The first thing you should know (and you already know this if you're a regular reader) is that my wife, Lizzie K. Foley, is a writer. Her first novel, Remarkable, was published by Dial/Penguin in April 2012. It is a middle-grade novel with a target age range of 8 and up. It is awesome, and you should buy it.
No, seriously. Go buy it right now.
Here it is from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, indiebound, or Alibris.
The other book you should buy is my volume of poetry, Transistor Rodeo, which was published by the University of Utah Press in 2010. You can learn more about it at jonfwilkins.com.
Ooh, look! You can also buy it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, indiebound, or Alibris.
The Genetical Book Review
The major books-related feature here at Lost in Transcription is the Genetical Book Review. In this feature, I write about both non-fiction and fiction books. When I am writing about novels, the focus is on an interesting bit of genetics and/or evolutionary biology that comes up in the book.
In some cases, the author is going to be someone I know personally and/or professionally. I will always include a disclaimer in those cases, but I think (hope?) that these relationships will not significantly alter the review, given what it is that I aim to accomplish here.
You see, the emphasis here is not on trying to tell you whether a particular book is "good" or "bad." That may seem surprising, since value judgment is the focus of most book reviews, so let me explain.
First off, pretty much every book that I write about is "good." The fact is, I am extremely busy, and if I am not enjoying a book, I'm not going to finish it. If I don't finish it, I'm not going to write about it. So, you can rest assured that if I have reviewed a book, it means that I enjoyed it.
Second, I believe that value judgements without context are pretty much useless. If I tell you that a particular book is great or terrible, that information is useful to you only to the extent to which your taste matches mine. Instead, I will try to give a brief flavor of the book (without spoilers), with the aim of giving you the information to make an educated guess as to whether or not you will enjoy the book.
As I mention, when I am writing about a novel, the primary focus will actually be on some science that comes up in the book, rather than on the book itself. I try to write these in such a way that the science will be interesting and accessible to people who have not read the book. In fact, often, the book serves merely as a convenient jumping-off point, an excuse for talking about science. However, I imagine/hope that the discussion might also (especially?) be interesting to people who have actually read the book.
When I am writing about a science book, I will let you know if there are things that I perceive to be wrong, but, again, the focus will be on giving you the information necessary for you to judge whether or not the book will be interesting to you. Non-fiction books about science always face a trade off between precision and accessibility, and the value of a particular book often depends more on the prior knowledge of the reader than on the book itself. Of course, some books are more clearly written than others. Nevertheless, a book that is an impenetrable tangle of jargon to one reader may be hopelessly naive and simplistic to another. My main goal is to let you know what the target audience and assumed knowledge are for a particular book, so that you know if it will be a good match for you.
As for books that have been featured in the Genetical Book Review, here's the current list:
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides.
White Cat, by Holly Black.
The Postmortal, by Drew Magary.
The Mapmaker and the Ghost, by Sarvenaz Tash.
The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson.
The Half-Life of Facts, by Samuel Arbesman.