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Luck: What It Means and Why It Matters [Hardcover]

Ed Smith
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
Price: 15.70 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

29 Mar 2012

For aspiring cricketer Ed Smith, luck was for other people. Like his childhood hero, Geoff Boycott, the tough, flinty Yorkshireman, the young Ed knew that the successful cricketer made his own luck by an application of will power, elimination of error, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. But when a freak accident at the crease at Lords prematurely ended Ed Smith's international cricketing career, it changed everything - and prompted him to look anew at his own life through the prism of luck.

Tracing the history of the concepts of luck and fortune, destiny and fate, from the ancient Greeks to the present day - in religion, in banking, in politics - Ed Smith argues that the question of luck versus skill is as pertinent today as it ever has been. He challenges us to think again about privilege and opportunity, to re-examine the question of innate ability and of gifts and talents accidentally conferred at birth. Weaving in his personal stories - notably the chance meeting of a beautiful stranger who would become his wife on a train he seemed fated to miss - he puts to us the idea that in life, luck cannot be underestimated: without any means of explaining our differing lots in life, the world without luck is one in which you deserve every ill that befalls you, where envy dominates and averageness is the stifling ideal. Embracing luck leads us to a fresh reappraisal of the nature of success, opportunity and fairness.

Bankers have promised 'risk-free' investments, the self-help industry peddles the idea that everyone can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and life's winners are encouraged to claim that they did it all themselves in a 'meritocracy'. The case for luck needs to be made now, more than ever.


Frequently Bought Together

Luck: What It Means and Why It Matters + What Sport Tells Us About Life + Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (29 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408815478
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408815472
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 210,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ed Smith is an author, journalist and broadcaster. He was formerly an international cricketer, playing for Kent and England, then captaining Middlesex.

Ed's previous books include PLAYING HARD BALL, ON AND OFF THE FIELD (Wisden Book of the Year and shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year) and the critically acclaimed WHAT SPORT TELLS US ABOUT LIFE.

After retiring from cricket Ed became a leader writer for The Times. He is now a columnist for The Times, The New Statesman and cricinfo. He has also written and presented TV and radio programmes for the BBC and commentates for Test Match Special.

In LUCK- A FRESH LOOK AT FORTUNE, Ed traces the history of the concepts of luck and fortune, destiny and fate, from the ancient Greeks to the present day - in religion, in banking, in politics - arguing that the question of luck versus skill is as pertinent today as it ever has been. The paperback is published in April 2013.

Product Description

Review

Only those with scars on their body should be taken seriously when they talk about randomness. Ed is one of them; he is for real (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author The Black Swan, on Luck)

Very, very well written, excellent story-telling, great ideas. Brilliant (William Leith)

There's hardly a sentence here that isn't clear, thought-provoking and beautifully expressed. Sport bores me rigid. Inspirational books repel me. But Smith on sport, life and luck brings fresh ways of looking at things on every page and, despite myself, I read on (Matthew Parris)

Smith takes a taboo subject and knocks the cover off it. You start off reassessing sport and end up reassessing your own life (Simon Barnes)

I love this book. It combines experience and erudition to show that luck shapes life in sport, politics, business, and love. In a way rare since ancient Athens, Ed Smith embodies a classical ideal: excellence in sport and thought (Felipe Fernandez-Armesto)

Smith is a beguiling and skilful writer: good-humoured, anecdotal, discursive and often fascinating. You'll probably read his book in an evening but think about it for weeks, even years, afterwards (New Statesman)

Book of the week ... Elegant and absorbing ... Smith is excellent at exploring nuances ... The writing on sport is superb ... Smith moves beyond sport with great effect (The Times)

He certainly sets out a compelling case ... Smith is a powerful advocate for genetic, innate skills and argues that we massively underestimate the impact of chance events (Observer)

Funny and honest ... like one of Smith's well-crafted innings in his playing career, it leaves you wanting more (Sunday Times)

Blends personal experience, sporting insight and a broad knowledge of history with the journalist's talent for storytelling to fashion an original and thought-provoking book ... not only refreshing but uplifting (Spectator)

Thoughtful and thought-provoking (Independent on Sunday)

Smith's elegant arguments will make you think [about luck] even if you're one of those who don't believe in it... (GQ Magazine)

**** An entertaining and intriguing new take on the old idea of counting your blessings (Daily Express)

Smith's entertaining exploration of creativity and inspiration would be every bit as useful to a poet or a songwriter as to an opening batsman (Nick Hornby on What Sport Tells Us About Life)

Recommended to anyone interested in sport, history or simply human nature (Mark Lawson, Front Row)

An exceptional book: lucid, thought-provoking, informative and fair. Outstanding (The Times)

A terrific book (Mike Atherton)

Combine that with his subtle grasp of history and of sport, and Smith is perfectly placed to write about luck's role in sport and beyond (Financial Times, Books of the Year)

Counters the reassuring myth that outcomes - in sport, in science, in finance, in politics - are determined by talent plus effort (Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year)

Book Description

To what extent do we control our own destiny? Can those who have risen to the top really say it was all down to them? Is lucky success somehow less deserving?

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite thought provoking 20 April 2012
Format:Hardcover
Very nicely shaded look at what role luck plays in our lives. Although not at all a "sports" book, Ed Smith uses his sporting experience as an initial lens to look at the gradations and nuances of luck.

I found this quick read to have good insight into how even the most prepared and gifted still might be where they are by dint of luck at some point in their lives. By maintaining that luck has persistence one cannot help but to reflect on a little discussed aspect of fate's machinations.

Smith makes an excellent case that luck does indeed have meaning and it very much does matter!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars elegant essay with anecdotes 19 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ed Smith's book poses lots of interesting questions - is luck really quite a sophisticated concept (with alternative views of the world that rule our luck and attribute everything to agency, perhaps the agency of witches, perhaps our own agency as when we claim credit for things that have happened through luck, or perhaps divine agency); do we like games of luck or skill (where tennis can be very much a game of skill with a pre-eminent champion who always wins for periods of up to 5 years, but football is a game where luck is much more to the fore); how could the course of history have been different (both Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler survived potentially fatal car accidents in the 1930s; Napoleon once applied for a job to the British Admiralty).

It's also laced with really entertaining anecdotes - his own bad luck breaking of his leg in 2008 (following his good luck in going to a school that had the 2nd best cricket pitch he had ever played on); the luck of a now 94 year old veteran of the Battle of Britain; and of a friend in just the right place at the right time following a totally unanticipated and unanticipatable heart attack.

Furthermore, it's also a very easy and entertaining read. Smith is well read but wears his learning lightly. And he is a good companion throughout the book.

My strongest reservation would be that the books remains, at the end of the day, perhaps just a very entertaining light read - the work of an elegant essayist - though writing on an interesting subject and writing well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book with something important to say 12 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have to disagree with reviewers who have said this book doesn't say all that much. As an antidote to the whole self-help culture in which increasingly people are somehow regarded as having failed if they don't achieve their goals, this is an important book. Smith points out the dangers of such beliefs with some very telling examples and his conclusion, related to our own world, is quite chilling. Yes I do think occasionally he overstates the case, and yes there are a lot of sporting analogies - it certainly helps if, like me, you are a cricket fan. But there is so much here that is entertainingly argued and a really important message that I feel I can recommend it thoroughly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Luck plays its part 24 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an interesting, well written and engaging book that shows how superstitious many people are. If somebody is up there turning the wheel of fortune, then there are "lucky pants" on both sides of the game to be allocated their share of luck. As I am not a fan of cricket, I was more interested in some of the stories about how, with different outcomes, the world map could have looked very different, particularly as both Hitler and Churchill came close to being killed in car accidents. I also enjoyed the interview with the ww2 Battle of Britain pilot, where it was a magnificant achievement getting an insightful and honest 4 hour interview from a 94 year old veteran.

I was interested to that it was a brit and not an american who founded the genre of self help. The writer is correct to say that if all sports people train hard then the only differences are luck and talent. I agree also that luck plays a big role. However, I also believe that luck and opportunity are only fully explored when there is preparedness for such an opening. The Author strongly dislikes the prevalent American view that "you make your own luck" and "there's no such thing as as luck". However, his view seems to be that its mostly about luck. I take an in-between view that luck often shows up once you are doing the right things and that some people are very good at making the most of this. Therefore I think some readers may prefer
The Luck Factor: The Scientific Study of the Lucky Mind for a more research based but still highly readable take on the subject.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking 6 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book after hearing Ed Smith being interviewed about it on the radio. It stimulated my curiosity and the book certainly got me thinking. I guess the fact that I have been talking about it to various groups of people tells you how fascinated I am with it all. Very well written and extremely thought provoking.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Luck, Fate, Chance or Randomness? 11 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Now I know the difference and I believe there is a difference. Ed Smith writes simply and elegantly about complex topics. I managed to read the whole book comfortably going up and down to Edinburgh on the train.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and intriguing
I've really liked Ed Smith's cricket commentaries, always clear and enlightening, and he brings the same qualities to this book. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Tenormezzo
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegantly insightful
An elegant and eminently readable take on the part luck plays in our lives.

Ed Smith reviews the eternal nurture v. Read more
Published 19 days ago by G. L. Haggett
4.0 out of 5 stars Is it luck?
Quite thought provoking and controversial. Is the author right. Perhaps this book raises more questions than it does answers so worth a punt
Published 3 months ago by Samuel Hawkins
5.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking and strangely comforting
Ed Smith uses his own experience to give a compelling story line to an interesting view on life and luck. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mostly Organic
5.0 out of 5 stars Ed made me a believer!
I didn't previously believe in the concept of luck. Instead, I preferred to follow the mantra of one of my all time heroes, Gary Player, who famously once stated "the more I... Read more
Published 7 months ago by SugarRayClay
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible
One of the most thought provoking books I have ever read! Things familiar, things less familiar but all that ends up in an incredible 'concept'. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jcwannabe
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant.
The subject of the book is luck in sport, but what it's really about is a brilliant anthropological study into the modern psyche.
Published 8 months ago by Jon
5.0 out of 5 stars I cannot possibly comment
As this was purchased as a presnt Icannot comment on it except to say that it was well received and the recipient said he enjoyed reading it.
Published 9 months ago by Bunny
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, enthralling
Had some very interesting stories which follows much of the style of Syed. Definitely would recommend for Bounce readers.

Matt
Published 9 months ago by Matt Boulter
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book
A thoroughly great read. Some really good insights than can transfer over to any walk of life. As a cricket fan it was interesting to see how Ed was involved at the highest level... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Danielle Kelly
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