I receive a fair number of books to review each week, so I thought I should do what several magazines and other publications do; list those books that have arrived in my mailbox so you know that this is the pool of books from which I will be reading and reviewing on my blog.
- Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do by Andrew Gelman (Princeton, NJ: Princeton; 2008) Brief Comment: Gelman and a group of fellow political scientists crunch numbers and draw graphs, arriving at a picture that refutes the influential one drawn by Thomas Frank, in What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, of poor red-staters voting Republican against their economic interests. Instead, Gelman persuasively argues, the poor in both red states and blue still mostly vote Democratic, and the rich, nationally speaking, overwhelmingly vote Republican.
- Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend by Barbara Oakley (Amherst, NY: Prometheus; 2008) Brief Comment: Remarkable — and difficult to put down … a wonderfully readable tapestry of family autobiography, historical biography, and biological psychology. Without oversimplifying their psychosocial complexity, Evil Genes explores new research on the genetics and neurobiology of personality disorders. Shining this light on some of the most problematic figures of our era, it challenges our assumptions about the roots of terrorism, genocide, crime, corruption — and even the sinister sides of politics, business, and religion.
- Experimental Heart: A Novel by Jennifer L. Rohn (Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; 2009) Brief Comment: “Engrossing”, “authentic”, “compelling” … just some reactions to the debut novel by UCL cell biologist and well-known blogger, Jennifer Rohn. A thriller centered on commercial drug development, the book will be enjoyed by anyone who knows the intense, intimate world of biomedical research. At last, a novel about scientists with characters that are recognizably real!
- In the Mind’s Eye: Essays across the Animate World by Elizabeth Dodd (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nerbraska; 2008) Brief Comment: In these exquisitely rendered essays, Dodd (Archetypal Light) explores the intersections of the arts and the natural world, often coming up with unexpected and insightful conclusions. Dodd serves as an inviting guide to everything from the ancient mammoth cave paintings of Chauvet in France to the joys of owning a wood-stove. Drawing from various sources, Dodd creates a cohesive network of connections between mediums and ideas, as in the essay Cañonicity, which smoothly interweaves personal reflections on the southwestern landscape with an analysis of Georgia O’Keeffe’s early paintings of that region. Dodd’s adventures and reflections often center on the desire to understand the world inhabited by our primitive ancestors.
- Prairie Spring: A Journey Into the Heart of a Season by Pete Dunne (NYC: Houghton Mifflin; 2009) Brief Comment: In this first of four seasonal narratives, Pete Dunne sends a postcard from the prairie in his characteristically puckish style.The prairie is an exciting place to explore an unfolding drama — man versus the environment — and as Dunne and his wife travel through the heartland, the fleeting nature of the season comes to symbolize the precarious balance between the two.
- The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate by David Archer (Princeton, NJ: Princeton; 2009) Brief Comment: In this short book, David Archer gives us the latest on climate change research, and skillfully tells the climate story that he helped to discover: generations beyond our grandchildren’s grandchildren will inherit atmospheric changes and an altered climate as a result of our current decisions about fossil-fuel burning. Not only are massive climate changes coming if we humans continue on our current path, but many of these changes will last for millennia. To make predictions about the future, we rely on research into the deep past, and Archer is at the forefront of this field: paleoclimatology.
- Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions by Zachary Shore (NYC: Bloomsbury; 2008) Brief Comment: Using examples drawn from history, wars, medicine, business and literature, Shore identifies seven common cognition traps such as causefusion (confusing the causes of complex events), flatview (black and white thinking) and static cling (an inability to accept change). Shore cites examples of various actors (individuals, corporations and even nations) stumbling into one trap or another with unfortunate results (e.g., a person will compound a blunder through different kinds of faulty reasoning).
- Margaret Mead: The Making of an American Icon by Nancy C. Lutkehaus (Princeton, NJ: Princeton; 2008) Brief Comment: As an anthropologist who has herself conducted research in Papua New Guinea, Lutkehaus (Zarias Fire) is well positioned to evaluate renowned forerunner Margaret Mead’s cultural influence in 20th-century American society. Her intriguing thesis examines Mead as a representative figure of public concerns and desires — and as a prism through which to view anthropology’s influence on the rapidly changing contours of American life.
- Modeling for Field Biologists and Other Interesting People by Hanna Kokko (NYC: Cambridge University Press; 2007). Brief Comment: I am enjoying this well-written and entertaining book so far, but was astonished to see its price, which is a little bit shocking to say the least.
A friend lent me this book to read/review;