Monday, 11 November 2013

Book review: Bad Science and I Used to Know That- History

Product Details
Bad Science by Ben Goldacre.
I whizzed through this book, which was actually quite entertaining, as well as thought-provoking. Essentially, he explains the 'bad science' behind alternative remedies/medicine, the dubious credentials of some famous providers of health and nutritional advice, and discusses the media storm around healthcare stories, such as the MMR vaccine's link (or not, as it turned out) to autism.

I felt like I was already vaguely familiar with a lot of the information on how scientific research is conducted (although the last time I did anything even close a scientific experiment was about 10 years ago, at A-Level) but there was a lot that I have forgotten, or was not familiar with in such depth. This was a very accessible book, which didn't treat the reader as stupid. It has given me a healthy suspicion of health/science stories as reported in the media...I suppose I always thought there were a lot of dubious/exaggerated stories which may have misunderstood the science, but now I will be reading Ben Goldacre's website and this website, mentioned in the book, to have a look at the research myself and hopefully make up my own mind. I am looking forward to being more informed about these topics!

 Product Details
I Used to Know That- History by Emma Marriott
Despite having a history degree, I sometimes feel that I have large gaps in my historical knowledge, particularly when it comes to modern history. This book aimed to give an overview of history (albeit from a British/European perspective). Due to my patchy knowledge, it became more useful the further into it I read, and I think it was quite good at showing how the 'headlines' of history fitted together.
One issue that I had with this book in Kindle format was that what were probably well laid out information boxes in the print version became jumbled up in the Kindle version, so I found that I was jumping between the main paragraph and the 'detail' box- annoying!

I seem to be getting through the Kindle books quite speedily (and making slow progress on the print books- if only the print books would hold themselves open whilst I knit!). Next up is 'A Brief History of the Third Reich'- bought in an attempt to fill in my knowledge gaps, I think!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Book reviews- Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

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Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother- The Official Biography- William Shawcross 
Generally, I found this an interesting book. The first fifty years of the Queen Mother's life were interesting as I didn't know that much about her life during that time, and indeed my knowledge of that period of history is a little vague. The last ten or so years were interesting, as I remembered some of the events quite clearly, and it was interesting to contrast the world as it was then with the world she was born in to.
I did find the long lists of charities she supported and official engagements a bit dull and repetitive. I also felt that, as it was an official biography, it was a bit...sanitised. (This could also be because Princess Margaret burned a lot of her mother's letters- if they had been in the royal archives, perhaps there would have been some more revealing insights. Also the QM seems to have been quite discreet, so it is probably impossible for anyone outside of her family to know what she really thought).

An interesting read, over all- especially if you are prepared to skim over the slightly dull parts!

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating- Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Product DetailsThis is a very short book, which focuses on the snail that the author is given during a bout of reoccurring, debilitating illness. I found this quite a soothing book, as if it was somehow infused by the slow movements of the snail. I loved snails as a child (there is a photo of me with them crawling all over my arms) but I didn't know that much about them (or if I did, I had forgotten it). The author's observations of the snail were interspersed with her later research on the biology of the snail, which was fascinating.