A book worth reading

… or more accurately, three of them! This week Emma Jane Hogbin (who, I’m impressed to find has her own wikipedia page and Google search identity thing) asked for recommendations of non-fiction books for her niece. I made some suggestions and thought I would share them with you lucky people too (using affiliate links, natch.)

The Secrets of Station X by Michael Smith describes life at Bletchley Park, as the collection of academics, military staff and eccentrics went about breaking Nazi codes during the second world war. But this is not a dry study of cryptography. The author uses interviews with people who served there, relating what life was like in the huts and strange-looking manor house. Winston Churchill is quoted as saying that the work of Bletchley Park shortened the war by several years, which of course equates to many thousands, if not millions, of lives. It is a tragedy that many of the people who contributed to the work of Bletchley Park were not recognised for it in their lifetimes.

She-Wolves by Helen Castor details the struggle of four women to be an effective ruler of England in the centuries before Mary I. Although keeping a track of the convoluted and entangled family trees is a challenge, the author ties her four subjects together neatly, drawing parallels where appropriate and contrasting where not. I particularly enjoyed reading about Matilda, whose fight to reign over England led to a period called, marvellously, The Anarchy. (Now there’s a title for a historical Doctor Who story…) Reading about kings, queens and armies racing around parts of the country near to me, particularly Winchester, Southampton and Titchfield Abbey, gave the often gruesome or tragic events extra poignancy.

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre has been out for a good few years now, but is still hugely disturbing. The author describes in detail the reasons that you shouldn’t just accept what you read in newspapers about scientific advances. The focus of the book is medical practice, but the techniques demonstrated can be applied easily to all sciences. Sometimes it’s bad journalism, sometimes it’s bad companies, sometimes it’s bad workmanship, but it all adds up to a system that often represents the interests of everyone other than the patients.

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    2 Responses to A book worth reading

    1. datatec says:

      your “The Secrets of Station X by Michael Smith” link is broken, it points to:

    2. Tony says:

      Thanks datatec, all fixed now!

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