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on 27 September 2016
I am all in favour of popular science books - I have earned my living as a mathematician for most of my life, but I appreciate a broad view, and am not sniffy about being talked down to, if necessary. I was disappointed in this book. There is some interesting stuff in there, but there are far too many anecdotes, many of them adding very little insight, and the attempts to liven it up with humour left me cold. This is not a very short volume, and it deals with some fairly basic principles, albeit repeated in different ways again and again - it just about reaches the ideas of standard deviation and variance by the end.

If this book has helped a lot of readers then I am all for it, but to me it seems to cover too little ground, in too longwinded a manner. I would hesitate to book Dr Mlodinow as an after-dinner speaker...
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VINE VOICEon 15 March 2012
As a lecturer of statistics to a non-maths audience I often have problems getting students to engage with the subject. Here is a book that makes it entertaining in a clear and interesting way. There are no equations to get in the way and only a few graphs to look at. but the explanations are clear and the historical context brings the subject to life.

There are two small gripes. The first is that the Bayes chapter is not as clear as some of the others and it could refer back to the earlier ideas about probability of compound events as conditions make a difference. The second is that for me chaos is deterministic - we cannot know what will happen but something is caused by an unknown current state, rather than non-deterministic - completely random in a non-causal way. But this is hair splitting.

It is definitely a book I will recommend to my students and anyone else who wants a gentle introduction to the strange world of probability.
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on 10 June 2012
I read this book after having reads Taleb's Fooled By Randomness and the Black Swan. You might therefore suppose that I had already read everything there was to know about the subject. And yet The Drunkard's Walk is a very different book, presenting a very standard view (unlike Taleb's) in a very readable style, with plenty more to offer.

The author has made the material accessible to anyone by including no mathematical details or formulae, not even in an Appendix, but it is very well written and researched, with a vast array of real life situations and experimental data referenced.

I feel that anyone could understand, enjoy and benefit from this work, regardless of their background.

Given that both this book and Fooled by Randomness are from the same publisher, and printed by the same uk printers, it is disappointing that this book (unlike Fooled by Randomness) does not have a laminated cover. This means the book is more susceptible to water damage and stains for the sake of a few pennies.
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on 31 December 2014
I have seen the odd review or two which criticise Mlodinow for his lack of "mathematical maturity" . As a previous reviewer has pointed out, there is an obvious trade off between maintaining rigor and providing a book which is easily accessible. The latter approach characterises the essence of this book, it is a book for the average reader who does not have much or any prior knowledge of the topics discussed.

If anything, this book is a history of randomness, designed to whet your appetite. Mlodinow does a good job of illustrating the very counter intuitive nature of probability and why we aren't hardwired to understand it.
From the stock market to Hollywood, we habitually underestimate the effects of randomness.

If you want to see the mathematics behind stochastic processes, look elsewhere.

If you would like a non-technical introduction to the concept of randomness, look no further.
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on 11 June 2013
After reading certain books, the way you see the world changes. This book is one of them. It shows how your life if a result of random processes. You may have an illusion of control over it but this is just a mental construct. You had no control over where you are right now, the job you are doing or the people you are with. They are just a result or chance. A roll of the dice.
Another interesting thing I got out of it is how we wrongly assign worth to people who have largely nothing much to do with their successes. We think if a person is successful that they are intelligent in all aspects of life. But given enough people, through chance alone there will be the wildly successful who were in the right place at the right time. And if you were to run the simulation again there would be different Bill Gates and Steven Kings so even you would be a legend in some of the possible universes.
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on 24 April 2013
This book is brilliant. The analytical breakdown (and subsequent rubbishing) of 'form' or 'talent' in professional sports and the questioning of the logic of fortune 500 companies who fire their CEOs are both excellent pieces of much-needed common sense. Randomness is everywhere, and pervades our every activity much more than we realise (or are willing to accept in some cases). An excellent antidote to the corporate nonsense most of us put up with in our jobs.
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on 6 November 2013
I only recently started reading this, and have so far read only the first couple of chapters. However, it is very clearly written and so easy to follow, and written in an engaging style that holds my attention. It has already stimulated much thought and helped me see some of the pitfalls I might otherwise have fallen into in my reasoning. I am also enjoying the biographical and historical accounts of key thinkers in the field of probability and logic, which bring the subject to life and convey its human face. I certainly look forward to reading through the rest. I myself was recommended this book, and am glad that I was. Physically, this paperback edition is a handy size and weight, making it a convenient to read while away from home and travelling.
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on 30 September 2015
Thoroughly enjoyed this book - and I have read a lot of this type of popular science/psychology/insight book. The author writes well, and succinctly and although some maths (arithmetic really) is involved it doesn't detract from the book if you don't follow all of it - and there is not really that much. Some things are not totally random - for example poor authors will struggle to be successful whilst many good ones also will struggle. The author doesn't make this point but it is implicit I feel. A good easy read and gets you thinking - especially the part where perseverance is often the root of success.
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on 18 February 2016
I found this to be an excellently written book about what could be a complex subject. I think the style of writing is neither presumptuous neither patronising and it makes mathematical concepts easily understood
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on 1 September 2016
One of my favourite books of all time..

This book is a strange mix of history and statistics, but is a weirdly motivating read at the same time. It's hard to explain, but.. just read it!
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