The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts. Today’s check-in is here!
Non-fiction: The Great Pretender, by Susannah Cahalan. Over the course of the book she reveals that one of the most famous psychiatric studies, “On being sane in insane places”, may have been largely faked by the man who wrote the paper, David Rosenhan. He sent “pseudo-patients” (sane people faking some symptoms) to various inpatient units in the US, and wrote about their experiences there and the bizarre diagnoses they received. However, Cahalan tried to track down the study participants and… nothing.
So far she’s only discussed the set-up, so I haven’t read the bit about trying to find the participants and figure out who they were, so I don’t know how to evaluate it. Litsy’s pretty torn about it, with mostly negative reviews, often from mental health professionals who feel the whole study is irrelevant now anyway and thus so is this book. However, I question this; I knew about the Rosenhan study, and I’m not by any means a mental health professional, so it’s still in the public consciousness at least that much. Cahalan also discusses all the ways it has impacted psychiatry and… seems pretty important to me!
Fiction: A Perilous Undertaking, by Deanna Raybourn. I enjoyed the first book — it whipped by so fast it left my objections behind — and this book seems set to do the same.
An ARC of Hearts of Oak, by Eddie Robson. I’m not really sold on it, I have to admit; I haven’t sat down and had a good thing about it, but I didn’t really enjoy it. That ending felt very flat, because I should’ve cared about Iona and her fate, and I didn’t.
I think that’s my main problem with the book as a whole; it could (should!) have evoked emotions, but didn’t. For instance, there should be something incredibly creepy about realising you’re one of only four humans in your entire world, and everyone else around you is an automaton — some of whom are secretly plotting something which will change everything. But… nothing. It felt totally lacking in affect, for me at least.
Well, I just got a stack of new books, so something from the stack, probably! How to Argue with a Racist, by Adam Rutherford, promises to finally engage with the question of how to demolish race science (one of the other two books I’ve read on the subject seems to just say that race science sucks and we should just say it sucks, rather than understand why it sucks; the other was from a different angle and didn’t engage with science about race, but more generally about bias).
Also in the pile is Georges Roux’s book, Ancient Iraq, which should have some of the background I’m seeking about places like Nineveh. And then of course I have two new British Library Crime Classics, which are always good fun.
What are you currently reading?