Houston, TX, United States | Member Since 2005
Pinker is articulate, brilliant and interesting as he leads the listener through a huge forest of cognitive research and evolutionary psychology. He explains as he begins that the fascinating features of our brain have evolved for two purposes: First, to help us reproduce as many offspring as possible. Second, to help us survive as long as long as possible. Any abilities that do not further these two goals are superfluous to our existence. It is a book I will probably read several times before I put it down for good.
My sacred cows lay slain every where. I learned many things about many organized religions and contradictions and little known facts about the Bible. I was put off by what I found as the minimizing of pedophilia when comparing its damage to that of the religious brainwashing of children. Other than that Dawkins makes a logical well supported case against believing in any god. However, to accept his hypothesis, you must restrict your systems of perception to rationalism and empiricism. If you live by faith and not by sight, his arguments will be vacuous.
The battle in my mind between my heritage of faith and my deep allegiance to the scientific method found some peace in the main hypothesis of The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. He hypothesizes that man is driven by a deep fear of dying to build constructs of what happens after death. He suggests that the primal fear of death cause people to convert to religion, leave moments to their lives, and to spend their life in an Epicurean scramble to balance the nothingness of death.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave is one of the most intense novels that I have read. What happened when Little Bee, Andrew, and Sarah met on a beach drives the story. The tale is told from two narrates. One is that of a 16 year old Nigerian refugee who has just been released from a British immigration center. The other is that of a female British magazine editor whose life has become very complicated. Though a novel, the story seemed very real and I remained hypnotized until the very end.
Intercept by Patrick Robinson is well written, keeping its audience anxious to know what will happen next. That is probably why it appeared on the New York Times best sellers list. However, Robinson's political point of view was obviously formed from substituting playing violent video games for attending any high school or college government or history classes. His racist attitude toward all middle eastern folk is only exceeded by his blind reverence for and faith in the U.S. military. His story of the tracking and assassination of four terrorists released by due process from Guantanamo caries the same fascist tone one might find in a Arian militia group living in Utah. His contempt for those who cherish our protection of civil rights would win him a literary award from the Fox network. Though his antagonists were religious zealots set on bringing down America and willing to ignore any humanity in the name of Allah, his hero was only different by wrapping his behavior in a equal zeal for America, right or wrong. If you believe that we do not owe due process those who hold America wanting you will love this novel.
Reading this book was like taking a graduate course in the historical psychological and sociological causes of violence.
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin makes the reader/listener a fly on the wall at a volatile and pivotal period in American history. She uses newspaper articles, diaries, journals, letters, and memoirs to put her reader/listeners in venues where the progressive movement had its beginning and brightest moments. The book contrasts and compares two deeply interesting men: Theodore Roosevelt and Howard Taft. It also details the lives of the most prominent muckraker journalists including S. S. McClur, Ida Tarbell, Ray Baker in a way that makes you think that you are watching them actually work. She creates an extremely personal look at all the major political players in the period between the Gilded Age and the beginning of World War I.
Dr. William Davis is a passionate scientist and healer, who is convinced that wheat is the root of almost all that can go wrong with the body. He proceeds through maladies including but not limited to GERD, coronary artery disease, obesity, diabetes, Celiac disease, ED, and acne. Oh, I forgot arthritis. Davis supports each of these with whatever is available from anecdotal, correlational, or experimental research. His writing style is engaging and his anecdotes are inspiring. However, his leaps of faith based on correlational data make one realize that he must have missed the classes on correlational versus causal variance in the research course which he took. Still, the book caused me to do my own experiment and try his recommendations for ninety days. Here is to the new me.
The Irish Potato famine lasted from 1841 to 1849 and resulted in the deaths of millions of poor Irish farmers and their families. John Kelly, the author, uses newspaper reports, diary entries, and Irish literature written in that time to take the reader through those horrific years. He shows that the consequences of the famine were the result of the capitalistic, religious, and ethnic cultures of the time. If slavery was America's "Original Sin", The Potato famine was Great Britain's. As the reader moves through the period of the famine, it is obvious that greed, self interest, and ignorance combined to bring down the Irish peasants and land owners alike.
One part of Kelly's narrative that I found interesting was his description of the Irish immigrant experience in America and Canada as result of the famine. I recommend The Graves are Walking to any interested in understanding what shaped Irish culture from 1841 to this day.
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard examines American history from a cultural perspective. The author suggests that North American is made up more by Nations than by states. Nations he argues are groups of people or regions sharing a common cultural, history and set of values. He posits that there are eleven such national regions in North America formed from the immigrant groups who had different heritages. Woodard describes how these different cultures divided the American people into slave owners versus abolitionists, central government advocates versus states’ rights proponents, and Tories versus revolutionaries. He argues that every major event and movement in American can be attributed to regional cultural differences that originated in our country’s early history and exist to the present.
I enjoyed examining American history from a different perspective than I have in other sources I have studied. I recommend it to anyone truly interested American history or cultural issues.
The Mary Russel series is a grand conceit that extends the Sherlock Holmes character into middle age where he first mentors then partners with and finally marries Ms. Mary Russell. She is thoroughly competent and very emancipated. Each story is told from Russell's point of view. The novelty of the stories is the way she includes historical characters both real and literary. In this seventh of the series Laurie R. King introduces Rudyard Kipling's Kim as an older British spy in 1924 India who has an adolescent son. The story plot is built around a mythical Indian prince who is up to no good. It was a delightful listen.
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