A Feast of Science

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

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.
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I enjoyed the book. It's good for passing time. Went in th book with low expectations. And it turned out good.
Would definitely recommend it.
Thank you Netgalley for the Arc.
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4 stars
Why didn't I know about Dr. Schwarcz before? I love the no nonsense approach to scientific or not so scientific claims from this fellow Canadian! This book offers very interesting tidbits on a variety of subjects, most of them health related, that all link back to chemistry.

The book wasn't organized into sections - it just jumped from one subject to the next, with each new piece prefaced by a title. I can't say I minded the format as each topic was quite interesting and well delivered. You can tell that this is not the author's first book. It is very well written and unlike other popular science books I've read lately, it inserts some humour without being awkward. It was very informative and confirmed I had the right ideas about food and unnecessary scares and concerns.
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As both a tea blogger and someone with physical disabilities, I am constantly bombarded with outlandish claims on how everything is either a miracle drug or is going to kill me gruesomely, with very little (or a gross misunderstanding of) science involved in these claims. It drives me more than a little crazy. This book brings the science to combat various claims (my favorite, of course, was the guy who was convinced fish genes were in tomatoes) that fear-monger. 

This book reads very easily, with a casual tone similar to a personal blog, my only complaint stems from that. If you are reading a (well constructed) blog they usually have a way of navigating the content, and sadly this book is very unorganized. I loved the tone and subject matter but the lack of consistent organization made my eye twitch. Even with that complaint I definitely recommend reading this book, if you are a person who thinks Dr Oz is a miracle worker or want to scream every time someone tells you tea will cure cancer, this book will either educate you or feel more than a little refreshing.
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A series of information bytes: the author takes a myth or deception currently floating around (soap cures restless legs, latest miracle supplement cures cancer, etc.), and picks it apart from a reductionist scientific background. If more people would think this way, we'd see fewer rumors floating around online these days!

The thought behind this book is important—think through what you're reading before you believe it—but the organization is pretty random and there is no continuity. It felt a little like browsing through a blog or related sound bytes on the radio. The concepts and explanations are interesting, but so little time is spent on each that I'm not sure a real believer could ever be convinced of the wrongness of their favorite quackery.
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Great book with a lot of helpful information, it's not a fast read. It's not a book to read in one sitting.
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I like the premise of the book.  He's taking science issues that are part of everyday life and really breaking them down to be understood and properly digested...as opposed to some of the news media and 'science' gurus who take the same issues, extract the pieces that suit their purpose, and repackage them in a distorted way.  While I must admit that there were a few places where I disagreed with the author, I am willing to concede the possibility of placebo effect being a potential cause.  This is not a book for uber-alternative health people...though maybe it should be read by them.  I'm into alternative health, and learning multiple ways of approaching health, but try to do so with an open mind.  And then there were just some stories that fascinated me....like the McDonald's coffee....I had NO IDEA that was the true story.  None.
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