Book Review : Two Non-Fiction Books on Destruction

Andrew Stephens, Monday the 16th of January, 2012

The Wizard of Lies By Diana B. Henriques

A This post was automatically imported from my old sandfly.net.nz blog. It may look a little weird since it was not originally written for this format. relatively recent book on the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, including information straight from the man himself. I got this hoping for an exciting and twisty crime story about a master criminal, but it turns out the Madoff's scheme was stupidly simple - he lied about some stuff and keep lying. He wasn't even very clever about it, but somehow managed to keep the house of cards upright for decades.

Henriques' book covers a huge amount of ground - going back to Madoff's childhood upbringing to his peak as a pillar of the New York community. A huge amount of research has been distilled into a very readable story - just about everyone who ever met Madoff seems to have been interviewed, and enough time has passed that the full effects of the scam have been revealed. I just wish that the crime was more ingenious.

Recommended if you like this sort of thing

Death From the Skies! By Philip Plait

Plait runs the popular Bad Astronomy blog which is far more interesting than it has any right to be, this book is even better. There are many books that seek to explain the wonders of the universe in an entertaining way, but Death From the Skies! is the only one that takes the "How could this kill us all" approach. From supernovas to comets, Plait runs down the numbers and details exactly what would happen to the Earth should such misfortune strike (spoiler: it doesn't look good).

Plait clearly explains the concepts behind familiar astronomical terms and breaks down the magnitude (usually way to large large) and probability (usually not small enough) of each occurrence. It's all very entertaining, but not something you want to read straight before going to sleep.

Highly recommended