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text 2017-09-19 14:27
Reading progress update: I've read 98 out of 357 pages.
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards

Well, I've read chapters 1 through 5, and I suppose this is what it sounds like when you get a walking encyclopedia talking. Even though it's, in a way, the print equivalent of having your favorite actor reading the phone book (which I expected going in -- the format itself suggests as much), it's addictively compelling, and I am racing through this book much more than I expected I would.  I also know I'll be revisiting it often for reference in the future.

 

When reading the chapters on the beginning of the Golden Age and on the Great Detectives, I also dipped into Edwards's Golden Age of Murder for further background, "met" the members of the Detection Club ... and learned that Ngaio Marsh was not a member (which I admit I'd heretofore taken almost for granted she was), but rather, "dined for weeks" on the experience of her one invitation to a Detection Club dinner.

 

Incidentally, for those who are interested, I've created a reading list for the "100 [main] Books" presented by Martin Edwards in "The Story of Classic Crime" here:

 

Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books -- the "100 Books" Presented

 

I've also started a listing of the other books mentioned by way of further reference in the individual chapters.  As Edwards easily manages to toss in an average of 20+ extra books per chapter, I've decided to break up the "other books mentioned" listing into several parts, with the first list going up to the end of chapter 5 (i.e., as far as I've read at present):

 

Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books -- Other Books Mentioned; Part 1 (Ch. 1-5)

 

I'm reading The Story of Classic Crime for the free (center / raven) bingo square, as well as by way of a buddy read.

 

 

Merken

Merken

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review 2017-09-16 00:07
Self-deprecation at its best
One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter: Essays - Scaachi Koul

I first heard about Scaachi Koul's One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter several months ago on BookTube (I will continue to sing its praises) and added it to my TRL as I felt the need to read more Canadian authors. This book is a collection of essays about Scaachi's life growing up as a child of Indian immigrants in Canada. There's a focus on body positivity, feminism, and the endemic racism she and other people of color face in that country. She discusses her family and how she is the direct product of two disparate parenting philosophies. (Each chapter begins with an email conversation between herself and her father. He's quite possibly the funniest man on planet earth.) She's deeply afraid of going outside of her comfort zone and yet she's in a relationship with a man who seems to do nothing but push her to do just that. (I thought I had travel anxiety until I read about her experiences flying.) It's a look into a family as different and yet somehow the same as mine or yours. There's always going to be some neuroses in any family. It's about self-discovery, self-love, and ultimately self-acceptance. It was a lot of fun but judging from the fact that I had to refresh my memory by looking up the blurb it isn't the most memorable book I've had the pleasure of reading this year. So I'm gonna give it a 6/10. 

 

A/N: I really need to start making detailed notes about the books I've read immediately after reading them because my backlog of book reviews is getting more and more lengthy. Stay tuned for a special post on Tuesday by the way. ;-)

 

Source: Amazon

 

What's Up Next: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures by Ben Mezrich

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-09-15 22:01
Dataclysm by Christian Rudder
By Christian Rudder Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) - Christian Rudder

On its face this book sounds good: data guru uses the information people share online, particularly on the dating website OkCupid, to reveal demographic trends. There is some interesting information here, along with fun graphs and charts. But while Rudder may be a good statistician, he’s a poor sociologist, and the book is riddled with eyebrow-raising assumptions and conclusions. It also hangs together poorly, jumping from one disconnected subject to another, with chapters that share a fairly simple finding padded by repetitive discussions of the author’s methods and rhapsodizing about the scope of his data. For a better book on what Big Data says about us, I recommend the more recent Everybody Lies.

Unfortunately, Rudder begins the book with random, skewed guessing. In describing OkCupid, he confidently asserts that “[t]onight, some thirty thousand couples will have their first date because of OkCupid. Roughly three thousand of them will end up together long-term. Two hundred of those will get married[.]” This caught my attention immediately: 10% of online first dates leading to long-term relationships is a fantastic success rate, but less than 7% of long-term relationships ending in marriage seems awfully low for the 20’s-and-up crowd. Curious what definition of “long-term” Rudder was using, I flipped to the notes at the back, only to find that he made it all up based on the fact that the site has 4 million active users and 300 couples per day reporting that they are leaving OkCupid because they found someone on the site. Plus his intuition that fewer than 1 in 10 long-term couples get married: “How many serious relationships did you have before you found the person you settled down with? I imagine the average number is roughly 10.” My own experience of the world is very different (I don’t think I know anyone who’s had 10+ long-term, serious relationships). And since the average American woman marries at 27 and man at 29, and according to the CDC, the average adult woman reports 4 lifetime sexual partners while the average man reports 6-7, Rudder’s impression seems the more likely to be skewed.

The author’s conclusions are equally questionable. He observes that men seem to find 20-year-old women the most attractive (at least on a site evidently without teenagers) throughout their lives, while women’s view of male attractiveness changes to accommodate their own age, and concludes that middle-aged men don’t contact young women for fear of rejection and social judgment. This overlooks the fact that there’s much more to a relationship than physical attractiveness; how many 50-year-old men want to live in a world of exam stress and frat parties, with a partner who has comparatively little life experience?

Another chapter seems to confuse correlation and causation. In “You’ve Gotta be the Glue,” Rudder explains that couples who each have multiple clusters of Facebook connections from different areas of their lives, and are the only person connected to each other’s various tribes, last longer than couples who are connected to all the same people, who all know each other. This makes sense: if you belong to several social groups (co-workers, college friends, book club, etc.) and your partner has gotten to know all of them, your relationship is well-established and likely serious. But if you belong to a tight-knit community and start dating someone within your group, your Facebook connections provide no indication of how serious you are. Rudder, however, interprets the data as proving causation, concluding that the “specialness” of the couple in being the “glue” between different social groups somehow boosts the relationship. He fails to explain how “connecting” his gaming buddies to his wife’s extended family strengthens their marriage – presumably if these social groups cared to mingle much, they’d befriend each other on Facebook and then what happens to the couple’s “specialness”?

When the book moves away from dating-related data, it becomes a series of disconnected one-off chapters. There’s a discourse about group rage on the Internet that involves little data analysis and seems to be included because the author is interested in group rage on the Internet. There’s a chapter about the language used in Twitter posts, concluding that Twitter definitely isn’t killing sophisticated thought because “a,” “and,” and “the” are among the top 10 words used in English both on Twitter and off of it. There’s an equation meant to demonstrate that multiplying a word’s frequency rank in a text by its number of uses will result in a constant, but the chart meant to illustrate this point with Ulysses displays a “constant” ranging from 20,000 to 29,055.

All that said, there is some interesting material here, particularly the data on race. The chapter on racist Google searches is less relevant now that the author of that study has written his own book (the aforementioned Everybody Lies); and Dataclysm, published in 2014, has a rosier view of this than the 2017, Trump-era version. But the study showing massive racial differences in how people rate one another’s attractiveness is still quite relevant: key findings include the fact that people tend to view members of their own race as more attractive than others, but black Americans take a major hit in the ratings from everybody (including other black people, though to a lesser degree). My first reaction on reading this was that it’s hard to judge people for preferring cultural commonalities in their most intimate relationships. But the data isn’t so simple: it’s based on how people rate a photo, not whom they choose to contact, and attractiveness doesn’t only affect one’s dating prospects, but employment too (there’s a chart on that). And in-group biases in American society are hardly limited to dating; while our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, churches, and friend groups are still largely separate, I’m inclined to believe that Rudder’s data does show hidden bias.

Overall, while there are interesting nuggets in here, I wouldn’t recommend the book. A few interesting data points are padded into book-length by ill-conceived interpretations and rambling. By the end I was simply tired of it – the writing didn’t engage me when unaccompanied by charts, the book lacks cohesion and the author had lost far too much credibility. Try Everybody Lies instead.

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review 2017-09-15 18:59
First Women by Kate Andersen Brower
First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies - Kate Andersen Brower

This was an impulsive audiobook listen & probably not something I would normally choose. It had some interesting bits but skipped back and forth in time enough to be annoying. While I felt more sympathy for some presidents and their wives after reading this, my opinion of others actually decreased.

Beginning with Jackie Kennedy - I mean it's impossible to say anything negative about Jackie - this book looks at the 'elite sorority' of first ladies. I was shocked by Lady Bird Johnson's unfailing loyalty and devotion regardless of what her husband did, surprisingly impressed by Pat Nixon, and felt a sympathetic connection with Betty Ford. Rosalynn Carter left less of an impression on me than the women she was surrounded by.

And then we got to the ladies that I actually remember being in the White House. Every time Michelle Obama is mentioned, the writer reminds us that she hates being there. Instead of creating any sympathy for her, I felt like this just made her seem whiny. The reader is also encouraged to think of the Clintons and Obamas as 'working class'. Ummmm...sure. All my friends make $275k/yr - Michelle's salary before entering the White House. I just can't connect with either of these ladies.

Anyway, it was an interesting listen that made me wonder, not for the first time, why anyone would want to be a politician - or one of their wives.

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review 2017-09-11 21:20
Killers of the King by Charles Spencer
Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I - Charles Spencer

This book does a fairly good job of doing what it sets out to do: describing the fates of the 'men who dared to execute Charles I'. If that wasn't exactly what I was expecting, despite the fact that it states it right there on the cover, the deficiency is clearly mine. I picked up this book to expand my study of British history beyond the Tudor era, but this was probably not the best introduction to the English Civil War.

 

Instead of looking at Charles I and why the people decided to rise up and kill him, this book details the punishments that were meted out or avoided at great cost when Charles II came to the throne. Since I knew little or nothing about the people involved, it was difficult for me to remain interested in their stories. I really needed more background and broader knowledge in order to appreciate these individual stories.

 

I was impressed by the demonstrations of deep faith on the part of the men who were methodically hunted down and executed employing the most violent methods. They had dared to kill a king and were still certain that God was on their side. The hunters are more difficult to sympathize with as they spend years and valuable resources tracking down men, even once they are silenced and aged, so that they can be brought to 'justice'.

 

I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

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