Whilst I’m waiting for the new year to fumble around and then enter in a fanfare of bangs, flashes and general destruction of the atmosphere, and as I’ve just failed to do what I wanted with this post, I thought I’d get into the spirit of the age by writing an extremely long sentence that would end up explaining that I might as well follow Grrlscientist’s lead and write a five books I wish I hadn’t read meme. They’re all from the last year, so hopefully next year will be better…
1. Multivariate Bayesian Statistics by Daniel B. Rowe. OK, obscure stats stuff, but not how to do it. The writing isn’t great, and most of the book consists of turning the same handles to get a few equations. Actual use of the methods is relegated to some short examples. What was really frustrating was that one of the main reasons I wanted to read the book was to see how to deal with a problem called non-identifiability (in essence, solving xy=1 for x and y), but this was not even mentioned. Overall, the book is pretty useless.
2. In Defence of Christianity by Brian Hebblethwaite. I got 60 pages through this before giving up. I’ve been reading so much atheist stuff on the web that I wanted to read some “proper” apologetics. I wasn’t expecting to agree with what was written, but I was hoping to get some feel for the arguments. What I got was academic in-fighting. I couldn’t be bothered to continue.
3. Statistical Genetics: gene mapping through linkage and association by Neale et al. I was asked to review this, but I keep on finding I lack the willpower to continue reading. The first problem is that the authors seem oblivious to any organism other that man. So, all the useful plant and animal stuff gets ignored. Second, the statistical philosophy goes no further than evil p-values, so we’re apparently not meant to see how big an effect of a gene is. Third, it misses out all the exciting stuff (the word “Bayesian” isn’t in the index!). I have a few other grouches, but they may be because I’m hte wrong audience for the book.
4. Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome by John Sanford. This book caused a but of excitement in creationist circles, and it’s easy to see why. Sanford is a geneticist (he invented biolistics) who is now a Young Earth Creationist. His argument is that the human genome is degrading, and selection can’t do anything to stop it. The arguments are so awful that one reader, who studies rhetoric, disappeared for about 6 months, and still hasn’t fully recovered. I really should write a full review, just so that no one else has to. But I’d have to read it again first. If I disappear from NN for a month, you’ll know what happened. Please alert the emergency counselling services.
5. Evolution’s Eye Susan Oyama. I think she might have had some vaguely interesting idea, but I can’t remember what it was. Another one I gave up on. I guess the problem was that there was very little biology in this book about evolution – it was words which didn’t seem to go anywhere.
OK, folks. What reading did you fail to enjoy in 2008?