The week in books

August 21, 2008

The Last Amateurs: To Hell and Back with the Cambridge Boat Race Crew by Mark de Rond, reader in strategy and organisation, University of Cambridge. Icon Books, £17.99, ISBN 9781848310155

"There is a Zelig quality pervading The Last Amateurs. De Rond insinuates himself more and more into the story, relating his dreams, what he, 'the boys' and Rebecca the cox had for breakfast, and even details of his bodily functions that many readers might prefer not to know. His pre-race nerves are at one point so out of control that he has to be calmed down by the coach."

Daniel Topolski, The Guardian

Intimacies by Leo Bersani, professor emeritus of French, University of California, Berkeley and Adam Phillips, principal child psychotherapist, Wolverton Gardens Child and Family Consultation Centre. University of Chicago Press, £10.50, ISBN 9780226043517

"Phillips' liberating conclusion is that in contradiction of all modish self-help advice, to seek to know others, or strive to become known ourselves, is to vitiate rather than promote intimacy. Because the attempt is inherently fruitless, it inspires rage rather than rapport."

Salley Vickers, Financial Times

The Cambridge Companion to the Greek and Roman Novel by Tim Whitmarsh, lecturer in Greek language and literature, University of Oxford. Cambridge University Press, £55.00 and £19.99, ISBN 9780521865906 and 684880

"Shopping and f---? Magic realism? Pirates? Road trip? ... Sex toys? Murder? All are covered by the authors examined in this volume, who had all the tricks of soap operas and cinema, nearly 2,000 years before such genres were invented ... This is not a primer, but a wealth of rumination and research on the prose that has turned up at Oxyrhynchus and elsewhere."

Tibor Fischer, The Sunday Telegraph

Women in Science, Engineering and Technology: Three Decades of UK Initiatives by Alison Phipps, lecturer in sociology, University of Sussex. Trentham Books, £16.99, ISBN 9781858564029

"To a woman working in science, rather than one working for women in science, the book is much more than a reference manual. It puts our experience in context - within the global economy and the women's movement. Phipps makes a compelling case that achieving change depends on understanding this context and she urges closer communication between educators, academics and social scientists."

Ashleigh Griffin, Nature

The Design of Future Things by Donald A. Norman, professor emeritus of cognitive science, University of California, San Diego. Basic Books, £15.99, ISBN 97804650026

"The argument Donald Norman develops is a familiar one from all those books about 'what computers cannot do', and even from Wittgenstein's celebrated analyses of rule-following. But it mostly fails to extend the basic insight that, no matter how clever one is at programming, algorithms are not the way to make machines conduct themselves like people."

Steven Yearley, The Times Literary Supplement.

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