by Philip Ball
About the book: One of the four elements of classical antiquity, water is central to the environment of our planet. In Life's Matrix, Philip Ball writes of water's origins, history, and unique physical character. As a geological agent, water shapes mountains, canyons, and coastlines, and when unleashed in hurricanes and floods its destructive power is awesome. Ball's provocative exploration of water on other planets highlights the possibilities of life beyond Earth. Life's Matrix also examines the grim realities of depletion of natural resources and its effects on the availability of water in the twenty-first century.
by Jared M. Diamond
About the book: "Fascinating.... Lays a foundation for understanding human history."―Bill Gates In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California's Gold Medal.
by Franz De Waal
About the book: What if apes had their own culture rather than an imposed human version? What if they reacted to situations with behavior learned through observation of their elders (culture) rather than with pure genetically coded instinct (nature)? In answering these questions, eminent primatologist Frans de Waal corrects our arrogant assumption that humans are the only creatures to have made the leap from the natural to the cultural domain.The book's title derives from an analogy de Waal draws between the way behavior is transmitted in ape society and the way sushi-making skills are passed down from sushi master to apprentice. Like the apprentice, young apes watch their group mates at close range, absorbing the methods and lessons of each of their elders' actions. Responses long thought to be instinctive are actually learned behavior, de Waal argues, and constitute ape culture.A delightful mix of intriguing anecdote, rigorous clinical study, adventurous field work, and fascinating speculation, The Ape and the Sushi Master shows that apes are not human caricatures but members of our extended family with their own resourcefulness and dignity.
by Daniel J. Boorstin
About the book: Incredible breadth of scholarship in this work, and the first half I would label among the most uniquely entertaining works of history I have come across in quite some time. Like Mark Kurlansky, Boorstin approaches history through several unique lenses, always tied together by mankind's drive to discovery and expansion, such as the impact of spectacles on productivity, the impact of the development of tools of navigation and astronomy, and the currents of philosophical and religious thought that at times limited man, at other times challenged great thinkers to unlock new worlds, and at other times drove societies to expand and conquer. He focuses great attention and incredible detail on physical discovery, and the thought trends that related to these momentous discoveries, such as that of the journey from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, and, of course, the discovery of the Americas. He also commits some attention to China and Japan, but, in the end, his focus is undoubtedly Euro-centric. This book is certainly an immense achievement in scholarship, but demands a lot of patience and endurance from the reader. In the end, those virtues pay off, but you'll be in need of a bit of an intellectual vacation after flipping the last page.
by Desmond Morris
About the book: This work has become a benchmark of popular anthropology and psychology. Zoologist Desmond Morris considers humans as being simply another animal species in this classic book first published in 1967. Here is the Naked Ape at his most primal in love, at work, at war. Meet man as he really is: relative to the apes, stripped of his veneer as we see him courting, making love, sleeping, socializing, grooming, playing. The Naked Ape takes its place alongside Darwin's Origin of the Species, presenting man not as a fallen angel, but as a risen ape, remarkable in his resilience, energy and imagination, yet an animal nonetheless, in danger of forgetting his origins. With its penetrating insights on mans beginnings, sex life, habits and our astonishing bonds to the animal kingdom, The Naked Ape is a landmark, at once provocative, compelling and timeless.
by Marvin Harris
About the book: I first read this book as "light" reading when I was a graduate student in anthropology. Now, as an anthropology instructor, I assign it as a textbook in a course on Religion, Magic and Witchcraft. It proposes logical and fascinating solutions to such puzzles as (1) why Hindus are better off going hungry than slaughtering and eating their cattle,(2) why religions of the Middle East have made pork taboo, while cultures of the South Pacific organize their ritual life around pork feasts, and (3) in what way are New Guinea cargo cults, the 12 disciples of Jesus, the European witch trials, and the popularity of New Age beliefs of today the results of similar cultural pressures. This is the first book I have ever assigned in class that students have asked if they may read all at once, instead of a chapter a week. They can't put it down!
by Douglas Adams,Mark Carwardine
About the book: "Very funny and moving...The glimpses of rare fauna seem to have enlarged [Adams'] thinking, enlivened his world; and so might the animals do for us all, if we were to help them live."THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLDJoin bestselling author Douglas Adams and zooligist Mark Carwardine as they take off around the world in search of exotic, endangered creatures. Hilarious and poignant--as only Douglas Adams can be--LAST CHANCE TO SEE is an entertaining and arresting odyssey through the Earth's magnificent wildlife galaxy.
by Sir James George Frazer
About the book: A certain sacred tree was forbidden to the touch, save only for runaway slaves: if the slave could break off a branch — The Golden Bough — he could challenge the tree's attendant priest to mortal combat. If victorious, the slave would replace the priest as King of the Woods — until his lethal defeat by another bearer of The Golden Bough. Sir James George Frazer, an expert in myth and religion, was so intrigued by this tale from classical mythology that he spent more than a quarter-century investigating its genesis. His 1890 study of the cults, rites, and myths of antiquity, The Golden Bough, offers a monumental exploration of these customs and their parallels with early Christianity. A pioneer of social anthropology, Frazer's definitions of such terms as "magic," "religion," and "science" proved highly useful to his successors in the field, and his explications of the ancient legends profoundly influenced generations of prominent psychologists, writers, and poets. This abridgment of his multivolume magnum opus omits footnotes and occasionally condenses text; nevertheless, as the author himself observed, all of the original work's main principles remain intact, along with ample illustrative examples.
by S. E. Hinton
About the book: The Outsider is the seminal work on alienation, creativity, and the modern mind-set. First published more than thirty years ago, it made its youthful author England's most controversial intellectual. The Outsider is an individual engaged in an intense self-exploration-a person who lives at the edge, challenges cultural values, and "stands for Truth." Born into a world without perspective, where others simply drift through life, the Outsider creates his own set of rules and lives them in an unsympathetic environment. The relative handful of people who fulfilled Wilson's definition of the Outsider in the 1950s have now become a significant social force, making Wilson's vision more relevant today than ever. Through the works and lives of various artists-including Kafka, Camus, Eliot, Hemingway, Hesse, Lawrence, Van Gogh, Nijinsky, Shaw, Blake, Nietzsche, and Dostoyevski-Wilson explores the psyche of the Outsider, his effect on society, and society's effect on him. Wilson illuminates the struggle of those who seek not only the transformation of Self but also the transformation of society as a whole. The book is essential for everyone who shares Wilson's conviction that "a new religion is needed."
by Philip C. Plait,Tina Cash-Walsh
About the book: Advance praise for Philip Plait s Bad Astronomy "Bad Astronomy is just plain good! Philip Plait clears up every misconception on astronomy and space you never knew you suffered from." --Stephen Maran, Author of Astronomy for Dummies and editor of The Astronomy and Astrophysics Encyclopedia "Thank the cosmos for the bundle of star stuff named Philip Plait, who is the world s leading consumer advocate for quality science in space and on Earth. This important contribution to science will rest firmly on my reference library shelf, ready for easy access the next time an astrologer calls." --Dr. Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Borderlands of Science "Philip Plait has given us a readable, erudite, informative, useful, and entertaining book. Bad Astronomy is Good Science. Very good science..." --James "The Amazing" Randi, President, James Randi Educational Foundation, and author of An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural "Bad Astronomy is a fun read. Plait is wonderfully witty and educational as he debunks the myths, legends, and 'conspiracies that abound in our society. 'The Truth Is Out There' and it's in this book. I loved it!" --Mike Mullane, Space Shuttle astronaut and author of Do Your Ears Pop in Space?
by Carl Sagan,Ann Druyan
About the book: "A glorious book . . . A spirited defense of science . . . From the first page to the last, this book is a manifesto for clear thought." *Los Angeles Times"POWERFUL . . . A stirring defense of informed rationality. . . Rich in surprising information and beautiful writing." *The Washington Post Book WorldHow can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don't understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the pursuit of truth but to the very well-being of our democratic institutions.Casting a wide net through history and culture, Sagan examines and authoritatively debunks such celebrated fallacies of the past as witchcraft, faith healing, demons, and UFOs. And yet, disturbingly, in today's so-called information age, pseudoscience is burgeoning with stories of alien abduction, channeling past lives, and communal hallucinations commanding growing attention and respect. As Sagan demonstrates with lucid eloquence, the siren song of unreason is not just a cultural wrong turn but a dangerous plunge into darkness that threatens our most basic freedoms."COMPELLING." *USA Today"A clear vision of what good science means and why it makes a difference. . . . A testimonial to the power of science and a warning of the dangers of unrestrained credulity." *The Sciences"PASSIONATE." *San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle
by Maryanne Wolf
About the book: "Human beings were never born to read," writes Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist and child development expert Maryanne Wolf. Reading is a human invention that reflects how the brain rearranges itself to learn something new. In this ambitious, provocative book, Wolf chronicles the remarkable journey of the reading brain not only over the past five thousand years, since writing began, but also over the course of a single child's life, showing in the process why children with dyslexia have reading difficulties and singular gifts. Lively, erudite, and rich with examples, Proust and the Squid asserts that the brain that examined the tiny clay tablets of the Sumerians was a very different brain from the one that is immersed in today's technology-driven literacy. The potential transformations in this changed reading brain, Wolf argues, have profound implications for every child and for the intellectual development of our species.
by Roderick Frazier Nash
About the book: Roderick Nash’s classic study of changing attitudes toward wilderness during American history, as well as the origins of the environmental and conservation movements, has received wide acclaim since its initial publication in 1967. The Los Angeles Times listed it among the one hundred most influential books published in the last quarter century, Outside Magazine included it in a survey of “books that changed our world,” and it has been called the “Book of Genesis for environmentalists.” For the fifth edition, Nash has written a new preface and epilogue that brings Wilderness and the American Mind into dialogue with contemporary debates about wilderness. Char Miller’s foreword provides a twenty-first-century perspective on how the environmental movement has changed, including the ways in which contemporary scholars are reimagining the dynamic relationship between the natural world and the built environment.
by John McCrone
About the book: Even 12 years after it was published, McCrone's first book remains a lucid introduction to the workings of the human brain, the history of its evolution, and the role of language in the development of self-consciousness and intelligence. He discusses how the brain evolved over millions of years, then he narrows his focus to examine how, during the last 40,000 years, language and self-awareness enhanced the brain's capabilities (through a process he calls "cultural evolution"). With its lack of jargon, "The Ape That Spoke" could be read by non-scientists interested in pursuing the far more exhaustive (and perhaps intimidating) studies by the likes of Steven Pinker or Antonio R. Damasio