Non-Fiction Book Suggestions Wanted: June & July 2009

Help us pick our next NON-FICTION book for group discussion here. YOU MUST HAVE 5+ POSTS TO CONTRIBUTE IN THIS FORUM!
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Non-Fiction Book Suggestions Wanted: June & July 2009

Use this thread to suggest books for our next non-fiction book discussion period, which will be June & July of 2009. It is very helpful if you include a link to where other members can read more about your book suggestions on And maybe copy and paste a short review or book description. You're trying to sell us on your book idea so please provide more than just the book title and author.


We've not had enough feedback on the suggestions in this thread to run the next poll as of 4/6/2009. So the discussion for "God is Not Great" will be extended to include May. (March, April & May 2009)

Please understand that feedback on the suggestions in this thread is just as important as actual suggestions. If you're the only one indicating an interest in reading a particular book we aren't going to have much of an actual discussion. We need a large group of people reading and discussing each book.
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Thanks for your prompt and frank reply. Believe it or not, you're reply about my inability to vote actually comes as a relief. I have been desperately browsing the internet for real engaging book groups and I think I have found the right one. I am 22 years old and I have absolutely no friends that like to read or that are really curious about the world. It seems that younger Americans only value short-sighted pleasure. This makes me feel extremely lonely as I love to read everyday and have no one that I can relate these books to. So, I am actually quite happy that you're discussion groups are taken very seriously. I will definitely post on other discussion threads and thanks for the answer. To keep with the subject of the thread, some other great non-fiction books are:

- "The Power Elite" by C.W. Mills is an outstanding analysis of social science, especially that of the upper echelons of society, the ruling elite, made up of the political, economic, and military elites that cooperate with each other to further their goals. A truly outstanding book!

- "Hegemony or Survival" by Noam Chomsky is a must-read for ANYONE wanting to know the real America. In this timely and insightful book, Chomsky points to the cynical power politics that America has practiced since its global superpower status after WW2. He argues that this quest for sole superpower status and global "hegemony" is bringing the world to ruin and how this quest has been hidden by the veil of secrecy protected by the media. A stomach-twisting book that lays the truth out as it is (a warning to anyone that's truly patriotic).

- "The History of the Pelopenessian War" by Thucydides. This compelling book by a mysterious and even more compelling author explains the problem of classical Greece. Much could still be learned from classics as the same mistakes are being repeated now.

- "The Story of American Freedom" by Eric Foner. This leftist-leaning book explains the different stages and meaning of freedom throughout American history and explains how varying difficulties in America changed the meaning of freedom in varying situations. Foner truly sheds light on the roots and causes of Reaganite Conservatism (Neoliberalism) and warns the reader of the threat that this laissez-faire order has upon American society. A must read for anyone interested in how things REALLY are.

I hope my post helped people in filtering great non-fiction books. I also hope more people post on this thread because I am a non-fiction buff and am always looking for a great read.
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Zizek's Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity by Adrian Johnston


"It is always difficult to read books about oneself; with Johnston's book, my anxiety was even stronger than usual. While reading it, I often had the uncanny feeling of being confronted by a line of argumentation which fits better than my own texts what I am struggling to formulate--as if he is the original and I am a copy. He certainly knows how to read me. The majority of my critics concentrate on popular culture, politics, and ideology in my work--Johnston goes directly to its transcendental-ontological nucleus. This is not a book on me, but a book, critical of me, on what both Johnston and I consider the core of our philosophical predicament. I thus advise the reader to forget about me and to enjoy the hard work of penetrating the obscure dimension of the philosophical foundations of psychoanalysis." --Slavoj Zizek


Slavoj Žižek is one of the most interesting and important philosophers working today, known chiefly for his theoretical explorations of popular culture and contemporary politics. This book focuses on the generally neglected and often overshadowed philosophical core of Žižek’s work—an essential component in any true appreciation of this unique thinker’s accomplishment.

His central concern, Žižek has proclaimed, is to use psychoanalysis (especially the teachings of Jacques Lacan) to redeploy the insights of late-modern German philosophy, in particular, the thought of Kant, Schelling, and Hegel. By taking this avowal seriously, Adrian Johnston finally clarifies the philosophical project underlying Žižek’s efforts. His book charts the interlinked ontology and theory of subjectivity constructed by Žižek at the intersection of German idealism and Lacanian theory. Johnston also uses Žižek’s combination of philosophy and psychoanalysis to address two perennial philosophical problems: the relationship of mind and body, and the nature of human freedom. By bringing together the past two centuries of European philosophy, psychoanalytic metapsychology, and cutting-edge work in the natural sciences, Johnston develops a transcendental materialist theory of subjectivity—in short, an account of how more-than-material forms of subjectivity can emerge from a corporeal being. His work shows how an engagement with Žižek’s philosophy can produce compelling answers to today’s most vexing and urgent questions as inherited from the history of ideas.

Review and description directly from

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I'm gonna push for this one more time because I strongly believe we have a great discussion here. I would like to at least try to go an alternative non-fic discussion if enough people are interested.

The Pivot of Civilization (published 1922)
by Margaret Sanger
(Also available online for free at Project Gutenberg)

Maybe I should mention first off this book is very short: about 100 pages. Nonetheless, it's probably up there on the list of most controversial books. I did a quick Google search on Margaret Sanger and you would either think she was either a hero and iconoclast or the most vile Jezebel that ever was. The Pivot of Civilization is about the need to recognize over population as a source of human misery that relates to war, hunger, injustice, disease, worker abuse, dependence on welfare, devaluation of childhood and parenthood, and subordination of women that will sabotage the future of a society. Since we have so many here on Booktalk that enjoy talking in depth on economics, I thought this might be a slightly different approach to the subject and we should get some excellent input. Sanger is arguing that contraception be treated as a human right and necessity for peace, prosperity, and the liberation of women and children. Unfortunately, we are still dealing with the many of these same issues in 2009 and there are many places in the world where birth control methods are still taboo. It's apparent in the US that our leaders only speak of birth control in terms of left vs. right, pro-life vs pro-choice, sexual permissiveness (or liberation) vs "family values." While likely many on Booktalk would probably agree with Sanger on these issues, she was also known to have been a supporter of eugenics (not unlike many progressives of her day) and did speak of the prevention (not killing) of the "unfit" and "feebleminded" that would burden society. She was also known to make negative commentary about the fecundity of immigrants and African Americans. However, as the founder of Planned Parenthood, she was actually very anti-abortion which she called "a disgrace to civilization" (you would not know this if you looked some of the African American and Christian websites that revile her). Despite allegations of racism, she opened a clinic in Harlem to address the reproductive needs of African Americans that were denied to them by city social services and earned the respect of W.E.B. Du Bois, founder of the NAACP. What makes this book stand out to me (and I've already read it and would read it again) is it's not really about radical feminism, it's about the benefits of healthy families and how nations can benefit from it economically. Or... it could be about how overpopulation benefits industry with cheap, disposable labor.

Interestingly enough and very recently, birth control funding was stricken from the original economic stimulus package, about $300 million in pregnancy and disease prevention. It was opposed by many Republicans and Democrats, including the president. I am no fan of Speaker Pelosi, but she was in support of the funding saying it would prevent further burdening of state budgets for social services. All I could think at that moment was what would Margaret Sanger say here? This is why I think this book is still very important nearly 90 years after it was written.
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Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography by Reudiger Safranski

From Publishers Weekly
This book is not a traditional philosopher's biography offering an even balance of life and thought, but rather a rich interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy as it evolved during his life, with a coda tracing his influence after his death. Biographical details are sparing: neither Nietzsche's birth nor death is described, and there are few juicy bits about his passion for Lou Salomé. Most of the book is a reading of Nietzsche's developing ideas, beginning with his autobiographical sketches in high school and continuing chronologically from his early attachment to Schopenhauer through his hopes for and disappointment in Wagner's music drama, such great achievements as Daybreak and Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and his last works before his descent into madness. To close, there is a chapter on the different ways Nietzsche influenced 20th-century artists, the Nazis, Heidegger, Foucault, Rorty and others. Throughout, certain themes recur, elucidated sympathetically but with "ironic reserve," including the death of God, the divided self, the will to power, eternal recurrence, philosophy as art and truth as power play. Safranski (Heidegger: Between Good and Evil), in clear English from Rutgers University Germanist Frisch, brings out contradictions and tensions in Nietzsche's thought without dismissing him; on the contrary, Safranski sees Nietzsche as a thinker "who organized his gardens of theory in such a way that anyone on the lookout for their central arguments would almost inevitably fall flat on his face," but who leads one to return profitably to "[o]ne's own thinking." The author offers no summary conclusions, preferring to leave Nietzsche's philosophical biography open, as "a story without an end." Safranski has made a worthwhile contribution to that story, though it will be of interest mainly to those with an interest in engaging the work directly.

From Library Journal

With brilliant insights and impressive scholarship, Safranski, who has previously written about Heidegger and Schopenhaurer, here makes a major contribution to understanding and appreciating the lasting significance of Friedrich Nietzsche (l844-l900). From his passion for Greek antiquity to his disappointment with the Bayreuth premiere of the Ring tetralogy, Nietzsche is presented as a tragic hero who advocated overcoming cultural mediocrity and simplistic materialism while rigorously pursuing intellectual enlightenment and new values. Safranski emphasizes the philosopher's Heraclitean-Dionysian worldview of ongoing flux and pervasive change. This comprehensive study analyzes the influences of music, mythology, Schopenhauer, Wagner, and Darwin on the development of Nietzsche's iconoclastic ideas and challenging perspectives. Safranski devotes sections to a critical discussion of the future overman and the cosmic will to power. Particularly important is Chapter 10, which focuses on Nietzsche's central idea of the eternal recurrence of the same universe. Nietzsche himself incorporated his bold vision into an affirmation of life in terms of human creativity within creative nature. Safranski's outstanding, level-headed, and unique philosophical biography of Nietzsche is strongly recommended for all academic and public libraries. H. James Birx, Harvard Univ., Cambridge, MA
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Allow me to recommend Brothers Kept Apart, a new comprehensive study of the Bible and the Qur’an, and Islam and Christianity. The study has revealed that there is harmony between the principal teachings of the Bible and the Qur’an, but that current Christian and Islamic religious traditions are incompatible.

Most Muslim teachers have never read the Bible, yet they continue to criticize their understanding of Christian tradition. Similarly, most Christian teachers have never read the Qur’an, yet they continue to criticize their understanding of Islamic tradition. Thus both leaders continue to mislead more than half of the world’s population, who are either Christian or Muslim, about what the other believes. They have been doing this for the past 1,300 years.

The Qur’an appears to teach that Muslims must believe that Jesus:
• was born of the virgin Mary;
• taught the Gospel;
• performed many miracles, including raising the dead;
• was crucified;
• was raised by God; and
• is the Messiah.

The Qur’an also appears to teach that Muslims must:
• believe in one God who is identified as the only Creator, and the God of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Job, Elisha, David, and the Old Testament Prophets;
• repent and believe in order to receive God’s forgiveness by grace;
• develop and cultivate a personal relationship with the God of Abraham;
• believe the Bible, and copy and distribute it to all nations of the earth without compensation;
• receive guidance from the Holy Spirit;
• resist the temptations from Satan; and
• avoid the condemnation of hell.

Walter Phillips has studied the Bible and early civilizations for the past thirty years, and the Qur’an for the past seven. He has spent the past twenty years investigating evidence and designing solutions to problems. With four university degrees, several professional affiliations, and 30 years of research, Walter Phillips presents his findings in a remarkably conversational style. Part of the book can be read on-line at Much of it can be read on Google Book Search:,M1

“In my opinion, the most important lesson from studying history is: never be afraid to re-examine the evidence in order to learn or verify the truth. We should never be afraid to critically examine claims of truth, for truth should be able to withstand rigorous scrutiny.” Walter Phillips
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May & June 2009

I edited the title to this thread so that it shows the next non-fiction reading period as "May & June 2009" and not "April & May 2009." We started going a bit too fast with our book discussions recently so I'm slowing it down a bit. We've got several great books on the current menu that deserve their time in the spotlight. :smile:
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Rather than posting in this thread I put some in the main Non-fiction forum. Should I relocate them to this thread?
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Yes, please. If you want them considered for group discussion in May and June they should be placed in this thread. :bananadance:
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Interbane and I would like to recommend ."The Problems of Philosophy," by Bertrand Russell

Chapter 1. Appearance and Reality

Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it? This question, which at first sight might not seem difficult, is really one of the most difficult that can be asked. When we have realized the obstacles in the way of a straightforward and confident answer, we shall be well launched on the study of philosophy-for philosophy is merely the attempt to answer such ultimate questions, not carelessly and dogmatically, as we do in ordinary life and even in the sciences, but critically, after exploring all that makes such questions puzzling, and after realizing all the vagueness and confusion that underlie our ordinary ideas.


Please add a link on all suggestions.

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Suggestion deleted.

You need to have 25+ posts to suggest books. This keeps visitors from spamming our site and influencing the books we read. Our polls are for active members that plan to participate only.

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Interbane, are you going to add your book suggestions here?
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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It ... 0195311450

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It is a book by Professor Paul Collier exploring the reason why impoverished countries fail to progress despite international aid and support.

Collier argues that there are many countries whose residents have experienced little, if any, income growth over the 1980s and 1990s. On his reckoning, there are just under 60 such economies, home to almost 1 billion people. The book suggests that, whereas the majority of the 5-billion people in the "developing world" are getting richer at an unprecedented rate, a group of countries (mostly in Africa and Central Asia but with a smattering elsewhere) are stuck and that development assistance should be focused heavily on them. These countries typically suffer from one or more development traps:

The Conflict Trap - civil wars (which cost c $100bn each) or coups.
The Natural Resource Trap - excessive dependence on natural resources which can stifle other economic activity and lead to bad governance and coups/conflict.
Landlocked with Bad Neighbours - poor landlocked countries with poor neighbours find it almost impossible to tap into world economic growth.
Bad Governance in a Small Country - terrible governance and policies can destroy an economy with alarming speed
He suggests a number of relatively inexpensive but institutionally difficult changes:

Aid agencies should increasingly be concentrated in the most difficult environments, and accept more risk. Ordinary citizens should not support poorly informed vociferous lobbies whose efforts are counterproductive and severely constrain what the Aid agencies can do
Appropriate Military Interventions (such as the British in Sierra Leone) should be encouraged, especially to guarantee democratic governments against coups
International Charters are needed to encourage good governance and provide prototypes
Trade Policy needs to encourage free-trade and give preferential access to Bottom Billion exports. At present "Rich-country protectionism masquerades in alliance with antiglobalization romantics and third world crooks"

Bottom Billion Countries
The book does not include a list of bottom billion countries because Collier believes this might lead to a "self-fulfilling prophecy." However, he states that there are 58 such countries mentioned throughout the book.

The following is a rough list of countries he mentions that may be included:

NON-AFRICAN: Haiti, Bolivia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), North Korea, Yemen, Tajikistan,[12] Afghanistan[13], Kazakhstan, Uzbekestan, Kyrgystan, Turkmenistan,[14] Nepal[15], Tibet, Mongolia, Qinghai Province (CHINA), Xinjiang Province (CHINA),[16] East Timor[17], Solomon Islands[18]

AFRICAN: Somalia, Sierra Leone,[19] Ghana[20], Nigeria[21], Tanzania, Senegal, Burkina Faso,[22] Zimbabwe, Liberia,[23] Cote D’Ivoire[24], Togo[25], The Gambia[26], Niger[27], Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan,[28] Kenya[29], Burundi[30], Madagascar[31], Lesotho, Mozambique,[32], Ethiopia[33], Eritrea[34], Chad[35], Central African Republic[36], Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo[37] Angola[38], Equatorial Guinea[39], Malawi[40], Camaroon [41]

Martin Wolf in the Financial Times called it "a splendid book" and "particularly enjoyed the attack on the misguided economics of many non-governmental organisations." He says that Collier sheds much light on how the world should tackle its biggest moral challenge. It shows, too, how far western governments and other external actors are from currently giving the sort of help these countries desperately need.
The Guardian called it an important book and suggested that citizens of G8 countries should fight for change along the lines he suggests
The Economist says it is "set to become a classic" and "should be compulsory reading for anyone embroiled in the hitherto thankless business of trying to pull people out of the pit of poverty where the “bottom billion” of the world's population of 6.6 billion seem irredeemably stuck"
Nicolas Kristof in the New York Times described it as "'The best book on international affairs so far this year"
William Easterly, influential American economist specialising in economic growth and foreign aid, critically assessed The Bottom Billion in The Lancet. He lambasts it for being an 'ivory tower analysis of real world poverty.
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The Big Con

The author, a senior editor at the New Republic, is best known for declaring I hate President George W. Bush in 2003. This book traces the roots of his dislike back 30 years, when supply-side economics took over the Republican Party and made cutting taxes the GOP answer to all political and economic questions. American politics has been hijacked by a tiny coterie of right-wing economic extremists, Chait declares, some of them ideological zealots, others merely greedy, a few of them possibly insane. To which he adds, the Republicans' success at defeating the democratic process explains why it has been able to enact its agenda despite a lack of popular support. The rhetoric is inflammatory, but the case is laid out with clarity. Chait claims that traditional Republicans, religious people and social, fiscal and foreign policy conservatives have been cheated as much as liberals, and that unparalleled corruption and ruthless cynicism in Washington and the timidity of nonpartisan media allow the minority to rule. His analysis should appeal to anyone interested in politics, though many may find the style too irritating to endure. (Sept. 12)
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Rational Mysticism by John Horgan

“In Rational Mysticism, acclaimed journalist John Horgan embarks on an adventure of discovery, investigating the ways in which scientists, theologians, and philosophers are attempting to formulate an empirical explanation of spiritual enlightenment. Horgan visits and interviews a fascinating Who's Who of experts, including theologian Huston Smith; Andrew Newberg, explorer of the brain's "God module"; Ken Wilber, a transpersonal psychologist and Buddhist; psychedelic pharmacologist Alexander Shulgin; Oxford-educated psychologist and Zen practitioner Susan Blackmore; and postmodern shaman Terence McKenna. Horgan also explores the effects of reputed enlightenment-inducing techniques such as fasting, meditation, prayer, sensory deprivation, and drug trips. In his lively and thought-provoking inquiry, Horgan finds surprising connections among seemingly disparate disciplines, not the least of which is a shared awe of the nature of the universe.”

Planet of Slums by Mike Davis

“Urban theorist Davis takes a global approach to documenting the astonishing depth of squalid poverty that dominates the lives of the planet's increasingly urban population, detailing poor urban communities from Cape Town and Caracas to Casablanca and Khartoum. Davis argues health, justice and social issues associated with gargantuan slums (the largest, in Mexico City, has an estimated population of 4 million) get overlooked in world politics: "The demonizing rhetorics of the various international 'wars' on terrorism, drugs, and crime are so much semantic apartheid: they construct epistemological walls around gecekondus, favelas, and chawls that disable any honest debate about the daily violence of economic exclusion." Though Davis focuses on individual communities, he presents statistics showing the skyrocketing population and number of "megaslums" (informally, "stinking mountains of shit" or, formally, "when shanty-towns and squatter communities merge in continuous belts of informal housing and poverty, usually on the urban periphery") since the 1960s. Layered over the hard numbers are a fascinating grid of specific area studies and sub-topics ranging from how the Olympics has spurred the forceful relocation of thousands (and, sometimes, hundreds of thousands) of the urban poor, to the conversion of formerly second world countries to third world status. Davis paints a bleak picture of the upward trend in urbanization and maintains a stark outlook for slum-dwellers' futures.”

The Fold Leibniz and the Baroque by Gilles Deleuze

“Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris VIII. He is a key figure in poststructuralism, and one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. In "The Fold", Deleuze proposes a new and radical way of understanding philosophy and art. Leibniz drew on the art of the baroque period in his invention of the concept of the fold; Deleuze develops the concept further to present a new way of practising philosophy based upon the fold as the relationship of difference with itself.”

Echo Objects by Barbara Maria Stafford

“Barbara Maria Stafford is at the forefront of a growing movement that calls for the humanities to confront the brain’s material realities. In Echo Objects,she argues that humanists should seize upon the exciting neuroscientific discoveries that are illuminating the underpinnings of cultural objects. In turn, she contends, brain scientists could enrich their investigations of mental activity by incorporating phenomenological considerations—particularly the intricate ways that images focus intentional behavior and allow us to feel thought.
As a result, Echo Objectsis a stunningly broad exploration of how complex images—or patterns that compress space and time—make visible the invisible ordering of human consciousness. Stafford demonstrates, for example, how the compound formats of emblems, symbols, collage, and electronic media reveal the brain’s grappling to construct mental objects that are redoubled by prior associations. In contrast, she shows that findings in evolutionary biology and the neurosciences are providing profound opportunities for understanding aesthetic conundrums such as the human urge to imitate and the role of narrative and nonnarrative representation.
Ultimately, she makes an impassioned plea for a common purpose—for the acknowledgement that, at the most basic level, these separate projects belong to a single investigation. “Heroic. . . . The larger message of Stafford’s intense, propulsive prose is unassailable. If we are to get much further in the great puzzle of ‘binding’—how the perception of an image, the will to act on intention, or the forging of consciousness is assembled from the tens of thousands of neurons firing at any one moment in time—then there needs to be action on all fronts.”—Science”

Animal Minds Beyond Cognition to Consciousness by Donald R. Griffin

“In the intriguing Animal Minds : Beyond Cognition to Consciousness, Donald Griffin tackles that perennial question of psychologists and behaviourists, do animals think? According to Cartesian models of science that have long influenced the Western view of the natural world, they do not: they merely react to external stimuli, the responses to which they cannot control.
A different view has emerged in recent years, one that draws on findings from experimental psychology, biology, linguistics, and cognitive ethology. Writes Griffin, an associate at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, "Communicative behavior is not a human monopoly." Animal communication--from the dance language of the bees to the vocalisms of parrots and bonobos--suggests that there is more than a ghost in the machine. For underlying that communicative ability are other powers that humans have no easy way of gauging: a sense of time and futurity, a complex memory, an ability to lie, even consciousness itself.
Griffin examines recent studies that show that many species are able to discern and classify colours, shapes, materials, and "sameness", and that many other species are able to adapt their communications systems to account for novel situations. Warning that our understanding of animal minds is still ill formed and that much work remains to be done in the field before we can confidently answer that ancient question one way or the other, he argues that "animals are best viewed as actors who choose what to do rather than as objects totally dependent on outside influences." --Gregory McNamee”

I would also like to vote for Zizek’s Ontology and The Pivot of Civilization as possible selections.