The Time Keeper, Mitch Albon: #9 2020

Generally I don’t review books I’m not keen on. I usually stop reading, and move to another book.
This one (strangely for a book about time) I seemed to be getting through at such a rate, I felt I might as well continue. There must be something that would pull it all together.
There’s a lot of empty space. Short chapters leaving almost full empty pages. Section Breaks that require a title on recto page and then another blank page on following verso.
On second thoughts, they’re not really long enough to be chapters…numbered fragments maybe.
And the section breaks don’t mean much (not like Mr Wigg where it really made you stop and think).
The characters are thin, stereotypical.
Never really explained is the crime of the main protagonist. Why is it so evil, and who is inflicting the punishment. Him upstairs?
All in all, left me wishing I had not bothered. A few nice ideas stretched to breaking point.
It might have made a nice short story.

The River of Consciousness, Oliver Sacks: 2020 #7

An engaging set of essays, mostly on aspects of consciousness. How we perceive time to pass. Memory. Creativity. Feelings of disorder.
Good use of footnotes to keep the flow going, but allowing the reader to delve a little deeper if they wish. Full of good examples.
Clear, fun writing.
It showed Sacks to be full of curiosity, prolific, a man who had an idea of who he wanted to be, and knew what inspired him, from an early age. A man who kept notebooks to record his thoughts. This book even published, on his instruction, after his death. A little bit inspiring.

The Shepherd’s Hut, Tim Winton: 2020 #6

Another Aus fiction, and with similar themes to last one – domestic violence, independence, caring for loved ones.
Engaging prose, inside the protagonist’s head.
I didn’t get why there was so much detail about the journey, I know it’s a bit of an off-road trip, but so much detail, especially about comings and goings. Going, coming back, going again, coming back again…
Great characters. Showing where they stand by action not words, especially telling given one character’s reveal of an opinion later in the book.

Geek Manifesto, Mark Henderson: 2020 #4

Geek Manifesto argues we should include scientific method, and have respect for scientific opinion in all walks of life. It is full of examples of how failing to do this has led to poor decisions that waste public funds and even endanger lives.

I agree with the concept, and I liked the ideas for promoting critical, science-based thinking, like Skeptics in the pub (p 26) to encourage critical thinking, and the Harvard suggestion (p 85) for a prize to politicians who admit they were wrong.

I liked the aims of changing public and political opinion for the better, and fighting injustice, such as targetting science-minded constituencies with small, beatable majorities. Or the focus on getting scientists and science-minded lay people to actively engage where they see science is being ignored or picked at selectively to promote a political agenda. Sites like Fishbarrel that searches the internet for false medical claims, and Pledgebank to mobilise support for action.

I struggled with the view throughout that science is always right, always good. The book is very clear on how science self-checks, is peer-reviewed, and revises its opinion in the light of new evidence. But there are not many examples of science getting it wrong. It supports animal experimentation as best method available, but that has not always been effective to prevent dangerous pharmaceuticals getting to market. What about introducing cane toads to Australia – was science was involved in that decision? There’s a chapter at the end about Green politics being driven by an ideological approach of reducing consumerism, rather than allowing growth and ‘business as usual’ capitalism. I don’t see why the book does not tackle the science of population growth – it accepts that growth will happen and growth is the best way to deal with it.

Bit of a grind to get through – more like lengthy journalism than a manifesto – but overall worth it.

 

Reading 2019 – 2020

Here’s what 2019 looked like. I need to more than double my reading to hit target of 52 books. Maybe if I read shorter books? Crowds and Power, and A Dirty Little War were long reads, the latter very hard emotionally too. Still, sorry to see not many others have read it (or at least reported it on Goodreads).