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A Left Hand Turn Around the World: Chasing the Mystery and Meaning of All Things Southpaw Paperback – November 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306814986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306814983
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #892,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Far more detailed than a typical collection of left-handed trivia, David Wolman's Left-Hand Turn Around The World examines 200 years of anatomy in a search for the roots of hand preference. The results are surprising, and perhaps a bit disappointing to anyone who prefers believing "left-handed people are the only ones in their right minds".

Wolman travels the world for answers, from a mildly gruesome visit to Broca's bottled brains in a Paris museum to the latest Berkeley research labs. Throughout the journey, the science is as accessible as any animal documentary and as well-documented as any rigorous reader will demand. Included in the mix are a trip to a graphologist's convention and a visit with a gentleman whose handedness is the result of surgically combining his left hand with his right arm. Wolman's Fulbright fellowship-winning reporting is always clear and entertaining—he has a fine knack for presenting complex theories in direct, dryly amusing language. He frequently inserts himself into the research, in one case borrowing his nephew for a visit with a pediatric neuropsychologist.

With the most recent research offering the theory that strength of hand preference is more important than the actual hand preferred, the final conclusion could be an eye opener to those who prefer the old ideas that lefties are more creative, athletic, artistic and generally more wonderful. As Wolman says in conclusion, you can still says lefties are special, because they are. Jill Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Why are so many humans right-handed when most animal species show random preferences for one side or another? Is a preference for the left hand an indicator of brain difference? How do developing embryos figure out which side is left, anyway, and why is that information so critical to their development? Wolman's breezy, informative account of "what makes left-handers special" tackles these and other fascinating questions on its journey to finding out what exactly handedness means and why it happens. The author, a proud member of "the fraternity of Southpaw" and a journalist whose work has appeared in New Scientist, Discover and Wired, travels all over the world to find his answers, and his lively tales of visits to the field's top researchers double as solid introductions to the science of handedness. Though his visits to a palmist in Quebec and a graphologist in Virginia are less than entertaining—he finds them illogical, they find him irritating—his attempts at left-handed golf in Japan and lefthanded sword fighting in Scotland are funny and instructive. Amusing and thorough, this little tome makes a good gift for the left-handers on the Christmas list. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

David Wolman is a contributing editor at Wired and the author, most recently, of Firsthand: A Decade of Reportage.

He has also written for such publications as the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Nature, and Outside. His long-form feature about Egypt's 2011 uprising was a finalist for a 2012 National Magazine Award for reporting, and his profile of a currency counterfeiter won the 2012 Outstanding Article award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

David is a former Oregon Arts Commission fellow, Fulbright journalism fellow (Japan), and a graduate of Stanford University's journalism program. His previous books are The End of Money, A Left-Hand Turn Around the World, and Righting the Mother Tongue. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two children.

Visit his website at www.david-wolman.com and follow him on Twitter at @davidwolman.

Customer Reviews

I read it first myself and loved it even though I'm a righty.
Shamus Roller
I will forward that there is one significant area where he did not venture--and I feel that the neglected area is in fact the most interesting.
Tom Hunter
An amusing book, potentially a very good gift for the right person, no I mean the left person, no that's not what I meant either.
John Matlock

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on November 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a light and carefree look at the left handed world. It's a mixture of science (the brain's contribution - which now is known to happen much earlier than previously thought), culture (where to sit at a dining table), humor (as in left handed sword fighting), and a dose of I'm not sure just what to call it about stories such at one where a man had his left arm attached to his right shoulder (To move his thumb, his brain sends out signals to move his little finger. Question, is he left handed?).

Mr. Wolman is a leftie, he took off a year to research leftiness. He lives in Portland, Oregon, which is just about as far left wing as any city in the country, besides being on the left hand side of the map. -- Sorry, I couldn't help it.

An amusing book, potentially a very good gift for the right person, no I mean the left person, no that's not what I meant either.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Shamus Roller on October 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
My dad is notoriously hard to shop for but this wonderful book is perfect. I read it first myself and loved it even though I'm a righty. It made me feel smarter - I think most people have probably been curious about what makes some people left handed, particullarly if they have lefties in their family. Well, this book reveals a lot, but you'll have to read it to learn for yourself. Anyway, I'm giving it to my dad because he's a lefty and will appreciate it. Sure makes my gift-giving easier this year!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jack C. Lee on January 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Being left handed and having been forced to write with my right hand since a child, I can sympathize with the author's experience as a left hander. His one year quest to learn more about this subject is very illuminating. I agree with many of the assertions and conclusions. For example, I was a fencer in College Varsity and I definitely agree with the fact that there is a distinct advantage in some sports for a left hander. I always thought the condition is based on genetics but I learned that it was not as simple as first appears. I recommend this book for all people to learn more about the complexity of life and to accept and celebrate our differences.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By The Review Revolution (janariess.typepad.com) on February 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
You're probably a left-hander if you think that driving a stick shift (in an American car, at least) is an invitation to disaster; if you've ever jangled elbows with the person on your left at a dinner party; or if you have a story about a grade school teacher who was just sure she could make you change your sinister ways. If so, then I have a book for you. (The rest of you oppressors can stop reading.)

In A Left-Hand Turn Around the World, fellow lefty David Wolman chases down "the mystery and meaning of all things Southpaw." I learned a good deal from reading this book, though some of it was useless (like chapters on how handwriting analysis and palmistry are crocks, which I knew already) and some way over my head (like the chapter on genetic shifts, which I tried desperately to understand but found confusing and counterintuitive). But there's plenty of other fascinating stuff here to chew on, and Wolman is a fine and engaging writer, with the quirky humor and keen eye for irony that I would expect from an enlightened lefty.

One thing he debunks right away, for example, is the popular misconception that people who can write with either hand are ambidextrous. This is not ambidexterity, which requires an equal facility with either hand for all handed tasks (eating, writing, drawing, throwing, sweeping, cutting, etc.). True ambidexterity is actually extremely rare. (p. 15) In contrast, many people evince some kind of "mixed-handedness."

What Wolman says about mixed-handedness, in fact, may turn out to be the greatest revelation of the book. It may well be that we've been asking the wrong question about handedness all along, supposing a dichotomous lefty-righty split when in fact the real question is mixed-handedness versus strong-handedness.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Climber6 on August 13, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this is a must read for any left hander! It was very informative, and it was interesting to read just how unfairly left handers were treated thru the ages!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tom Hunter on February 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is not a book of trivia. Instead, it is a serious attempt to glean what is known about left handedness and its implications, if any, for the human race. Wolman is adept at tackling a wide range of issues but I must confess that I read this in the midst of a more detailed analysis of the thought processes associated with left-handedness. I did not find the silver bullet here. This is a great book about as many things as this author knows about.

I will forward that there is one significant area where he did not venture--and I feel that the neglected area is in fact the most interesting. Since I am working on my own work on the same topic, I will leave it at that.
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