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The Real Story of Risk: Adventures in a Hazardous World Paperback – October 16, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1616146603 ISBN-10: 1616146605

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616146605
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616146603
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #877,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Almost everyone knows auto accidents kill far more people than airline crashes, yet the incidence of aerophobia (fear of flying) is disproportionately high. Likewise, fear of sharks still inspires the occasional toothsome Hollywood thriller decades after Jaws, despite the low number of attacks (only 25 Americans killed in 50 years). In dissecting risks such as the above, along with those associated with phenomena ranging from heart attacks to online gambling, Croston, a San Diego–based biotech research scientist, emphases that brute emotion usually trumps bare statistics when people weigh any given threat. Much of skewed risk perception dates back to our ancient ancestors and their adrenaline-fueled reactions to predators. Our brains simply haven’t caught up to such contemporary dangers as giving speeches and financial meltdowns. After examining our forebears’ influence, Croston analyzes why mankind is incongruously slow in addressing climate change and demonstrates how the pursuit of love and sex provoke extreme risk taking. Lucid and full of fascinating examples, Croston’s work sheds much-needed light on the psychological underpinnings of our contradictory attitudes toward danger. --Carl Hays


"A tour de force on the topic of why we take the chances we do and avoid the ones we don't. You'll never look at your life's risks the same way again."
- Aaron Klein, CEO of Riskalyze

"Beautifully researched and explained, The Real Story of Risk presents an understanding of why we do the things we do. Croston masterfully shows us why we choose short-term thinking over long-term, why we prefer willful ignorance over informed logic, and why we'd rather die than speak to a group of people. This fascinating book provides insight into our muddled human nature and answers how to overcome it and live more sustainably."
- Eric Corey Freed, Founding principal of organicARCHITECT and coauthor of Green$ense for the Home

"Risk taking is not to be idolized, nor should it be condemned. Risk in everyday life is like salt in our soup: the best amount is neither too much nor too little. That is what The Real Story of Risk shows in an entertaining and informative way with documented data and interesting anecdotes."
-Gerald J. S. Wilde, Author of Target Risk

"As Croston cleverly points out, although humans are well adapted, through our evolutionary history, to react to immediate risks, we are much less able to respond to slowly approaching, less obvious, future risks. We are able to anticipate and prepare for a possible tiger attack but unable to stop eating ourselves to a heart attack or to understand the dangers of massive world changes caused by global warming. Croston provides excellent advice as to how we might better respond to these future, long-term risks."
-Robert W. Sussman, Professor of anthropology at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

More About the Author

Glenn Croston is a PhD biologist and the author of multiple books exploring ourselves and our world. Humans are about the most interesting thing around, in his opinion, even if our actions are hard to understand. But by understanding our actions, and ourselves, we can better manage our actions and our role in the world around us.

Looking around, it's not hard to find examples of the strange ways we respond to the risks of our world large and small. Curious about this, Croston talked with people in all walks of life, from risk experts to skydivers, from anthropologists to entrepreneurs. And what he found lead him to write "The Real Story of Risk: Adventures in a Hazardous World" ( looks at our strange responses to risks we face every day in our work and our lives. Our responses evolved over millions of years and we are well suited to the risks of the ancient world, but we no longer live in this world. Instead we live in a new world of our own creation, and one we struggle to deal with. We're still worried about snakes but seem clueless about the risks of financial bubbles and white collar crime. Going all the way back to our roots as humans, and back again, Croston arrived with fresh insight into how we got here and where we might be going.

Croston is also the author of "Gifts from the Train Station: the Healing Power of Helping Others" ( Talking to a friend recovering from leukemia, he started looking into people around the world who had run into great challenges in their lives but found that by working for the greater good, connecting with a higher purpose, they healed themselves and built fresh rich new lives for the future.

As a father, Croston has also worried at times about the direction our world is headed, particularly with our stewardship of the environment of planet Earth. Deciding to do his part and to focus on solutions rather than problems, Croston wrote "75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference", outlining a slew of opportunities to get involved in delivering solutions, and build a great business in the process.

"Starting Green: An Ecopreneur's Guide to Starting a Green Business from Business Plan to Profits" picks up where "75 Green Businesses" leaves off, providing a nuts and bolts guide to the steps and strategies to start and grow a successful green business.

Croston is also the founder of Starting Up Green, giving green entrepreneurs the strategies, communications, and consulting they need to start and grow a successful venture.

A Ph.D. biologist, Croston lives in San Diego. As a father, it's important to him to not just be an observer, but someone who lives the change we want to see in the world.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. Jaksetic on January 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
The author, a biologist, contends that people perceive and respond to risk in a variety of ways because of evolutionary and biological reasons that influence and sometimes interfere with their thinking about risks, benefits, and the tradeoffs between them. The author draws on a combination of scientific studies, government data, books, articles, news stories, interviews, and anecdotes to support his observations, contentions, and arguments about how people perceive and assess risks and benefits, and make choices in the face of their conclusions about them.

This book provides an interesting perspective on how people think about risks and respond to them. It is written in a style that does not require readers to have technical training or knowledge about risk analysis or human psychology. This book provides a decent introduction to the subject, but it is too brief and cursory to be relied on as a definitive source or reference. Readers interested in a technical, in-depth discussion of risk perception and risk-benefit analysis should look at other books. Some of the material in this book might be of interest to people who want to read about human error and decision-making.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By on November 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is truly an eye-opener. Using entertaining anecdotes and immutable logic, the author makes it quite clear that we constantly overestimate certain risks that aren't anywhere near as dangerous as many other risks that we underestimate or completely ignore.

In addition to being an entertaining and thought-provoking read, this book actually might save your life. The first chapter will grab you and have you riveted to your seat.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Schultz on July 17, 2014
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this easy-to-read book. At first, I thought it might be about industrial risks as that is my interest as I am a quality engineer by profession. I have assessed risks formally via technical risk assessments for the medical device and aerospace business. I was hoping there might some "risk assessment" tools described in this book that might be new to me.
None the less, the book is about personal risks - which can be applied with regards to human factors risk assessments.
I am intested in the subject of "risk homeostasis" or risk thermostat which is rarely covered in risk assessment books
but Glenn covered nicely with his examples of seat belts and SUVs. Another example is the first use of RADAR, used
by British in WWII as a ground-based enemy detection system. Then, somebody said, "lets put it IN the aircraft. That way
we can fly at night, into clouds, etc." You know what then happened - until after the learning curve. Risk Homeostasis really does exist - with all of us. The chapter of teenage drivers really moved me along with "what's worse than dying", i.e., public speaking. I had read that why people fear public speaking goes back to our ancestors and being watched by lions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Karthik on November 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
I found this book very enjoyable to read. Exceptional analysis and reasoning is presented to connect evolution to behaviors that humans display today, especially regarding how we process and respond to risk. I have to say it is Gladwell'isq in many respect and even better in some analysis. To be honest, I did not expect to read such a good piece of work when I started. The publisher needs to do more to promote this book. Also, the front cover is unimpressive and masks the great content inside.
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