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Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month 
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Post Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month
PLEASE READ BEFORE VOTING


1. If you do not plan on reading along and participating in the discussions please do NOT cast a vote. BookTalk is a book discussion community, not just a book reading community. Seriously, please skip the poll if you have no intention of participating.

2. Your vote will NOT count if you do not send me an email telling me your BookTalk name and what book you selected.

chris@booktalk.org <--- send emails here

So what would you like to read during May and June of 2003?


Results (total votes = 10):
Richard Dawkins - "Unweaving the Rainbow" 7 / 70.0%  
Stephen Pinker - "The Blank Slate" 3 / 30.0%  
Gore Vidal - "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace" 0 / 0.0% 




Thu Apr 10, 2003 9:58 pm
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Post Re: Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month
Book reviews for our 3 selections


Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder - Richard Dawkins

Quote:
Why do poets and artists so often disparage science in their work? For that matter, why does so much scientific literature compare poorly with, say, the phone book? After struggling with questions like these for years, biologist Richard Dawkins has taken a wide-ranging view of the subjects of meaning and beauty in Unweaving the Rainbow, a deeply humanistic examination of science, mysticism, and human nature. Notably strong-willed in a profession of bet-hedgers and wait-and-seers, Dawkins carries the reader along on a romp through the natural and cultural worlds, determined that "science, at its best, should leave room for poetry."

Inspired by the frequently asked question, "Why do you bother getting up in the morning?" following publication of his book The Selfish Gene, Dawkins set out determined to show that understanding nature's mechanics need not sap one's zest for life. Alternately enlightening and maddening, Unweaving the Rainbow will appeal to all thoughtful readers, whether wild-eyed technophiles or grumpy, cabin-dwelling Luddites. Excoriations of newspaper astrology columns follow quotes from Blake and Shakespeare, which are sandwiched between sparkling, easy-to-follow discussions of probability, behavior, and evolution. In Dawkins's world (and, he hopes, in ours), science is poetry; he ends his journey by referring to his title's author and subject, maintaining that "A Keats and a Newton, listening to each other, might hear the galaxies sing." --Rob Lightner




The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature - Stephen Pinker

Quote:
In his last outing, How the Mind Works, the author of the well-received The Language Instinct made a case for evolutionary psychology or the view that human beings have a hard-wired nature that evolved over time. This book returns to that still-controversial territory in order to shore it up in the public sphere. Drawing on decades of research in the "sciences of human nature," Pinker, a chaired professor of psychology at MIT, attacks the notion that an infant's mind is a blank slate, arguing instead that human beings have an inherited universal structure shaped by the demands made upon the species for survival, albeit with plenty of room for cultural and individual variation. For those who have been following the sciences in question including cognitive science, neuroscience, behavioral genetics and evolutionary psychology much of the evidence will be familiar, yet Pinker's clear and witty presentation, complete with comic strips and allusions to writers from Woody Allen to Emily Dickinson, keeps the material fresh. What might amaze is the persistent, often vitriolic resistance to these findings Pinker presents and systematically takes apart, decrying the hold of the "blank slate" and other orthodoxies on intellectual life. He goes on to tour what science currently claims to know about human nature, including its cognitive, intuitive and emotional faculties, and shows what light this research can shed on such thorny topics as gender inequality, child-rearing and modern art. Pinker's synthesizing of many fields is impressive but uneven, especially when he ventures into moral philosophy and religion; examples like "Even Hitler thought he was carrying out the will of God" violate Pinker's own principle that one should not exploit Nazism "for rhetorical clout." For the most part, however, the book is persuasive and illuminating.




Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace - Gore Vidal

Quote:
In this collection of essays, noted novelist and critic Vidal turns his acerbic wit on the United States. Never shy about expressing his opinion, Vidal questions U.S. assumptions regarding the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings: "That our ruling junta might have seriously provoked McVeigh and Osama was never dealt with." His critique of the coverage of September 11 is slim, mostly centering on already reported truisms about why many in the Muslim world sympathize in some way with Osama bin Laden. Some readers, however, will share his unease with the willingness on the part of the American government and the American people to put concerns for civil liberties on the back burner during the war on terrorism. Vidal's criticisms of McVeigh, with whom he struck up a correspondence and a relationship, is more detailed. In Vidal's view, it is unlikely that McVeigh was solely responsible for Oklahoma City, and he saw himself as a martyr for a libertarian cause that would rescue America. But in this book, the tone is as important as the text. Vidal gleefully skewers American capitalism and the role of the religious right in American politics at every opportunity. Critics of American policy and American life, as well as those prone to conspiracy theories, are likely to find a lot of fodder. Many will not be surprised that Vidal's views have not received a wider hearing a piece on McVeigh was rejected by Vanity Fair, another by the Nation but even at his most contrarian, Vidal's writing is powerful and graceful.





Thu Apr 10, 2003 10:06 pm
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Post Re: Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month
I voted for Richard Dawkins "Unweaving the Rainbow."

You can either post a message in this thread telling me your choice and BookTalk name, or send me an email to chris@booktalk.org.

I think no matter what book we select we are bound to have some exciting discussions both in the chat room and on the boards. All 3 of these books are rated highly and appear to be excellent choices. :)

Chris




Thu Apr 10, 2003 10:09 pm
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Post Re: Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month
I have an idea...let me know what you all think of this please.

What if we read one of these two books in May and June and then the next in July and August? That would work with me. Pinkers book came in 2nd last vote and perhaps it will again this time. I would have no problems with us all making the decision for our July and August book right now. Please comment!

Chris




Sat Apr 12, 2003 3:11 pm
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Post Re: Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month
I voted for the Dawkins book.




Sat Apr 12, 2003 6:54 pm
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Post Re: Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month
I voted for Richard Dawkin's book as well. I've read about 2/3 of The Blind Watchmaker and learned so much from that. I wouldn't mind reading another of his books.

I think that we should wait until June to decide on the July/August book. Who knows what the atmosphere will be like 2 months from now. Perhaps we will feel like another change of pace to something more political or philosophical by then after reading a book on science next month. Or potentially we could have a few more active members who would like to be in on the voting by then. Unless there's a specific reason why you think we should go ahead and decide, I think it's better to wait. I see no reason to make the decision now.

Cheryl




Sun Apr 13, 2003 1:37 am
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To read, or not to read...

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Post Re: Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month
I voted for "Unweaving the Rainbow", but I have a big concern about this group. It seems our interest is declining because we keep reading these "heavy-duty" works. We need to LIGHTEN UP! Something with more mass appeal would also bring in more members.

With this in mind, I think A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux would make an excellent topic for discussion. After reading the following quote from the back cover, how can we resist?

Quote:
Once upon a time ... as a fair maiden lay weeping upon a cold tombstone, her heartfelt desire was suddenly made real before her: tall, broad of shoulder, attired in gleaming silver and gold, her knight in shining armor had come to rescue his damsel in distress...

Edited by: LanDroid at: 4/13/03 12:34:07 pm



Sun Apr 13, 2003 12:32 pm
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Post Re: Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month
Nix on the Jude Deveraux. If we're going to read about sex, let's skip straight to the good stuff. ;)


Lynne

PS - I emailed Chris, but will go ahead and post as well. Voted for Dawkins also.

Edited by: arcAngle at: 4/13/03 3:56:29 pm



Sun Apr 13, 2003 3:55 pm
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Post Re: Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month
Wow...the book by Gore Vidal isn't doing very well. This is important information though, so I'm glad we had it on the poll. Does anyone feel like a book about the middle east should be on future polls? Or is this subject not of interest to you all? It could be that the first two books are simply too appealing for Gore Vidals book to compete with at this point.

Chris




Mon Apr 14, 2003 11:44 pm
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To read, or not to read...

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Post Re: Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month
I've read it and would recommend it. It's a lot shorter and "breezier" than others we have read, but the unabashed leftism would probably piss off a lot of readers. It does sound like the way we're going though, if you noticed former CIA director Woolsey's recent comment about entering World War IV.




Tue Apr 15, 2003 7:58 pm
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Post Re: Official Poll - May/June 2003 Book of the Month
Regarding heaviness, breeziness, and leftwingism: Dawkins leans pretty far to the left, and "Rainbow" is charmingly breezy.




Wed Apr 16, 2003 10:08 pm
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