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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten

The Quran

The Quran - Anonymous Have other people noticed that the Qur'an is listed here as being by Allah, whereas the Bible is by "Anonymous"? If I were a Christian, I think that would leave me feeling just a little annoyed.

Since I posted this review, the entry has been changed, and the Qur'an is now also listed as being by "Anonymous"!

Well, whoever did that is a braver man or woman than I am. I admire your chutzpah. So to speak.

And now it's "Allah" again!

My impression is that the Muslims and the Infidels are pretty evenly matched here. Looks like it'll be a close game.

Mere days later, and now we're back to "Anonymous"!

I'm particularly impressed by the good sportsmanship both sides are displaying. Who says a religious war can't be carried out in a civilized and courteous manner?

In a surprise move, the author has now been changed yet again to 'ALLAH "the creator" (As believed in Islam)'. Match that if you can, Infidels!

"Anonymous" once more, but to be honest it seems rather unimaginative. Come on, Infidels, you can come up with something better than this, can't you? What would Dawkins do?

Back to "Allah" again. I clicked on His page and was immediately confronted with some interesting options. I could become a fan! (I was surprised to see that Allah didn't have any fans. Evidently I'd been misinformed). I was also asked if He had a blog, and on reading further discovered that
As a librarian, you can create a blog for this author even if they're not on Goodreads by adding the feed URL (Atom or RSS) of a blog they keep elsewhere. This will make summaries of their blog posts available here.
Unfortunately, I don't know of any blog kept by Allah, but if I discover one I'll make sure I use this feature.

Oh, and by the way He doesn't have any upcoming events either. Is this correct, or merely a reflection of the fact that He exists outside of space and time?

Ho hum... "Anonymous" is back. He/she has written a whole lot more books than Allah, but also lacks fans. Well, that's one thing they have in common...

Flash update: the author has now been changed to "God"!

This boldly ecumenical move impresses me. God, I learn from His Homepage, is the author not only of the Quran but also of The Gospels of Jesus (KJV) with Search Every Verse Navigation, Optimized for E-Readers, where He is credited as the author and King James as the translator. He has not written any other books. Well, I've never pretended to understand theology, but I recognize new thinking when I see it. I hope someone more competent than I am is already preparing an exegesis.

The page ends with the following rather intriguing prayer:
Is this you? Let us know. If not, help out and invite God to Goodreads.

I'm disappointed to say that we've now got "Anonymous" again. Whoever did that should be ashamed of themselves. "God" was inspired, this is just dull.

What other possible candidates could there be? Muhammad (PBUH)? The Angel Gabriel? Abu Bakr? Muhammad (PBUH), Bakr, Uthman and Hafsa? We need some fresh ideas here.

After several months of inactivity, we have another change, but it was worth waiting for: "Allâh (God Almighty)".

Brilliant! Isn't that circumflex just to die for?

The Infidels, with their characteristic rapier wit, have changed the author back to "Anonymous". Sorry, but I am not impressed. And don't give me that Goodreads Policy crap. Plenty of holy books are not listed as being by Anonymous, for example The Book of Mormon and The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I look forward to seeing the Muslims' next move - I think they have the initiative.

The Muslims score again with "ALLAH" (all caps), who has also written Study the Noble Qur'an Word-for-Word Volume 2 and Study the Noble Qur'an Word-for-Word Volume 3. Mysteriously, there is no Volume 1. ALLAH has three quotes, of which the first is "لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الل" ("There is no god but ALLAH and Mohammad is his prophet").

Now that's class. Okay, Infidels, let's see if you can change the author to something that's not yet another "Anonymous". I dare you. I double dare you.

Boo! A few days later, and "Anonymous" is back. Honestly, it's enough to make you want to convert to Islam.

Allah has returned again, but in a confusingly different form! This time, I found He was only the author of the Qur'an and had two fans, Nabila and Tarek. I decided that it was prudent to become a fan as well.

I checked to see which authors were like Allah, and was startled to see that the list included Alexandre Dumas and Italo Calvino. I'm sure it's greatly to their credit.

That didn't last long. Notgettingenough, whose opinions I greatly respect, felt that it was inappropriate for me to be a fan of Allah. On reconsideration, I agree with her. I have cancelled my brief fanship and hope that both parties will understand it was an honest mistake.

The Infidels only have one idea, and here it is again. Sigh...

The Muslims are back, and score another fine goal with "الله". That's "Allah" in Arabic script for all you people who can't be bothered to check it on Google Translate.

Contrary to what certain skeptics may say, religious belief appears to give you imagination. Go Islam! !الله أكبر

Without waiting for the Infidels to reply, the Muslims score again with "الله جلَّ جلاله". The person responsible has even created a cool avatar for His homepage. Nice work!

Admit it, Infidels: you have been comprehensively outplayed here. The classiest thing to do would be to have some suitable representative come forward and formally concede. That might at least win you back some respect.

The Infidels refuse to admit defeat, and come back for the ninth time (I counted) with the single move they know how to make. Though, confusingly, the title of the book is now given only in Arabic script.

If it's an attempt at a compromise solution, I very much doubt that the Muslims will buy it. Watch this space.

I presume that the Infidels' peace overture was scornfully rejected. They have retaliated by changing the title to Roman script only, even removing the apostrophe.

Cheeky! This flagrantly provocative gesture will surely not go unpunished.

After 40 days of inactivity (significant or what?) the Muslims strike back with another "Allah". I suspect that the move is deeper than it looks, since His new homepage contains a long quote in Arabic referring to several passages in the Qur'an. Maybe someone better acquainted with these matters can explain it to the rest of us?

A little more than a day later, it's "Anonymous" again.

I think the Infidels have a home side advantage here, which makes me admire the brave and resourceful Muslim hackers all the more. Come on Islam! You can beat those security measures!

"Allah" has returned, and this time after only 21 days away! It looks like the Muslims have recovered from their unexpected loss of form.

Now, the question is how long they can keep possession. Both sides are demonstrating extraordinary tenacity in this long-drawn-out conflict! Quite inspiring to all us wishy-washy agnostics sitting on the sidelines...

The pattern from last time repeats: "Allah" lasts less than a day, and is quickly set back to "Anonymous".

It's no good making excuses any more. The romantic in me wants the exciting, creative Muslims to win, but the facts are more than obvious: however they've managed it, the grimly humorless Infidels have taken their game to a new level. Over the last couple of months, they've been in charge 95% of the time.

Muslims, you need to figure out what the Infidels are doing and stop them. It's as simple as that.

I was about to despair, but Allah is back! Though I am surprised to see that He still only has two fans, the ever-faithful Nabila and Tarek. Truly, their reward will be great.

I do wonder what thoughts Amazon have on this vital question. Which way could the different options push sales in the Muslim world? I imagine they have top analysts crunching the numbers as I write.

Incredible but true: the Infidels have finally come up with a new idea! The author of the Qur'an is now given as "A".

Who is A, I hear you ask? I haven't the slightest notion. The one slim lead we're given is that A has also co-authored Jamba Juice Power with Kirk Perron - possibly a minor prophet, but, to be honest, I'm clutching at straws here.

I don't dare predict what might happen next. Stay tuned.

"A" lasted mere hours, and now it's Allah again. For people who haven't yet looked at His Homepage, there is some interesting theological information:

gender: male
genre: Religion
influences: Almighty Yahweh, Jesus Christ

Oh, and He has now acquired a third fan, Esraa.

MJ claims to have tracked down the hackers. Kyle, Fil and Zain (if you are indeed the people responsible), please take a bow!

An hour after the post above, Abbey and Amritorupa swear that the author was briefly changed to "A Nonny Mouse" - but it only lasted a few minutes before reverting to Allah.

I have never seen so much activity. Has a fatwa been issued? Are Amazon hoping to boost sales of the new Q'indle?

And another hour later, it's Anonymous.

Whatever is going on? Is it the end of the world? I have consulted the Book of Revelation, but all I can find is 22:10:
And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
I suppose that may be a warning against blocking changes to authorship attributions on Goodreads, but I'm not at all sure.

Yesterday, I started reading Richard Burton's translation of the Arabian Nights, and this morning I see that Allah has returned! I must quote Burton's wonderful opening lines:
I was a bit puzzled by the bed, but after a couple of chapters realized that it must be a "carpet-bed", presumably some kind of Middle Eastern futon. Just in case you were also wondering.

The Muslims are having a good week, and Allah (the most merciful, the most magnificent) is now in correct Arabic script again! If you cut and paste into Google Translate and click on the loudspeaker icon, you can even hear how it's pronounced.

There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah the Glorious, the Great! (I understand from Richard Burton that this is the polite Islamic equivalent of our own "Jesus H. Christ!") We're back to Anonymous.

Come on Infidels, you're boring us all to death. But I just know you can do better. Raise your game and make your fellow-atheists proud of their lack of belief!

Allah has returned to Goodreads, and has yet again reorganized His homepage! The opening at any rate looks familiar:


But a little further down, I found this:

I'm sorry, it's more responsibility than I can handle. Someone else will have to take care of it.

And the new author is A... a... a... nonymous. Don't know why, but I just can't stop yawning today. Must have stayed up too late or something.

Looking at the Librarian Edits Page is almost scary. While I was asleep, the author was first changed to "كلام الله جمعه عثمان بن عفان" by Wafa, and then to "Allah الله" by Anwaar. All in all, there are 87 pages of edits.

I hope someone is archiving this priceless cultural document, which surely contains enough material for at least two doctoral dissertations...

An hour later, it's briefly flipped back to "Anonymous" before changing yet again to "'الله aka Allah", and we're now up to 89 pages of edits.

I see it's going to be Another Of Those Days. I should have guessed as much when I saw on Yahoo News that a two-headed calf had been born, a rain of frogs had occurred, and Lady Gaga had been photographed wearing a sensible outfit with flat shoes...

It's all I can do to keep up. Since it'll probably change even before I've finished posting, here's a screenshot I saved from the current version of Allah's Homepage:


Back to Anonymous. Though now I don't know who to root for, since it appears that some Infidels have started ironically supporting Allah. I wish theology was less confusing.

Allah has returned once more! I immediately click to His new Homepage, and find a book ad with the title Earth Is In Dire Trouble.

Just a coincidence, I suppose.

Alhamdulillah! (الحمد لله‎; one of the many useful expressions I have learned from Richard Burton). The Infidels once again change the author to Anonymous, but Islam's ever-vigilant cyberwarriors immediately change it back, even using "Allah Almighty" to show that they, at least, possess imagination and a sense of fun.

I apologize to my atheist friends for my obvious partiality, mais c'est plus fort que moi.