Monthly Archives: February 2019

*** The Misinformation Age by Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall

Using simple models for how we can influence others in our network, The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread shows how ideas can spread, including misinformed ones. The authors are professors of philosophy of science so there are many scientific examples, but not just that. And unlike Connected, this book’s diagram are pleasantly laid out and therefore much more understandable. The demonstration of how propagandists can spread fake news is particularly chilling.

The weakest portion of the book is the (very short) one with solutions to the problem. The first encourages scientists to create joint studies, which is a lovely idea, but pretty unrealistic considering the pressure to publish, I think, and the others are no more likely to happen.


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Filed under Non fiction

** The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography is an impressionistic memoir consisting of discrete moments of the author’s life, in no particular order, with some gems, as when a store owner belatedly realizes that he ran out of the only kind of popsicles her dying mother liked or when she finds, in an emergency, “I had no choice but to have energy”. But it will probably appeal especially to readers and writers, as she mixes in many reflection about writers that can only make sense if you have experience with the writers yourself.


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Filed under True story

* Connected by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler

Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives  explores how our ability to form tight networks makes us susceptible to mass hysteria, contagious suicides, or losing weight together. It also shows how understanding networks can help fight STDs or smoking.  Too bad the illustrations of said networks are poor ! Also, with a 2009 copyright the influence of online networks is presented as a new thing, worthy of consideration. Indeed.

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Filed under New fiction, Non fiction

** The New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke


All is not well in New Iberia, LA, as corpses pile up, grotesquely arranged as elaborate tarot cards. The New Iberia Blues stars a long-time detective, with PTSD from Vietnam, several dead wives, and a conviction that evil is to be expected. There are ghosts, mob killers, severely abused children, crooked cops. The plot is twisted and mostly very, very dark. Too dark for me!

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Filed under Mystery

*** My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, The Serial Killer kills her boyfriends, lots of them, and her sister helps clean up. Her sister is a nurse, and as she takes care of a comatose patient, she just has to tell someone. Who better than the near-dead patient?

It’s all very funny, despite the bodies and the patients!

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Filed under New fiction

** A Dangerous Woman by Susan Ronald

Florence Gould, as portrayed in A Dangerous Woman: American Beauty, Noted Philanthropist, Nazi Collaborator – The Life of Florence Gould is a fascinating, if often repulsive woman whose avowed quest for money succeeded beyond her early dreams, I’m sure, as she became fabulously rich by cleverly leveraging her second husband’s money into hotels, casinos, and collaboration with the Nazis. She managed to work around that, too, and keep up her status as a philanthropist and donor to the Met in New York (perhaps recycling her ill-gotten paintings there?)

The book spends a lot of time trying to untangle a money-laundering scheme she was involved in during WWII, but the rest flows better. Today, she would be the head of Enron, perhaps?

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Filed under True story

** The Last Lobster by Christopher White


The reproductive cycle of the lobster depends, a lot, on the temperature of the water, which is why there are no more lobsters off New York City but the Maine fisheries are booming, or at least they were, as Canadian waters warm up, too.  The Last Lobster: Boom or Bust for Maine’s Greatest Fishery? goes fishing with the Maine lobstermen (the rare women doing that job call themselves lobstermen, too), explains the rather long supply chain from them to our plates, and desserts about climate change. I most enjoyed the visits with the lobstermen. It’s pretty rough sailing, tough and dangerous work, and it also starts ungodly early.

It’s also clear that placing reasonable limits on fishing would help everyone, and some cities have tried to implement local regulations that work surprisingly well, at least if the water temperature would stay constant. And lobstermen have done well expanding their reach into the supply chain, which requires ingenuity and very different skills than those required on the boat.

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Filed under New fiction