Left-Hand Turn Around The World: Chasing the Mystery and Meaning of All Things Southpaw

Book Reviews | Mar 3rd, 2007

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Author: David Wolman
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Genre: Nonfiction
Pages: 236
Retail Price: 9.99
Buy on Amazon.com link

Southpaws have been persecuted throughout history with left-handedness being considered an ill omen or the devil’s work. Still, left-handedness continues to persist at the same steady rate, and this minority of southpaws actually find themselves having the upper hand in many ways.

David Wolman, a lefty himself, goes on a globe-spanning journey to discover what it means to be left-handed and what differentiates lefties physically, mentally and socially from the righty majority. Not quite a science book, Left-Hand Turn is more like self-exploration, but on behalf of all lefties. As such, Wolman puts himself in the narrative for the full trip. Sometimes it’s amusing; other times, eye rolling. A few chapters are essentially useless and seem to be just imaginative ways for Wolman to use his advance money + playing lefty golf in Japan, visiting palmists, taking graphology classes, sword-fighting at Scottish castles, etc. But the chapters on the hard science of handedness are extremely interesting as Wolman visits biologists, neurologists, geneticists, behaviorists, linguists, and many other +ists.

Wolman encounters a wide range of information and theories which I won’t try to summarize here, but I do highly recommend the chapter on mixed-handedness. It’s a concept that never occurred to me but is obvious once you hear it.

The other, often personal, excursions are tedious and distracting, but the science is fascinating and makes the book worth reading. I realized much afterward though that Wolman never focuses on his main point: What makes lefties special? What draws them together? How do they view the world? The sociology of left-handedness is never touched, and as a righty, I’m interested to know how the other half thinks.

Bottom Line: Sprawling and overly personal, but interesting when it sticks to science.
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