No, no. You've established this. You're supposed to hate on the book.

Actually, no. It only looks that way. Believe it or not, I don't hate everything y'all recommend. So regardless of everything else, thundara and 8bit (damn you, son) have picked some books that I, too, really enjoyed. And let's be honest. We're two for five. And let's be further honest - humanodon kinda hated on Kahneman too.

Well what makes this book so very 60th percentile?

You know Discover Magazine?


Liar. It's like Scientific American for people who have a life.

And an associate's degree.

Shut up. There's good stuff in there, albeit it's often kinda remedial.

Like Popular Science minus the perpetual motion machines.

Not nearly that bad. So look - Discover has a monthly column called "Vital Signs" that's basically a "Mystery Diagnosis" or "Medical Detectives" or whatever except they've been running them since like the '70s. They're anonymous medical professionals (supposedly) describing their whackiest cases. Anyway - Dr. M has done an exceptional job of taking the contentious, technical history of cancer and its treatment and cracking it down into a flowing, conversational "vital signs"-like exploration of all things cancer.

Sounds... dry.

I know! But it totally isn't. Dr. M finds the mystery, the pathos, the frustration, the joy, the politics, the humanity, the tragedy of it all and lays it bare.

For 600 pages.

Okay well he's got a conceit that annoyed me until I decided I couldn't come up with a better method. He basically tells the same period of history over and over again three or four different ways, outlining different aspects. So you kind of get a few different "slices" through medical history: the genetics slice. The chemotherapy slice. The radiation therapy slice. The prevention and epidemiology slice. The politics slice.

I'd get lost.

I did get lost, me. There are a lot of names that come back up and they're all Dr. Somebodyorother. But that's probably 'cuz I listen to my books and I listen to 'em at 2x. Or 3x if they're really boring. This book on Google? It's a 3x book. But I digress. Despite the fact that it's, like, a history of cancer, I found it engaging and interesting and even though I got lost a few times, it was definitely worth the read.

Said the weirdo who actually finished Piketty.

Right. If you have no interest in public health or science, there's no possible way this book will interest you. If you're trying to decide between Emperor and 50 Shades, go with the Twilight slash-fic. But if you enjoy non-fiction in general, this is a great general non-fiction book.

...well shit. Usually I have to remind you to say something nice.

Usually I have to remind me, schizophrenic me. But this is just an overall pleasant, interesting, intriguing book. I hadn't fully realized that cancer is the #1 killer in the United States right now because everything else that used to kill us more often has been cured. I also didn't know that chemotherapy owes its existence to mustard gas. There are some kinda cool James Burke Connections-type... connections... in this book and a lot of appropriately saccharine hand-wringing over, like, real alive-right-now people so that despite all the dry shit, it still hits home. Here's a great quote from the book, ascribed to a journalist: "Statistics are people with the tears wiped away."

This book is still damp, but dry enough that you can make out the fine detail.


Shit, I don't know. I now have Godel Escher Bach on my Kindle. Honestly I probably owe rationalist flagamuffin some Pynchon. We'll see.

I suspect after this wretched fucking Google book I'll want to suck down something fast and easy. I did an Audible deal though and I'm staring down the barrel of Love in the time of Cholera, The Picture of Dorian Gray and It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.

I did download Lucifer's Hammer. but that was mostly for my wife. I've read it four times.

Maybe I'll go for 5.


I just finished Dataclysm, the book from that guy who runs the OkCupid blog. If you're looking for a light statistics-y read, it's a nice one, although I liked Nate Silvers book better as a whole. Wouldn't get it as an audiobook though, there are too many graphs in it for that.

    But that's probably 'cuz I listen to my books and I listen to 'em at 2x. Or 3x if they're really boring.

Finally, your secret unraveled! Personally I cannot bear more than 1.5x before I start to a) hate the way it sounds and b) lose track of what they're saying.

posted 1884 days ago