Avowed Anti-Capitalist Screed Still Highlights All Too Real Issues. And these issues absolutely need to be more openly discussed. If you dismiss the blinders to anything other than the set premise and worldview the author comes to this research with and look at the points he raises instead, this is a solid examination of at least some of the ways the central Appalachia region of (primarily) Kentucky / (some) West Virginia / (some) Virginia has transformed from being driven by a coal economy to now being driven by a prison economy – largely on much of the exact same land. With a bibliography clocking in at 38% of the ARC I read *even with* the author conducting much of the research and interviews himself, the scholarship within his worldview is largely beyond contestation. This truly is one of the most well documented ARCs I’ve come across in nearly 800 books (across all genres, fiction and nonfiction). Ultimately the star deduction here was because the author never leaves his particular biases to even make strawmen of opposing views, much less actually examine whether they may explain the issues at hand better than his own views do. Still, for what it is, this truly is a remarkable text that covers a particular topic that few others do. Very much recommended.
This review of Coal Cages Crisis by Judah Schept was originally written on April 16, 2022.
Interesting Ideas Marred By Author’s Dogma. This is one of those books that presents a lot of interesting ideas, and indeed Part I in particular, where Rose is describing the problem and how it works, is quite remarkable. Yet even through this section, there are elements of Rose’s partisan blinders (though also some refreshingly positive signs). For one, Rose, while spending an entire book speaking to the ills of conformity, repeatedly appeals to conformity to claim that “the science is settled” on “climate” “science”. Ummm… Yet in the positive column, it is exceedingly rare for someone of Rose’s political persuasion to cite the libertarian-based Cato Institute, and Rose actually cites this very organization within this text. It is really in the final third of the book though where Rose’s political blinders become most obvious, often citing things in support of his overall narrative seemingly not noticing that doing so fails Occam’s Razor – there are far simpler, and therefore more likely correct, answers to some of these things (such as the rise in violent crime during the 2020 COVID lockdowns). Still, Rose actually does present quite a bit here that is absolutely worthy of consideration and discussion, even if he is off at times in certain areas. Very much recommended.
This review of Collective Illusions by Todd Rose was originally written on October 31, 2021.
Interesting And Well Documented Read. In this book, Duffy shows that what the media so often (and so lazily) proclaims to be “generational” divides… usually aren’t really. Yes, there is a generational component to at least some things, but time period (specifically for that “coming of age” period but also more generally throughout the individual’s life) and life progression play equally critical roles, and in many cases *more* critical roles, in showing how a particular group of people generally feel about a given issue. One of the things that makes the book a bit interesting is that even while presenting this much more balanced view of this particular field, Duffy exposes himself as a “climate” alarmist/ extremist, either not knowing about or outright denying similar work to his own in that particular field. (Ie, work showing that even though media lazily points to one thing, there are actually several different things at play and in some cases far more critical to the issue at hand. One work here on that topic similar to Duffy’s on this one is Unsettled by Stephen Koonin, released just 6 months or so prior to this book’s publication).
Still, this book is truly a remarkable work in its field (at least to someone who is *not* a fellow academic or in that field at all) and seems to be fairly comprehensive in its focus, even as its primary and secondary national emphases are the UK and the US, respectively. It looks at many, many issues from the social to the political and even to the personal, from housing to gender identity and sexual activity to political leanings and many, many more. This is also a fairly well documented text, with its bibliography clocking in at about 32% of the overall text – while not the *highest* I’ve noted in my work with advanced review copies, easily among the higher echelons there. Very much recommended.
This review of The Generation Myth by Bobby Duffy was originally written on September 14, 2021.
Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. On the one hand, if this text is true, the words often attributed to Mark Twain have likely never been more true. If this text is true, you can effectively toss out any and all probaballistic claims you’ve ever heard. Which means virtually everything about any social science (psychology, sociology, etc). The vast bulk of climate science. Indeed, most anything that cannot be repeatedly accurately measured in verifiable ways is pretty much *gone*. On the other, the claims herein could be seen as constituting yet another battle in yet another Ivory Tower world with little real-world implications at all. Indeed, one section in particular – where the author imagines a super computer trained in the ways of the opposing camp and an unknowing statistics student – could be argued as being little more than a straight up straw man attack. And it is these very points – regarding the possibility of this being little more than an Ivory Tower battle and the seeming straw man – that form part of the reasoning for the star deduction. The other two points are these: 1) Lack of bibliography. As the text repeatedly and painfully makes the point of astounding claims requiring astounding proof, the fact that this bibliography is only about 10% of this (advance reader copy, so potentially fixable before publication) copy is quite remarkable. Particularly when considering that other science books this reader has read within the last few weeks have made far less astounding claims and yet had much lengthier bibliographies. 2) There isn’t a way around this one: This is one *dense* book. I fully cop to not being able to follow *all* of the math, but the explanations seem reasonable themselves. This is simply an extremely dense book that someone that hasn’t had at least Statistics 1 in college likely won’t be able to follow at all, even as it not only proposes new systems of statistics but also follows the historical development of statistics and statistical thinking. And it is based, largely, on a paper that came out roughly when this reader was indeed *in* said Statistics 1 class in college – 2003. As to the actual mathematical arguments presented here and their validity, this reader will simply note that he has but a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science – and thus at least *some* knowledge of the field, but isn’t anywhere near being able to confirm or refute someone possessing a PhD in some Statistics-adjacent field. But as someone who reads many books across many genres and disciplines, the overall points made in this one… well, go back to the beginning of the review. If true, they are indeed earth quaking if not shattering. But one could easily see them to just as likely be just another academic war. In the end, this is a book that is indeed recommended, though one may wish to assess their own mathematical and statistical knowledge before attempting to read this polemic.
This review of Bernoulli’s Fallacy by Aubrey Clayton was originally written on April 5, 2021.
Interesting and Applicable. This is a truly remarkable work that traces the sociological and biological impetuses for and restrictions on migration at levels from the individual through the species. Shah does a superb job of combining history and science to make her case, and even impeaches at least a few organizations currently in the headlines along the way – even while clearly having no way of knowing that she was doing so, as the book was written before they became so prominent more recently. Spanning from the guy that developed the modern taxonomic system through late breaking issues with the Trump Presidency, Shah shows a true depth to her research and builds a largely compelling case. Very much recommended.
This review of The Next Great Migration by Sonia Shah was originally written on April 10, 2020.
Disappointment. British. Millenial. Sociologist. How you feel about the prior three words, perhaps possibly in combination, will very likely determine how highly you rate this book. As this is a three star review, one can easily see that I myself fall into this. I *am* a Millenial that has presented at a sociological conference while in college, despite being a Computer Science major, though I am admittedly American and generally have as much use for Britons as I do of anyone else. That is, if I don’t directly know you, I don’t particularly care about you – either for your better or for your ill, though I generally hope we all experience good things rather than bad ones.
All of that to say that the text at hand is a solid conversational topic, and for the most part an intriguing examination that requires a deeper thinking. HOWEVER, there are key points where the author’s own prejudices and lack of knowledge shine through almost blindingly, and ultimately in his attempt to get away from what he calls “package deals”… he winds up creating “package deals” of his own. For example, conflating anti-abortion beliefs with gun control beliefs, rather than their more natural anti-capital punishment and anti-war beliefs. Recommended, but think hard about what you are reading.
This review of Vexed by James Mumford was originally written on February 11, 2020.