I got this book thanks to an interesting interview with the author on the EconTalk podcast. The host, Russ Roberts, was effusive; the author, Ben Cohen, was interesting; the book was available at Portsmouth Public Library.
Ben (I call him Ben) is a WSJ sports writer, and a lot of the book is about basketball. The "hot hand" concept comes from there, particularly an early video game, "NBA Jam". Where, if you made a difficult shot, the game made it more likely that you'd make the next shot.
But that just codified a phenomenon that "feels right" to people in many areas: when you're in the groove, you've solved a thorny problem, you've negotiated a tricky path, whatever, you feel like you could continue to operate at a supranormal level.
But is that feeling based on anything real? Back in the 1980s, that great detector of self-delusion, Amos Tversky (with two co-authors) analyzed basketball shot data and concluded that the "hot hand" was likely a misperception, due to humans ability to imagine "streaks" in actually-random occurrences. Sigh. But this countered the actual strong feelings of all those jocks (and others) who had experienced the hot hand for themselves.
So is the hot hand real or not? No spoilers here! But Ben's book takes a wild and crazy path on the way to finding out. It's not just basketball. We wander through many wonderfully interesting and colorful side streets, discussing subjects you wouldn't expect: Shakespeare, Van Gogh, Raoul Wallenberg, Apple's iPod shuffling algorithm, the movie career of Rob Reiner, American refugee policy, roulette, and more. All presented with compelling and often drily hilarious writing. A lot of fun.
And I learned about a form of sampling bias of which I was previously unaware!