Adventures in the Margin of Error
By Kathryn Schulz
(Ecco, Hardcover, 9780061176043, 416pp.)
Publication Date: June 2010
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To err is human. Yet most of us go through life assuming (and sometimes insisting) that we are right about nearly everything, from the origins of the universe to how to load the dishwasher. If being wrong is so natural, why are we all so bad at imagining that our beliefs could be mistaken, and why do we react to our errors with surprise, denial, defensiveness, and shame?
In Being Wrong, journalist Kathryn Schulz explores why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken, and how this attitude toward error corrodes relationshipswhether between family members, colleagues, neighbors, or nations. Along the way, she takes us on a fascinating tour of human fallibility, from wrongful convictions to no-fault divorce; medical mistakes to misadventures at sea; failed prophecies to false memories; "I told you so!" to "Mistakes were made." Drawing on thinkers as varied as Augustine, Darwin, Freud, Gertrude Stein, Alan Greenspan, and Groucho Marx, she proposes a new way of looking at wrongness. In this view, error is both a given and a giftone that can transform our worldviews, our relationships, and, most profoundly, ourselves.
In the end, Being Wrong is not just an account of human error but a tribute to human creativitythe way we generate and revise our beliefs about ourselves and the world. At a moment when economic, political, and religious dogmatism increasingly divide us, Schulz explores with uncommon humor and eloquence the seduction of certainty and the crises occasioned by error. A brilliant debut from a new voice in nonfiction, this book calls on us to ask one of life's most challenging questions: what if I'm wrong?
Kathryn Schulz is a journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Foreign Policy, the Nation, the Boston Globe, and the "Freakonomics" blog of the New York Times. She lives in New York's Hudson Valley.
No one's perfect. We all make mistakes, and we hate to admit it. But Schulz argues that it's time to embrace our errors. In her book, Being Wrong, she explains why we make so many mistakes, why we find them so hard to admit and what we can do about it. More at NPR.org
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“A mirthful and wise diagnosis of what ails us: Schulz dances us through science, psychology, and literature in a sparkling history of (and ode to) human error.”
“[A]n insightful and delightful discussion of the errors of our ways. . . . Schulz remains good company -- a warm, witty and welcome presence. . . . [S]he combines lucid prose with perfect comic timing. . . . Being Wrong is smart and lively.”
-New York Times Book Review
“So, please take this advice: Read BEING WRONG, because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Kathryn Schulz’s brilliant, spirited, and necessary inquiry into the essential humanity of error will leave you feeling intoxicatingly wrongheaded.”
-Tom Vanderbilt, bestselling author of TRAFFIC
“[A]n unusual examination of the virtue and peril of being wrong and of all the ways we think we know things that just ain’t so.”
“Engrossing.... In the spirit of Blink and Predictably Irrational (but with a large helping of erudition)... Schulz writes with such lucidity and wit that her philosophical enquiry becomes a page-turner.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Kathryn Schulz has given us a brilliant and remarkably upbeat account of the long history of human error. If Being Wrong is this smart and illuminating, I don’t want to be right!”
-Steven Johnson, bestselling author of THE GHOST MAP and EVERYTHING BAD IS GOOD FOR YOU
“Kathryn Schultz is engaging, witty and fascinating as she uses a full arsenal of academic research, colorful stories, philosophical arguments and personal anecdotes to create a riveting account of why we, mostly, have been wrong about being wrong.”
-Frans Johansson, author of THE MEDICI EFFECT
“Both wise and clever, full of fun and surprise...[BEING WRONG] could also be enormously useful—there are very few problems we face...that couldn’t be helpfully addressed if we we were willing to at least entertain the idea that we might not be entirely right.”
-Bill McKibben, author of EAARTH: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
“A funny and philosophical meditation on why error is mostly a humane, courageous and extremely desirable human trait. [Schulz] flies high in the intellectual skies, leaving beautiful sunlit contrails....It’s lovely to watch this idea warm in Ms. Schulz’s hands.”
-Dwight Garner, New York Times
“Schulz possesses playfulness even as she brings the reader to tears... Being Wrong has a heartbeat.”
“Intellectualism made fun! . . . Schulz’s call to embrace flaws and errors as potentially beneficial will surely draw legions of follwers.”
“Schulz draws on philosophers, neuroscientists, psychoanalysts and bit of common sense in an erudite, playful rumination on error.”
“An amazing book. . . . I don’t know when I last read a book as stimulating, as thoughtful, and as much fun to read.”
-Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People