The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way
The Wisdom of Crowds
The God Delusion
The Next Enlightenment
Walter Truett Anderson
In Search of Memory
Eric R. Kandel
Patterns In The Void
Sten F. Odenwald
Bart D. Ehrman
William R. Polk
This book provides a broad history of the region we today call Iraq, starting with pre-historical Iraq approximately 12,000 years ago and ending today with the current US occupation. The history is fascinating, but one of the things that stands out the most is the terrible difficulty translating Arabic concepts into English. Arabic is so nuanced, so overloaded with historical emotion, that the idea of translating a single word in Arabic to anything less than a paragraph in English seems hopeless.
This book is near the top of my list of life- and/or mind-altering writings. Wright's basic notion is that human social evolution is driven towards more complexity by humans' innate ability to create and play non-zero-sum games, and that our ability to do this is driven by improvements in communication and transportation. He traces the general evolution of human societies through the lens of non-zero-sumness and makes a compelling case for this being the fundamental driver of human social evolution. A fascinating book, and it has completely altered my sense of "what's happening to the human race".
Firlik is a neurosurgeon (unusal), a woman (rare), and an excellent and compassionate writer (probably unique). She discusses her training, life as a practicing brain surgeon, and muses about people, medicine, the nature of conciousness and humanity, the relationship between the mind and the brain, and some of the more interesting cases she's worked on.
I confess, I haven't finished this one yet. I've been reading it for more than a year, and it is a bit of a slog. Dawkins clarifies some of the mechanics of genetic evolution, and then proceeds to trace our ancenstral tree back through "concestors" (common ancestors of multiple species). I've reached Protostomes, the concestor of Molluscs and segmented worms. Dawkins writes clearly, if somewhat verbosely, but his treatment of the evolutionary chain is so compellingly complete that any literate creationist must throw in the towel. Dawkins completely destroys the "missing link" arguments that creationists often use to discredit the evolutionary model. My only complaint is with Dawkin's annoying habit of making the occassional dig at various religious beliefs. They just get in the way of what is an awesome description of genetic evolution of life.
Christopher Moore is one of the funniest writers working today. Bloodsucking Fields and You Suck are part of his vampire series. He's assembled a delightful cast of lovable misfits living in current-day San Francisco. Jody is a claims processing clerk at Transamerica, and has just awakened after being attacked by a vampire. She calls 911.
"Hello, you've reached the number for San Francisco emergency services. If you are currently in danger, press one; if the danger has passed and you still need help, press two."
Jody pressed two.
"If you have been robbed, press one. If you've been in an accident, press two; If you've been assaulted, press three. If you are calling to report a fire, press four. If you've--"
Jody ran thr choices through her head and pressed three.
"If you've been shot, press one. Stabbed, press two. Raped, press three. All other assaults, press four. If you'd like to hear these choices again, press five."
Jody meant to press four, but hit five instead. There was a series of clicks an the recorded voice came back on."Hello, you've reached the number for San Francisco emergency services. If you are currently in danger--"
You get the idea. Christopher Moore is a total blast.
Another zany tale from Moore, this one covering the undocumented childhood of Jesus Christ, from the viewpoint of Biff, his best friend.