18 April 2011

On Dorling (2011)

I've finished a book!

Not writing one--that has a couple of years to go at least--but reading one. I blame the net. Not only am I constantly washed over by waves of RSS feeds with fascinating and informative diversions (you don't know about RSS? You don't want to know about it. It's third only to twitter and facebook as addictive net; I've eschewed the first two, but RSS...) but Nicholas Carr may be right.

That's not entirely fair or accurate, but occasionally I have a log-jam on reading. I have six or seven books literally piling up to read.
  • (Six or seven? The "or" is MacGregor's (2010) History of the world in 100 objects . When I was a child in the '50s, I was occasionally given a sweet bar (similar to our currant (sorry!) cereal bars, but made principally of dried fruit) by a shop-keeper uncle. My mother never let me have more than a quarter of it, on the grounds that it would be "too rich" for my digestion. (Come to think of  it, that other three-quarters seemed to vanish never to re-appear)  Like those bars, I am rationing myself on this book, just as I am on J D Barrow's (2008) Cosmic Imagery; key images in the history of science [I've now lost track of all these recursive parentheses, sorry!]
But! I finished the one linked to from the heading. Incidentally, I'm not signed up to any ad-sense-type scheme. Here's --edited with l'esprit de l'escalier what I posted on Amazon...
He's a (human) geographer, not an economist. And I mean "human" as opposed to "physical", rather than "robot"... But he writes like an economist. A Scandinavian economist.

I bought this book because I enjoy quirky takes on social issues, and the teasers on the cover e.g. "Why more divorced people live by the sea than anywhere else" attracted me. But it is far more political and structural than that. The entertaining stuff is there, but it tends to be buried under rather preachy rhetoric.

So: I liked--

A refreshingly different angle on Britain. There's a confluence of social disciplines (they're not "sciences"), in which economists, sociologist, and now geographers comment on the same things from different angles. Dorling relies on public data for his raw material, and ingeniously and persuasively interprets it. And he is not afraid to celebrate the positives and to castigate the scare-mongering press and politicians.


There is statistical overkill. Some sections are like being beaten over the head with a statistical piledriver. Nerd that I am, I quite like teasing the implications out of stats, but not like this.

And there's a lot of repetition. Repeated with slight variation. Several times... The editor should have been much more ruthless.

And the route from observation to data to interpretation to solution is far from as linear as Dorling implies. Hence the preachiness. (I incline to agree with him, which actually makes the sermon more irritating.)

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