarious. The author analyzes the Monty Hall dilemma, investigating studies conducted upon it and performing empirical studies of his own. Most people stick with their original decisions, but why? Is it an inclination influenced by gender? Or a decision-making quirk caused by a bias toward maintaining the status quo? Or could it be the result of the persistent illusion that people exert greater control over their circumstances than they really do? Granberg deftly treats the dilemma as a cognitive illusion, which “occurs when the obvious answer to a thought question turns out to be incorrect.” The author has co-written three other books, and his experience shows—despite the conceptual complexity of the subject matter, the prose is unfailingly clear and surprisingly engaging. The deepest aim of the study is to explore the very nature of human rationality, and Granberg furnishes a fascinating portal into the proclivities—and limits—of the mind. Even for the less academically inclined, this is a delightful, intellectually stimulating read.

A painstakingly researched and often charming look into the nuances of human calculation.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9961008-0-9

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Lumad Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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