Bookworm Edition: How complicated can it be?

“It’s worth being critical and thoughtful about these stories; not because it’s fun to be mean, but because that’s what the authors would want, and also because stories about genes and culture are an important part of the stories we tell ourselves about who and what we are, our sense of personal responsibility, and the inevitability in our gender roles.” – I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that, Ben Goldacre

For someone who has decided to stop reading the news, deciding to read this book was like Murphy’s way of pranking me. I may need to do more research when I choose books to buy…but seeing as this book had been on my bookshelf for a number of years and there’s 20 of them I need to go through, it seemed like it’s time had arrived.

I do not generally read reviews on books before buying them. When I buy a book, it depends on my mood, the cover, the sypnosis and my mood (did I mention this already?) and you’d think I’d have learnt my lesson by now but nope…

This book is one man’s articles. Yep, articles that he’s written for newspapers, journals etc. It’s like I needed to subconsciously make up for all the newspapers that I’ve avoided in the last couple of years, all summed up in one book.

The difference though? These articles pretty much ripped journalism to shreds. So I kept reading it. It also just kept emphasising how maybe me not reading the news was not such a bad thing. My favorite sections were the “Statistics” and “Bad Academia.” I’m not great at mathematics or statistics so I feel quite biased in saying the statistics chapter was one of my favorite, but it was my favorite because it highlighted how even statistics can be used incorrectly to influence people and their decisions. Basically, anything even numbers can be manipulated for your own use.

I like books that make me think out the box or that challenge my own assumptions or thoughts and these are one of those books. If you’re cleverer than me you’d probably enjoy this book one article at a time, as opposed to binge reading it the way I did (when you enjoy something a little too much)! But the biggest point of this book is the emphasis on how complicated things, anything, really is. And at every turn, we need to question and challenge and question some more. More importantly, we need to question our own thinking and our own influences. We’re human, so this is quite a big ask. We think we like simple and easy, yet somehow even that doesn’t work as we want.

So here’s something interesting I learnt in those pages, for someone whom for many years fought the idea of wearing pink because it played into the generalisation that every girl likes pink:
“Back in the days when ladies had a home journal (in 1918) the Ladies Home Journal wrote:” There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” – I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that, Ben Goldacre

How’s that for challenging my thinking?

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