Monday, September 26, 2011

Being wrong: Adventures in the margin of error

By Kathryn Schulz

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

There are a number of things that I like about this book.  First, it is extremely well-written.  Not only does Schulz write well, but she injects humor into some of her observations and analyses.  This, alone, makes reading this book a pleasure.

The second thing I like about this book is Schulz’s choices of examples.  Not only is she a great story teller, the stories/examples themselves are engaging, interesting, and a joy to read.  So many of her chapter-beginning examples are ones that readers may be familiar with; however, even if they are not, Schulz offers such great detail and vivid descriptions, that they are easy to identify with whether familiar or not.

Not only are her choices of examples terrific, but she uses those with which she begins her chapters throughout the chapter, referring back to them to support the points she makes.  If you don’t get the point of why an example is chosen or why it is relevant, she reinforces the point effectively.

Third, Schulz’s writing is fact-based.  She has about 45 pages of notes, and, in addition, she includes explanations (or the further development of ideas) in footnotes throughout the book.  This is an extremely well-supported book.  You know, from her facts, additional examples, and explanations, that she really knows what she is talking about.

Fourth, as someone prone to being wrong (me: with no excuses or blame-worthy referents), Schulz writes about things with which it is easy for readers to identify.  We can easily see ourselves in many of her examples, and often she uses her own personal experiences to illustrate points.  It is delightful.  If you (as a reader of her book) cannot see yourself or put yourself into the examples, then I would suggest that you are probably not being honest with yourself.

Fifth, the sources she uses are excellent.  You know that this author has done her homework.  As you read you can be amazed, as well, at the breadth and depth of her knowledge, the extent of her reading, and the command of details she has.  It is truly remarkable.  (When she talks about great literature, for example, she speaks specifically of the characters in the stories and their motives and actions.)

Sixth, she doesn’t leave you with truisms regarding the nature of your wrongheadedness alone.  She offers insights into how to correct your faults, what you can do to become more “right-headed.”  Her suggestions are well-thought out, reasonable, and well presented.  Anyone who is a member of the human race (tsk tsk!) can profit from reading this book.

Seventh, when I presented the book to my father-in-law to read (he is extremely critical, and I seldom provide him with “suggested reading”), the first thing he said was, “hmmm, interesting topic.”  I told them that Schulz offers a complete explanation of how she became involved in writing a book on “Being Wrong.”  I thought her explanation was excellent.

If you are looking for a book that is a great read, that will not just hold your attention but captivate you as well, and if you are looking for a book that is a bit unusual (in the choice of topics), but a book that relates to you and how you behave in the real world, then I recommend this one with complete confidence you will find it as superb as I did.  It is well worth your time.

This book can be found at Being wrong: Adventures in the margin of error

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