A long time ago, I discovered that it is far more productive to spend time vaporizing clouds than following politicians. That is why I didn’t know that President Obama was in the UK last May. Nor did I know that during that visit he addressed Parliament. In his speech he singled out Newton, Darwin, and Alan Turing as British contributors to science.
If you know anything about Alan Turing, you know that his open homosexuality, in spite of the severity of the laws against it, drove him, one of the greatest geniuses of our time, the man who more than any other individual, was responsible for the defeat of Hitler, to take his own life at age 41. If you know that, then you understand the U.S. President’s statement was comparable to the British Prime Minister coming to Washington, addressing our legislators and saying, “The Native Americans were the most spiritual people on the planet, until the United States government all but wiped them off the face of the earth.”
Be that as it may, my subject is book reviews, not the stupidity of politicians. That’s why I vaporize clouds. Before Obama delivered the speech, there were a number of Turing biographies available. Since then, their numbers have increased dramatically.
Last Friday, I heard a radio interview of David Leavitt, the author of The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer. I checked Amazon and found the book was only available in paperback, and I’m addicted to my Kindles, so I decided to see what other books were available. I plugged in Alan Turing and hit search. The fourteenth item on the list, Footprints – Secret Lives at Bletchley Park, caught my attention. It had just been published. It had no reviews. And the author, Philomena Liggins, had no Amazon Author Page. So I proceeded with caution, downloading the sample. Philomena got me with the the first paragraph. Then, after the sixth digital page turn, I read, “Outside the deep frost lay like a dusting of snow on the ground revealing tiny paw prints, evidence of their little dog’s early morning patrol of his territory. The dark trees formed a sharp contrast against the clear blue sky and Susan watched as a hungry squirrel scuttled through the branches sending flurries of frost silently to the ground.”
I’m a good writing addict, and that’s good writing. Without finishing the sample, I purchased and downloaded the book. I finished it Saturday evening and posted a review. Realizing at that point that I still didn’t know anything about Turing, I went back to Amazon, pulled up the David Leavitt book, and opened the not-great reviews. The one on the right, the 3 star one caught my eye, so I opened it, and read, “If your interest is in Alan Turing, and you are only just becoming familiar with him, you would probably be better served reading what many regard as not only an excellent biography of Alan Turing, but an excellent piece of biographical writing in and of itself, Andrews Hodges’ ALAN TURING: THE ENIGMA….”
First, the reviews for David Leavitt’s book were not great (20 reviews – average 3 stars).
Second, one of Leavitt’s reviews specifically recommended Andrew Hodges Turing biography.
I’m loving Andrew Hodges’, Alan Turing: The Enigma, and when I’ve finished it, I will post a review. Just as I posted one for Footsteps:Secret Lives at Bletchley Park. My points:
- If you’re interested in a book, read the reviews.
- If you read a book, review it.
- If you review a book, review it honestly.
Therein lies the power of reviews.
— Bert Carson (@BertCarson) June 29, 2012