Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Learn more Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now
Profile for G. B. ROBINSON > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by G. B. ROBINSON
Top Reviewer Ranking: 912,941
Helpful Votes: 53

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
G. B. ROBINSON (England)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1
pixel
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
by Elizabeth Kolbert
Edition: Hardcover

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, but use with web for pictures, 25 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a truly significant book for our time and a model for how to write popular science. Kolbert doesn't duck the hard scientific facts, or the sometimes subtle and conflcting nature of the evidence, but she puts the whole thing across in lively, easy to read and often witty prose, with judiciously placed amusing, always relevant, anecdotes to maintain the reader's interest and keep the focus human.

I have only one reservation, and it's not about the author and certainly not about her sparkling writing, nor is it about her scrupulous reporting of the science: no, it's about the book as a production (and I'm writing about the hardback).

I found quite early on that I wanted to go to the web and google images -- to see pictures of the sites she visits where research is going on, the institutions where she interviews researchers, and many, many of the large numbers of animals, plants and trees she discusses. By the time I reached the middle of the book, I was almost using it as a sort of guide or handbook to digging further with the help of search engines.

I realise that to include several pages of colour photographs would have pushed the price of the book so high as to defeat its purpose of getting the information out to as large a number of people as possible, but I do think it's a shame there weren't at least a dozen or so such photographs. I should note that there are several low-resolution black-and-white images scattered throughout, but they're barely adequate, and no match for Kolbert's vivid prose.

I suppose future editions might carry an accompanying CD or DVD without making the publication too expensive. I did find that if I didn't actually see the things the author depicts, I was getting lost in abstractions. However talented the written journalism, it's rarely so good as not to be enhanced by good photos.

But please don't let this reservation put you off (I debated with myself as to whether to give the book 4 or 5 stars, and decided that although deduction of 1 star on grounds of insufficient illustration might be justified, it wasn't fair on either the author's achievement or the importance of the subject matter).

You may well find that simply reading the book is enough. But if you're prepared to dig a little, and have easy access to a computer or other device for reaching the web, I really do think you'll get an awful lot more out of this great and timely book.

To name but one of the many websites I could mention, partly because it's one to which Elizabeth Kolbert herself contributes, have a look at Yale Environment 360, and try not to miss Gerrit Vyn's deeply moving 10-minute video on You Tube on the fate of bats in the eastern USA. If you care about the past, the present and the future of our planet, and not least those of ourselves, you'll love this book even as you're disturbed and alarmed by what it has to tell you. You'll get even more out of it, I promise, if you read it in conjunction with frequent trips around the web.

The author travelled the world to get all this stuff on paper. We can't all follow her in that, but we can do the next best thing with the help of cyberspace.

This is a book of which it may be one of those rare occasions when it really is true to say, it will change your life.


The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
by Elizabeth Kolbert
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, but browse web for pictures, 25 Feb. 2014
This is a truly significant book for our time and a model for how to write popular science. Kolbert doesn't duck the hard scientific facts, or the sometimes subtle and conflcting nature of the evidence, but she puts the whole thing across in lively, easy to read and often witty prose, with judiciously placed amusing, always relevant, anecdotes to maintain the reader's interest and keep the focus human.

I have only one reservation, and it's not about the author and certainly not about her sparkling writing, nor is it about her scrupulous reporting of the science: no, it's about the book as a production (and I'm writing about the hardback).

I found quite early on that I wanted to go to the web and google images -- to see pictures of the sites she visits where research is going on, the institutions where she interviews researchers, and many, many of the large numbers of animals, plants and trees she discusses. By the time I reached the middle of the book, I was almost using it as a sort of guide or handbook to digging further with the help of search engines.

I realise that to include several pages of colour photographs would have pushed the price of the book so high as to defeat its purpose of getting the information out to as large a number of people as possible, but I do think it's a shame there weren't at least a dozen or so such photographs. I should note that there are several low-resolution black-and-white images scattered throughout, but they're barely adequate, and no match for Kolbert's vivid prose.

I suppose future editions might carry an accompanying CD or DVD without making the publication too expensive. I did find that if I didn't actually see the things the author depicts, I was getting lost in abstractions. However talented the written journalism, it's rarely so good as not to be enhanced by good photos.

But please don't let this reservation put you off (I debated with myself as to whether to give the book 4 or 5 stars, and decided that although deduction of 1 star on grounds of insufficient illustration might be justified, it wasn't fair on either the author's achievement or the importance of the subject matter).

You may well find that simply reading the book is enough. But if you're prepared to dig a little, and have easy access to a computer or other device for reaching the web, I really do think you'll get an awful lot more out of this great and timely book.

To name but one of the many websites I could mention, partly because it's one to which Elizabeth Kolbert herself contributes, have a look at Yale Environment 360, and try not to miss Gerrit Vyn's deeply moving 10-minute video on You Tube on the fate of bats in the eastern USA. If you care about the past, the present and the future of our planet, and not least those of ourselves, you'll love this book even as you're disturbed and alarmed by what it has to tell you. You'll get even more out of it, I promise, if you read it in conjunction with frequent trips around the web.

The author travelled the world to get all this stuff on paper. We can't all follow her in that, but we can do the next best thing with the help of cyberspace.

This is a book of which it may be one of those rare occasions when it really is true to say, it will change your life.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 7, 2014 9:21 AM BST


The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man
The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man
by Luke Harding
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating, gripping page-turner, 13 Feb. 2014
Just finished reading this superbly written account by the Guardian journalist, Luke Harding, who really knows how to master a large collection of facts and opinion and transmit them in a way that's a delight to read. As I'd followed this story from the start in the Guardian, the story was familiar to me, but the book still filled in very many details that I hadn't known. One of the things that really stood out for me occurs during a discussion of Snowden's slowly developing decision to go public: "Snowden said he hadn't voted for Obama in 2008 but had 'believed' in his promises ... He had intended to 'disclose' what he had found out, but decided to wait and see following Obama's election. What did happen, he said, was profoundly disillusioning: 'He continued with the policies of his predecessor'." (P 108)

So there you have it. Remember all that "Change you can believe in", all that "audacity of hope", the "Yes we can"? It's tempting to ask will anyone ever again get taken in by that kind of fraudulent rhetoric, but of course they will as time goes on, as people forget, as new generations come along.

Had post-election Obama done as pre-election Obama promised, we'd never have had to hear the name Edward Snowden, at least not in this connection. Harding reminds us of a few Obama promises: "No more illegal wiretapping of American citizens. No more National Security Letters to spy on American Citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do no more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient." (P 98)

(Before I forget to mention it, there's a really detailed index, 12 pages, very useful indeed. I just used it to look up those quotes.)

There's a sprinkling of witty vignettes and anecdotes too: "On Friday 19 July two men from GCHQ paid a visit to the Guardian ... [One of them said], 'You have got plastic cups on your table. Plastic cups can be turned into microphones. The Russians can send a laser beam through your window and turn them into a listening device'. The Guardian nicknamed the pair the hobbits. Two days later the hobbits came back ... [carrying] a large and mysterious rucksack ..."

And not many will be surprised to find a Guardian writer recording a few insightful, witty and rather delicious observations on Mr Julian Assange.

Harding also gives us an illuminating analysis as to why there has been, at least until recently, no real debate in the UK about the Snowden revelations, at least nothing to compare with the vigorous debates taking place elsewhere throughout the world. (Pp 310-12) Convincingly he explores "one immediate explanation" and "further, cultural reasons".

This is a wholly admirable and timely book which I unreservedly recommend to anyone whether they've followed the story from the start or are new to it.


Adobe Premiere Elements 11 Classroom in a Book: The Official Training Workbook from Adobe Systems (Classroom in a Book (Adobe))
Adobe Premiere Elements 11 Classroom in a Book: The Official Training Workbook from Adobe Systems (Classroom in a Book (Adobe))
by Adobe Creative Team
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.12

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One great book but important note re Chapter 6, 9 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
On the US Amazon website, the following note from the publishers appears: "Note from the Publisher:
Regrettably, the file named Greenscreen.mov in the Lesson 6 folder on the companion disc is corrupt. However, that same file is included multiple times on the disc (in lessons 7, 8, 9 and 10), so please use any other file named Greenscreen.mov in order to work through lesson 6."

Do note that so that you wont, as I've just done, waste a couple of hours trying to figure out what was wrong, chasing up codecs here there and everywhere and finally redownloading a copy of Elements 11 from the Adobe website!

But seriously, this book is in the great tradition of the Adobe 'Classroom ...' books familiar to me from Photoshop Elements, CS3 and then CS5. The clarity is there, the ease of the learning, all the exercise files you need on the DVD at the back of the book. It makes learning a real joy and no slog (as long as you take heed of the, um, er, errant file).

I know that the writers and producers of Adobe books and DVDs take immense trouble to get things right, but as we all know, even with that sort of dedication to detail, stuff can happen.

If you've got Elements 11, or are going to get it, buy this book. You'll love it.

-- Brian Robinson, Milton Keynes, UK


Inspector Minahan Makes a Stand: The Missing Girls of England
Inspector Minahan Makes a Stand: The Missing Girls of England
by Bridget O'Donnell
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book, 19 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I heard about this book from a tweet by Tom Watson MP and finished reading it yesterday. It's got everything including, sadly, topicality. It reads throughout like a well-constructed political thriller, only you know that these were real people living through real events. All the characters are richly drawn and you really get to know them -- flawed heroes and heroines, and outright villains alike. The whole thing set against a background of Irish nationalist bombs and the not irrelevant looming scandal around Charles Stewart Parnell. Oscar Wilde's trials were yet to come, the revenge of the hypocritical society he depicted not yet fallen upon him.

It's an unputdownable page turner, right to the end. You read about the bitter political rivalries, and the hardly less bitter rivalries of the press eager to boost sales and do down the competition (and how familiar *that* sounds today). But most of all it's about how class and social inequality, along with the resultant grinding poverty in late 19th century Britain led directly to the sexual exploitation of children by a hypocritical, self-protecting elite ruling class.

We read of police corruption, harrumphing cover-ups and denials by cabinet ministers in the House of Commons with everything (personally) to lose through inquisitive journalists and a policeman like Minahan who refuses to take the local Madam's shilling (actually, sovereign): his fellow officers, compromised and worse, tell him he's a fool (before they later persecute him for his too-threatening honesty). But we also read of good people, including some journalists, and of course Inspector Minahan himself, moved and outraged by the gross injustice of the social setup.

I don't want to give anything away, so without spoilers, I'll just mention that one of the central episodes of the book is a very skilful exposition of how 'doing good' with the most honourable motivation can lead to moral ambiguity at best, complicity at worst in the very crimes whose exposure and prevention is being sought. (Even one of the best of the campaigners violates a Kantian principle of not treating people as objects or as means to an end.)

It's very rare indeed these days that a book brings tears to my eyes (and rarer still for me to confess publicly to it) but that's what happened as I reached the book's final pages. There was something deeply cathartic about it, something much deeper even than the appalling events it describes, about the human condition, about the neverending struggle between good and evil, and about how every generation seems to have to keep fighting the same old battles for justice even though the specifics change.

In the end, the good news is that the law was changed as a direct result of the heroes and heroines, not least of course the eponymous Inspector himself, but what a price they all had to pay for it. Not all the baddies thrived, though one of the worst of them ended up occupying one of the great offices of state. But there was little personal joy for the individual Quakers and other social reformers.

One of the pleasures of the book, incidentally, concerns the parallels O'Donnell frequently draws between the real events of the times and the fiction and drama of the day. She shows how Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde novella relates in detail to some of the events in London, and parallels are drawn with some of Henry James' contemporary work, as well as with two of Shaw's plays -- Mrs Warren's Profession and Pygmalion. (The Mrs W of the former has a striking similarity to the principal Madam of this book, and Prof Higgins has rather too many similarities to one of the good journalists in the book for comfort: moral ambiguity again.)

I don't usually like saying that a book would "make a good" this or that: a book is a book, and a really good one like O'Donnell's is a great and potentially life-changing one, but "Inspector Minahan Makes a Stand" would make a terrific play -- and probably a terrific film too. But don't wait for the movie -- read the book! You'll love it.


Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial
Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial
by Simon Singh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book everyone should read, 31 May 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst have written a brilliantly lucid account. They describe clearly how modern medicine works, how evidence for and against treatments is gathered and subjected to the closest scrutiny before a medical or surgical intervention is licensed. They clearly show how different this is from the claims of most "alternative medicine" practitioners.

I would strongly advise anyone thinking of going to an "alternative" practitioner to read this book beforehand - it's amazingly easy to read and there are quite a few witty asides which made me laugh out loud several times.

But especially, perhaps, I would hope that all those doctors who actively promote, or by implication encourage, "alternative" treatments that are unproved, or have been disproved, read this book; that misguided government agencies giving a stamp of approval to quackery read it and reconsider.

I ought to declare an interest as a retired general psychiatrist. My own profession has had more than its share in its time of dubious "treatments" so I'm particularly concerned that what is being sold to a vulnerable public should be tested to the most stringent standards. That's what differentiates the modern practice of medicine from some two-and-a-half-thousand years of superstitious trial-and-error, most of which did patients more harm than good. But it's also what differentiates it from most of what is dangerously euphemized as "alternative medicine".

This is a most timely book. If people absorb its carefully reasoned arguments it will not only save them from wasting their money, it could end up quite literally saving their lives.


Page: 1