Sunday salon:

Sunday_salon_2 Some time ago, I attended a Bloggers’ Brunch, and wrote about it here. Two of the people I met are Clare and Irene, who run a website for reading groups called As a result of meeting them, I signed up for their newsletter, the latest edition of which has just arrived. Here are a few highlights:

The recommended title of the month for book groups is Angel by Elizabeth Taylor. I am ashamed to say I have never read this book, but have long wanted to. Here’s an excerpt from the review: "ANGEL is a tale of hubris (a word I feel she would have liked) except that Elizabeth Taylor is kind to her protagonist and, as well as presenting us with an arrogant, selfish and unempathetic Angel, she let us into her innermost hopes and dreams and what could have been written as a satirical, cautionary tale becomes humane and convincing."

The site features an interview with Lloyd Jones, author of Mr Pip, a book which I see from my recent trip to the shops is receiving much exposure due to being a Richard&Judy selection. The book sounds intriguing; here is the first Q/A:

Q: What made you want to write Mister Pip?

A: My stories grow out of certain preoccupations. I start exploring them and after a while story begins to grow and knit some sort narrative. The preoccupations feeding into Mister Pip have much to do with post-colonial culture in the Pacific. Perhaps my working title ‘Inventing the Pacific’ provides the best clue.

This month’s BBC Radio 4 bookclub is today, repeated on Thursday 10 January, in which Alice Sebold discusses her haunting and haunted novel The Lovely Bones (one I have read: loved the first half intensely, found the second half ran out of steam). also points to its review of the recent Costa prizewinner, What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn. Although my earlier trip to the shops was officially to buy knives, a tablecloth, some lightbulbs and a chair, in actual fact my secret mission was to buy a copy of this book. I didn’t write down the title or author before I left the house, assuming that copies would be on prominent display in WHS, Waterstones et al. Not so. I came back without it as I couldn’t remember what it was called or who it was by, and was greeted by blank incomprehension when I asked a WHS assistant if the book was in stock. Oh well, I’ve bookmarked it on Amazon now (a steep £6.25 for a paperback, surprisingly, in view of the standard £3.99 for Richard and Judys). I shouldn’t write "surprisingly", I am sure this is all down to marketing deals concerning pricing, placement and promotion — and Amazon has to compete with whatever the High Street is doing (buy one get one half-price on R&Js) but needn’t bother otherwise.

I digress. Please do check out the newsletter (you can sign up to monthly editions for free): there are competitions, giveaways and plenty of other features. Although the newsletter and site are for UK book groups, there is plenty there for any keen, lone reader to enjoy.

Sunday salon: scientific essays

Sunday_salonCross-posted from Nautilus.

Two collections of Essays appeared in Nature last year epitomizing the ‘big issues’ facing science and society — Connections and Science and Politics . You can now download free digital editions (PDFs) of both these essay series in a simple, one-click operation at the links in the previous sentence.
The Connections series addresses how researchers, from cell biologists to quantum physicists, are struggling to work out how systems involving large numbers of interacting entities work as a whole. In this collection of essays, scientists explain how a systems approach, in parallel with the reductionism that dominated twentieth-century science, promises to yield fresh insight, and in some cases, to challenge the most widely held concepts of their field.
In the nine Science and Politics essays, experienced advisers on science policy to the US, UK and Swedish governments, as well as other senior scientific advisors, reflect on the highs and lows of being at the intersection of science and society. Do scientists devalue their advice to government by emphasizing uncertainty, the series asks, or is there a need for greater humility when science meets public disquiet?
These essays make stimulating reading — I enjoyed each one in the weekly issue of Nature. If you missed them, I encourage you to download these PDF editions for reading at your leisure.