Library staff recommend: Science and Medicine bestsellers (part 1)

book display

This summer, we’re highlighting parts of our collection that you might not have come across before: popular science titles that you’ll find peppered throughout the library shelves. Over the past few weeks, Library and LTS staff have been reading and reviewing a selection of books: many of which are now on display by the helpdesk for you to borrow. You can also browse our hand-picked selection here: http://wke.lt/w/s/q3KeB

Take a look at some of our recommended reads below. You can view part 2 of our book reviews here.

 

Why we sleep : the new science of sleep and dreams by Matthew Walker

There will be something to astonish you almost every time you pick it up… I’d recommend this book to everyone.

This brilliant book is packed with incredible facts about the benefits of a good night’s sleep and the consequences of not getting enough good-quality sleep. Matthew Walker, a sleep specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, shows how sleep can improve everything from memory to the efficacy of the flu jab, not to mention productivity at work, mood and even blood sugar levels. He also explains that driving while sleep-deprived can be more dangerous than driving drunk, and that (unfortunately) a weekend lie-in can’t completely compensate for a lack of sleep during the week.  The book is written in a very accessible way that is neither too technical nor overly simplified, which makes it an easy read despite it being absolutely full of information. There will be something to astonish you almost every time you pick it up, and you’ll want to start improving your sleep straight away – handily, the book also includes a few tips on how to do just that. I’d recommend this book to everyone. In Matthew Walker’s words, “sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day”, and that is something we can all benefit from.

Georgina Coles
Information Assistant

 

Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors by Susan Sontag

Recommended for medical historians or anyone interested in the history of medicine.

First published 40 years ago, Sontag examines the euphemisms, myths and metaphors that surround diseases such as TB, cancer and AIDS. In obituaries, the expression ‘she died after a long illness’ is often a euphemism for ‘she died of breast cancer’. This is because cancer attacks parts of the body that can, to this day, be embarrassing to acknowledge (e.g. breast, colon, testicles). A particular strength of the book is its debunking of the psychological aspects of disease. This relates to the myth that TB, cancer or AIDS sufferers are somehow to blame for contracting their disease. Sontag tracks a line from the ancient Greeks through to the Victorians where disease is perceived as a judgement on the behaviour or morality of the sufferer. And before we gloat about how much more civilised and reasoned we are today, one only has to recall that is was just over 30 years ago (at the height of the AIDS crisis) that singer Donna Summer allegedly remarked that AIDS was God’s punishment to gay men.

Lawrence Jones
Content & Digital Infrastructure Manager

 

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

A great read for anyone who has an interest in debunking medical nonsense. This book will equip you with the skills to see through the ‘Bad Science’ filling our world whilst still managing to be both funny and entertaining.

Ben Goldacre is a medical doctor, academic, campaigner and bestselling author; his first book Bad Science encompasses all of these by picking apart the ‘Bad Science’ that is filling our lives, whether it comes from the media, advertising or the pharmaceutical industry.

Bad Science is split into two sections: the first focusses on how research is carried out and reported before walking through some notable cases of misleading science including an interesting review of the placebo effect and the smearing of the MMR vaccine all the way to a personal experiment with an ‘Aqua Detox’ and a Barbie doll.

The aim is to explain how not only media and marketing mislead us but also how pharmaceutical companies skew clinical findings. Full of facts and humour in equal measure, Bad Science will not only equip you with the skills to spot the questionable scientific claims filling the world but will also probably make you laugh along the way.

Kerry Dixon
Learning Technologist

 

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

If you are a fan of true crime or are in any way interested in the complexities of human behaviour, this is very much worth a read.

Ronson’s book begins with a mystery: someone has been sending peculiar packages to academics across the world containing a book crammed with cryptic messages. With the mystery seemingly unsolvable, Ronson is brought on board to help crack the case and his pursuit of the book’s origins leads him on a funny – but often troubling – journey that unravels what it means to be ‘mad’.

Underpinning most of the book is Ronson’s exploration of the Psychopathy Checklist; which he uses when interviewing a number of individuals who arguably exhibit psychopathic traits: from the head of a Haitian death squad to the CEO of an American manufacturing company. The most intriguing character for me is ‘Tony’, an offender who’s plan to ‘fake madness’ to get out of a prison sentence backfired when he found himself locked up in Broadmoor indefinitely. Interspersed amongst these stories are examples of Ronson’s own battles with anxiety, which offer welcome relief to some of the quite grisly content.

While the book is clearly well-researched, some aspects of the storytelling do feel unbalanced and over reliant on the more sensational case studies in the field. It’s also occasionally guilty of offering a superficial look at some aspects of psychopathy, so I’d advise casting a critical eye over any conclusions you draw from the material explored. Nevertheless, it is a fun and entertaining read and if it’s sparked your interest in the field (as it has for me), you may find yourself looking into more authoritative texts to satisfy your curiosity.

Beth Jackson
Liaison Support Librarian (Medicine and Biomedical Sciences)

EDIT:
(9th August 2018) One of our Twitter followers highlighted a response to Ronson’s book by Robert D. Hare, who’s work (and checklist) are featured heavily in the text. For balance, we’d certainly recommend reading his reflections on the book here. We’d like to share another thank you to the follower who brought it to our attention, it made for an entertaining read and echoed many of the concerns we couldn’t include in our word count!

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