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Books: (In)Frequently Asked Questions

Reviewing books is a hobby I picked up relatively late in my life (in 2001), which is a good excuse for the small number of books on the site. (If you are reading this page in 2010 and there are still fewer than 500 books, then I must have died in the interim.) I do this mostly for fun, but also as a device to forestall the inevitable process of forgetfullness. Finally, some reviews are good places to stick my thoughts and comments on the books and are great for discussions, if any.

Why do you write all these reviews?

Hubris on a grand scale. Seriously though, it started as an effort to keep track of things I read. Then I realized that I was forgetting things to such extent that I was having trouble recalling what a book was about even after seeing its title. I started writing short summaries (indeed, many reviews are still mostly capsule summaries designed to jolt my indolent memory cells). Then I had to prepare for my Ph.D. comprehensive exams, so I kept notes of books I read in preparation for those. These are the origin of the lengthier and critical reviews.

If they are for personal use, why post them?

I was envious of Danny Yee's reviews. Also, I noticed that my unabashedly opinionanted reviews tend to generate email traffic with some thoughful comments (which I deeply cherish) and some idiotic remarks, which I can poke fun at (and also make public for everyone to laugh at).

What are your qualifications?

Cogito, ergo can review. If you are asking about academic credentials, then I have none for most of the topics I want to read and discuss. I have a B.S. in Computer Science and English Literature, which means I can write incomprehensible code in C/C++ with literate comments. I am almost done with my Ph.D. in Political Science, which means I can produce certifiably irreproducible explanations for social phenomena I don't understand complete with fancy tables and figures. I have taken classes in history, philosophy, biology, economics, and a host of other subjects, which means I may (but mostly don't) have a vague clue about the subject matter of the books I read. I am none the wiser after reading them, which should be evident from the reviews.

You ignorant moron, claim X you make in review Y is wrong and every schoolboy can tell you that!

The schoolboys in your locale are very smart.

I disagree with claim X in review Y.

I would love to hear your opinion, if you care to share it.