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Book reviews

Dictionary of Evidence-based Medicine. A Li Wan Po. Radcliffe Medical Press, Abingdon, 1998. 165pp, £16.50. ISBN 1 85775 305 4.

The first, and perhaps appropriate, item in this dictionary is 'Ability to pay', something Bandolier always worries about. But if you want to know what a Likert scale or Jarman index is, then you'll find a brief description plus a useful reference in this book.

Which of us hasn't from time to time (or even more frequently than that) been stumped by some weird piece of jargon? Can you define an ASTRO-PU? Well, with this book on your shelf, it is a simple matter to figure out that it is relevant and simple, and that if you need to go to the font of all knowledge on the subject, then it's in the BMJ.

Bandolier is in there, nicely placed between 'balanced design' and 'Bayes, Thomas R'. It is interesting to know that his fame derives from a posthumously published paper. There are many things you'll know, of course, but even more that you won't. Hands up all those who know what Berkson's fallacy is? (A spurious correlation which may be observed between two diseases or between a disease and a risk factor arising from biased sampling.)

There will be a few definitions in this dictionary with which the sophisticated would wish to quibble, but not many. The style is simple and direct, and for those of us with few or tired neurones, it's on the button.

A good stocking filler this, and the price, at about ten pence a page, is well within most people's ability to pay.

Evidence-based Healthcare. A Practical Guide for Therapists. Tracy Bury & Judy Mead. Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford, 1998. 249 pp, £19.99. ISBN 0 7506 3783 8.

This is a really good book directed towards physiotherapists. It is clearly written and it covers all the bases. There are some chapters on change management that are particularly interesting (and the case studies useful), and excellent stuff on how to handle the findings and using of evidence.

Any physiotherapist new to the ideas of EBM, or anyone else for that matter, will find this book useful and stimulating. Those who work in the area already will find little new, but might find the way some of the ideas are conveyed rather well done.

One quibble, though. The book lacks examples. There are some examples of evidence, but nowhere near enough. Now that possibly reflects a dearth of evidence in the physical therapy area, but there are others from pharmacology and some forms of complementary medicine which could be used. A harder edge through examples would do more to challenge ingrained habit or lack of resolve. Perhaps time is of the essence here, and with more therapists engaging in research and implementation of evidence, the second edition will have more meat.

But that is a quibble, and the reality is that the care and attention lavished on this book is obvious. It is an important contribution in an important area.

The Science of Presenting Well. Ian Wilkinson. AACC Press, Washington 1998. 109pp, US$15. ISBN 0 915274 94 9.

Information has two key characteristics: its content and its means of transmission. The basic units of information content are ideas, or 'memes'. Memes are the information world's equivalent of genes. Like genes, memes are bits of information passed from individual to individual. And like genes, they love to reproduce.

The transmission of 'memes', though, is the key to this amusing, informative and useful book. Ian Wilkinson seems to have been there, done that, and got the T-shirt. He's a Hitchhiker fan, and his introduction is datelined 'Phobos'.

If you have read Bill Bryson, and found yourself laughing aloud on a plane or train, then you will have already experienced the slight embarrassment you can expect if you follow Ian Wilkinson's thoughts in public. But this book isn't all about laughs: it uses laughs to get ideas over, and to help prepare both the naive and the experienced presenter. Perhaps most of all it helps anyone who is going to give a talk, or who has given many, to laugh at themselves. Pomposity is punctured!

The chapter on oral presentations is wonderful. He tells us that fear of public speaking is top of the list of phobias, with death down at number seven. He tells us how to get over the problem, how to structure a talk, how to work the audience, and what to avoid. Like the laser pointer! Once you see this referred to as the 'Jedi-Knight Syndrome', you will never wave it around so mindlessly again. That's another plus from the book - using it as a scoring system when you are bored to death with yet another poor presenter.

This is a classic. If you thought nothing ever good came out of clinical biochemistry, then on this, at least, you would be wrong. It's great.

If you can't get it in bookshops, try the AACC Press Internet site at .

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