Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,
Rowyn
rowyn

Book Reviews: The Signal and the Noise | Sylvester

I've read a couple of books this month:

The Signal and the Noise, by Nate Silver: This was a rare non-fiction read for me. I picked it up because it was on Bookbub and while I don't often read FiveThirtyEight, I've enjoyed what essays I have read by Silver. The book was interesting too, although I'm not sure I took away anything from it that I will use in my everyday life. Silver has a wide-ranging approach: the book is about forecasting in general, and so tackles a variety of areas where humans attempt to forecast from weather (surprisingly good at this!) to earthquakes (lol terrible) to the stock market to baseball and on.

I have a friend who often talks about future events in his own life in probabilistic terms: a 90% chance he will go on this planned trip, or a 50% chance that he will retire this year, or whatever. Reading Silver's book gave me a new appreciation for this approach, because Silver encourages the reader to think of forecasts in terms of probability and especially to think about uncertainty. Not only "what don't you know?" but "what don't you know that you don't know?"

He skewers one particular target in the housing market crash: the rating agencies. The two major rating agencies emerged almost unscathed from the mortgage crisis, despite being in large part responsible for it. Yes, banks made sub-prime mortgages to people with terrible credit, and people with terrible credit dove into the market, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac underwrote those loans, and other banks came up with the bright idea of selling them by bundling them together and re-dividing them into tranches.. But it was the rating who'd given triple-A ratings to the "least risky" tranches of these high-risk mortgages. They're the ones who said not "the housing market won't crash" but "these investments are safe even if the housing market crashes.".

(Narrator: they were not safe.)

Anyway, this was a scholarly book (so many footnotes!) written with a solid, engaging style. Easy-to-follow and interesting. If you are interested in forecasting or probabilities as applied to real life, it's an excellent read.

Sylvester: or The Wicked Uncle, by Georgette Heyer: As I've noted before, I find Heyer entertaining more as a humorist than as a romantic. This leaves me in the weird position of having enjoyed the book even though the romance utterly failed me. I think this is the first time I've gotten to the end of a romance and found myself wanting a fix-it fic where the main couple stays apart. The female protagonist, Phoebe, had a plan to write novels and live with her former governess as her companion, and I really feel like this would have been a much happier ending. The titular Sylvester isn't ... awful? Like, he takes his responsibilities seriously, and he has a sense of humor, and he can be agreeable when he wants to be. But he is arrogant, callous, manipulative, and temperamental. While he improves over the course of the book, he doesn't rise to the standard of "someone I would want to be around", much less "someone I would trust with my heart". Especially since he is STILL MANIPULATING Phoebe at the end of the book.

Phoebe deserves better, is what I'm saying. Granted, she's kind of silly and impulsive, but she's nineteen and she's a woman in this crapsack world that offers so few good options.

*pats poor Phoebe gently*

Anyway, I generally enjoyed the book up until the last 30% or so, when I found one of the plot twists kind of tedious and it had also become pretty clear to me that I was unlikely to warm up to the male protag. (Frustratingly, there were a couple of points where I thought the ending might do something to endear him to me, but nope.) This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/627690.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Tags: book review, review
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