When I announced yesterday’s SciReadr Book Group meeting, I blogged about it, posted it on Google+ and sent an email to around 600 people. I got 14 replies, all of which asked, Is it compulsory?
So it was quite a pleasant surprise that we managed to double the attendance at the previous meeting, and although the turnout was small, had a good discussion about Nick Lane’s Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution. (It’s a thumbs up Nick, they liked it – much better than the drubbing they gave Bill Bryson last time.)
We also talked about the best time for book group meetings (there isn’t one?), whether the student reps could encourage people to attend the next meeting, what you say to people who ask “Is it compulsory?” (It’ll look good on your c.v.) and making colourful posters to advertise the next meeting.
One of the perks of coming to the book group is that you get to pick the book for the next meeting, and the students picked The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
See you next term
Although there were few people at the meeting (possibly due to the timing?), we had a good discussion about Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. To my surprise, it received a good kicking. The general feeling was that Bryson had been overambitious with the scope of this book, and in the eyes of those present, had fallen short, coming up with a book of lists. There was a feeling that this book might have been better at 300 or 400 pages rather than 600 pages. Length does not always equate to quality!
We also discussed issues of authority and authenticity, and whether as a non-scientist, Bryson was the right person to write this book. The consensus was that he was not sufficiently critical of the science or the scientists he discusses, and falls short on that count. A more serious criticism was that the characters portrayed came across as two-dimensional and unengaging, presumably due to Bryson’s lack of authority in science. Although I stood up for his portrayal of the Revd. William Buckland, people felt that Bryson had done a particularly poor job on Darwin and missed a big opportunity in the process. Sorry Bill!
In spite of this, I enjoyed the meeting a lot, and that’s not just the Tetley’s talking. I’m looking forward to the next one which we hope to organize in the summer term.