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Life: The Odds Paperback – October 26, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is an entertaining book that succeeds despite its author's missteps as a humorist. In presenting the odds of all manner of events both possible ("Dating a Supermodel") and improbable ("Becoming a Professional Athlete"), Baer (The Great Mutual Fund Trap) is clearly emulating the Worst-Case Scenario books, which have turned studying extreme real-life events into a cottage industry. Baer knows and expertly uses statistics and probabilities: it is fascinating to learn, for example, that the chances of dying by being hit by an asteroid are three times greater than dying in a train crash or an earthquake and are 250 times greater than dying from a shark attack. He also provides some revealing sidebars on certain topics, such as his look at how the odds of celebrity divorce are even worse than the already horrible odds of divorce for newly married couples ("about even money, 1 to 1"). Baer sometimes interrupts his statistical analyses with attempts at Dave Barry-style one-liners, but they fall flat, such as when he insults the livability of Cleveland or comments on the looks of Prince Charles's paramour Camilla Parker Bowles. Because of its range of topics, this book should gain some word-of-mouth praise, however, and will likely improve water-cooler conversations.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Forty-four short chapters use statistical probability to determine the chances of achieving or surviving certain life events. The subjects range from the commonplace-sharing a birthday-to the (hopefully) far-fetched-destruction of the Earth. Each section explains the situation, runs the numbers, then tells how to improve the odds. The main purpose of this book is humor, not 100 percent true cause and effect, so the actual conclusions drawn aren't necessarily, and don't claim to be, entirely guaranteed. (For example, if you don't want a marriage to end in divorce, simply moving to Massachusetts, the state with the lowest divorce rate, isn't necessarily going to help.) But the process does explain probability and other statistical concepts in a lighthearted way. Baer uses tables, graphs, pie charts, and narrative to reach his conclusions. The facts and research are well documented and often contain links to Web sites that further explain the issues at hand. Most of the subjects covered have real teen interest, such as "Getting into an Ivy League College" or "Becoming a Professional Athlete," while "Being Poorly Endowed," about penis size, is sure to cause some snickering. The author does use some clunky one-liners that are bound to elicit groans, but the book's real strengths lie not in the dumb jokes but in the facts and statistics, which are interesting enough on their own.
Jamie Watson, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore
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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (October 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452285941
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452285941
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,810,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Frank Chen on May 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you're curious about whether you are more likely to date a supermodel, win an academy Award, catch a ball at a major league baseball game, bowl a perfect game or get struck by lightning, this is the book for you. (Answer: catch a ball at a major league baseball game.)

The author Gregory Baer walks through the odds of these and other life events (43 in all). His writing style is perfect for a book like this: lively, clear, and hilarious. Here's a good example of his brand of humor: "Many a paperback labeled 'The Best Selling Book from Today's #1 Fitness Guru!' was never a New York Times best-seller or even a national best-seller. You see, there's really no law against labeling your book a best-seller, even if it was a best-seller only in your own home. It's what they call "puffery" in the advertising business and it won't get you locked up. Of course, you have to live with yourself."

For each of the categories, Mr. Baer also offers tips for improving the odds -- thus, you will learn where to go to school (and church) if you want to president, where to sit on a train if you want to maximize your chances of surviving a train wreck, what you should do for a living if you want to date a supermodel, and which state to move to if you don't want to get struck by lightning.

In all, this book is a fun, light, and surprisingly informative read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Guild TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those 'little odd books' that most people tend to pass up; unless they are looking for a small gift to bring to someone who is laid up for a spell,or something to leave behind at a visit to a cottage. I once heard someone jokingly say that ,"He was going to give his friend a book for his

Birthday;'till he realized he already had one". Even a one-book

type of person would enjoy this one.

Nobody can get through life without facing "the odds"; and is continually asking; "What are the chances of....if I ....?

Here we find the odds on all kinds of things such as;

Dying in a plane crash

Marrying a millionaire

Catching a ball in the stands

Being sussessful in life

Getting away with murder

Marrying royalty

Dating a supermodel

Getting a hole-in-one

Surviving cancer

Being poorly endowed (male or female)

Getting hit by lightning

Being murdered or robbed

Finding a 4-leaf clover

Avoiding an IRS Audit

And many more of life's circumstances.

And on top of it all ,you'll learn how to improve your odds

and once you see how to go about calculating the odds on things; you'll be able to calculate odds on just about anything.Though your calculations may not be scientifically accurate; you'll at least have a feel of what you're in for.

There are two chapters in the book that really stand out;

"The Color of Money.
Read more ›
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Pedro Gomez on December 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'm surprised other reviews qualify this book as riotously funny.
It isn't.
Case in point, discussing the odds of finding a four leaf clover, he describes a particular member of the plant's family as "a genetic mutation, like Carrot Top". Oh! Oh ho ho. A jab at Carrot Top! What wit!
The book is full of these weak attempts, and I don't recall a single one that made me laugh. A few chuckles, but it was almost painful, like watching a standup comic trying too hard. It wasn't even "So bad it's funny", it went beyond that, to the point where it's just not good.
The book IS interesting, and makes great bathroom reading (something the author seems a little proud of in the introduction), but it is entertaining despite the lame attempts at humor, not because of them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I got this for birthday, after my sister read a review in the Chicago Tribune. I got a kick out of learning a bunch of cool facts, and telling people at work. Some chapters were really funny (dating a supermodel) but others were really interesting (the ones on space, like the odds of finding intelligent life in the universe, or the earth being destroyed by an asteroid). I thought the chaper on penis size was going to be silly, but the research was actually scientific. (Hint: the average is smaller than most people think.) The whole thing was pretty funny.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I was given this book as a present and I love it -- it's been a joy to read! I found it to be not only fun and VERY funny, but very interesting as well. It's the perfect holiday gift for smart friends and family, and for people who need a break from the more stressful side of life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Life, the Odds is the perfect book to while away a few minutes or an hour contemplating whether you will ever date a supermodel or win the Medal of Honor. The book is very funny and yet, against the odds, seems to reflect actual research and analysis. If you liked daydreaming over the the Guiness Book of World Records when you were young, this is a great read for you now.
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