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TRC Book Club

Books: Why Not?

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Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small by Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres

As readers of their Forbes column know, Nalebuff and Ayres have a long history of suggesting quirky and unconventional ideas. In this book they show us how, with easy writing and plenty of examples. How do you ensure you don't forget your keys? Did you know a variation of the solution makes European hotels more energy efficient? Can you buy insurance to protect against a drop in your home value? How nice would it be if you didn't have to pay your mortgage for a month - especially when the shopping season depletes your wallet. How can you get your health insurance company to treat your life as if it were worth a million dollars? Sometimes the answers are real world solutions, sometimes they are simply interesting ideas. This is a book about problem solving - or as the authors put it, problem solving with a purpose. They want you to not only think in new ways, but also come up with solutions that could help society or seed new businesses. Their approach to problem solving is based on two perspectives: looking for problems in search of solutions, and solutions in search of problems.

Books: The Reluctant Mr. Darwin

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The Reluctant Mr. Darwin - An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution by David Quammen

On the evening of July 1, 1858, six scientific papers were read to the Linnean Society in London. One of them was an idea independently discovered by two authors, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Neither author was there; the young man, Wallace, was in New Guinea collecting insects, while the older man, Darwin, was moaning the death of his young son at home. The idea, natural selection, had nearly zero impact and in the annual address given the following year, the president of the society said the past year hadn't seen "any of those striking discoveries which at once revolutionize" science. That was the official birth, 150 years ago, of the single biggest idea in the biological sciences.

Guns, Germs and Steel

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Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond

Why did history unfold differently on different continents? Rather than point the finger at racial or ethnic differences to answer this question, Diamond focuses on environmental differences and proceeds to lay out a comprehensive case. Four sets of factors, he argues, contributed to the world as we see it today.

Books: Moneyball

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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis

How did one of the poorest teams in baseball, the Oakland Athletics, win so many games? Fascinated by this question Lewis begins an investigation that takes him into an area of baseball that was shrouded in mystery about a decade ago. This was an area dominated by people who believed that to truly understand baseball you have to use numbers. Not just any number from a box score (such as an RBI) but those that were shown to be related to winning (such as on-base percentage).

Books: The Code Book

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The Code Book - The Evolution of Secrecy from Mary, Queen of Scots to Quantum Cryptography, by Simon Singh

If you have any interest in the history of codemaking and codebreaking (or more accurately ciphermaking and cipherbreaking ), this would be a great place to start. Singh begins with early codebreaking ingenuity such as the Caesar shift (yes, that Caesar) where alphabets are substituted for others, and the powerful technique of frequency analysis for breaking substitution ciphers.

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