Looks good on paper…

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Science writing

I am not, as a general rule, a huge non-fiction fan. This is a bit unusual in my line of work (tangentially political), where most of my colleagues mainly read political biographies and the like. I have exceptions, though. One is European history, particularly Spanish/French. The other is science writing. Popular science books, yes, but also Scientific American, New Scientist, etc. I mentioned in an earlier post that I used to study physics, but I am by nature really a maths nerd, and I came to Coursera first and foremost for the maths courses (Stanford Game Theory, in case anyone’s interested).

Two things have caught my eye today on the science writing front. The first is that I spotted in WHSmiths a new one of those expensive ‘by in weekly instalments’ magazines on maths, which is essentially a hard-back book by Marcus du Sautoy on maths that might appeal to a broad audience (this edition was about codes, how barcodes work, etc.). It was £10. This sort of sits uneasily with me, because that’s quite a lot of money, and although it’s a hard-back book, it didn’t need to be. It seems to price some people out, and that struck me as a little sad.

The second was much more positive, and from the Guardian (whose praises I do not always sing)! It was an extract from a new book, Bad Pharma, by Ben Goldacre (he of Bad Science) about the pharmaceutical industry and whether its products really meet the health needs of society. It is in a similar vein as the Jacky Law book Big Pharma, from a few years ago now, and books such as Richard Bentall’s Doctoring the Mind, which specifically explores the psychopharmacological industry. At the risk of sounding a bit batty, like those vaccine conspiracy theorists, I am dying to read this. From the look of the extract, it seems it will be well-researched and offering some real insight into how the industry works and is regulated. So, this is my tip for non-fiction reading over the approaching autumnal nights! I’m going to go and pre-order a copy on Amazon right this minute.

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