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Non-Fiction Book Suggestions Wanted: Sept. & Oct. 2009 
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Post Non-Fiction Book Suggestions Wanted: Sept. & Oct. 2009
Non-Fiction Book Suggestions Wanted: Sept. & Oct. 2009

Now is the time for sharing your non-fiction book suggestions. What would you like to read, as a group, for our September & October 2009 non-fiction book discussion?

1. Suggest only a few books
2. Tell us why you are suggesting each book
3. Provide a description or review of each book suggestion
4. Provide a link to where we can learn more about your book suggestions, such as to Amazon.com.

And we might start the next non-fiction book earlier than September. If the "Primates & Philosophers" discussion is starting to slow down in July we could start our next non-fiction book in August. But let's wait and see how things progress.



Last edited by Chris OConnor on Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:24 pm
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This is a great book, and it gives everyone plenty to discuss.

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt

How could no one have written this book before? These days we spend almost as much time driving as we do eating (in fact, we do a lot of our eating while driving), but I can't remember the last time I saw a book on all the time we spend stuck in our cars. It's a topic of nearly universal interest, though: everybody has a strategy for beating the traffic. Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) has plenty of advice for those shortcut schemers (Vanderbilt may well convince you to become, as he has, a dreaded "Late Merger"), but more than that it's the sort of wide-ranging contrarian compendium that makes a familiar subject new. I'm not the first or last to call Traffic the Freakonomics of cars, but it's true that it fits right in with the school of smart and popular recent books by Leavitt, Gladwell, Surowiecki, Ariely, and others that use the latest in economic, sociological, psychological, and in this case civil engineering research to make us rethink a topic we live with every day. Want to know how much city traffic is just people looking for parking? (It's a lot.) Or why street signs don't work (but congestion pricing does), why new cars crash more than old cars, and why Saturdays now have the worst traffic of the week? Read Traffic, or better yet, listen to the audio book on your endless commute.



Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:34 am
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Thanks for the book suggestions, Julian. :smile: I'd read Traffic if it won the next non-fiction book poll. The selfish and rude way people drive in Florida is a source of constant frustration for me and this book appears to tackle the issue quite well. Good suggestion.



Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:56 pm
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Around BookTalk.org we all seem to care quite a bit about scientific literacy. Please let me know what you think of this book suggestion.

Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future
Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum

[hr]

Product Description
In his famous 1959 Rede lecture at Cambridge University, the scientifically-trained novelist C.P. Snow described science and the humanities as "two cultures," separated by a "gulf of mutual incomprehension." And the humanists had all the cultural power—the low prestige of science, Snow argued, left Western leaders too little educated in scientific subjects that were increasingly central to world problems: the elementary physics behind nuclear weapons, for instance, or the basics of plant science needed to feed the world's growing population.

Now, Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, a journalist-scientist team, offer an updated "two cultures" polemic for America in the 21st century. Just as in Snow's time, some of our gravest challenges—climate change, the energy crisis, national economic competitiveness—and gravest threats--global pandemics, nuclear proliferation—have fundamentally scientific underpinnings. Yet we still live in a culture that rarely takes science seriously or has it on the radar.

For every five hours of cable news, less than a minute is devoted to science; 46 percent of Americans reject evolution and think the Earth is less than 10,000 years old; the number of newspapers with weekly science sections has shrunken by two-thirds over the past several decades. The public is polarized over climate change—an issue where political party affiliation determines one's view of reality—and in dangerous retreat from childhood vaccinations. Meanwhile, only 18 percent of Americans have even met a scientist to begin with; more than half can't name a living scientist role model.

For this dismaying situation, Mooney and Kirshenbaum don't let anyone off the hook. They highlight the anti-intellectual tendencies of the American public (and particularly the politicians and journalists who are supposed to serve it), but also challenge the scientists themselves, who despite the best of intentions have often failed to communicate about their work effectively to a broad public—and so have ceded their critical place in the public sphere to religious and commercial propagandists.

A plea for enhanced scientific literacy, Unscientific America urges those who care about the place of science in our society to take unprecedented action. We must begin to train a small army of ambassadors who can translate science's message and make it relevant to the media, to politicians, and to the public in the broadest sense. An impassioned call to arms worthy of Snow's original manifesto, this book lays the groundwork for reintegrating science into the public discourse--before it's too late.



Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:02 pm
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After reading The Selfish Gene, I am inclined to read The Extended Phenotype, which Dawkins claims is his greatest work. I think it will be an excellent book, but quite boring if you're not into this kind of thing.

An example of an extended phenotype is a beaver dam. Consider the fact that the schematics for a beaver dam are loosely passed down through generations of beavers via genes.

http://www.amazon.com/Extended-Phenotyp ... ce/dp/0192 880519


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Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:53 pm
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Excellent suggestions, Interbane!

PS You might want to change your signature or at least add something to indicate that those aren't your words. Unless you enjoy looking like a fool.



Wed Jul 15, 2009 12:00 am
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I've locked the thread about The Extended Phenotype in hopes that everyone that commented there will move their comments here where they will serve a greater purpose. If you want to read and discuss The Extended Phenotype or The Selfish Gene in our next non-fiction discussion your suggestion AND subsequent comments should be here in this thread. All of the other threads are for more casual suggestions - they don't pertain to our official book discussions. The more comments and feedback a book has the higher the probability it will be on a poll. But the comments and feedback have to be in the appropriate thread where we're actually talking about the upcoming book discussion period and what we'd all like to read and discuss during that period.

Am I making sense? I'm half asleep. :shock:



Wed Jul 15, 2009 3:15 pm
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When Good Thinking Goes Bad : How Your Brain Can Have a Mind of Its Own

http://www.amazon.com/When-Good-Thinkin ... 1591025869



Wed Jul 15, 2009 3:28 pm
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Interbane wrote:
When Good Thinking Goes Bad : How Your Brain Can Have a Mind of Its Own

http://www.amazon.com/When-Good-Thinkin ... 1591025869


This looks good, Interbane. At 236 pages, it's a wee little book too. It has a chapter on global warming which is sure to generate some discussion.

Here's some more info:

When Good Thinking Goes Bad: How Your Brain Can Have a Mind of Its Own

REVIEW: "The perfect primer on critical thinking, not just for critical thinkers but for everyone. Not only should this book be the primary text of critical thinking courses throughout the land, but the chapters on how to think critically about political, economic, and social issues should be required reading for all members of Congress, along with the White House staff and the President himself...." -- Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, author of Why People Believe Weird Things and Why Darwin Matters.


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Fri Jul 17, 2009 12:40 pm
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I agree with geo.



Fri Jul 17, 2009 5:36 pm
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I can honestly say that I like all of the suggestions made in this thread.



Fri Jul 17, 2009 6:06 pm
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Would anyone else like to comment on the suggestions made so far?



Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:41 am
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I’ll hazard to suggest Carl Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections as a possible choice of non-fiction.

Jung wrote this book (with the help of Aniela Jaffe) only after overcoming his own displeasure in the idea. It’s a wonderful examination of his life, his relationship to Sigmund Freud, his personal exploration of his unconscious through dreams, and the contrast between his professional life and his innermost conception of the mind. Often, he kept the two separated. If anything, this book reveals more about the man than his body of work in psychiatry.

At times, the book is written with passion and insight. He breaks down his own barriers for us to see and to consider, and he asks us several questions - not in so many words, but in so many ideas.

It can be a hard read (conceptually, not literally) at times, and yet I found something strange and wonderful in his deeply personal explorations of his ‘self’. Some passages moved me to stop and meditate. It confused me at moments and simply entertained me at others. For a non-fiction book - one written by such an icon of the 20th Century - I found it an engaging story, tantalizingly voyeuristic, and refreshingly real and honest.

It's not necessary to adhere to his style of life or accept his general conclusions to derive pleasure from reading this book. It is, in my opinion, intensely human.



Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:58 pm
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Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future
Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum

This one appeals to me. I think it deals with many issues that are important, and that have come to the forefront recently. I do believe that many are ignorant about the world, and especailly of the world of science. I must admit, that I am probably one of them. The title is very interesting, and the link is informative. I think the book would be very informative as well.



Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:01 pm
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I'm locking this thread. We've had plenty of time for suggestions and feedback on suggestions. The poll will be up shortly! :smile:



Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:38 pm
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