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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
Whoops!: Why Everyone Owes Everyone And No One Can Pay - John Lanchester This brilliant, scary little book is the first account I've seen of the credit crunch which truly made sense. I read it in a day, and, if you're at all interested in politics, economics or current affairs, I can't recommend it too highly. Lanchester is an acclaimed novelist, which shows in the witty and stylish writing; here, he also proves that he's a great investigative journalist.

The credit crunch was a first-magnitude disaster, and at several points I found myself comparing Whoops! to the magisterial report written after the Columbia Shuttle crash in 2003. The Columbia Investigation Board looked at the accident from three perspectives. First, they had to determine the proximate cause of the accident, in engineering terms: what specific mechanical failure made the Shuttle break up over Texas and crash? Second, they wanted to know what went wrong at the managerial level: how did this problem slip through the elaborate net of safety checks that preceded the launch? Third, and most far-reachingly, they tried to understand the problem at the level of the whole NASA organizational ethos. Why was management focussing on the wrong targets, to the point where safety standards could erode and allow a catastrophe like this to happen?

The rest of this review is in my book If Research Were Romance and Other Implausible Conjectures