Nonfiction on Finding Rare Books, the Republican Party, the Science Behind Luck | Xpress Reviews

Week ending January 22, 2016

starred review starBarry, Rebecca Rego. Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places. Voyageur: Quarto. 2015. 264p. photos. index. ISBN 9780760348611. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781627888233. LIT
rarebooks012216Barry (editor, Fine Books & Collections) compiles a lovely collection of stories from veteran book collectors and dealers about their most exciting or memorable finds. Invoking the patriarch of bibliophilia with an introduction by author Nicholas A. Basbanes, Barry carries an overarching message of hope, as espoused in the subtitle: that rare books can be found almost anywhere. And the stories bear that out. From a historic document in a stifling attic that saved a museum to a simple discovery of a signed first edition at a flea market, items end up in the most curious places. Garage sales, estate sales, even library book sales can hold treasures. Added to that are notes and definitions of common terms, suggestions for further reading, and other advice that make this a perfect primer for anyone interested in book collecting. There is also much talk about the profession and avocation of book collecting; anyone considering rare book dealing will get career counsel. While many other works have been written about book collecting, they are mostly autobiographical exploits—few will give newbies such an introduction.
Verdict Novice and veteran bibliophiles alike will find this title captivating.—Linda White, Maplewood, MN

Coppins, McKay. The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party’s Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest To Take Back the White House. Little, Brown. 2015. 400p. photos. index. ISBN 9780316327411. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316327466. POL SCI
Coppins (senior political writer, BuzzFeed) maintains that Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential loss plunged the GOP—fractured, dysfunctional, and chaotic—into exile to wander the wilderness in desperate need of a Moses-like contender to unify the factious party and lead it back to the White House. Based on hundreds of interviews with candidates, family members, confidants, and a host of associates and operatives at all levels, Coppins’s title presents the do-or-die account of GOP insiders’ analysis of the 2012 loss and their jockeying to transform the party and repair the damage caused by Bush 43’s presidency and Romney’s campaign. He describes how top Republican presidential hopefuls (Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker) positioned themselves to be candidates—the awakening and evolution of their political aspirations and viewpoints, their motivations, egos, successes, and blunders. He exposes the private thoughts, fears, and improprieties of candidates, pooh-bahs, pundits, and kingmakers.
Verdict This engaging and revealing book cuts through the veneer of polished 30-second ads and includes some stinging revelations. It reads like watching presidential campaign sausage being made, depicting campaign mechanics, coalition building, schmoozing, dirty tricks, and smear tactics. For political enthusiasts at all points on the spectrum. [See Prepub Alert, 6/8/15.]—Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY

Kucharski, Adam. The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling. Basic: Perseus. Feb. 2016. 288p. illus. notes. ISBN 9780465055951. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780465098590. SCI
The lottery, the Super Bowl, the stock market: almost everyone gambles on something. Theoreticians tell us that at the subatomic level, certain quantum events are truly random, but when we bet on something that we assume is determined by chance, generally it is not. Where a roulette ball comes to rest is fully determined by the laws of physics; we cannot predict the exact outcome because we cannot accurately measure its initial speed and location. However, with the aid of new technology, in particular, high-speed computers and the near-instant access to data sets, mathematicians, physicists, and computer experts have changed the betting world. Kucharski’s (London Sch. of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) book explains how it is done and also tells us how computer algorithms are affecting sports betting and the financial markets.
Verdict This book is well worth reading, and if it does not convince you that trying your luck against the professionals is a sure road to insolvency, then nothing will.Harold D. Shane, mathematics emeritus, Baruch Coll. Lib., CUNY

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