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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


Игрушки / Igrushki (Solnyshko) - Agniya Barto I have been thinking about trying to improve my utterly miserable Russian, and when Andrew asked me what I'd like as an exchange for a couple of trashy French novels I wondered if he could send some easy children's books. This is the least challenging of them: a board book for two-year-olds, eight pages long, with a little poem on each double page. Unfortuately, I still find it very difficult. I just don't have any vocabulary to speak of, though I do at least know the basics of Russian grammar.

What is the right way to approach a book like this, if you want to get something out of it? I have been discussing the problem with Not, who has finally been persuaded to read the wonderful Ainsi va la vie. Not's approach is to Google-translate the French to find out what it means, then try to match up the English words to the French ones. I have told her several times that I don't think this is correct, since you end up associating the French too closely with English. But last night she caught me doing the same thing with Игрушки.

"Well, it's different!" I explained feebly. "French is easy, Russian is hard!" But I was in the wrong, and I knew it. I closed down Google Translate and made a couple of burned offerings to the language gods while I tried to figure out a better method.

I have now decided to see if I can get in touch with my inner Russian two-year-old: little kids like to hear the same story over and over again until they know it more or less by heart, so I am going to do the same thing. I am curious to see if it helps, and will post in due course with an update.

Thank you for the book, Andrew!