The Week in Books 2008, No. 36

Do you think you’re a good driver? According to what I learned reading Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt, you’re not a good driver. None of us are. In fact, we’re lucky to be alive at all. If you need some good arguments for God’s acts of providence, this book will give you plenty.

I was completely fascinated by this entire book, although it becomes sort of overwhelming to read it all at once because of the sheer volume of information presented. I had no idea so many interesting studies of traffic behaviors, cultures, and patterns had been conducted. As it turns out, most of our dearly held beliefs about driving are, in point of fact, completely false. The jerk who merges at the last second? He’s doing you a favor. Having those annoying red lights at the top of entry ramps to freeways? That’s helping the problem. Having a higher speed limit? Yeah, that’s increasing the death toll on any given stretch of road exponentially, and it’s causing more traffic to boot.

One of the most intriguing things about the book was how it points out the ways in which our bodies are not capable of driving perfectly with good attention all the time, so our defense mechanism is to drive on auto-pilot as it were. Reading this book made me realize all the times I basically zone out while I’m driving, or divert my attention to other things. Since reading “Traffic” I’m trying to be more alert while driving and am hopefully driving more safely. Of course, as the book points out, my behavior changes will probably only last a few weeks and I’ll be right back to driving like everyone else does!

I’d recommend this book as a long but satisfying read that will certainly grab your interest and provide you with all sorts of anecdotes with which to wow your friends and associates.

The edition of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World that I read was written in 2004, which may be why the book seemed so dated to me. New Media moves at remarkable speeds, so a lot has happened in the intervening four years. That said, if you don’t know much about blogs or the internet, especially if you’re a business owner and don’t know much about them, this book would probably be helpful for you. I did get a few good quotes to use in some of our business materials (Josh runs a New Media/Political consultancy), but I can’t say I got any tips that I could really use for my little personal blog. There may be more updated versions that have more to offer.

If you’re interested in buying these books, or in browsing other books I’ve reviewed over the years, check out my Amazon widget in the right sidebar!

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