Three from much earlier this year.
In non-fiction, Charles Wheelan’s Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from Data. Professor does stats for dummies. Lots of baseball. I kind of like baseball and there are some amazing things being done with numbers in baseball. But mostly it’s the old standbys, drug research and the large scale health surveys with a little terrorist tracking, some SATs and grades, and a soupcon of beer. Yeah, the beer and brewing stuff is interesting. All in all, dull. So I’m still looking for something that’s interesting enough to make the basics stick in my head for more than 20 minutes.
I had much better luck with The Best Science Writing Online 2012. edited by Jennifer Ouellette. A curated collection of the best of a year’s worth of blogs, columns, and essays published on-line. We’re incredibly lucky to have so much good writing on science available to us. There isn’t a field of pursuit in which there aren’t at least two or three well written sources for the enthusiastic amateur to follow along. Open sources science is at it’s best in the new science journalism.
No matter what your favorite field there’s bound to be something in here for you. Maryn McKenna talks about public health, Rob Dunn about insects, and Ann Finkbeiner about science itself. Better yet you’re probably going to find something here that you’ve never seen before — like the church forests of Ethiopia described by T. Delene Beeland. Tens of thousands of islands of Afromontane forests protecting and protected by churches. Some may be as many as 16 centuries old. They are a thing I’d never heard of, and that I’m grateful to know about now.
In fiction, Six-Gun Snow White. Catheryn Valente revisits an old tale in a novella set in the wild west (and mid-west) Rewriting fairy tales is dangerous territory. It goes wrong more often than not. I can’t say that this goes wrong. It just doesn’t quite go right. Nearly, almost, so very close that you can forgive the off notes and leaps and judders but… not quite right. Not because she doesn’t have a very firm grasp on the tale in question. There’s not a fairy tale that Ms. V can’t dissect and rebuild, This time it’s a matter of caring too much that the message be right. And then there’s the matter of not having a grasp on the setting. She doesn’t want to live there, not like she has in all her other retold tales. She did her research, there are silver mines and enslaved miners; misogynistic, slightly stupid cowboys; desolate, paranoid (rightfully) Indians; and a perfectly, morally ambiguous robber baron with a (cliche alert) down trodden wife/step-mother to the child Snow White. Whose real name is neither Snow nor White. But it fails… it falls on its white is not better, step-mothers may be victims themselves, let’s turn all the tropes on their heads sword. Sadly, because it has the best fairy tale mirror ever. One with no magic, only reflections. Note that this is a novella — but the kindle cover price was $5. The hardcover, if you can find it, is fetching $40. I should have such a fan base.