What Are the Odds? Books on Randomness & Probability

These books at the Library explore the nature of randomness and probability in our lives.

Randomness & probability

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives 
By Leonard Mlodinow
In this irreverent and illuminating book, acclaimed writer and scientist Leonard Mlodinow shows us how randomness, change, and probability reveal a tremendous amount about our daily lives, and how we misunderstand the significance of everything from a casual conversation to a major financial setback. As a result, successes and failures in life are often attributed to clear and obvious cases, when in actuality they are more profoundly influenced by chance.

The Unfinished Game book jacket

The Unfinished Game: Pascal, Fermat, and the Invention of Probability
By Keith Devlin
From NPR's "Math Guy" comes the engaging tale of Blaise Pascal, Pierre de Fermat, and their 17th-century correspondence that created the field of probability. Devlin reveals probability's remarkable impact on the modern world: from insurance rates to housing and job markets to the safety of cars and planes.

Chances Are… Adventures in Probability
By Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan
Combining philosophical and historical background, Chances Are… is a layman's journey into the realm of probability – from poker to politics, weather to war, Monte Carlo to mortality.

By Deborah J. Bennett
From the ancients' first readings of the innards of birds to your neighbor's last bout with the state lottery, humankind has put itself into the hands of chance. This book describes the misconceptions and difficulties civilization has overcome in progressing toward probabilistic thinking, providing a skillful account of what makes the science of probability so daunting in our day.

Fooled By Randomness book jacket

Fooled By Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Taleb, a professional trader and mathematics professor, examines what randomness means in business and in life, and discusses why human beings are so prone to mistake dumb luck for consummate skill.

What Are The Chances?: Voodoo Deaths, Office Gossip, and Other Adventures in Probability
By Bart K. Holland
What, exactly, is chance? In this book, statistician and storyteller Holland takes readers on a tour of the world of probability. Weaving together tales from real life, he writes of surprising examples of probability in action, everyday events that can profoundly affect lives but are controlled by just a number.

The Hinge Factor: How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History
By Erik Durschmied
From the wooden horse at Troy to a dropped package of cigars at Antietam, world history has been shaped as much by chance and error as by courage and heroism. Drawing from historical accounts and personal documents, Durschmied gives a fascinating look at how the unexpected and the bizarre have dictated world events.

Luck: The Brilliant Randomness of Everyday Life
By Nicholas Rescher
Rescher offers a realistic view of the nature and operation of luck to help us come to sensible terms with life in a chaotic world. Differentiating luck from fate and fortune, Rescher weaves a colorful tapestry of historical examples, from the use of lots in the Old and New Testaments to Thomas Gataker's treatise of 1619 on the great English lottery of 1612, from casino gambling to playing the stock market.

What Are the Odds?: Chance in Everyday Life
By Mike Orkin
From coin flips to lottery wins, learn the inner workings of chance and the role it plays in everyday life. Entertaining facts and tidbits reveal a wealth of practical and impractical events that can and do happen.

Other books by Leonard Mlodinow

A Briefer History of Time book jacket

A Briefer History of Time
By Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
Since the publication of A Brief History of Time, new data from particle physics and observational astronomy have shed light on efforts to find a Grand Unified Theory of Everything that Hawking and Mlodinow use to enhance and update their answers to basic questions about the universe.

Feynman's Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life
By Leonard Mlodinow
Mlodinow writes about his mentor, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, in this memoir.

Euclid's Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace
By Leonard Mlodinow
Even the numerically challenged will be entranced by this clear and clever chronicle revealing the role of geometry in scientific revolutions and in the advancement of civilization itself.

Book descriptions provided by BookLetters.