Tag Archives: Publishing

Christmas gift ideas: How We Know What’s Really True

Are you having problems of finding meaningful Christmas presents for family and friends?

Books make ideal and meaningful Christmas presents for family and friends. And as I am spending some time dealing with family business I thought reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days could be useful am repeating some of my past book reviews.

Another one for younger readers – aimed at 12 – 120 years old.


Book Review: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True by Richard Dawkins. Illustrated by Dave McKean

Price: US$16.49; NZ$37.50;
iPad app US$13.99, NZ17.99.
Audio vers. US$ 19.79.

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Free Press (October 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439192812
ISBN-13: 978-1439192818

I have posted on this book before (see A reminder of reality’s magic). It’s now available in New Zealand so a review is in order. Fortunately I have had an audio version of the book for a week, have listened to it all and am happy to recommend it. I can especially confirm my earlier recommendation as a sciency book for young people – perhaps a Christmas present.

Richard Dawkins himself says he aimed the book at young people from 12 years old to 100 years old. Younger children may also enjoy it, especially with parental help.

Each of the book’s twelve chapters are built around a question – the sort of questions young and other inquisitive people ask. “Who was the first person?”, “What is a rainbow?”, “What is the sun?”, “What is reality? What is magic?”, “When and how did everything begin?”, “Why do bad things happen?” “What is a miracle?” and so on.

Most chapters start with the traditional or mythological answers. Some of those will not be new, coming from our own tradition or religion. New Zealanders will recognise a number of Maori or Christian myths. Others will be new, refreshing, intriguing, or even plain silly from our point of view. But, of course, there is no reason to suppose any mythological tradition is any more correct, or of any more value, than another. This helps develop a rational perspective.

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How We Know What’s Really True

Book Review: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True by Richard Dawkins. Illustrated by Dave McKean

Price: US$16.49; NZ$37.50;
iPad app US$13.99, NZ17.99.
Audio vers. US$ 19.79.

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Free Press (October 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439192812
ISBN-13: 978-1439192818

I have posted on this book before (see A reminder of reality’s magic). It’s now available in New Zealand so a review is in order. Fortunately I have had an audio version of the book for a week, have listened to it all and am happy to recommend it. I can especially confirm my earlier recommendation as a sciency book for young people – perhaps a Christmas present.

Richard Dawkins himself says he aimed the book at young people from 12 years old to 100 years old. Younger children may also enjoy it, especially with parental help.

Each of the book’s twelve  chapters are built around a question – the sort of questions young and other inquisitive people ask. “Who was the first person?”, “What is a rainbow?”, “What is the sun?”, “What is reality? What is magic?”, “When and how did everything begin?”, “Why do bad things happen?” “What is a miracle?” and so on.

Most chapters start with the traditional or mythological answers. Some of those will not be new, coming from our own tradition or religion. New Zealanders will recognise a number of Maori or Christian myths. Others will be new, refreshing, intriguing, or even plain silly from our point of view. But, of course, there is no reason to suppose any mythological tradition is any more correct, or of any more value, than another. This helps develop a rational perspective.

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Peer review – an emotional roller coaster

Every publishing scientist is aware of the emotional roller coaster that goes along with peer review. The “highlight” is, of course, that first reading of referees’ reports.

Classically, there will be three referees.

  • One will be very positive, recommending publication – but clearly may not have even read the paper let alone thought about it.
  • Another will be scathingly critical, perhaps even personally abusive, and recommend against publication. And maybe they haven’t spent much time on the paper either.
  • The third (if you are lucky) will be thoughtful, full of detailed comments and probably recommend publication – but only after the comments have been considered and accommodated.

But we all dread the report which recommends against publication – ever! Which denies any worth to the content of the paper.

Understandably authors can also react harshly towards referees. I once witnessed an author threaten a referee with legal action for defamation!

Although I haven’t seen anything quite this extreme. This is of course a dubbed version portraying Hitler as a senior author being told of referee’s comments on one of his papers!

Thanks to Simon Greenhill at Peer Review 1945 – HENRY.

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Bright future for books

Isony_ereader_PRS-500 am sure this is true. It’s the details of that future I find confusing. People in the publishing industry are talking about being on the cusp of a change. Similar to that which previously hit the music industry (see Is the e-book reader a new chapter for literature?).

There’s no doubt digital formats are taking off. But, that doesn’t mean the printed book is doomed. And many details of electronic book readers are still not sorted out.

The big issue is of course copyright and digital rights management. This has meant that while digital book readers are becoming more common in the USA (eg. Amazon’s Kindle) they are not yet being sold in New Zealand and most other countries. That’s frustrating for people who want practical examples. Some New Zealanders have brought e-book readers overseas – but I usually want to try before I buy.

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