Some of the sections of the book are best understood by readers with mathematical reasoning skills, but the author is mostly...

THE SIGNAL AND THE NOISE

WHY SO MANY PREDICTIONS FAIL--BUT SOME DON'T

An anointed wunderkind explains his own success as a prognosticator and explains why so many self-anointed "experts" are often wrong about winners in politics, sports and other realms.

New York Times blogger Silver initially gained attention by developing a computer-based system meant to predict performances of Major League baseball players. Eventually, the author turned his talents to nonsports topics, including trying to figure out who would win the U.S. presidency during 2008. In 49 of 50 states, Silver correctly chose the presidential vote winner. In the 35 races for the U.S. Senate, he called every one accurately. In the 2012 election, he accurately called the presidential vote in all 50 states. Silver emphasizes that predictions are ultimately a human endeavor and that computers are programmed by humans. Meteorologists, for example, predict the weather incorrectly more than anybody would like. They have, however, used computer-based data analysis to improve accuracy. In the financial sphere, economists and other professional predictors failed to grasp the coming recession in 2008 despite sophisticated computer modeling. However, Silver writes, "nobody saw it coming" is an unacceptable excuse. The financial collapse was foreseeable with the proper underlying assumptions about economic behavior programmed into the computers. Too many underlying assumptions were misguided. Even more significant, 9/11 could have been predicted as well. Intelligence-agency analysts, however, could not grasp that religious zealots would plot their own deaths in order to kill Americans. No amount of computerized information can rectify a blind spot of that nature, Silver writes. Predicting the future performance of baseball players with well-documented pasts is more conducive to predictive accuracy than trying to understand previously anonymous fanatics.

Some of the sections of the book are best understood by readers with mathematical reasoning skills, but the author is mostly accessible and enlightening.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59420-411-1

Page Count: 534

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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