cover image AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT: Incredible Stories, from Lottery Wins to Lightning Strikes

AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT: Incredible Stories, from Lottery Wins to Lightning Strikes

Joshua Piven, . . Villard, $17.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-6055-9

As a former technology journalist who was offered an opportunity to coauthor what became the phenomenally bestselling Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook and its five sequels, Piven is no stranger to the vagaries of fortune. This series of short profiles of people who have experienced good or bad luck is less a scientific investigation of the nature of fortune and more a paean to those, in many cases, extraordinary individuals who were affected by and reacted to moments of chance events. Among his subjects who benefited from good luck are a contractor whose chance purchase of lottery tickets nets $336 million and a whale researcher who instinctively grabs a radio that saves her after her plane crashes at sea. He profiles people who developed an interesting idea into a phenomenon: the inventor of pet rocks and the American importer of the Japanese game Pokémon. And in the case of a bank teller struck by lightning, Piven shows how 15 years of pain led to the formation of an international advocacy group for lightning strike and electric shock victims. These people are all fascinating, and the details in each profile are well presented. Overall, however, the writing lacks the lively wit that gave substance to what could have been just dull detail in the Survival handbooks. Also, Piven's attempts to draw broader conclusions from his subjects' experiences only result in extremely general insights, such as those in a short concluding chapter that lists "luck management techniques" such as "be prepared" and "keep an open mind." (Oct.)