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Q4 2006 Nonfiction Book Suggestions

Collaborate in choosing our next NON-FICTION book for group discussion within this forum. A minimum of 5 posts is necessary to participate here!
JulianTheApostate
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Re: suggestions

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No, I haven't read the book yet, though it's sitting on my to-read bookshelf. However, I enjoyed Schama's Citizens and heard the author, an entertaining and lively Brit, speak about the book.You can watch a video of his talk here. Edited by: JulianTheApostate at: 9/1/06 10:37 pm
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Chris OConnor

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Re: 4th Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!

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Exactly as Mad says.
MadArchitect

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Re: 4th Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!

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I thought I'd throw out one more suggestion -- one that would complicate next quarter's reading, but in an interesting, potentiall fun way. I've already suggested that we read "A Brief History of Infinity". What if we read that book and this one, and talked about both in relation to one another:Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, by Charles SeifeThe seemingly impossible Zen task--writing a book about nothing--has a loophole: people have been chatting, learning, and even fighting about nothing for millennia. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, by noted science writer Charles Seife, starts with the story of a modern battleship stopped dead in the water by a loose zero, then rewinds back to several hundred years BCE. Some empty-headed genius improved the traditional Eastern counting methods immeasurably by adding zero as a placeholder, which allowed the genesis of our still-used decimal system. It's all been uphill from there, but Seife is enthusiastic about his subject; his synthesis of math, history, and anthropology seduces the reader into a new fascination with the most troubling number.Why did the Church reject the use of zero? How did mystics of all stripes get bent out of shape over it? Is it true that science as we know it depends on this mysterious round digit? Zero opens up these questions and lets us explore the answers and their ramifications for our oh-so-modern lives. Seife has fun with his format, too, starting with chapter 0 and finishing with an appendix titled "Make Your Own Wormhole Time Machine." (Warning: don't get your hopes up too much.) There are enough graphs and equations to scare off serious numerophobes, but the real story is in the interactions between artists, scientists, mathematicians, religious and political leaders, and the rest of us--it seems we really do have nothing in common.
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Re: 4th Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!

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"Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, by Charles Seife"HA! I just read this book earlier this year. Very interesting and insightful!!Mr. P. Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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Re: 4th Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!

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Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam Robert Dreyfuss From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. One of the CIA's first great moments of institutional reflection occurred in 1953, after American covert operatives helped overthrow Iran's left-leaning government and restored the Shah to power. The agency, then only six years old, had funded ayatollahs, mobilized the religious right and engineered a sophisticated propaganda campaign to successfully further its aims, and it wanted to know how it could reapply such tradecraft elsewhere, so it commissioned an internal report. Half a century later, the most prescient line from that report is one of caution, not optimism. "Possibilities of blowback against the United States should always be in the back of the minds of all CIA officers," the document warned. Since this first known use of the term "blowback," countless journalists and scholars have chronicled the greatest blowback of all: how the staggering quantities of aid that America provided to anti-Marxist Islamic extremists during the Cold War inadvertently positioned those very same extremists to become America's next great enemy. (Indeed, Iran's religious leaders were among the first to turn against the United States.) Dreyfuss's volume reaches farther and deeper into the subject than most. He convincingly situates America's attempt to build an Islamic bulwark against Soviet expansion into Britain's history of imperialism in the region. And where other authors restrict their focus to the Afghan mujahideen, Dreyfuss details a history of American support
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Goddesses and the Joy of Philosophy

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Here's one by a premier scholar and historian in feminist theology and comparative religion, Rosemary Radford Ruether. Goddesses and the Divine Feminine: A Western Religious History by Rosemary RuetherQuote:From Publishers WeeklyRuether charts a medium between, on the one hand, historically male-centered Western religious traditions and, on the other, the 1970s assertion (courtesy of Marija Gimbutas, Riane Eisler et al) that prehistoric societies were matricentric and matrilinear. It is possible, Ruether says, to support ecofeminism and beliefs in the divine feminine "without embracing theories about gender in human social evolution that are not historically tenable. One can affirm the validity of alternative Goddess spirituality in the contemporary context without insisting that everyone accept the thesis of a literal 'feminist Eden' in prehistoric human existence." Ruether adopts a roughly chronological approach, opening with an anthropological and archaeological look at what we know about gender in prehistory (which, it turns out, is not a lot), and about goddesses in the ancient Mediterranean world. She then examines gender and the divine feminine in Hebrew scriptures, ancient mystery cults, the New Testament and medieval Christianity before turning her attention to a particular case study of gender in the cultural contact between Aztec religion and Christianity in Mexico. The final chapters explore possible reasons for the popularity of the idea of matriarchy, with Ruether raising the overarching question: Do we need a myth of matriarchal prehistory today? Scholars and educated lay readers who are looking for a fair, comprehensive assessment of what is at stake in the debates about the divine feminine will read this with great interest. Ruether is an informed and lively guide, and her book (complete with nearly four dozen illustrations) manages to be both opinionated and balanced. Copyright
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Re: 4th Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!

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Ok, thanks for all the suggestions. We've got enough to narrow it down to three or four.
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Re: 4th Quarter 2006 ~ NONFICTION Book Suggestions!

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Wait, one more! Consider Shermer's new book: Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design . This sounds great. It would provide interesting discussion. Also, one of his books have been read here before and the discussion went well. He would probably do a live chat too.From Publishers WeeklyShermer (The Science of Good and Evil), founding editor of the Skeptic and Scientific American columnist, thoughtfully explains why intelligent design is both bad science and poor religion, how a wealth of scientific data from varied fields support evolution, and why religion and science need not be in conflict. Science and religion are two distinct realms, he argues: the natural and supernatural, respectively, and he cites Pope John Paul II in support of their possible coexistence. Shermer takes the "ten most cogent" arguments for intelligent design and refutes each in turn. While on the mark, the arguments' brevity may hamper their usefulness to all but those well versed in the debate. Looking for converts, Shermer offers a short chapter entitled "Why Christians and Conservatives Should Accept Evolution" (i.e., it "provides a scientific foundation" for their core values). His overall message is best summarized when he writes, "Darwin matters because evolution matters. Evolution matters because science matters. Science matters because it is the preeminent story of our age, an epic saga about who we are, where we came from and where we are going." Although there's not much new here, Shermer's wit and passion will appeal to many but won't convince believers. Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 9/10/06 1:47 pm
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