Over at the skewed distribution community chat room it was brought up about whether book reviews would be on topic for the blog. A few of us in the room agreed it would be fine for the blog, but to get greater community input I ask here: Does anyone have objections to using the Cross Validated blog as a platform for community member written book reviews?

As long as I have your attention, I'd like to note that any member of the community is invited to contribute to the blog. I've said in the past that I would like to see more community members giving input and writing posts, and these can be really any topic related to the community (not just book reviews). IMO we need more fodder for the blog, and I think critical and objective book reviews could be excellent topics of interest to the community.

So does anybody want to write a book review? It also appears Matt Krause is taking recommendations for machine learning books to review if your interested in giving a suggestion (getting ahead of myself and assuming the community will not object to them in the first place!)


I think book reviews are a great idea.

I wonder, though, if there's an implicit requirement to review new books only. (Certainly, you couldn't submit a review of a book from 1979 to a publication.) The issue here is that, when people ask for book recommendations on CV, the books that end up being recommended are always the classics, as those are generally the most appropriate for typical users / situations. So, while I recognize it's an odd suggestion, I think it might be best if often old books are the ones reviewed.

Another point worth bearing in mind, is that a lot of information is already available about many books on the internet (Amazon book descriptions & user reviews, info at the publisher's website, & published book reviews can sometimes be freely accessed). So I think we should think about what makes CV (& potential CV blog readers, in particular) distinctive as a target audience, and explicitly try to cater to that. For instance, there are many book reviews in statistical publications and may have a more sophisticated audience in mind, whereas my impression of the typical OP on CV is someone without a strong statistical background.

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    $\begingroup$ (+1) For the old books review suggestion. Maybe we can have a "favorite books" review where users can review some of their favorite (for whatever reason) statistical texts. That could be especially valuable if they're somewhat less well known than the really popular ones. $\endgroup$ – cardinal Aug 1 '12 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for weighing in. Beggars can't be choosers, I think I would take whatever we can get (old-new-whatever)! I agree with your gauge of the audience though, but it might vary with the book as well. $\endgroup$ – Andy W Aug 1 '12 at 17:00

I write many book reviews on amazon. CV may be a better online place to do it as it would be focussed. Whenever I go to stat meetings it always astonishes me that people recognize my name because of my book reviews and comments on the ASA egroups rather than my own books and other publications. I also have done many book reviews for journals including Significance and Technometrics. I have an incentive there because they give me the book for free to review.

On amazon there is a rating system that caan be used to vote on their customer reviews. Our upvote/downvote serves a similar purpose on a grosser scale.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for chiming in. Personally, if you wanted to just re-write the same book reviews you did on Amazon for our blog here (just for more exposure), I would be perfectly fine with that. $\endgroup$ – Andy W Aug 3 '12 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ I've been a big fan of your reviews on Amazon; they've been helpful for me for a long time. I think you'd be an ideal candidate for writing some book reviews for the blog. However, unlike @AndyW, I don't like the idea of just copying & pasting them here from Amazon. I do share the view that it would be better if the blog were better utilized, but I think it should offer something unique. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Aug 3 '12 at 19:38

You might consider using CV itself to write a review. For instance, if you would like to review an old book, ask a question like

What made John Tukey's EDA (1977) a classic? What's it all about, what influence did it have, and is it still worth reading?

And then answer it!

(I still don't really get the point of a separate blog, unless it is to summarize things happening on our site. Don't we have enough to do by asking good questions and providing great answers?)

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    $\begingroup$ I appreciate the fact that for some things, the Q/A format of the site isn't too unreasonable to bend its content to our whims (and this is one example). In general though, I would prefer the blog to be a place for items that don't really fit specifically within a question and answer. It is an imperfect solution, but I believe it has potential to add value to the site in ways that the Q/A format is self-limiting. $\endgroup$ – Andy W Aug 1 '12 at 23:35
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    $\begingroup$ It is unfortunate that blog posts don't have some of the community input actions that questions and answers on the site do (such as community editing). If participation increases though in the blog it becomes more of a moot point. $\endgroup$ – Andy W Aug 1 '12 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ I would still like to see the blog better integrated with the main site. That is the way it has a chance to reach its full potential. I agree with @Andy that the main advantage to the blog could be to provide content that doesn't fit the Q&A paradigm. In my mind, I'd really like to see it used to provide high-quality content that is, e.g., simply too long to fit in an answer in a way that would keep people's attention. Short tutorials, more elaborate data visualizations, data-analysis case studies and other things might fit the bill. Andy (and others) already have some very nice examples! :-) $\endgroup$ – cardinal Aug 2 '12 at 0:09

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