Book Review: The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinow

Here is the guest review on for The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives:

In The Drunkard’s Walk Leonard Mlodinow provides readers with a wonderfully readable guide to how the mathematical laws of randomness affect our lives. With insight he shows how the hallmarks of chance are apparent in the course of events all around us. The understanding of randomness has brought about profound changes in the way we view our surroundings, and our universe. I am pleased that Leonard has skillfully explained this important branch of mathematics.
– Stephen Hawking

I’m not about to contradict Mr. Hawking (although some people on Amazon are – canyoubelieveit?). I think he is right that Leonard Mlodinow “skillfully explained this important branch of mathematics.” But I think it should be noted that Drunkard’s Walk is probably more of a book for the general public, than it is for the math enthusiast.

Cover design: Keenan

That’s because a person trained in mathematics will know most of the math explained in the book, so all they’ll really get out of it are the anecdotes. Someone less inclined in math, however, will get both. For those people (i.e., me), Drunkard’s Walk is an even more enjoyable read.

Do note, however, although Drunkard’s is a relatively quick read and although I said that this is a math book for the general public, don’t assume that it’s something akin to the current rash of pop science books that have been all over the best seller lists. Mlodinow knows his stuff. He got a guest review from Stephen Fucking Hawking* because he co-wrote A Briefer History of Time with the man.

Finally, if dabbling in statistics and history is something that you like, Mlodinow’s book comes with so many references that you’re bound to wind up with more interesting things to read. I’m already looking into a couple. Expect to see my thoughts on them here.

Up next: Babel No More by Michael Erard.




*For those of you on Twitter, you should follow him. Here’s a sample tweet, “I can’t believe I missed the Horizon programme on black holes. I was hoping to pick up a few tips.” Dude’s a riot.