‘Octopuses And Other Brains’

Score: 5/5

I find the study of consciousness fascinating but I wasn’t sure what I’d make of a book that investigated it by examining octopus behaviour. Turns out I enjoyed all the octopus and cephalopod bits of the book more than the consciousness studies.

Octopuses come across as charming, curious, playful creatures. I’ve no idea what I’d make of them if I visited their world, or what they’d make of me. But their camouflage, colour changing, ability to squeeze through improbably tiny holes, and all-too-short lifespan make them come across as wonderful little critters.

It does make a good lens to study consciousness and its evolution. But I got much more fun just learning about octopuses.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘Big Bucket Of Nope’

Score: 2/3

I just didn’t enjoy this. I’m sure that says more about me than the book, but it wasn’t fun. I didn’t like any of the characters, I didn’t care what happened to them, and didn’t really care if I was shown what they did.

The person that recommended this book to me has been incredibly good at picking wonderful books, so this rare miss again makes me think it’s me, not the book.

But I didn’t enjoy it at all.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘Captivating But Quite Long’

Score: 5/5

I enjoyed Wool but it has taken me a while to build up to the next in the trilogy. (Side note: does no-one write standalone science fiction novels any more?) I can’t tell you how long because it looks like I didn’t mention reading it on this here blog. But read it I did. Honest.

This second one is still captivating, and still in a distinct setting. The timeline jumps around a bit, which I found annoying - it’s not a version of the How We Got Here trope but sometimes it feels like it.

I didn’t really feel for any of the people though, while I did in the previous book. I can kinda see why some motivating factors were put in place, but unlike the previous book this felt like pieces being deliberately placed on a chessboard to bring about the outcome the author needed (something which is often true but that I reckon’s best hidden).

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘Compelling, But Still Scary’

Score: 5/5

I enjoyed The Girl With All The Gifts, but maybe more after it had settled a while than at the time. Looking back I think I’ve enjoyed it more than a 4/5 merits.

This is in the same world as TGWATG but it feels a little different. Still enjoyable, just different.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘Didn’t Really Feel It’

Score: 3/5

I enjoyed the first of this trilogy but this one just didn’t really grab me as much. It felt a bit unsurprising and formulaic. Maybe the third will be better.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘Coping With Extreme Numbers’

Score: 5/5

I think I could read Brian Kernighan’s writing about anything. One of the reasons C did so well as a language was, I think, because of the straightforward way Kernighan & Ritchie’s book ‘The C Programming Language’ explained it all, and continued to serve as a useful reference once read. (When I started programming professionally, we always had a copy of K&R within easy reach.)

This book isn’t about programming though. It’s about trying to make sense of numbers.

Some of the fun bits of the book are headlines and stories from newspapers, where the numbers... just don’t add up. (Sometimes literally.) There’s a tendency to take numbers at face value without really thinking about whether the numbers could be wrong or what the implications would be if they were right. That’s the author’s hobby-horse here - that we should think about the numbers more.

My favourite part of the book covers Fermi estimation - making reasonable guesses at knowable parameters to come up with rough answers to tricky questions. For example, the classic Fermi estimation problem is (I think) how many piano tuners work in Chicago? On the face of it, most people wouldn’t know and would struggle to come up with any answer, but if you break it down into smaller questions that can reasonably be estimated (such as: How many people live in Chicago? What percentage of them own a piano? How long does it take to tune a piano?) you’ll generally get close enough to a decent answer.

That’s only one part of the book though - there are plenty of other fun chapters covering many of the fallacies we humans have when numbers are involved.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘A Good Pandas Introduction’

Score: 4/5

Since I was starting to learn Python, I wanted to learn a bit more about its data processing and visualising aspects. Just about everyone in Python-land uses Pandas for this kind of thing so I wanted a quick way to get up to speed on it too.

The good news - this is a decent introduction to it. The bad news - it’s such a huge area that the book just can’t give complete coverage. It does a good job covering the basics - just about any data processing task can use it as a jumping-off point. But then again, just about any data processing task will require some level of thinking and programming that’s not quite in the book.

And that’s when the fun starts, I suppose!

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘Good Introduction To Python’

Score: 5/5

I figured since it seems everyone else knows Python now I should probably try it out myself. I wanted a quick way to find out about the language and how it worked, but so, so many books on Python are introductions to programming. I can program (a bit) so I wanted an introduction to Python, not an introduction to basic programming concepts.

It took a bit of hunting to find a book that wasn’t a simplistic intro or a toolkit-focused tutorial, but eventually one of my searches paid off and I was directed to this book.

It’s very good at what it does. It assumes programming knowledge and tries to help you translate that into Python. I don’t think it will serve well as a reference, but that’s less of an issue these days.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘Well Paced Aussie Thriller’

Score: 5/5

This was fun! It was from the same source as ‘Mine’, which I thought was awful, so I was a bit reluctant to pick it up. I’m glad I did.

It’s a nicely paced thriller set in current-time Australia. And unlike ‘Mine’, I didn’t think any of the characters were idiots.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659

‘A Nice Follow Up’

Score: 4/5

This was fun. I think I preferred it to the first one.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
Created by on Logo15659OpinionatedGeek Ltd.Logo15659