I really enjoyed reading Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil just before Christmas. It was lent to me by a friend and is all about the power of algorithms to do harm. It is written by a mathematician who has worked on the inside of financial institutions and start-ups and who knows first-hand how algorithms are often based on poor maths and poor assumptions and can lead to discrimination being reinforced. O’Neil looks in turn at how College admissions, criminal justice, job search, employee shift-scheduling, credit applications, the insurance market and political campaigns all increasingly rely on algorithms, and are all entrenching disadvantage, making the poor poorer. It is a fascinating read and one I liked so much I got it for Christmas for my sister.
My first Christmas book was In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin, given to me by my mother. This is the latest in the Rebus series and it didn’t disappoint. Rebus has retired from the police but that doesn’t stop him helping his former colleagues Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox get to the bottom of how a corpse made it into a car, ankles handcuffed in police issued handcuffs, in a dell in the woods that had been searched by police in the original missing persons enquiry years earlier. Rebus has cleaned up his act, taking walks with his dog and coming off the booze, but he is still playing a dangerous game with Ger Cafferty – Edinburgh’s underworld crime boss. Siobhan is becoming more like Rebus – doing what it takes to get a result and not worrying too much about the rules, and it’s pleasing to see her taking control. I have long been an admirer of this series (see my blogs on Ian Rankin and Christmas Reading) and this latest one did not disappoint.
My first book of 2019 was another Christmas present, this time from my sister, The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths. It is set in a Norfolk marshland over Christmas and New Year and revolves around archeology and missing children. It was a totally gripping read and I was delighted to find it was book one of the Dr Ruth Galloway series, and that I have another ten to enjoy.
The final book of my skiing holiday was The Little History of Cornwall by Paul Wreyford. I am a big fan of Cornwall and a frequent visitor, and have learned some bits and pieces of its history, especially through walking the South West Coastal Path. It was therefore great to delve into this brief history, which shares some of the highlights of the people of Cornwall and how the county has been affected by national and international events. From the stone age to the Poldark age, this has some interesting facts for any Cornwall-philes.