For readers of Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Daniel Levitin with a twist of Bill Bryson—a lighthearted, entertaining and fateful exploration of luck in everyday life
For centuries, people around the world have prayed for good luck and warded against bad. Every language features a good luck greeting. Sailors have long looked for an albatross on the horizon as a symbol of good fortune. Jade, clovers, rabbits’ feet, wishbones: these items have lined the pockets of those seeking good fortune. For some, it’s bad luck to walk under a ladder, to enter and leave a home through different doors or to say “Macbeth” in a theatre. But is there such a thing as luck, or does luck often just explain common sense? Don’t walk under a ladder because, well, that’s just dangerous. You won the lottery not because of any supernatural force but because a random number generator selected the same numbers that you picked out at the corner store. You run into a neighbour from your street on the other side of the world: Random chance or pure fate? (Or does it depend on how much you like your neighbour?)
Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, author of the bestseller Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities, was born on a Friday the thirteenth, a fact that he discovered long after he had become one of the world’s pre-eminent statisticians. Had he been living ignorantly and innocently under an unlucky cloud for all those years? Or is thirteen just another number? As a scientist and a man of reason, Rosenthal has long considered the value of luck, good and bad, seeking to measure chance and hope in formulas scratched out on chalkboards.
In Knock on Wood, Rosenthal, with great humour and irreverence, divines the world of luck, fate and chance, putting his considerable scientific acumen to the test in deducing whether luck is real or the mere stuff of superstition.