Review: A Feast of Science by Joe Schwarcz

feastTitle: A Feast of Science: Intriguing Morsels from the Science of Everyday Life
Author: Joe Schwarcz
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Pages: 240
Publisher: ECW Press
Date Started: May 6, 2018
Date Finished: May 22, 2018
Format: Kindle

*I would like to thank the publisher, author, and NetGalley for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

A “feast” is one way to describe this book. I think a more apt description would be a machine gun packed with science, firing full force at the reader. To be completely honest, I am slightly disappointed in this book, especially with the accolades I saw and given the fact that Dr. Schwarcz has previously written 16 popular science books. While in isolation the factoids that Schwarcz presents are fascinating, there are three main reasons I just can’t recommend this book.

  1. There is no narrative. This book covers over 200 pages with a conglomerate of science tidbits. However, I can hardly remember any of them due to the fact that none of the facts were connected, and there was no overall story or connection between any of them. It merely boiled down to a collection of 200 science stories with no theme or purpose. I was left pondering after completing the book, “What is the point, why should I care?”
  2. The tone. At the end of the book Schwarcz specifically stated that it is the responsibility of scientists to reach out and talk with the public and to share the information we learn through our studies. I couldn’t agree more with this statement. The problem is what he follows up with. He claims that A Feast of Science is one of his efforts to connect the public with science. However, at many points throughout the book he is quite demeaning and flat out insults people who are either not scientists or who hold misconceptions about science. This is the worst method someone can take, in my opinion, in order to engage the public in science. Science is fun, exciting, and a public good. Scientists should be celebrating this with the public, without judgement. It is our job to help correct misconceptions and communicate what we know with the public.
  3. There is not a single reference. If you have ever written a scientific report, you know that you need to cite EVERYTHING. Well, apparently not if you are Dr. Schwarcz. With so many topics covered in the book, I was expecting an extensive literature cited section so that I could dig into the primary literature where he found his information. But it didn’t exist. To me, this is a breach of scientific integrity and sadly negates all of the effort that he put into the book.

The information presented in this book is very interesting, and can be extremely engaging. Each of the points above accounts for roughly a star in my rating, and if these had been incorporated into the book, would have made it an extremely fun read. Instead I felt it became tedious to finish and it was hard to see any big picture to it.

Overall, 2/5 moose

2 moose

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