Worst Book Review Ever??

In the latest eSkeptic, I was very excited to see Skeptic handling a book review concerning Bertrand Russell. This is not just any book – its a graphic novel about Russell’s earlier life and his pursuit for logical and axiomatic truths. It charts Russell’s passionate attempt to establish if there was anything that could be indubitably known.

However, I was disappointed (I am being kind using this term) at the book review itself. Considering I have contributed two book reviews to Skeptic magazine, I felt incredibly undermined that such horrid writing was accepted. I encourage readers to view it for themselves: it is perhaps the worst-written article I have read this year (if not the last five). Perhaps I am used to reading well-written articles, even by people (like Terry Eagleton) who I do not agree with. The book-reviewer commits a cardinal sin of using himself to fill space and create imagery; this is not taboo but it is often messy. The book review should aim at highlighting the book, perhaps criticising it (since no book is perfect, one can usually find ways to criticise and, perhaps, suggest where it can be improved).

But really – who cares about where you are flying from? Who cares that some arbitrary person asked you to write a book review? Who cares that its your kid’s first day at school? Get back to the Nobel Prize winning writer and the beauty of that man’s logic (even where it failed, it failed beautifully). This writer, David Cowan, informs us that he is well-qualified to deliver a thorough overview of the book, but instead we are subjected to his inane and terrible writing. In reference to why the writer Christos Papadimitriou matters to him, he says: “My dear friend Vivian Leal of Kepler’s Bookstore asked me to review this book … Coincidentally, I would have never met Vivian had I not befriended her husband Daniel 23 years ago back in CS121 another debt I owe Christos Papadimitriou.”

WHO CARES? Who writes like this and gets published in Skeptic? I am saddened to see such tripe in a magazine I generally love (when I can get hold of it). Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but I would appreciate your thoughts. Really, this is the worst writing I’ve read this year…


4 thoughts on “Worst Book Review Ever??

  1. This writer, David Cowan, informs us that he is well-qualified to deliver a thorough overview of the book.

    If that violates some rule, I wouldn’t know because I am in no way a professional book reviewer. Here are my only qualifications for writing this review:

    1. I have a fancy degree in theoretical computer science centered mainly on the works of those logicians portrayed in this story.
    2. I am a practiced blogger, so I can emulate authority on any subject.
    3. My dear friend Vivian Leal of Kepler’s Bookstore asked me to review this book.
    4. As I type, I am on a Lufthansa flight from St. Petersburg heading home to San Francisco, so I have some time.

  2. I hate that style of writing, that self congratulatory, eyebrows-raised-at-the-Hahvahd-Yahd, every sentence should end with “as I adjusted my foullard and took a sip of port” writing.


    I really don’t care what plane you were on, just tell me about the freakin’ book.

  3. I must apologise and I take Jacques’ criticism to heart: I should not have said “[David Cowan] … informs us that he is well-qualified to deliver a thorough overview of the book”. According to his four points of authority, it should be clear he is not. I maintain that his background in maths gives him some credibility but not enough to warrant a thorough subscription to lucidity and clarity – i.e. being a good explainer of the ideas one studies to a lay audience. Thanks, Jacques. (The rest of the post stands, however, that Skeptic published this nonsense and, secondly, it is the worst piece of writing I’ve read this year).

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