Books of Interest

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A few books have impressed enough that I heartily recommend them. These are not the "Great Books" of traditional western literature. They are exclusively in English, so that narrows the view. These are recent and speak of things that were not necessarily well understood before.

The List

Author Title Genre Notes
William Egginton The Rigor of Angels: Borges, Heisenberg, Kant, and the Ultimate Nature of Reality Philosophy, History view
Adam Nicolson How To Be: Life Lessons from the Early Greeks Philosophy, History view
John Vaillant Fire Weather Science, Fire view
Peter Baldwin The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle Law, Copyright view
David M Peña-Guzmán When Animals Dream: The Hidden World of Animal Consciousness Science, Philosophy view
David E Bernstein Classified: the Untold Story of Racial Classification In America History, Demographics, Politics view
Thomas Halliday Otherlands: A Journey Through Earth's Extinct Worlds History,Paleontology view
Andrew J Stewart A Vulnerable System: the History of Information Security in the Computer Age History,Computers,Security view
Michal Zalewski Practical Doomsday Society,History,Survival view
David Graeber and David Wengrow The Dawn of Everything Society,History,Archeology view
Richard Wright The Man Who Lived Underground Society, Police, Race view
Angela Saini Superior: The Return of Race Science. Science,History,Politics view
Timothy Snyder On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century History, Current Events view
Mark Roseman Modern Tkinter for Busy Python Developers Computer, Python Language view
Brett Slatkin Effective Python (2nd edition) Computer, Python Language view
Barack Obama A Promised Land History, Politics view
Avi Widgerson Mathematics and Computation: A Theory Revolutionizing Technology and Science. Mathematics Science Technology view
Bryan Stevenson Just Mercy Justice,Courts,Police view
Larry Lessig THEY Don't Represent US. Politics,Democracy` view
Binyamin Appelbaum The Economists' Hour Economics view
Adam Rutherford A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived Genetics,Race,History view
Carlo Rovelli Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Physics, People view
Marcia Bjornerud Timefulness Earth,Geology,History view
Amy Chua World On Fire Current Events, Riots, Terrorism view
Steven Gundry, MD The Plant Paradox Cookbook Food, Eating, Health view
Steven Gundry, MD The Plant Paradox Food, Eating, Health view
David Perlmutter, MD Grain Brain Food, Eating, Health view
David Perlmutter, MD Brain Maker Food, Eating, Health view
David Perlmutter, MD Grain Brane: Whole Life Plan Food, Eating, Health view
Erica Franz Authoritarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know Current Events, Dictatorship view
Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts Network Propaganda Politics, Internet, Propaganda view
Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, Gene Kim Accelerate Software Organization Team view
Jonathan Haidt (pronounce 'height'). The Righteous Mind Current Events, Evolution view
Ta-nehisi Coates We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy History, Current Events view
Howard Zinn A People's History of the United States History view
Chris Hayes A Colony in a Nation History,Justice view
Edmund Fawcett Liberalism: The Life of an Idea Philosophy, History view
J.D. Vance Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis History view
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell March History view
Peter Singer Ethics in the Real World Philosophy, Morality view
Clayton Christensen Competing Against Luck Business view
Steven Pinker The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined History, Sociology view
Charles C. Mann 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus History view
Charles C. Mann 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created History view
Paul N. Edwards A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming. Science, Politics view
Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming Science, Politics view
Robbert Dijkgraaf and Abraham Flexner The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge Science, Learning, Politics view

Comments on each book

Back to index William Egginton, The Rigor of Angels, Philosophy, History: A fascinating and wonderful look at Reality. Shows how the big answers the ancient Greek Philisophers looked for (Zenos, Socrates) and what later philosophers (Kant, Borges) examined are exactly what Physicists (Einstein, Heisenberg) have been discovering since 1900. Reality is not a smooth flow of anything and is entirely created by our observations. The long discussion of what Kant (and Borges) were realizing and how they wrote about reality were helpful. I particularly loved the physicists gradually reaching a truth, and how Einstein in particular could not accept the reality whose equations he had pioneered -- it was just too foreign to everyday life, one might say. Heisenberg identified it and accepted it, and suggested that it could only be understood through matrix arithmetic: mental pictures based on ordinary live cannot explain reality. Concludes with a detailed rejection of the 'many universes' theory and shows via detailed explanations that free will is real. Noted in The New Yorker. Published 2023. Back to index
Back to index Adam Nicolson,How To Be,Philosophy, History: Published 2023. A fascinating analysis of the period 1200 BC to 410 BC, leading up to Socrates and Plato. Show how the physical facts of the land and sea, and the affect trading had of making the foreign be desirable. Describes how the gradual progression in philosophy over hundreds of years came about. The basic idea that understanding could be gathered by simply thinking deeply (without needing priests, elders, or experts) had to be invented. The greek society was founded and based on slavery which lead to ease and pleasure for the ruling class, including the philosophers themselves. Many lovely photographs from the current day of the locations and objects of the period. -- Noted in The New Yorker,2023 Back to index
Back to index John Vaillant,Fire Weather,Science, Fire: A harrowing description of the gigantic Fort McMurray (Alberta, Canada) fire of May, 2016. Essentially like the 200+ fires burning in Canada in mid-2023. Describes all fires in the Wilderness Urban Interface (WUI), which includes everyone living within a mile or two of a forest (like perhaps 90% of the suburbs of San Francisco, California). Describes how fire propagates (via burning embers blown a mile or more from the fire itself) and how human buildings contribute to the fire. Also writes of the limits of firefighting (in big WUI fires firefighting is basically impossible). Relates human practices that make the fires so dangerous to people. Describes in detail the aspects of Climate Change that make the fires more frequent and more violent. Published 2023. Back to index
Back to index Peter Baldwin, The Copyright Wars, law, copyright Puts the battle between authors, disseminators, and the public over the last three centuries into perspective. With a detailed examination of the arguments in France, Germany, the UK, and the US, all of whom have changed their position over time, and all still arguing. If you are interested in the US position on copyright you will find this book important. Published 2014. Back to index
Back to index David M Peña-Guzmán,When Animals Dream, Science Philosophy: Fascinating and detailed explanations of how in the Victorian era philosophers and everyone thought animals had dreams and personalities. In 1900 that view was rejected so any scientist implying that view was rejected. Around 2000 based on new and detailed studies involving animals, that were impossible to do earlier, demonstrate animals have an internal mental life -- even if the experimenter was unwilling to say that. Animals dream and remember and have a mental view of the world. The view is not based on language though. Highly recommended. Published 2022. Back to index
Back to index David E Bernstein,Classified,History, Demographics, Politics: Remarkable book detailing how (beginning in the 1970's) nonscientific racial profiling became embedded in government largesse and in the nonsensical categorization of medical research. Recommended. Published 2022. Back to index
Back to index Thomas Halliday,Otherlands,History Paleontology: Published 2022. Moving from the present back 500 million years in stages, describing the creatures and situations known to exist at key points in time. Wonderful writing and interesting paragraphs on how the creatures and plants existed. There were many near-total extinctions of life on the planet. The few survivors each time lead to a new population boom but with radically different life. Recommended by the Financial Times. Back to index
Back to index Andrew J Stewart, A Vulnerable System, History Computers, Security: Published 2021. Both a lovely treatise on the history of computer security and a detailed examination of where we are now. Fundamentally security is broken, and little is happening right now that will address that in any fundamental way. Many many references to let you dig deeper. Read the book if the topic interests you at all. Recommended by Rik Farrow ( Back to index
Back to index Michal Zalewski,Practical Doomsday,Society Histor Survival: Published 2022. What you need to know to survive a short-term catastrophe. When electricity and/or water etc are gone for a few days. A short-term breakdown of services in an urban or suburban environment.. Full of useful advice, some of it you probably had not thought about at all (for example, how to deal with sanitation). Clear writing and practical advice and some amazing research on all sorts of things technical and legal. If you really want to build a bunker somewhere for the complete crash of society you must find some other book! Back to index
Back to index David Gaeber and David Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything,Society HistoryArcheology: Published 2022. A fresh examination of why societies look as they do today based in part on the vast new knowledge from archeology and anthropology since the year 2000. Seeking to answer the question "why are we all stuck with limited equality, limited freedom, and patriarchal systems". Perhaps I phrase this poorly. This is perhaps the most important book in many years, showing how most (including specialists) misinterpreted the record of the past to fit a particular mental model of society. A teaser: you will find, here, the answer to the question "What caused the little ice age in the 17 century." Highly recommended. Back to index
Back to index Richard Wright, The Man Who Lived Underground, Society Police Race: Published in full in 2020 after appearing as a short story in 1942, the full book rejected by the publisher then. It's a brutal story of an innocent Black man being tortured by police and hiding. Brilliant writing. It's followed (in the electronic edition I have) by "Memories of My Grandmother," a fascinating and brilliant discussion by Wright of his religious-extremist grandmother and how that bringing up eventually lead him to tie together jazz, painting, writing, and psychology. All of which helped him make the book work. Back to index
Back to index Angela Saini,Superior: The Return of Race Science, Science,History,Politics: Published 2019. 10 Best Science Books of the Year (Smithsonian Magazine) Best Science Books of the Year (NPR's Science Friday) Best Science and Technology Books from 2019 (Library Journal) Humans are all one race. Saini reviews the history of race science and how it was (and is still) used to attempt to prove white supremacy. Her writing is wonderfully clear and engaging and you will learn a lot about past and current studies and guesses and prejudices. The most important result of genetic studies is that all humans are one race. See also wikipedia "Superior:_The_Return_of_Race_Science" and, below, Adam Rutherford "A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived". Back to index
Back to index Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, History, Current Events: Published 2017. Professor Snyder (Professor of History, Yale University) offers twenty one-sentence lessons. Examples: 1. Do not obey in advance and 10. Believe in truth. Then, for each he explains the meaning in detail and how twentieth century history shows that each small thing helps to hold back Trumpism, Populism, Fascism, and Tyranny. It's a physically small (7.5 inch diagonal) 126 page book with easy to read print. Trumpism, Populism, Fascism, and Tyranny cannot be defeated, they can only be held at bay. Everyone opposed to Trumpism, Populism, Fascism, and Tyranny needs to read this book and consider how they wish to act. Back to index
Back to index Mark Roseman, Modern Tkinter for Busy Python Developers, Computer, Python Language: Published 2019. If you are writing graphical user interfaces in Python you need to know what this book provides. It makes possible writing such interfaces that look right for the specific OS involved (MacOS, Linux, or Windows) automatically with no effort on the programmer's part (the library switches the look at runtime). Apps written using the original tkinter look blocky and ugly. Simple changes described here using ttk (a part of modern tkinter) fix that problem. I highly recommend this book! Back to index
Back to index Brett Slatkin, Effective Python (2nd edition), Computer, Python Language: Published 2020. His emphasis is on doing things the Pythonic way, and for those of use who learned Python on our own this book helps us make a big leap forward to maintainable, standard-appearing, readable, and effective Python 3. If you are writing or reading Python code, I highly recommend this book! Back to index
Back to index Barack Obama, A Promised Land, History, Politics: It is a wonderful book. Interesting to read as it has many details that got lost in the press for various reasons. At times it is absolutely thrilling; I admit I cried a few times and had to put the book down and let his words resonate ... there are some beautiful thoughts here. While a few of the campaigning stories bored me his calm and wise thoughts throughout suggested, somehow, that there is hope for the nation and the world. Back to index
Back to index Avi Widgerson Mathematics and Computation: A Theory Revolutionizing Technology and Science, Mathematics Science Technology: This remarkable review of mathematics ties together disparate fields and shows how one field affects another in astonishing ways. Even without understanding most of it I consider it a wonderful book. When I need to look into something (crypto? internet commerce? Security?) this is the place to start. Expect to be amazed. He covers mathematics and computation over a long timeframe. Back to index
Back to index Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy, Justice Courts Police: Published 2014. This is a true story and I suggest you see the movie "Just Mercy" which was created from the book. This a heartbreaking true story about people being condemned to death or life imprisonment for nothing more tham being black and/or poor. Stevenson is a lawyer who started the Equal Justice Initiative ( Statistically it's clear that most victims of improper prosecution have never received any assistance or any valid legal counsel. The book has far more detail than any movie could present. Back to index
Back to index Larry Lessig THEY Don't Represent US. Politics,Democracy: Published 2019. Professor Lessig lists many things wrong about how our current system has been changed over time to be non-representative. Depressing, but perhaps you will find that part of the book useful. Nothing here is about parties. It is about what is best for citizens, not best for politicians (of any stripe). He offers some suggestions of frameworks on how to work towards a representative government. Not pat solutions, but ideas to consider. One of course is eliminating gerrymandering (where the people running for office choose who can vote for/against them). Another idea is deliberative polling to replace the sort of nonsense that current polling generates. See page 176 for an explanation. Back to index
Back to index Binyamin Appelbaum, The Economists' Hour, Economics: Published 2019. A brilliant book describing and documenting how economist theories have destroyed lives and countries. Those theories by now-famous economists (Friedman, Keynes, Laffer, and more) all bring on disaster after a very few years. He also documents possibly-surprising places that have successfully followed a different path over decades. Recommended by my wife after she heard Appelbaum speak on National Public Radio. Back to index
Back to index Adam Rutherford, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, Genetics,Race,History: Published 2016. There is so much wonderful information here. Highly recommended for everyone. It's also fun to read, Rutherford has a wonderful sense of the absurd and the pace is lively. The pace of progress in genetics is dizzying, and in many places he suggests that geneticists will, with new discoveries, likely change their minds about how genes work. A few snippets follow, read the book before you decide the following is just crazy: A) Everyone alive today is related to everyone else because you have part of your genes from everyone alive 3000 years ago (at last those who had at least one child). Which is provable via mathematics! B) There is no such thing as Race. We are all just homo-sapiens. For example, there is more genetic variation between any two Black people than between them and you. Genetic variation is greatest within a group. Other groups have a nearly identical range of variation. C) You have genes from Black people (we all do) and from neanderthal-people too. And you have genes from every King that had children. D) There are no genes for violence. Genes are much more complicated and subtle than you think and no one understands it. ... I noticed this book at Stanford Inn By The Sea, Mendocino, California. See also Angela Saini "Superior: the return of Race Science" above . Back to index
Back to index Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Physics, People: Published 2016. This short (84 pages) book is a wonderful description of seven major physics discoveries (no equations!) and how they came about and the discoverer was ignored or disrespected or worse. Until, years later, physicists gradually realize the discoveries were correct descriptions of the world, not crazy at all. In many cases these lead to the Nobel Prize. It's a charming and delightful read and it's wonderful to be reminded of the chains of discovery and the people interactions. This is the way scientific progress is made, and everyone should read this to get an appreciation of the process of science. Highly recommended. Translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre. I noticed this book at Stanford Inn By The Sea, Mendocino, California. Back to index
Back to index Marcia Bjornerud Timefulness, Earth,Geology,History: Published 2018. This is a really important book. It shows how the earth works and how humans fit in... how we are now the major source of change, some of it (all bad) not reversible in less than thousands of years. Describes the history of the earth and the various mistakes and accomplish ments of geologists over time. In a brief section discusses how she approaches students who think the world is just a few thousand years old. Explains why those proposing modifying the climate by various means are only going to make things worse. The writing style is clear and light , it is not doom-and-gloom. But she clearly relates the action needed now to prevent a disaster for humans (the bacteria will all be just fine and can rebuild the world eventually). [recommended by Rik Farrow, editor of the magazine.] Back to index
Back to index Amy Chua, World On Fire, Current Events, Riots, Terrorism: "How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability." Published 2003. In many countries an ethnic minority controls the wealth and power. That minority is reviled, though governments can temporarily suppress revolt and rioting. While there is no US ethnic minority in control, US is reviled: US money and power appear to the rest of the world as a controlling minority. There is thorough coverage of the many specific situations across the world -- and the history that creates the hatred in the countries and regions. The last few pages are mild suggestions (with caveats) of things Ms. Chua thinks could help the world be more peaceful and more broadly prosperous. Back to index
Back to index Steven Gundry, MD The Plant Paradox Cookbook Food, Eating, Health: Published 2018. A science-based approach to food and health. See foodhealth.htmlfor details Back to index
Back to index Steven Gundry, MD The Plant Paradox Food, Eating, Health: Published 2017. A science-based approach to food and health. See foodhealth.htmlfor details Back to index
Back to index David Perlmutter MD, Grain Brain, Food Eating Health: Published 2013. A neurologist with similar scientific credentials to Gundry. See foodhealth.html for details Back to index
Back to index David Perlmutter MD, Brain Maker, Food Eating Health: Published 2013. A neurologist with similar scientific credentials to Gundry. See foodhealth.html for details Back to index
Back to index David Perlmutter MD, Grain Brain Whole Life Plan, Food Eating Health: Published 2013. A neurologist with similar scientific credentials to Gundry. See foodhealth.html for details Back to index
Back to index Erica Franz, Authoritarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know, Current Events Dictatorship: Though a bit dry the book is important for everyone to read. It uses the hundreds of instances of regime-change from 1946 to 2014 as the database and analyses the causes and results. The section on how an elected leader turns the country into a dictatorship lists many actions and it appears that D.Trump is using essentially every one of those many techniques (one example is calling things the leader does not like 'fake news', another is packing the entire leadership with cronys and relatives). I think S. Bannon and S. Miller are the architects of this attempt to become supreme-leader-for-life. Hundreds of democracies have been changed to dictatorship. Do not assume it cannot happen in the US. Back to index
Back to index Yochai Benkler Robert Faris and Hal Roberts, Network Propaganda, Politics Internet Propaganda: Published 2018. Using vast amounts of available data and lots of clever charts and graphs the authors show that US election results are due to the asymmetry of reporting in the media people read. While other effects (Facebook, Twitter, Russia) are real the main effect is the 30% of the population that never hears what the mainstream has to say. Or rather the major media message is heard and discounted. Be prepared for a book full of very long sentences. IMO the message here is important to read. The suggestions to major media on how to deal with the asymmetry seem absolutely on target to me. Back to index
Back to index Nicole Forsgren Jez Humble Gene Kim, Accelerate, Software Organizations Teams: What is now called DevOps is part of a team-wide or organization-wide way of working that accelerates quality software development and improves the lives of the developers and managers. For CEOs and CTOs this book is a how-to on moving ahead of your competitors, most of whom will not read this book. For software managers and team members it is about producing quality work on an accelerated schedule with less stress and an improved quality-of-life. This is about teams and companies, not about coding. It's recommendations are based on world-wide surveys of real organizations. A significant part of the book is about surveys: how to create useful ones and how to get confidence the results shown are real. Back to index
Back to index Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, Current Events Evolution: Published 2012. Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second. The book is based on the very latest careful research on how people actually think and behave. From the Introduction: "Politics and religion are both expressions of our underlying moral psychology, and an understanding of that psychology can help to bring people together. [...] My hope is that this book will make conversations about morality, politics, and religion more common, more civil, and more fun, even in mixed company." Lots of careful work in recent decades has resulted in significant insights as to how we think and reason. Not the internal clockworks of how brain signaling works, but the big issue: why we think as we do. Whatever side we are on... of anything. A must-read for everyone with any interest in thinking, in the role of morality in society, or in current events. Back to index
Back to index Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy, History, Current Events: This is an outstanding presentation of a key aspect of the last 450 years on the North American continent, the oppression of the Blacks. Wonderful writing. The parts about Barack and Michelle Obama illustrate how different BHO's upbringing was compared to Blacks generally an how similar M. Obama's experiences were to many other Blacks. It has a detailed explanation about the serial oppression of blacks over time by force and law, an oppression that continues today (Example: Ferguson Missouri). A must-read for everyone in the US. What should be done? Reparations. Back to index
Back to index Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States History: History books commonly ignore much of the impact of the past on ordinary people. Howard Zinn, history professor at Boston University decided (at his retirement) that this was a vital topic that needed covering. This 700 page book is the result. It covers about 400 years of history of the Americas. It will completely change your view of US history in several ways. One critical thing: every important improvement in people's lives (meaning every step along the long road to someday implement what the US Constitution promises) is the result of protest movements, not of calm reasoning. Protest movements work. Everyone living in the US should read it. Others may find it illuminating too. Back to index
Back to index Chris Hayes, A Colony in a Nation, History Justice: The colonies here are the areas where non-whites are forced into cohesive areas to live (by housing and lending practices) while the white power structure retains control (political and police control). There are examples in every major US city. Ferguson, Missouri is an example. There are many more examples. Hayes describes how the white power structure keeps non-whites 'under control' with laws and police and jails. He debunks the most popular explanation of the fall in crime since 1992 (broken windows). He clarifies how the system conflates 'disorderly' with 'criminal'. And clarifies what the 'criminal justice' system really does in the colonies (hint: the mission is not to protect the citizens of a colony). He does not prescribe solutions to the hard problems. Back to index
Back to index Edmund Fawcett, Liberalism: The Life of an Idea, Philosophy, History: Liberalism is fundamentally misunderstood in the US and this book informs on its real meaning and history. The idea was born about 1830. Fawcett says, in the Preface "Liberalism as I take it here was a search for an ethically acceptable order of human progress among civic equals without recourse to undue power." But you have to read the book to understand the history of liberalism and indeed, the meaning of liberalism. You will not find a genuine definition of Liberalism in the main-stream media. You will find one in this book. Recommended by the Financial Times. Back to index
Back to index J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, History: It makes the situation in much of the U.S. with people of Scots-Irish descent understandable. J.D. Vance grew up in that culture but with help from others (including family) grew out of the culture trap (while retaining his love of the people). A must read if you want to understand an important part of current politics. These are people who need help but who will resist changing and resist help. He struggles with the culture trap and some things people say force him to struggle with a strong impulse to simply beat the speaker to a pulp as that is what people do in that culture. Do not insult his mother even in jest, it is both gross (in modern conversation) and dangerous (to the speaker's health and well-being). Note that Vance downplays the importance of the federal dollars going to help people there. He makes something of the people cheating on Food Stamps to buy drugs but no credit to the government for providing the Food Stamps. Nor does he give the government credit for creating the schools, roads, etc that underpin his personal achievements. The dollars that helped him at crucial times in his childhood are just 'vague old-age payments' to his grandmother. Such omissions take nothing from his laudable accomplishments, but one does need to take a wider view, as a reader. Back to index
Back to index John Lewis Andrew Aydin Nate Powell, March, History: A graphic (illustrated) life story of John Lewis in three books. John Lewis of the towering figures in the too-slow progression of getting full rights to the Black citizens of the US. I was a bit worried about the graphic aspect. But it is exceedingly well done and the graphics add a real impact. While it may be aimed at younger readers (the graphic aspect) it is meaningful for those of any age (even old fogies like me). Wonderful. I hope to pass the set on to my nephews when they are young teens (not too long now). Back to index
Back to index Peter Singer, Ethics in the Real World, Philosophy Morality   This collection of Singer's essays has an important explanation of where morality comes from (hint: not religion). Back to index
Back to index Clayton Christensen, Competing Against Luck, Business: This follow-on to The Innovator's Dilemma actually answers the question of how a business can survive. The key phrase is "Jobs To Be Done" and reading the book will tell you what that means and how it matters. Back to index
Back to index Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined, History, Sociology: In the first and second quarters of the book Pinker shows, from the historical record, how violence has declined. The impression one gets from the media (about violence) is misleading. Fascinating tables of violence over human history. The third quarter, about the brain, I found uninteresting and could not see strong connections with the rest of the book. The fourth quarter is again wonderful. Back to index
Back to index Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, History: There were a lot more people living in South and Central America than your history books said there were. And all those jungles were, essentially, planted gardens. So the way species are intermingled in the jungles is the intent of the many millions of folks who lived there. (Precis: Europeans first exterminated nearly everyone and destroyed all written records in South America and then decided the tattered remnants of civilization meant there never had been civilization)
Back to index Charles C. Mann, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, History:   Extends Alfred Crosby's "The Columbian Exchange" and "Ecological Imperialism" with recent scholarship those books provoked. Columbus started the movement of people and things across the world. Wonderful book. Back to index
Back to index Paul N. Edwards A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming. Science, Politics: When climate investigations started (1850 or so) and how it has all proceeded in a semi-chronological order. There is no data without models, it turns out. Models (almost) all the way down. Winner, 2010 ASLI Choice Award in the History category, awarded by Atmospheric Science Librarians International. Winner, 2011 Computer History Museum Prize, awarded by the Society for the History of Technology Winner, 2012 Louis J. Battan Authors Award, awarded by the American Meteorological Society. Back to index
Back to index Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, Science, Politics:   The denial of science in an organized way started around 1950. The deniers were cold-war warriors (well, US Government weapons physicists) and well organized and hated government and believed any regulation is a move to socialism and communism. The original denier-organization (whose first campaign was to pretend cigarette smoking was non-harmful then moved on to denying DDT was harmful and now denies global warning and more) is still around, renamed, though now oil and coal companies fund many additional groups. Their one-page attack-on-science plan is still in use -- a brilliant and amoral plan. Oreskes and Conway are historians. Back to index
Back to index Robbert Dijkgraaf and Abraham Flexner, The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge, Science Learning Politics:   Now, when science and learning are threatened in so many places (definitely including the USA) it's important to again read and hear why basic research (useless knowledge) is so important. Einstein's theory of relativity was useless to the ordinary citizen for 100 years. But today GPS depends on it: without it a GPS location would drift seven miles in a single day. Dijkgraaf is part of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. Flexner founded the IAS in 1933. Back to index

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