Thoughts on books recently read by the bookclub

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’.

For more about our bookclub: