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Official Poll - Non-Fiction book for May & June 2008 
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Post Official Poll - Non-Fiction book for May & June 2008
Official Poll
Non-Fiction book for May & June 2008

This is our Official Poll for selecting our Non-Fiction book for May and June 2008. For those that are new we read and discuss a different Non-Fiction book every two months. We also read and discuss a different Fiction book every two months, but these discussion periods are staggered so that a new book discussion is starting every single month. One month the new discussion will be Fiction, the next will be Non-Fiction, the next Fiction, and so on.

The Rules

1. Please do NOT vote if you have not made at least 10 total posts to our forums.

Our polls stay up for about 10 calendar days, so you shouldn't have a difficult time getting your post-count to 10 if you're new to BookTalk. But be aware that we only accept quality contributions towards your post-count. Spam won't cut it. This rule sees that the books that win our polls win because active members wanted them to win.

2. And please do NOT cast a vote if you don't plan on reading and discussing the book.

Even if you have over 10 posts, you shouldn't vote if you have no intention of being active in the discussion.

How do I vote?

If you are an active member, as per #1 above, and plan on participating in this discussion, as per #2 above, you are permitted to cast a total of 3 votes. You can use your three votes however you see fit, which could mean assigning all three votes to just one of the book choices, or distributing the three points over the book choices according to your own interest level for each book. You should make a brief post to this thread telling everyone how you wish to distribute your three votes. Nothing further needs to be said, but you're welcome to be as verbose as you like. Just make it crystal clear how you are voting.

It is inevitable that some people will either forget to cast all three votes or will not have read this entire post. They will simply vote on one book. If this happens we will be assigning all three of their votes to the one book they selected.

You are permitted to change your vote during the voting period, but not after the poll closes. The poll is closed on the last day of the polling period, which will be 10 days after the poll goes up. I estimate the close date to be next Monday, April 21, 2008. Polls never come down early, but they are sometimes extended a day or two if not enough voters participated.

This thread can be used as an open discussion of the books on the poll. You're welcome to try to sell people on a particular book, or dissuade them from another.

We have 5 choices in this poll. Please think hard about what book will be the most educational, entertaining, and worthy of discussion.



Last edited by Chris OConnor on Sat Apr 26, 2008 6:12 pm, edited 4 times in total.



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Book 1: The Cult of Pharmacology: How America Became the World's Most Troubled Drug Culture by Richard DeGrandpre

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/082233 ... 0822338815

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com
Reviewed by Peter D. Kramer
Why isn't Nicorette gum a street drug? The Food and Drug Administration considers nicotine highly addictive. Tobacco companies seem to share this view when they manipulate the level of nicotine in cigarettes. But the gum, which packs a goodly dose of nicotine, appeals to almost no one. While we're at it, if nicotine dependence is what stands in the way of quitting, why do patched smokers -- their brains well-supplied with the substance -- still crave the next drag?

If these questions have an answer, it is that addiction is not a simple matter of chemical and receptor. Habit, ritual, social context and the means of delivery all affect how the brain processes a drug and how we experience it. As a result, drug research is replete with paradox. Charles Schuster, a behavioral pharmacologist, demonstrated that if you pair a stimulus (such as a colored light) with the administration of morphine, a test animal may later respond to the stimulus alone as if it were getting the drug. Conversely, Schuster found that presenting methadone in an unexpected flavor of Kool-Aid causes some addicts to act as if they have been deprived of the drug. Just as context makes a drug seem to be present, context can make it seem to be absent.

In The Cult of Pharmacology, Richard DeGrandpre uses findings of this sort -- the experiments he cites are more complicated ones -- to make the case that, when it comes to drugs, symbol outweighs substance. Psychoactive compounds, he writes, function "as mere stimuli, with more or less the same, potentially great, powers as other stimuli one experiences and gives meaning to." DeGrandpre derides a set of beliefs that he groups under the infelicitous name "pharmacologicalism." This false ideology, he writes, holds that "drugs contain potentialities that lie within the drug's chemical structure . . . and when taken into the body, these potentialities take hold of and transform both brain and behavior." According to DeGrandpre, drugs do not work in any consistent, predictable way -- and we've been brainwashed if we think that they do.

The prevailing ideology, DeGrandpre argues, has another, equally insidious side. It causes us to attribute different powers to substances that are effectively identical. We demonize cocaine, a natural stimulant, but sanctify its synthetic counterpart, Ritalin. This benefits the "medicopharmaceutical industrial complex," which favors what can be patented and profited from. Ultimately, our confused beliefs lead to forms of social control, causing us to drug our children with stimulants while imprisoning consenting adults for taking nearly identical substances such as crystal meth.

DeGrandpre is dead serious when he calls pharmacologicalism a cult. In a scholarly article he wrote, "No more impressive ideological system emerged in the 20th century with such a penetration of state power and private institutional force, than pharmacologicalism." In the current book, he likens the cult to Nazism. In this "limited metaphor," prescribed pharmaceuticals play the role of the Aryan and street drugs that of the Jew. (Alcohol, like the British, is acceptable but suspect.) The attributions, Aryan versus Jew, extend from substance to person: medicated patient versus dope fiend. This disturbing trope may cause readers to wonder whether DeGrandpre is fighting an ideology or advancing one.

The problem with DeGrandpre's argument is that he, more than his imagined opponents, ignores context. The findings of behavioral pharmacology are not unique; in medicine, environment often modifies physiology. Interferon, a medication used to treat certain cancers, causes depression, but it does so less in people who have social supports and more in patients who have had past depressive episodes. To show that the response is multifactorial hardly invalidates the claim that the drug triggers mood disorders.

Expectancy is powerful. Acupuncture is effective in pain relief. But so is sham acupuncture -- using shallow needles inserted at random points. Pain responds to placebos. It does not follow that pain lacks anatomical roots or that the use of aspirin for pain management amounts to a conspiracy.

Our drug policies, arising from puritanical moralizing as much as from the needs of corporations, are often irrational. Still, not every choice is without foundation. Like cocaine, Ritalin modulates dopamine transport in the brain. But schoolchildren who take Ritalin by mouth generally experience no high and develop no craving, while snorting cocaine famously does cause a rush. And crystal meth's minor chemical distinction -- it is water soluble and therefore easy to inject -- makes a major practical, and addictive, difference. That we allow Ritalin to be prescribed suggests that, as a nation, we pay attention both to drugs' chemical properties and to their customary usage -- hardly a sign of ideological rigidity.

As for "mere stimuli," DeGrandpre himself cites a study demonstrating that you can get addicts to crave some psychoactive substances but not others. No surprise there. Medications are not mere symbols. Different substances have different effects. Meanwhile, when DeGrandpre critiques prescription drugs, he refers to reports that antidepressants can foment suicides. Accepting this evidence resembles the stance that DeGrandpre otherwise attacks, the belief that drugs take hold of people in forceful ways.

Because its foundations include science, medicine, as a profession, tends to be ecumenical. Data that indict Prozac inform the literature; so do data that suggest Prozac prevents many more deaths than it causes. The major journals repeatedly contend that drug companies wield too much power. And behavioral pharmacology is mainstream medicine. Charles Schuster, a psychologist DeGrandpre praises as a pioneer, championed methadone-maintenance programs, hardly the stance of a man who doubts the power of physiological addiction.

We need to develop a humane approach to street-drug use. We need more independent testing of prescription drugs. But to hold these views does not require the belief that America has been hijacked by a cabal of doctors, politicians and entrepreneurs. DeGrandpre's attack comes from a libertarian posture, anti-business but even more anti-government. There's an element of the personal hobby-horse here as well: Pharmacologicalism conveys state power more effectively than communism or national socialism? Isn't it likelier that -- the undeniable flaws of capitalism and democracy notwithstanding -- we're muddling along, trying to make what sense we can of medications, licit and banned, that are ever better attuned to the workings of those admittedly complex organs, our brains?

Reviews
"The Cult of Pharmacology delivers important messages about the bias and irrationality behind drug policy and our approach to drug use, messages that both clinicians and the general public should hear."
--Walter A. Brown, Journal of the American Medical Association

"The crush of counterintuitive research DeGrandpre heaps upon us is meant to confound, demonstrating that drugs are a technology like any other: amoral, contextual and wholly imbued by the values of its end-users."
--Ben Gore, The Brooklyn Rail

"[W]ell researched and documented and full of interesting facts. For many readers it will produce a whole new perspective that will have an impact when they reach for the prescription pad or a cup of coffee or disparage the drug user on the street."
--Allen Shaughnessy, British Medical Journal

" Very highly recommended. . . ."
--Joel M. Kauffman, LewRockwell.com

"An insightful book on the difficult subject of drugs. . . ."
--Andrew Benedict-Nelson, Rain Taxi

"Although The Cult of Pharmacology should be required reading for policymakers, it is intended for general use. . . . The author is tenacious in exposing those who he feels are responsible for the present crisis in legal and illegal drug use in America. "
--Fred Joseph, Jr., Foreword Magazine

"The Cult of Pharmacology is journalism in the best sense - incisive, meticulous, compelling. . . . [DeGrandpre's] prose is a model of clarity and elegance, his examples well-chosen and finely limned, his arguments lucid and enlightening. . . . The Cult of Pharmacology will expand the consciousness of anyone who cares to read it. It is a surprising, questing, questioning book, but most of all it is full of hope and humanity. DeGrandpre offers us the chance not to replace myth with truth (and who could honestly offer such a thing?) but to restore agency to individuals and cultures in their mythmaking."
--Richard Barnett, The NthPosition

"DeGrandpre is at his best in his chapter on brain-stimulation reward and the behavioral pharmacology paradigm, which dispels simplistic notions of behaviorism and conveys countervailing findings that undermine the stability of orthodox claims about drugs and their effects on brains. The pleasurable ease of DeGrandpre's prose also brings its own rewards. Finally, the book offers a stimulating and provocative commentary on the cultural authority of science."
--Nancy D. Campbell, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences

"DeGrandpre demonstrates the importance of considering technology within its social contexts. . . . [A]fascinating study. . . . DeGrandpre understands the science of pharmacology sufficiently to explain how these substances actually work. His efforts thus provide an important foundation for historians who will seek to put the findings in broader cultural context."
--Carolyn T. de la Pe


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Book 2: Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/006135 ... 006135323X

From Publishers Weekly
Irrational behavior is a part of human nature, but as MIT professor Ariely has discovered in 20 years of researching behavioral economics, people tend to behave irrationally in a predictable fashion. Drawing on psychology and economics, behavioral economics can show us why cautious people make poor decisions about sex when aroused, why patients get greater relief from a more expensive drug over its cheaper counterpart and why honest people may steal office supplies or communal food, but not money. According to Ariely, our understanding of economics, now based on the assumption of a rational subject, should, in fact, be based on our systematic, unsurprising irrationality. Ariely argues that greater understanding of previously ignored or misunderstood forces (emotions, relativity and social norms) that influence our economic behavior brings a variety of opportunities for reexamining individual motivation and consumer choice, as well as economic and educational policy. Ariely's intelligent, exuberant style and thought-provoking arguments make for a fascinating, eye-opening read.

New York Times Book Review
"Obviously, this sly and lucid book is not about your grandfather's dismal science.... Predictably Irrational is a far more revolutionary book than its unthreatening manner lets on. It's a concise summary of why today's social science increasingly treats the markets-know-best model as a fairy tale....he and his fellow social scientists want to replace the "rational economic man" model with one that more accurately describes the real laws that drive human choices."

From USA Today
"Surprisingly entertaining. . . . Easy to read. . . . Ariely's book makes economics and the strange happenings of the human mind fun."

More Praise for Predictably Irrational
"A marvelous book that is both thought-provoking and highly entertaining, ranging from the power of placebos to the pleasures of Pepsi. Ariely unmasks the subtle but powerful tricks that our minds play on us, and shows us how we can prevent being fooled."
Jerome Groopman, Recanati Chair of Medicine, Harvard Medical School,and New York Times bestselling author of How Doctors Think

"Dan Ariely is a genius at understanding human behavior: no economist does a better job of uncovering and explaining the hidden reasons for the weird ways we act, in the marketplace and out. Predictably Irrational will reshape the way you see the world, and yourself, for good."
James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds

"Filled with clever experiments, engaging ideas, and delightful anecdotes. Dan Ariely is a wise and amusing guide to the foibles, errors, and bloopers of everyday decision making."
Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and New York Times bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness

"This is going to be the most influential, talked-about book in years. It is so full of dazzling insights--and so engaging--that once I started reading, I couldn't put it down."
Daniel McFadden, 2000 Nobel Laureate in Economics, Morris Cox Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley

"Predictably Irrational is wildly original. It shows why--much more often than we usually care to admit--humans make foolish, and sometimes disastrous, mistakes. Ariely not only gives us a great read; he also makes us much wiser."
George Akerlof, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Economics, Koshland Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley

"The most difficult part of investing is managing your emotions. Dan explains why that is so challenging for all of us, and how recognizing your built-in biases can help you avoid common mistakes."
Charles Schwab, Chairman and CEO, The Charles Schwab Corporation

Book Description
Why do our headaches persist after taking a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a 50-cent aspirin?

Why does recalling the Ten Commandments reduce our tendency to lie, even when we couldn't possibly be caught?

Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup?

Why do we go back for second helpings at the unlimited buffet, even when our stomachs are already full?

And how did we ever start spending $4.15 on a cup of coffee when, just a few years ago, we used to pay less than a dollar?

When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we're in control. We think we're making smart, rational choices. But are we?

In a series of illuminating, often surprising experiments, MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. Blending everyday experience with groundbreaking research, Ariely explains how expectations, emotions, social norms, and other invisible, seemingly illogical forces skew our reasoning abilities.

Not only do we make astonishingly simple mistakes every day, but we make the same types of mistakes, Ariely discovers. We consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. We fail to understand the profound effects of our emotions on what we want, and we overvalue what we already own. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They're systematic and predictable



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Book 3: Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/037542 ... 0375424474

Amazon.com
Oliver Sacks on Your Inner Fish
Since the 1970 publication of Migraine, neurologist Oliver Sacks's unusual and fascinating case histories of "differently brained" people and phenomena--a surgeon with Tourette's syndrome, a community of people born totally colorblind, musical hallucinations, to name a few--have been marked by extraordinary compassion and humanity, focusing on the patient as much as the condition. His books include The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Awakenings (which inspired the Oscar-nominated film), and 2007's Musicophilia. He lives in New York City, where he is Professor of Clinical Neurology at Columbia University.

Your Inner Fish is my favorite sort of book--an intelligent, exhilarating, and compelling scientific adventure story, one which will change forever how you understand what it means to be human.

The field of evolutionary biology is just beginning an exciting new age of discovery, and Neil Shubin's research expeditions around the world have redefined the way we now look at the origins of mammals, frogs, crocodiles, tetrapods, and sarcopterygian fish--and thus the way we look at the descent of humankind. One of Shubin's groundbreaking discoveries, only a year and a half ago, was the unearthing of a fish with elbows and a neck, a long-sought evolutionary "missing link" between creatures of the sea and land-dwellers.

My own mother was a surgeon and a comparative anatomist, and she drummed it into me, and into all of her students, that our own anatomy is unintelligible without a knowledge of its evolutionary origins and precursors. The human body becomes infinitely fascinating with such knowledge, which Shubin provides here with grace and clarity. Your Inner Fish shows us how, like the fish with elbows, we carry the whole history of evolution within our own bodies, and how the human genome links us with the rest of life on earth.

Shubin is not only a distinguished scientist, but a wonderfully lucid and elegant writer; he is an irrepressibly enthusiastic teacher whose humor and intelligence and spellbinding narrative make this book an absolute delight. Your Inner Fish is not only a great read; it marks the debut of a science writer of the first rank.

A Note from Author Neil Shubin
This book grew out of an extraordinary circumstance in my life. On account of faculty departures, I ended up directing the human anatomy course at the University of Chicago medical school. Anatomy is the course during which nervous first-year medical students dissect human cadavers while learning the names and organization of most of the organs, holes, nerves, and vessels in the body. This is their grand entrance to the world of medicine, a formative experience on their path to becoming physicians. At first glance, you couldn't have imagined a worse candidate for the job of training the next generation of doctors: I'm a fish paleontologist.

It turns out that being a paleontologist is a huge advantage in teaching human anatomy. Why? The best roadmaps to human bodies lie in the bodies of other animals. The simplest way to teach students the nerves in the human head is to show them the state of affairs in sharks. The easiest roadmap to their limbs lies in fish. Reptiles are a real help with the structure of the brain. The reason is that the bodies of these creatures are simpler versions of ours.

During the summer of my second year leading the course, working in the Arctic, my colleagues and I discovered fossil fish that gave us powerful new insights into the invasion of land by fish over 375 million years ago. That discovery and my foray into teaching human anatomy led me to a profound connection. That connection became this book.

From Publishers Weekly
Fish paleontologist Shubin illuminates the subject of evolution with humor and clarity in this compelling look at how the human body evolved into its present state. Parsing the millennia-old genetic history of the human form is a natural project for Shubin, who chairs the department of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and was co-discoverer of Tiktaalik, a 375-million-year-old fossil fish whose flat skull and limbs, and finger, toe, ankle and wrist bones, provide a link between fish and the earliest land-dwelling creatures. Shubin moves smoothly through the anatomical spectrum, finding ancient precursors to human teeth in a 200-million-year-old fossil of the mouse-size part animal, part reptile tritheledont; he also notes cellular similarities between humans and sponges. Other fossils reveal the origins of our senses, from the eye to that wonderful Rube Goldberg contraption the ear. Shubin excels at explaining the science, making each discovery an adventure, whether it's a Pennsylvania roadcut or a stony outcrop beset by polar bears and howling Arctic winds. I can imagine few things more beautiful or intellectually profound than finding the basis for our humanity... nestled inside some of the most humble creatures that ever lived, he writes, and curious readers are likely to agree.

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com
Reviewed by Barbara J. King

For the first time, Americans have the chance to meet an ancient ancestor. Lucy, the famous 3.2-million-year-old, human-like fossil from Ethiopia, is here on tour. For the next six years, you can visit her at museums across the country and stare into the mirror of your own past.

But in Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin describes a fossil named Tiktaalik that makes Lucy's time on Earth seem like just yesterday. At 375 million years old, Tiktaalik (which means "large freshwater fish" in Inuit) sports a curious mix of features that mark it as an evolutionary milestone, a "beautiful intermediate between fish and land-living animals." In its fossilized bones, we see a flat head and body, a functional neck and other features that presage what's to come, all mixed in with fish features like fins and scales. Most surprising of all, Tiktaalik has a wrist joint. "Bend your wrist back and forth," Shubin instructs his readers. "Open and close your hand. When you do this, you are using joints that first appeared in the fins of fish like Tiktaalik."

Shubin, a paleontologist and professor of anatomy, made the astounding discovery of Tiktaalik, the first find of its kind, with colleagues in the Canadian Arctic in 2004. He has clearly fallen in love with this ancient fish, and conveys its significance with both precision and exuberance. "Seeing Lucy," writes Shubin, "we can understand our history as highly advanced primates. Seeing Tiktaalik is seeing our history as fish." In fact, Shubin wants us to see our history not only as primates and fish, but also as insects and worms. Exploring the 3.5-billion-year history of life on Earth, Shubin says, will yield a deeper grasp of how our bodies came to be what they are. "Inside our bodies are connections to a menagerie of other creatures. Some parts resemble parts of jellyfish, others parts of worms, still others parts of fish. These aren't haphazard similarities. . . . It is deeply beautiful to see that there is an order in all these features."

Shubin, then, turns Tiktaalik the ancient fish into a poster fossil for the elegant connections across all life-forms on our planet. This evolutionary continuity, so basic to biology, paleontology and anthropology, is the real message of the book. Shubin reveals its practical applications: The better we understand the long history of our joints and organs, the better we will be able to treat trauma and disease in our bodies.

Genes are the co-stars, with bones, of Your Inner Fish. As Shubin puts it, "DNA is an extraordinarily powerful window into life's history and the formation of bodies and organs." When scientists make a fly that lacks a certain gene, the fly's midsection is missing or altered. Frankenstein-like research of this nature helps scientists to understand more about how genes influence developmental processes. Yet how relevant is such research for understanding human development, which unfolds according to rich interaction between our genes and our environment? It's hard not to wince when thinking about the subjects of this DNA-altering lab work.

Nevertheless, Shubin's melding of fossil and genetic data is deft, and it prepares us for his central conclusion. Our lives reflect the evolutionary principle of descent with modification: "Looking back through billions of years of change, everything innovative or apparently unique in the history of life is really just old stuff that has been recycled, repurposed, or otherwise modified for new uses." How our senses work, why we get sick and even why we get the hiccups can be explained by this principle. For instance, hiccups are inherited from fish and tadpoles. We hiccup when a nerve spasm causes muscles in the diaphragm, neck and throat to contract. We gasp and take in some air, and the glottis in the back of our throat snaps shut. This tortuous path that nerves take in our body and the brain stem's response when they spasm are marvelous adaptations for gill-breathers, Shubin explains, but not entirely ideal for us.

Shubin's message convinces. Read Your Inner Fish, and you'll never again be able to look a fish in the eye (or eat seafood) without thinking about shared evolution. In two ways, though, Shubin takes a good thing too far. His passion for science enlivens every page, but some of his sentences ("True, big fish tend to eat littler fish") are overly simplified. He could have trusted his readers more.

Even more worrisome is Shubin's tendency to oversell the relatedness of fish and humans. Our common ancestry with apes is far more recent than with fish, and as a result, our inner ape dominates our inner fish. This fact is most evident when we consider behavior as well as anatomy. Do fish empathize with sick companions, grieve for dead ones or express empathy? Certainly not to the extent that apes do. Or consider the wrist joint which, as we have seen, Shubin uses to link Tiktaalik with humans. Enhanced mobility of the ape wrist joint allows chimpanzees and gorillas to gesture in ways more varied and expressive even than monkeys, a capacity that in turn enriches social communication among them.

We humans are first and foremost primates. Nevertheless, Shubin is dead right: The elegance and full emotional power of our connection with the natural world compel us to reach further back in time and deeper into the Earth's fossil layers. Visit Lucy, think Tiktaalik, and feel the connection.



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Book 4: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/067974 ... 0679745580

Amazon.com
"Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans--in fact, few Kansans--had ever heard of Holcomb. Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there." If all Truman Capote did was invent a new genre--journalism written with the language and structure of literature--this "nonfiction novel" about the brutal slaying of the Clutter family by two would-be robbers would be remembered as a trail-blazing experiment that has influenced countless writers. But Capote achieved more than that. He wrote a true masterpiece of creative nonfiction. The images of this tale continue to resonate in our minds: 16-year-old Nancy Clutter teaching a friend how to bake a cherry pie, Dick Hickock's black '49 Chevrolet sedan, Perry Smith's Gibson guitar and his dreams of gold in a tropical paradise--the blood on the walls and the final "thud-snap" of the rope-broken necks.

The New York Times Book Review, Conrad Knickerbocker
The resulting chronicle is a masterpiece--agonizing, terrible, possessed, proof that the times, so surfeited with disasters, are still capable of tragedy.

Review
"A masterpiece . . . a spellbinding work."



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Book 5: Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are by Frans De Waal

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/159448 ... 1594481962

Amazon.com
Power, sex, violence and kindness: these four broad-spectrum categories encompass much of human behavior, so it's only fitting that they're also the primary subject material for Frans de Waal's (The Ape and The Sushi Master) book Our Inner Ape. The few (but deeply detailed) chapters are a mesmerizing read that spans biology, child psychology, postmodern theorists and fundamental morality, using tales of stern chimps, and sexy bonobos to examine humans' place between them. In the process, he examines why we need to know our place in the world, how our body language communicates feelings, and where the roots of empathy lie in mammalian life.

De Waal's respect for both his readers and his research subjects come shining through in the simple clarity he uses when describing both the endless sex of bonobo apes and the heartrending violence occasionally present in chimp hierarchal structure. By illustrating his points with a mixture of straight-from-research experiences and jokes at the expense of modern politicians, he keeps his ideas compelling for anyone with a basic understanding of evolutionary science without drifting towards the academic drone that could be expected of by a researcher of his experience.

You won't find specific conclusions concerning human nature, but instead a gentle, almost rambling look at two primate species with vastly different social networks and how, perhaps, humanity can learn from each to our benefit. A few of de Waal's lovely duotone photos (My Family Album: 30 Years of Primate Photography grace the end of the book, featuring close-up shots of the folks he's been writing about--chimps like Yeroen, Nikkie and Mama, and bonobo Kuif and adopted daughter Roosje are downright thrilling to see after reading such interesting stories about their lives.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Noted primatologist de Waal (Chimpanzee Politics) thinks human behavior cannot be fully explained by selfish genes and Darwinian competition. Drawing on his own primate research on chimpanzees and bonobos



Thu Apr 10, 2008 3:18 pm
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And those are our 5 poll choices.

May the best book win! :smile:



Thu Apr 10, 2008 3:19 pm
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Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are by Frans De Waal.

3 votes.

I have mentioned already in these forums that I am currently reading two books by French ethologist Boris Cyrulnik. I find them extremely interesting.
You do learn a lot about human beings by studying animal species.

Here are a few sentences that have caught my attention in the reviews mentioned above:
Quote:
In the process, he examines why we need to know our place in the world, how our body language communicates feelings, and where the roots of empathy lie in mammalian life.

De Waal's respect for both his readers and his research subjects


I have found deep respect for all types of species in Cyrulnik's books, and
I think we need to know about ethologists' work.


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Thu Apr 10, 2008 3:40 pm
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I can has reading?

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Such a hard choice! Which is good, because that means I'll be happy reading what ever gets picked. Lucky me!

My votes go to:

2 votes to:
Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin


1 vote to:
Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are by Frans De Waal.



Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:39 pm
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I'll spread myself out and go with one vote each for Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3. All are worthy candidates!
Will



Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:10 pm
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Is the Truman Capote book the only fiction to vote for?

Geesh!

OK . . .

1) Iin Cold Blood
2) Predictably Irrational
3) OUr Inner Age



Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:37 am
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In Cold Blood is considered non-fiction even though the book is in novel format. This poll is for selecting our May & June 2008 non-fiction book. We'll have a separate book poll for our fiction selection soon. :smile:



Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:43 am
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My three votes go to Your Inner Fish.

It picks up evolutionary themes of high interest in an extremely informative way. I particularly liked the statement 'the best roadmaps to human bodies lie in the bodies of other animals.'

Describing our genetic links with a range of animals it says



Fri Apr 11, 2008 4:27 am
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Attention Mr. Pessimistic

So are you going to keep score or what!? 8)



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I would like my three votes to go to:

Book 2: Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Thanks



Fri Apr 11, 2008 2:14 pm
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