“The Book of Odds” is a “numerical snapshot of the United States ... based on recorded past occurrences among large groups of people.” In other words, it’s a compilation of startling numbers and fascinating information (William Morrow, $26.99, 256 pages). In straightforward text, telling sidebars and imaginative graphics, authors Amram Shapiro, Louise Firth Campbell and Rosalind Wright address the age-old question, “What are the odds of that happening?”
Sampling from the 11 subject areas, we find in “Sex” that “the odds that a male has had four or more female partners in the past year are 1 in 16.7.” For a female, odds are 1 in 34.5.
In “High School and College,” we discover the odds are 1 in 5.15 that “a college-bound senior who took the SAT received the top score.” The odds of a family paying for a son’s or daughter’s college education via a “home equity loan or line of credit” are 1 in 25, but change to 1 in 1.8 when it’s paid by the “parents’ current income.”
In “Looking Good and Feeling Fine,” the odds “an adult usually skips breakfast” are 1 in 2.6 – the same odds of “an adult eating cold pizza for breakfast.” The odds an adult is a vegan or vegetarian are 1 in 25, the same for golf being an adult’s favorite sport.
A particularly telling entry in the “Mind, Psyche and Addiction” chapter shows the “odds an adult will report he or she, in a typical week, would like to – but does not have time to – exercise (1 in 4.2), read (1 in 9.1), cook (1 in 20), sleep more (1 in 33.3) and do more housework (1 in 50).”
We wonder what the odds are of readers buying the book ...
Focus on California
“Golden State” by Michelle Richmond (Bantam, $15, 304 pages; on sale Feb. 4): Seldom have we seen a publishing house so excited about an upcoming title, bolstered by starred reviews from such heavy hitters as Library Journal and Booklist, and blurbs from a dozen best-selling authors. Of course, it helps that Richmond’s 2008 novel “The Year of Fog” has sold 400,000 copies.
In “Golden State,” Julie is a just-divorced doctor at the VA hospital in San Francisco who’s trying to make her way across the city to grudgingly deliver her troublesome younger sister’s baby, due any time now. But the city is in turmoil, as it’s the day to vote to determine if California will secede. Along the way, Julie confronts an old boyfriend and is caught up in a hostage situation. This one looks ripe for reading groups.
Another California-centric read is “California Fruits, Flakes & Nuts” by David Kulczyk (Craven Street, $14.95, 188 pages), which takes a humorous-historical look at 48 “bizarre personalities who exemplify the Golden State’s well-deserved reputation for nonconformity.” Among them is Lyman Gilmore of Grass Valley, who built the world’s first airstrip and airplane hanger in 1905.
In 2011, Ransom Riggs of Los Angeles surprised readers and the publishing world with the odd young-adult fantasy “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” a haunting novel told in part by creepy vintage photography. It’s the story of a teenage boy who travels to a remote island and finds an abandoned orphanage that once housed “exceptional” children who, he discovers, may still be alive – and dangerous. The book lived on the New York Times best-sellers list for 60 weeks; the movie is due July 2015.
The sequel is “Hollow City” (Quirk, $17.99, 400 pages), which picks up the tale shortly after protagonist Joseph barely escapes the island. In his new adventure, he and his newfound friends must make their way to London, encountering more unexpected dangers along the way. One critic has called the two books suitable for “anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.”
Fiction on stage
Stories on Stage presents monthly programs of fiction read and performed by area actors, set at the Sacramento Poetry Center. Entering its fifth season, the first program will feature Elizabeth Holzman reading one of best-selling author Marisa Silver’s short stories, “Three Girls,” from the collection “Alone With You.” Sharing the stage will be Pushcart Prize-nominated writer Charlene Logan Burnett, whose work will be read by Steve Buri.
Stories on Stage was founded by Sacramento writer Valerie Fioravanti, whose short-story collection “Garbage Night at the Opera” won the GS Chandra Prize in 2011.
The program will start at 7:30 p.m. Friday at 1719 25th St.; $5 donation suggested. Information: email@example.com.
Grass Valley author-screenwriter Chris Enss just won the 2013 Elmer Kelton Book Award, presented by the Academy of Western Artists. Which is a thrill for her, but no surprise to us.
The Grass Valley author keeps turning out entertaining nonfiction Westerns about the unheralded folks who lived, loved and died in the Old West – mail-order brides, prospectors, entertainers. Also in her pages are the folk heroes of the day (Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley) and more contemporary well-knowns (Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, John Wayne). “I’m an observer of history who retells what is there,” she has explained.
Now comes her 28th title, “Love Lessons From the Old West” (TwoDot, $16.95, 168 pages). It tells the stories of 10 man-woman relationships, largely from the women’s perspectives, and includes chapters on Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok; Maria Jaramillo and Kit Carson; and Apache war chief Geronimo, who was married nine times. Each chapter includes a sidebar of “Life’s Lessons Learned” by the women, guidelines and advice which are as contemporary today as they were in the 19th century. Visit her at www.chrisenss.com
Robin Burcell of Lodi knows plenty about how cops work, having invested 26 years in a law enforcement career with the Lodi Police and the Department of Human Assistance for Sacramento County.
The fifth entry in her “Sydney Fitzpatrick” series, “The Kill Order” (Harper, $7.99, 416 pages), features an FBI special agent-forensic artist. This time out, Fitzpatrick lays hands on a copy of the Devil’s Key computer code, a confidential list of “supposedly indecipherable numbers.” Danger and adventure follow.
Burcell will talk about “The Kill Order” in a presentation at 3 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Library Gallery on the campus of California State University, Sacramento, 6000 J St., (916) 278-3820. Visit her at www.robinburcell.com.
Just for the fun of it, the Guardian newspaper has posted a rather esoteric multiple-choice quiz, challenging readers to match famous writers with their quotes and situations regarding their pets. Here’s a sample: “Which dog-loving Romantic poet once proclaimed. ‘All men are intrinsic rascals, and I am only sorry that not being a dog I can’t bite them.’ ” Was it William Blake, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge or Mary Robinson? For the answer, go to the Guardian.
Melissa Bain for “Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones,” 7:30 p.m. Friday at Avid Reader, 617 Second St., Davis; (530) 758-4040.
Steven P. Unger for “Before the Paparazzi: 50 Years of Extraordinary Photographs,” 2 p.m. Saturday at the Valley Hi-North Laguna Library, 7400 Imagination Parkway, Sacramento; (916) 264-2920. There will also be a video presentation.
Nobel Peace Prize nominee John Dear for “The Nonviolent Life,” 2 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Davis Community Church, 412 C St., Davis; (530) 753-2894; and 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Carmichael Presbyterian Church, 5645 Marconi Ave., Carmichael; (916) 486-9081.
Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.