June 20, 2016

Big Secrets

& Bigger Secrets … later Biggest Secrets or How an author sold his books (of secrets) 

Sometime in the mid–1980s, I discovered a book called Big Secrets by William Poundstone. If I remember correctly, I stumbled across it at the bookstore next to Grandpa Morgan's service station in Clarkston, Mich. I used to wander in there and discover new books every time we went to Clarkston. Poundstone wrote two sequels to the book as well as a number of other interesting pieces.

Big Secrets provided all kinds of intel about famous people and things, such as the ingredients for Kentucky Fried Chicken and its 11 secret spices and the recipe for Coca Cola Classic, etc. For a 13–year–old, it was fascinating. I devoured the book and both the sequels. Poundstone has written a couple of cool books, one about moving Mt. Fuji (a collection of anecdotes about interviews at places like Microsoft and another about working at Google — you can figure that one out. He's written some others that are just plain verbose and confusing: beating casinos with science and the one that really disappointed me, his last piece Rocks Breaks Scissors which was supposed to be about how to outguess anyone. It was so tough to read that I only got about 75 pages into it.

Now, arriving in July, is Head in the Cloud.
Bestselling author William Poundstone confronts that timely question in HEAD IN THE CLOUD. He shows that many areas of knowledge correlate with the quality of our lives--wealth, health, and happiness--and even with politics and behavior. Combining Big Data survey techniques with eye-opening anecdotes, Poundstone examines what Americans know (and don't know) on topics ranging from quantum physics to pop culture. 
It sounds like an interesting read. A trivia buff myself, I agree that it's important to know things. But, as an educator, I also think it's important for kids to know where to find information. So, that becomes a delicate balance because so much information is available  — way more than at anytime in history. When he wrote the first "secrets" book, he was essentially writing a series of groundbreaking blog posts without having any idea that's what he was doing. (And on another note, Poundstone's social media presence is nill).

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