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Reviewing my own book reviews

Yesterday, I published a review of A Series of Unrelated Events by Richard Bacon. A year ago today, I published a review of The Truth about Cruise Ships by Jay Herring. And in between the two, I’ve published some 39 other book reviews. Writing the book review section has become one of the real pleasures of maintaining this blog – I think it’s my favourite regular column.

Yet, I struggle each week to summarise my review in a star-rating out of five. I often write about struggling to do this, and if you are wondering why on earth I bother, it’s because I republish versions of my book reviews in various other places, for some of which a star rating is mandatory.

So, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the last year of reviews and look at the distribution of ratings. I’d expect the distribution to be skewed – I generally choose to read books that appeal to me, rather than ones I hate. Yet, I also try not to give out too many five-star reviews. Taking these factors into account, I’d expect the mean to come out at about 3.5.

Bar Chart

If you look very closely, you’ll notice that this doesn’t add up to the promised 41 – that’s because there were two reviews where I declined to give a star-rating, despite my self-imposed rules.

It isn’t surprising to me that four-stars is the modal figure, but I am a little surprised – despite what I said earlier – that I’ve only given two one-star reviews in a whole year. I’m also surprised to have given eight five-star reviews.

The mean figure is 3.4 stars, which is pretty much where I thought it would be.

So what do I take away from this exercise? I’m pretty much coming up with the balance of star-ratings that I thought I would be, despite struggling every week. I am perhaps a touch too generous with five-star reviews, but, then again, the mean is where I thought it would be. I’ll repeat this in July 2014, and see if things have changed.

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes.

Science communication, Question Time and Melanie Phillips

Melanie Phillips has been on Question Time twice as often as all scientists put together over the last 18 months. There is still this feeling of “Why would you put a scientist on a current affairs discussion programme?”

Mark Henderson, formerly science editor at The Times, but now with the Wellcome Trust, makes this interesting point in a piece about the media coverage surrounding the discovery of the Higgs boson. It was published in the eighth issue of the marvellous Delayed Gratification.

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, Media, Quotes, , , .

Politicians set about slashing swathes of funding for much-loved services

After the council meeting was re-adjourned politicians set about slashing swathes of funding for much-loved services.

I assume that this sentence from this article in my home-town newspaper, is an indirect quote from one of the protesters rather than a representation of the view of the newspaper. However, an unfortunate preceding paragraph break makes it appear more like the latter.

The fact that this actually made me laugh out loud probably says more about me than the newspaper.

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, Quotes.




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