The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (Book Review)

12/08/2013 § Leave a comment

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Stimulated by the systematic delivery to academics of a cryptic book, Jon Ronson investigates the business of madness. Encountering belligerent Scientologists, psychopaths and disgraced and acclaimed psychologists alike, Ronson finds himself empowered with the ultimate psychopath spotting gismo; the Psychopath Test. Ronson’s most engaging anecdotes are regurgitations of the work of others (the Rosenhan experiment being the best example), but he does enlighten the reader to the madness that is inherent in some systems of psychology, as well as its subjects. The Psychopath Test is an entertaining and didactic documentary collection of case studies that will both shock and amuse.

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Orwell’s Cough by John Ross (book review)

04/02/2013 § Leave a comment

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A collection of medically focused mini-biographies of literary greats, most of who are connected by acquaintance and shared ailments. Although comprising some occasionally tenuous theories, Orwell’s Cough is fascinating whether you’re interested in literary or clinical history. It details the development of medicine via profiles of prolific authors plagued by the signature illnesses of bygone creative minds; mental disorder and venereal disease. From a collection of well researched essays Ross has put together a sinuous and gritty read that will enable you to see the writers of your favourite works (and their doctors) in a new, and not altogether flattering, light.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Book Review)

15/02/2012 § Leave a comment

In 1951 Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer on a ‘black ward’ in Baltimore. But her cells lived on. Taken at a time when consent wasn’t required by law Henrietta’s cells, named HeLa, were the first to become immortal in culture. Trillions were produced, helping scientists develop vaccines, cures and millions of dollars. HeLa’s development is paralleled with the hitherto largely unknown woman behind the medicine and the young family she left behind. Scientific elements are explained well and the Lacks’ are elaborately characterised, enamouring the reader to their plight. Despite some overzealous fictionalisations and an author who insists on edifying the reader of her own ingenuity, this book is a great human interest read.

Dark Matter: A Ghost Story by Michelle Paver

17/10/2011 § Leave a comment

Investigate the ‘phobic disorder’ of Jack Miller, a young disenchanted scientist who participates in an ill-fated expedition to the artic in the 1930’s. As his journal’s pages turn the tone alters from excitement to eerie disconcertment amid rumours of his destination’s penchant for ‘bad luck’. As the mission’s members are picked off by fate, the eternal darkness of the arctic begins to permeate Jacks very being. This atmospheric novel’s plot centres upon the value of companionship and the disastrous consequences of isolation. Read this alone by lamplight and you too will begin to wonder at what lurks in the shadows.

C by Tom McCarthy (Book Review)

24/08/2011 § Leave a comment

In ‘C’, McCarthy follows Serge episodically throughout his life; beginning in his family’s estate, which doubles up as a silk factory and school for the deaf, before travelling to Germany for WW1, then London and finally, Egypt. The entire novel feels like an overindulgent introduction, which centres hedonistically on the concept of transmission whilst leaving even its central character deliberately two dimensional and impassive. Serge as a character is merely a vessel for the author’s immoderate and dense philosophical musings. The overly literary style of this novel detracts from its own story telling, leaving the reader distant, unmoved and disengaged.

Flipnosis by Kevin Dutton Review

06/05/2011 § Leave a comment

Dr Kevin Dutton catalogues examples of split-second persuasion or ‘Flipnosis’. Dutton unlocks the secrets of a baby’s face, uncovers dastardly scams and tantalises with analyses of The Psychopath. Flipnosis is an easy read that supplies intriguing anecdotes and entertaining experiments to relay to the amazement of your friends. What Dutton lacks is consistent relevance to his primary theme or the ability to follow through on his allusions to being able to teach the reader to become an expert ‘Flipnotist’. This leaves what is simply a pretty enjoyable regurgitation of other people’s ideas, with a catchy title, but no real purpose.

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