When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish

Author: Martin Gardner

Type: Non-fiction, essays

Full title: When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish, and Other Speculations About This and That

Published: 2009

I read it: May 2012


I believe this book was published less than a year before Martin Gardner’s death. I had never read him before but was familiar through an obituary, or other such tribute. When I saw this book laying around at my parents’ house, I figured I might as well give it a go (the M.C. Escher cover art was persuasive enough). This collection is quite varied and features the strays of Gardner’s eclectic writing; it includes magazine articles, book introductions, letters to the editor, and miscellaneous observational or research stories. A few essays are golden, especially “Why I am Not a Paranormalist,” an absolutely essential piece to hand to anyone exploring skepticism. This is followed closely by “Was the Sinking of the ‘Titanic’ Foretold?”, another excellent breakdown of human psychology and its common errors.

Other areas are hit and miss and really fit into narrow readership. Fans of math puzzles, or the authors G.K. Chesterton or L. Frank Baum, will find unique offerings. (I actually quite liked the Baum pieces…Gardner absolutely adores the Oz fantasies, which makes for fun reading.) Another great addition is “Why I am Not an Atheist,” an essay that, although not ultimately persuasive, should be required reading for anyone going through the requisite thought puzzles surrounding the abandonment of belief. Overall, here is a peculiar non-fiction collection best read for individual pieces that the reader seeks out. A couple of my individual favorites get high praise while others rate far lower, hence the middle-ground stance.

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