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Book Review: Serendipity: Seemingly Random Events, Insignificant Decisions, and Accidental Discoveries that Altered History

Serendipity: Seemingly Random Events, Insignificant Decisions, and Accidental Discoveries that Altered History. Thomas J. Thorson. Windy City Publishers, November 17, 2017, Trade Paperback and E-Book, 108 pages.

Reviewed by Wayne Turmel.

This book is aimed at proving the old adage that, “little hinges swing big doors.” If it weren’t for sloppy lab work, unseasonably cold San Francisco winters, or oversized brass buttons big enough to stop a sword blade, we wouldn’t have penicillin, popsicles, or the Hallelujah Chorus. Fans of life’s little ironies will enjoy themselves.

Thomas Thorson’s book is a compilation of stories that shows how life and history turns on little moments that seem insignificant at the time but have far-reaching impact. Some of the stories are well known, while others—like the fact that Teflon is the only substance a gecko can’t stick to—are simply the kind of fun facts that can help you win a bar bet or seem smarter than you are. Sometimes that’s all you want from a book like this.

If you’re a trivia buff, or enjoy history told in nugget-sized pieces, you’ll enjoy Serendipity. Some of the stories, like how a wrong turn by a chauffeur led to World War 1, are historically important. Others, like the list of famous people who changed their flights and cheated death on 9-11, are simply intriguing.

The book suffers a bit from a disorganized layout, but the information is interesting and makes for a quick, fun read. You can probably earn your investment back with one good wager at the bar.


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