Tuesday, 27 December 2011

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

The Colour of Magic
by Terry Pratchett

narrated by Nigel Planer
"The magical planet of Discworld is supported by four massive elephants who stand on the back of the Great A'Tuin, a giant turtle swimming slowly through the mysterious interstellar gulf. Its very existence is about to be threatened by a strange new blight: the arrival of the first tourist, upon whose survival rests the peace and prosperity of the land."
I've made many repeated attempts to read Terry Pratchett's novels, not least because they are incredibly popular, but more importantly, people I regard highly think they are great. Until now I hadn't managed to finish a single one. For me, it seems, they have to be read out loud, because this time I enjoyed the story immensely, even though it was pretty silly. And it ended on a cliffhanger - would those who are already familiar with the books tell me: will I find out what happens to Rincewind in the next book? Will it be worth it?

Image of the book cover

Testing Treatments: Better Research for Better Healthcare
by Imogen Evans, Hazel Thornton, Iain Chalmers and Paul Glasziou

"How do we know whether a particular treatment really works? How reliable is the evidence? And how do we ensure that research into medical treatments best meets the needs of patients? These are just a few of the questions addressed in a lively and informative way in this book."
This was recommended by Ben Goldacre, who wrote a Foreword and is mentioned several times through the book. It is really good, very readable, and a useful reminder that the headline 'Risk of X reduced by 50% with treatment Z" carries a different weight compared with the same fact conveyed as "Risk of X reduced from 2 in ten squillion to 1 in ten squillion with treatment Z.' And some other things too, including how not to become a patient, and sensible questions to ask your GP before s/he tries to give you any treatment. I would like to read this again after about a year when I will need reminding, but realistically, I am unlikely to.

Image of the book cover

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"The stories reflect the disillusioned world of the 1920s in which they were written, and Conan Doyle can be seen to take advantage of new, more open conventions in fiction. Suicide as a murder weapon and homosexual incest are some of the psychological tragedies whose consequences are unravelled by the mind of Holmes before the eyes of Watson."
The last book of short stories, and somewhat inferior to the best of the series, I think. But it is a long while since I read any others, and maybe they are all of this kind but have gained substance in my memory. I didn't notice any story containing homosexual incest either, but I'm not going back to find it. The book is also an 'Oxford World's Classics' edition complete with asterisks in the text leading to endnotes giving explanations and definitions which are annoyingly unnecessary for this reader - the meaning of the words 'cravat' and 'spats' could be found in any half-decent dictionary.

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