Thoughts on books recently read by the bookclub

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan 2019
Bookclub Meeting April 2021

Tricia Wallis writes “We all enjoyed seeing each other again for last night’s Zoom meeting and agreed that ‘Machines Like Me’ was an interesting, speculative fiction which led to discussion on the nature and value of AI. Most of us agreed that although the central story was engaging and provocative the frequent anachronisms and playing with the order of historical events was rather irksome.” 

Review by Waterstones https://www.waterstones.com/book/machines-like-me/ian-mcewan/9781529111255

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Bookclub Meeting March 2021

Tricia Wallis writes “Lovely meeting last night and we actually spent a good part of it discussing Gilead. Once again a variety of opinions so an interesting discussion.”

Review by Waterstones https://www.waterstones.com/book/gilead/marilynne-robinson/9781844081486

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
Bookclub Meeting January 2021

Tricia Wallis writes “We had a nice cosy session on Monday discussing Barchester Towers. We hadn’t all read it but what does that matter! Good to hear others’  opinions and have a friendly chat.”

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Bookclub meeting November 2020

Tricia Wallis writes “I think that we all enjoyed ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ in spite of a few reservations. Lively, warm and engaging and we all felt an empathy with the many voices in the novel.”

The Darkening Age’ by Catherine Nixey (2017)
Bookclub meeting October 2020

Tricia Wallis writes “Most of us loved the book and found it stimulating and memorable. Thank you to Alan for suggesting it! It is a joy to find a non fiction work so beautifully crafted and such a complete pleasure to read.”

Three men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
Bookclub meeting September 2020

Tricia Wallis writes “We had a really successful Zoom book club meeting to discuss ‘Three men in a Boat’ probably the longest and most engaged remote meeting yet. Most members thoroughly enjoyed TMIAB and saw it as a wonderfully diverting frolic in the increasing gloom of lockdown and social isolation. There was some dissent however, and a few members, more politically correct maybe than the rest of us, felt it to be offensive and too elitist for current times. So as usual we were divided which always makes for better debate and critical analysis.”

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Bookclub meeting August 2020

Tricia Wallis writes “We all agreed that this was a comic gem of a book and lifted our spirits during the dark, depressing days of lockdown. Gibbons acerbic wit and the refreshingly feminist heroine made this novel ahead of its time.”

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction: Amazon.co.uk ...

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by  Dan Gardner and Philip E. Tetlock (2015)
Bookclub meeting June 2020

Tricia Wallis writes “We had a very lively and engaged Zoom book group last night when we discussed Superforecasting. Those who read it were pleased they had made the effort and found it interesting. Most thought the book could have made its points more clearly if it had been shorter and more concise. Another criticism was that it relied too heavily on male based evidence and research(!).”

A personal view from John Cregan:”I was somewhat disappointed, given the rave reviews by Kahneman and Pinker. I suppose you should be suspicious of anything with “super” in the title.

I think he established the case that there are some people that are better at certain types of forecast than the norm. They are judged by their estimated percentage likelihood of a defined future event occurring against whether or not it did occur. The problem I think is that in order to make this testable, the forecasts that they are asked to make are not very interesting. He rather admits this late on in the book when he has a diagram showing an interesting forecast with the multiple testable sub-forecasts that would be required to make it.

He investigates what attributes a superforecaster needs to possess. I certainly won’t make the grade as a necessary attribute is to be able to distance yourself emotionally from the forecast being made. Another chapter found supeforecasters constantly reading new information about the topic and making minor adjustments to their forecasts.

There’s one quote that I find very disappointing – “a majority of atheists said they believe in fate, defined as the view that ‘events happen for a reason and that there is an underlying order to life that determines how events turn out.'” I looked up the source of the quote (an article in The New York Times) and it claims that this has been found in both US and British studies.”

A good quote from the book picked by David Savage (P127):‘…beliefs are hypotheses to be tested, not treasures to be guarded’.

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