logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: flat-book-society
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-11-13 23:22
The Flat Book Society: Suggest books for March read

As I mentioned in a previous post, the structure for choosing the Flat Book Society's reads has changed.  (See below for a recap.)

 

The voting list has been cleared and is open to submissions for March's Flat Book Society read.  The list will remain open a week or so, or until we have 10-15 books on it, and then the voting will be announced.

 

Note:  There were three books on the list tied for highest number of votes.  One of them is the January read, and I've left the other two titles in place on the list, with their votes intact.  Any member who has voted on one of those books can remove their vote if they change their minds; members can also vote on multiple books.

 

 

New club structure:

1. Books are chosen via voting on the club page's "next read" tab. For each reading round, members can submit 1-2 suggestions each, directly to the voting list (max. 15 books total for each round). The submission window will last about 2 weeks, or until we hit 15 books.

Please only add books that clearly fall under the general topic of science; by science, think the hard sciences (not psychology or statistics or self-help, for example). All books that do not clearly fall under the science flag will be unceremoniously removed.

1a. Please vote for as all the books you're interested in. This will ensure that books are chosen that are both accessible and interesting to the largest number of members. 

2. Voting takes place over 1 week period. The book with the highest number of votes will be the next scheduled group read.

3. After the book has been scheduled, the list will be cleared, and all the titles will be moved to the overflow list, which can be found here: The Flat Book Society: Nominated Books.  Generously maintained by Portable Magic.  Books on this list can be moved back to the voting list during any submission period.

4. New group reads will happen every other month and last approximately 2-4 weeks. (Jan / Mar / May / July / Sept / Nov).

5. Books will be chosen for group reads a minimum of 8 weeks in advance, to make sure that anyone interested in participating in the read (me) will have ample time to source the book.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-11-13 08:56
Forensics: The Anatomy of a Crime
Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime - Val McDermid

I have so many thoughts about this book and they're scattered all over the joint.  

 

It occurred to me as I finally finished reading it that we sometimes come at books in much the same way faulty investigators come at a crime scene: we take in the initial information (in our case, the title, cover and jacket flap) and make assumptions as to how the book is going to play out.  If, as we start to read the book, it fails to fulfil our assumptions, we tend to then judge it on its failure to be what thought it would be, instead of judging it on what it is.  

 

The differences between investigating crimes and reading books are ... obvious and profound, but in the case of books, the blame lies squarely on poor marketing.  This book, for instance, has had two titles.  It's original on release was Forensics: Anatomy of a Crime (the edition I have) and then upon reprinting, it was named Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime.  It's former title is problematic, but not misleading.  Those that choose the book based on the latter I think are bound for disappointment, unless they know absolutely nothing about forensics, have only a general interest in it, and very little curiosity about the actual science involved.

 

I wanted the science.  I expected the science.  I wasn't expecting the very journalistic style of the narrative.  That part is on me, because I've never before read McDermid and didn't know about her background in journalism.  I really dislike the style of writing journalists do; in too many cases the narrative ends up with a sensationalist tone that feels manipulative and turns me off.  This book started off that way and had it not been for reassurances by friends that it would get better, I doubt I'd have continued reading it.  

 

Thankfully, I found the remaining chapters more palatable, and once I re-adjusted my expectations (i.e. this is not a science book) I was able to more or less find something interesting in each.  I also was left wanting though, too; she mentions the science, but never how it's done.  She doesn't explain why polymerase enzyme would make DNA 'replicate the hell out of itself', or how forensics scientists lift fingerprints from seemingly impossible places.  And I really had a problem with some statistics she included in the chapter on blood spatter/DNA, concerning the number of African-descent males in the UK vs US databases.  I'm not objecting to the veracity of it, but the writing in that section was so badly done that at first glance, it appears she's using her words to skew the reader's perception.  It took my husband and I 5 minutes of reading it and re-reading it before we decided it was probably just very terrible editing.

 

But there were lots of interesting bits too; with the right expectations, this would not be a wasted or disappointing read.  For those with an interest in true crime and history, this book might be a winner.  It's easy reading, the crimes she chooses are interesting (when they aren't horrific) and the book rarely drags.

 

At the end of the day, Forensics and the author would have been better served had they stuck with Anatomy of a Crime as a subtitle and marketed it as General Interest / True Crime*.  As such, I think it would have a found a very appreciative audience.  As it is, marketing it as a Popular Science book is setting everyone up for disappointment.

 

*Oddly enough, the publisher did list the subject as "True Crime", but then proceeded to use the back cover / page flap to sell the book as using "ground-breaking research" to "lay bare the secrets of this fascinating science".   

 

And finally, my husband asked that I include his complete annoyance with the flies printed on all the pages of the book; he didn't read it, but every time he saw me with it, he'd catch a glimpse of the flies and think I'd squashed one between the pages. If they insisted on persevering with that theme, at least vary the squashed insects...

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-11-08 03:42
The Flat Book Society: January read and new club structure announcement.
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life - Helen Czerski

Our January read has been selected.  The read will begin on January 1st and I'll try to send reminders out at the usual intervals.  

 

Just as Freakonomics brought economics to life, so Storm in a Teacup brings physics into our daily lives and makes it fascinating.

Our world is full of patterns. If you pour milk into your tea and give it a stir, you’ll see a swirl, a spiral of two fluids, before the two liquids mix completely. The same pattern is found elsewhere too. Look down on the Earth from space, and you’ll find similar swirls in the clouds, made where warm air and cold air waltz.

In Storm in a Teacup, Helen Czerski links the little things we see every day with the big world we live in. Each chapter begins with something small – popcorn, coffee stains and refrigerator magnets – and uses it to explain some of the most important science and technology of our time.

 

 

If this sounds like something you're interested in, please join us!

 

 

 

New club structure changes

It has become obvious to several of us that we are a bit too spoiled for choice on our voting list of books, and it's causing information over-load for many of our members.  In light of this, we're going to try a new structure.  Simply put, the process for each read (occurring every other month) will be:

 

After the current read is over, the voting list will be cleared;  books left on the list after voting ends will be moved to a new list in the BookLikes reading list section (details TBA). Portable Magic has graciously volunteered to create and maintain this list and is in the process of doing so.  Once that list is created, we'll let everyone know where to find it.


Members will then have a 2 week window to submit 1-2 suggestions each to the voting list (max. 15 books), for the next read. 

Just about everyone agrees that more than 15 books to consider is too many books, so our aim is a list of 10-15 books each time.


Voting takes place over 1-2 week period.

I find most votes are in within 1 week, but I'll play this by ear and adjust as necessary.


Book with the most votes is the next scheduled read.

Process repeats.

 

 

Rogue Flat Book Reads

Tannat, our resident insurgent, has been given sanction to run Rogue Flat Book reads.   She'll be announcing these Rogue Reads at her whim, and creating dedicated discussion threads for them; anyone and everyone is encouraged to participate.  I'd like to think this will allow for those readers who are looking for even more science in their life, but I suspect it's Tannat's first step towards world-domination.  ;-)

 

Any questions, or if you'd like to join in the discussion about club changes, please do so here.

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-11-07 18:25
Investigative Journalism and True Crime Writing Masquerading as Science
Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime - Val McDermid

I had long rants going through my head on pretty much every page of this book while I was reading, but bottom line, it just doesn't deserve the attention of my detailing them.  I like McDermid's crime fiction (most of it, anyway) and I'd very much wish she'd stick to that in the future.  There is enough writing "for the effect", garnished with sweeping (moreover: repeatedly dead wrong) generalizations about the justice system and legal history in here to last me the next several years at the very least -- and the fact that this is the way she is writing about the one area that I know personally and in-depth only enhances my doubts about her writing concerning the areas with which I am less deeply familiar, and about which I would very much have liked to learn more.

 

As I said in my one and only status update, this isn't science writing -- not even popular science writing.  McDermid lists a number of science books in the bibliography at the end of this book, but there is no indication -- neither in foot- or endnotes nor in any other way -- how, if at all, the contents of those or other books, or other forms of research, personal knowledge and experience actually impacted her writing, are reflected therein, or would provide further information on specific topics that she addresses (by which I don't mean general areas and disciplines such as entomology or toxicology as such but individual aspects of these disciplines that she touches on). 

 

The only thing we may reasonably be assured of is that she talked to a number of scientists and (hopefully) renders the salient contents of their answers with a modicum of faithfulness.  Nevertheless, it is their statements she quotes, not her own independent research and knowledge, and obvioiusly, their answers only cover the topics she asked about, leaving plenty of questions both unasked and unanswered.  Hence, the actual scientific contents of this book is never more than skin-deep.  The vast majority of the book's chapters are a mixture of true crime writing à la Ann Rule and David Wambaugh on the one hand (including lavish, detailed, tabloid-style descriptions of the victims and their suffering), a journalist's description of the physical attributes of her interview partners on the other hand, and a historical and general introduction to the various areas of forensic science that, in any university program, wouldn't merit more than a few minutes' discussion and a recommendation for further reading at home.  Mind you, I'm interested in history, so I did enjoy the individual chapters' paragraph-(or-two-)long introductions dealing with the origins of the respective disciplines, but I most certainly could have done without the plethora of lengthy true crime narration and I also didn't need to know what McDermid's interviewees looked like.  With very few exceptions, I've learned more about forensic science in law school and by reading forensic accident reports in civil cases and pathologists' statements in criminal cases -- and, more specifically, about forensic anthrophology also by reading Kathy Reich's Tempe Brennan mysteries -- than from this book by Val McDermid.

 

On more than one occasion, there is not even any indication how McDermid selected her interview partners in the first place (what exactly do the attributes mean that she uses to characterize several of her interviewees in lieu of detailing their professional background, such as "eminent": who awarded these people those attributes, and on what basis precisely?).  Indeed, in several instances, there is every reason to believe that these just happen to be people she has come across in her day job as a crime fiction writer.  The Professor Bernard Knight she references, for example, is very likely the mystery writer and, according to his own standard short biographical blurb, former Home Office pathologist and professor of forensic medicine who since the early 2000s publishes the Crowner John mystery series and is one of the authors of the "Medieval Murderers" round robins (the first of which appeared in 2005); and the scientists she references from the University of Dundee were involved, last year, in an open university forensics project that used McDermid as a figurehead.  That doesn't mean, of course, that these people don't know what they're doing as scientists (in fact, the frequently plodding nature of Knight's fiction writing makes me suspect that he is probably a better scientist than fiction writer, and from what I saw of the Dundee open university project before I had to drop it due to other commitments, it looked both fun and informative) -- but if McDermid's book had the least bit of claim to being a genuine contribution to (if only: popular) science writing, she would openly state her connection with these sources.  (As an aside, it is not good journalism, either, not to have done so.)

 

Final note on the visuals of the specific edition that I read: I was initially pleased because the cover of this edition seemed to promise a relatively matter-of-fact approach without any recourse to showy effects.  Unfortunately, that proved to be the case with regard to this particular print edition as little as it is with regard to the book's substantive contents, as the fly making an appearance as the cover's sole illustration also makes an appeareance on the book's every single page, for purely "ornamental" purposes and without the slightest reference to the actual contents of those pages:

 

(Scans from the final 2 pages of the chapter on facial reconstruction.)

 

Can you possibly get any tackier -- in a book aspiring to a scientific contents, no less?

 

I read this as the November group read of the Flat Book Society and was planning to use it as my "16 Festive Tasks" book for the "Newtonmas" square: I'm going to leave it on that square provisorially on the basis of the occasional scientific bits contributed by McDermid's interviewees, but will very likely be replacing it by the December rogue Flat Book Society buddy read, The Science of Discworld.

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-11-06 05:48
Forensics by Val McDermid
Forensics: An Anatomy of Crime - Val McDermid

TITLE: Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime

 

AUTHOR: Val McDermid

 

DATE PUBLISHED: 2014

 

FORMAT: e-book

 

ISBN-13:  978 184765 9903

 

_________________________

 

Forensics by Val McDermid takes a look at the variety of techniques and tools (forensic science) used by criminal investigators to solve a variety of crimes.  Topics surveyed in this book include: the crime scene and preserving evidence; fire scene investigation; entomology; toxicology; pathology; fingerprinting; DNA; anthropology; facial reconstruction; digital forensics; forensic psychology; and how forensics is presented in the courtroom. McDermid takes a look at how each of these techniques developed, the history behind the methods and how they are used or not used (mostly for cost reasons).

 

An interesting aspect that the author brings us is that there are no definitive rules or results. Every forensic conclusion can be stained with doubt and no single forensic test is the only conclusive evidence of guilt. Additional information can be also obtained from old evidence as scientific techniques progresses, specific analyses become more refined or new techniques are developed.

 

 

McDermid has a lovely, clear writing style and makes use of large variety of examples to elucidate the various topics she covers. I found this book to be somewhat interesting and to provide an introductory overview of the forensic techniques used to solve crimes. I did, however, want to read more about the actual science behind all the forensic techniques. This book is just too superficial.

 

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?