The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith deftly crosses three time periods.  The first period is the 1600s and it is here that we learn about the original painting by a talented female Dutch artist (Sara de Vos).  We move forward a few centuries to the 1950s and it is in this era that we meet Ellie Shipley who will create a forgery of Sara de Vos’ painting.  Finally, the story takes us to the early part of the 2000s and it is at this point that Ellie’s forgery threatens to catch up with her.  All in all, an engaging and though provoking read with strong female characters.  I liked it!  But what did Wally and Angus think?



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The Ghost Map

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

The Ghost Map is the story of how John Snow (no, not the guy from Game of Thrones) and Reverend Henry Whitehead, two budding epidemiologists before epidemiology was cool…or even existed. In 1854, these two men’s investigations helped solve one of the most devastating cholera outbreaks in England’s history .

The book shows how investigation and the scientific method (slowly) solved the cause of the Broadstreet pump and it’s role in the largest cholera outbreak in England’s history. It also has some correlations with many of the anti-science movements that we see today: anti-fluoridation, anti-vaccine, alternative medicine, etc.

This was such a fantastic book that I think everyone should read, if only for some historical context on why modern cities are built the way they are!



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The Vegetarian by Han Kang, Deborah Smith (Translator)

A slight novel, The Vegetarian describes a woman’s descent into “madness” from the perspective of her husband, brother-in-law, and sister. The woman’s decline starts with her decision to become a vegetarian (seems normal enough), but it soon becomes clear that this is a fraught path.  Essentially, she wants to become a tree and becoming a vegetarian is the first step in achieving this goal.  Each section describes how her relatives react to her decision and illustrates a general lack of understanding on their part (particularly by her husband and brother-in-law).




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Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Every day we have to make a myriad of decisions and confront a multitude of problems, both simple and difficult. This book will show you how we can glean insights from computer algorithms and apply them to help make our every day decisions a wee bit easier.

  • Why can I never find my favourite coffee cup
  • Which item should I tackle first on my to do list
  • How should I sort/file my email
  • Which load of laundry should I start with?

Computer scientists have been tackling questions similar to these since the invention of the computer and many of the solutions they have developed can easily be applied to how we live our daily lives.

They explain how to make better guesses, when to leave things to chance, how to whittle a long list of choices down to something more manageable, it will even give you good advice on where to park and how to make the decision to marry. With a little bit of thought, his book can help you make better decisions and save you time.



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