SciBooks is where we run book reviews on new science books from New Zealand and around the world. We welcome both books for review from publishers and reviewers interested in contributing to SciBooks.

Book review: Big, bold and blue – Lessons from Australia’s Marine Protected Areas - Scibooks

Oct 04, 2016

By Raewyn Peart As of 2015, Australia has designated over a third of its waters as marine protected areas, leaving much to be learnt from their experience – as is covered in a new book on the topic. This impressive book, edited by James Fitzsimons and Geoff Westcott, provides a comprehensive description of progress with establishing networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) in Australian Federal and State government waters. The book starts with a foreword by Australian author Tim Winton that highlights the reasons why interest in MPAs has risen in recent years. Winton eloquently describes the abundance of marine life in his youth and the subsequent loss through overfishing and pollution. This sets a poignant context for the more academic writing that follows. The book extends over 432 pages and is organised around 5 parts. Part One … Read More

Nursing text a key contributor to community health - Scibooks

Jan 21, 2015

by Professor Jenny Carryer  REVIEW: Community Health and Wellness, 4th Edition: Primary health care in practice by Professor Anne McMurray and Dr. Jill Clendon Elsevier Health Sciences RRP: $90.00 This is a further edition of the already highly valued nursing text exploring social, cultural and political issues affecting individual and community health. As such it continues to be a gift to the profession; academics teaching in the area, students and primary health care clinicians alike. While primarily a nursing text, this book demonstrates that both the how and why focus of healthcare and resourcing must be on more health care,  rather than more medical care, in order to reduce heath demand and ensure everyone reaches their full potential, regardless of health status.    As such it provides a pathway towards implementing a comprehensive primary health care focus throughout the … Read More

Easy read promises economics is key to internet dating success - Scibooks

Sep 29, 2014

By Diane Owenga REVIEW: Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Economics I Learned from Online Dating by Paul Oyer Harvard Business Review Press 2013 The concepts underpinning micro-economics were developed by Adam Smith and others in the 18th century, from observing how auction-style commercial markets behave. In these markets price changes are the ‘invisible hand’ that ensure demand from buyers matches supply from sellers. Ever since economists have been trying to convince others that their toolkit will also help people understand and make better decisions in other non-commercial spheres of daily life. A recent book by Paul Oyer, a Stanford professor best known for his contributions to labour economics, is the latest in this proselytising genre.  He cockily asserts that “learning the economics that drives the world” will improve your chances of meeting the mate … Read More

On the importance of evidence – Dirty politics - Scibooks

Aug 19, 2014

by Bill Rosenberg REVIEW: Dirty Politics Nicky Hager Craig Potton Publishing 2014 RRP35.00 Nicky Hager’s explosive new book has many levels. They include political intrigue – “how terrible some human beings can be” (referring to Cameron Slater, Jason Ede, Jordan Williams, Simon Lusk et al) as Andrew Geddis graphically describes in his Cri du Cœur; the “two-track” strategy of Mr Nice Guy out front and the ‘plausibly deniable’ personal attack politics out the back; and deliberate tactics to disgust the public sufficiently to put them off voting. But an essential strand is something right at the heart of science: the importance of evidence. Again it is at a number of levels. The current furious reaction is the most obvious. As one journalist described it, “John Key dismissed Hager, a respected and … Read More

Science books long-listed for Winton Prize - Scibooks

Jun 16, 2014

The Royal Society of London’s annual book prize long list usually features a collection worth adding to your reading list. This is one of science writing’s most prestigious prizes and the author of the winning book picks up £25,000   The 12 books on the longlist for the Winton Prize include: Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler by Philip Ball (The Bodley Head) The judges said: “An incredibly interesting look at the politics of science and the decisions all scientists have to make.” Seven Elements That Have Changed The World: Iron, Carbon, Gold, Silver, Uranium, Titanium, Silicon by John Browne (Weidenfeld & Nicolson – an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group) The judges said: “An inspired look at seven very special elements which are essential to the modern world. It’s a captivating read.” … Read More

Capital: More questions than answers - Scibooks

Apr 23, 2014

by Matt Nolan REVIEW: Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty Harvard University Press (2014) RRP: US$39.95 Capital, by Thomas Piketty, is a book that had to be written. Both he, and his translator Arthur Goldhammer, have come together to produce a text that is insightful, interesting, challenging, and clear to the public. I don’t agree with all of the book (especially when it strays from its central thesis), have reservations about the descriptive conclusions, have strong reservations about the normative conclusion, feel that some logical conclusions were ignored for the sake of the central claim, and felt there are compelling alternative hypotheses that could explain the same data. As an exploratory analysis of the amazing data set that Piketty, and others, has put together it was a well put together book. As an … Read More

A linguistic taniwha? How real is it? - Scibooks

Apr 10, 2014

by Michael Corballis REVIEW: How to Find a Taniwha by Trevor Lloyd Steele Roberts Publishers 2014 RRP: $24.99 A common view among linguists is that words are arbitrary, and in themselves convey no information as to what they mean. The word dog bears no physical relation to that friendly animal itself, in either sight or sound. The arbitrary nature of language was declared in the early 20th century by the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and Noam Chomsky, the most prominent linguist of our time, has proclaimed that language cannot have evolved through natural selection because there is no relation between the linguistic symbols we use and what they represent. Language was formed by events in the brain. Some words, though, do convey meaning through sound. These include onomatopoeic words such as cackle or fizz, or … Read More

Compelling History of National Women’s Hospital - Scibooks

Mar 30, 2014

by Heather Clendon REVIEW: The Rise and Fall of National Women’s Hospital – A history by Linda Bryder Auckland University Press. RRP $49.95 When first asked to review this book, I thought it may be a dry and complex read and I, as a retired registered nurse, with no midwifery experience, would have little interest in the detail. How wrong I was. Complex it is, but dry and uninteresting, absolutely not. National Woman’s Hospital opened in 1939 with the egalitarian goal providing safe, pain-free, maternity services for all women, regardless of status or wealth. Its  closure in 2004 was due to partly to an international trend to combine maternity services with large general hospitals to ensure quick access to specialist care, partly to its general run-down state,  and partly due to its inability to move on … Read More

Engrossing, Compassionate Account of Pike River Disaster - Scibooks

Mar 17, 2014

by Rod Hanson REVIEW The Tragedy at Pike River Mine – How and Why 29 Men Died by Rebecca Macfie Awa Press RRP: $40.00 The Pike River coal mine disaster which cost the lives of 29 men in November 2010 has been extensively researched and documented with great feeling and compassion for the families involved and the wider audience which this volume will surely attract. Rebecca Macfie, while personalising the story with anecdotes from close family and friends, has mastered the challenge of explaining to the layman the complexities of underground coal mining with its three dimensional challenges, unique equipment and workplace jargon. The overlay of management, systems, operational and regulatory failures are investigated in detail with her findings reinforcing the author’s incredulity that such an event could happen in the twenty-first century when risk … Read More

From genes via markets to the big universe - Scibooks

Mar 12, 2014

by Veronika Meduna REVIEW: What a wonderful world: one man’s attempt to explain the big stuff by Marcus Chown Faber and Faber, 2013 Marcus Chown is well known for his books about astrophysics and anything else related to the universe, but in his latest offering, What a Wonderful World, he leaves his own galactic turf to explore other areas of science, and even a little bit of economics. He does so with the same easy eloquence that has distinguished him as a science writer who can explain even the most baffling concepts simply but satisfyingly. The book is structured in five sections, explaining first how we work, then how the society we’ve created works (including a short excursion into economics and political systems), how the planet works, how matter (big or small) works, and, finally, how … Read More