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Suggestions for our non-fiction Book - Q1, 2008 
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Post Suggestions for our non-fiction Book - Q1, 2008
Suggestions for our non-fiction Book - Q1, 2008

Please make suggestions here for our January, February and March 2008 non-fiction book. Name books you feel would make for great discussions. And please include a brief explanation as to why you think your suggestion is a good one. Also, include a link to Amazon.com where members can further research your book suggestion.

If your book could be classified as a "freethought" book please use the freethought book suggestion thread.

So what would you like to read and discuss in Q1, 2008?



Last edited by Chris OConnor on Tue Dec 25, 2007 10:19 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:33 am
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Relocating this from another thread...

The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness, by Jack El-Hai

Editorial Reviews
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From Publishers Weekly
Set against the backdrop of changing attitudes toward mental illness in the 20th century, El-Hai's scholarly biography of Dr. Walter Freeman is a moving portrait of failed greatness. Born to a distinguished family of physicians, he rose to become one of the most celebrated doctors of his generation. Best known as the doctor responsible for the widespread adoption of lobotomy in America after WWII, he also made signal contributions to the science of medicine through his career-long involvement with George Washington University Medical School and St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. Yet, despite his achievements, the procedure he helped develop and tirelessly champion would ultimately become his undoing. As physicians sought other, less drastic means to treat mental illness, Freeman's unorthodox methods, which often included an ice pick and carpenter's hammer, came to seem barbaric. When he died in 1972, the sharply negative view of psychosurgery expressed in books like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) had become commonplace; a mere decade later, movies like Frances (1982) would openly portray lobotomy as institutionalized torture. Although the title of El-Hai's biography might suggest otherwise, he eschews such lurid oversimplifications and portrays Freeman in all his human complexity. To this end, he chronicles Freeman's crusade to help millions of asylum patients who might otherwise remain incarcerated indefinitely; his indefatigable postoperative commitment to his patients; and his flamboyant personality and macabre sense of humor in and out of the operating room. El-Hai's book succeeds as both an empathetic, nuanced portrait of one of America's most complex public figures and as a record of the cultural shifts that have occurred in the treatment of mental illness over the last century.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Scientific American
Few words conjure up more gruesome connotations than "lobotomy"—surgically severing the brain's frontal lobe in an attempt to relieve intractable psychiatric symptoms. And yet these operations—first performed in the U.S. in 1936 by psychiatrist and neurologist Walter Jackson Freeman and neurosurgeon James Winston Watts—continued for more than 40 years. In that time, Freeman, the procedure's champion, cut the brains of 3,500 people. Biographer Jack El-Hai chronicles lobotomy's reign through Freeman's quest to treat mental illness surgically. The tale follows this son and grandson of prominent physicians from his youth in Philadelphia during the early 1900s through his rise and eventual fall in national prominence. Freeman emerges not merely as a maniacal devotee of radical "psychosurgery" but as an earnest advocate of potential treatments for otherwise intractable mental illness. Most of Freeman's work took place when state psychiatric hospitals overflowed with seemingly untreatable patients, many of whom suffered relentlessly. Effective psychiatric medications were not yet available, and lobotomy became a measure of last resort. El-Hai describes how neurosurgeons experimented to transform the complicated prefrontal lobotomy into the simpler transorbital lobotomy—nearly an outpatient procedure in which a physician entered a patient's brain through a region above the eye with an ice-pick like tool. A skilled practitioner could perform a transorbital lobotomy in minutes. Surprisingly, many of Freeman's lobotomies were reported as successful, not only by Freeman but also by some patients and their families, who sent hundreds of letters expressing gratitude. Of course, many surgeries failed; Rosemary Kennedy, the sister of President John F. Kennedy who suffered "agitated depression," was left "inert and unable to speak more than a few words," as El-Hai says, and was ultimately institutionalized. In 1950 Freeman and Watts reported that of 711 lobotomies they had performed, "45 percent yielded good results, 33 percent produced fair results, and 19 percent left the patient unimproved or worse off." Not surprisingly, many patients remained confused, disconnected, listless and plagued by complications such as seizures. With the emergence of effective drugs during the 1970s, physicians halted lobotomies altogether The tale of lobotomy's rise and fall entails far more than one man's quest to spearhead a dubious surgical method. It is a story of desperation among thousands of patients, families, clinicians and policymakers struggling to manage a population seemingly crippled by illnesses for which there was no help. It is also a worrisome account of physicians groping for solutions to problems that they could not adequately address. In this sense, El-Hai's treatment of this medical saga is also poignant and illuminating.


Here, to aid in consideration, is the link to the rest of the editorial reviews on Amazon.



Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:34 pm
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Way to screw up the thread Mad!



Wed Oct 10, 2007 4:16 pm
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Since the concept of human nature comes up quite a bit in discussion around here, I thought it might be interesting to for us to read a survey of historical conceptions of the idea.

Ten Theories of Human Nature, by Leslie Stevenson

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Book Description
Over three previous editions, Ten Theories of Human Nature has been a remarkably popular introduction to some of the most influential developments in Western and Eastern thought. This thoroughly revised fourth edition features substantial new chapters on Aristotle and on evolutionary theories of human nature; the latter centers on Edward O. Wilson but also outlines the ideas of Emile Durkheim, B. F. Skinner, Nikolaas Tinbergen, Konrad Lorenz, Noam Chomsky, and recent evolutionary psychology. This edition also includes a rewritten introduction that invites readers (even if inclined toward fundamentalism, or to cultural relativism) to careful, critical thought about human nature; a useful new section that summarizes the history of ideas from the Stoics to the Enlightenment; and a new conclusion that suggests a way to synthesize the various theories. Lucid and accessible, Ten Theories of Human Nature, 4/e, compresses into a small space the essence of such ancient traditions as Confucianism, Hinduism, and the Old and New Testaments as well as the theories of Plato, Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Jean-Paul Sartre. The authors juxtapose the ideas of these and other thinkers and traditions in a way that helps readers understand how humanity has struggled to comprehend its nature. To encourage readers to think critically for themselves and to underscore the similarities and differences between the many theories, the book examines each one on four points--the nature of the universe, the nature of humanity, the diagnosis of the ills of humanity, and the proposed cure for these problems. Ideal for introductory courses in human nature, philosophy, religious studies, and intellectual history, Ten Theories of Human Nature, 4/e, will engage and motivate students and other readers to consider how we can understand and improve both ourselves and human society.



Thu Oct 18, 2007 7:53 pm
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Ten Theories of Human Nature, by Leslie Stevenson sounds like an excellent choice Mad.

I want to add another from the line of books by Howard Gardner titled, Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership. http://www.amazon.com/Leading-Minds-Lea ... 0465082807 . Like Mad's selection, it is a careful examination of human nature, with a specific focus upon what we mean by leadership, and how it influences minds. Furthermore, it surveys cases from within the 20th century: providing a summary of key personalities and events that make up what we might call the Modern Era. Here is an excerpt from the Preface:

Quote:
In this book, I argue that we can understand the achievements of such figures as Churchill and Einstein better if, first, we recognize the ways in which they were similar and, second and more importantly, we survey strategic intermediate points between these such prototypical figures. To anticipate my argument very briefly, I see both Churchill and Einstein as leaders-as individuals who significantly influence the thoughts, behaviors, and/or feelings of others. Churchill exerted his influence in a direct way, through the stories he communicated to various audiences; hence, I term him a direct leader. Einstein exerted his influence in an indirect way, through the ideas he developed and the ways that those ideas were captured in some kind of a theory or treatise; hence, he qualifies as an indirect leader.

Einstein and Churchill mark two ends of a continuum that denotes the capacity of a person (or a group of persons) to influence other people. (Indeed, I could have termed this study "An Examination of Influence," but that lexical move would have undermined the reorientation in thinking about both creativity and leadership that is my goal.) One way to understand a continuum is by examining its poles; and, indeed, I return to Churchill and kindred leaders in chapter 13. However, we can gain a better understanding of the crucial phenomena of leadership if we instead scan a range of cases--a set of twentieth-century individuals who span the continuum from individuals whose leadership is primarily indirect (like Einstein or Virginia Woolf or Charles Darwin) to individuals whose leadership is unambiguously direct (like Josef Stalin or Margaret Thatcher or Erwin Rommel).

The individuals I have chosen are not all household names, but they effectively represent the central question: Who ultimately had the greater influence-the three most powerful men of their time or a solitary thinker armed with only a succinct physics equation? This tantalizing question, reframed to encompass various leaders, is one I revisit throughout the book.

Eleven Characters in Search of a Link

In all likelihood, the eleven individuals whose leadership I probe have never before been linked. One might well ask a set of enthusiastic parlor-game players (who had not read the opening pages of this book) to identify the features the following individuals have in common:

Margaret Mead ( 1901-1978), who was trained as a cultural anthropologist, became famous for both her pioneering studies of adolescence among islanders in the South Seas and her wide knowledge about changing mores in the twentieth century. Through tireless speech making and writing over a fifty-year period, she influenced views about childhood, family life, and society all over the world.

J. Robert Oppenheimer ( 1904-1967), the theoretical physicist, is best known for his scientific directorship of the Manhattan Project. From 1943 to 1945 he led an unprecedentedly large and diverse team of scientists involved with this project as they succeeded in constructing the first nuclear weapons. Entering after the war into the highly charged world of scientific politics, he was eventually judged a national security risk. Oppenheimer spent the last years of his life out of the public eye, as the esteemed director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Robert Maynard Hutchins ( 1899-1977) became the University of Chicago's president when he was thirty. He propounded an influential, tradition-based view of higher education rooted in the study of classical texts and the discussion of philosophical issues. Always a controversial figure, he became in his later years a foundation executive and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.

Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. ( 1875-1966) was one of the founders of the modern corporation. As the head of General Motors, he set up an organizational structure that exploited the strengths of both centralized and decentralized institutional arrangements. As a principal spokesman for American business, he encouraged the belief that America's strength emanated from its capitalistic system. In the latter years of his life, he became a major philanthropist.

George C. Marshall ( 1880-1959) was a highly effective chief of staff of the U.S. Army during the Second World War. After the war, as the secretary of state, he first called for and then helped to direct the recovery program in Western Europe. For many around the world, Marshall embodied the disinterested public servant. Nonetheless, he became, in the early 1950s, the subject of attack by Joseph McCarthy, the red-baiting senator.

Pope John XXIII ( 1881-1963), born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, was one of the most important, and certainly one of the most popular, popes of modern times. Appointed at age seventy-seven as an interim pontiff, he surprised his colleagues by immediately announcing plans for a Vatican Council that would examine the Catholic Church's role in the modern world. He called for a return to the simple messages of early Christianity, instigated efforts to reduce tensions between the political superpowers, and built bridges that spanned many faiths, nations, and ideologies.

Eleanor Roosevelt ( 1884-1962), the niece of one U.S. president and the wife of another, was a leading advocate of liberal and humanitarian causes both in the United States and abroad. Often positioned politically to the left of her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, she became a lightning rod for criticism. A role model for many individuals, and particularly for American women, she was long touted as the "most admired woman in the world."

Martin Luther King, Jr. ( 1929-1968), who was trained as a minister, became the most articulate and successful advocate of the cause of African Americans in the middle years of the twentieth century. His massive 1963 March on Washington constituted a milestone in the history of the civil rights movement. In light of his decision to focus on broader domestic and international issues, his position as a black leader became more tenuous. His assassination by a rabid segregationist left a void in leadership that has yet to be filled.

Margaret Thatcher ( 1925-) rose from modest origins to become the Conservative prime minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990. As prime minister, she inspired a fundamental reconfiguration of social, economic, and political forces in her country. The defining moment of her tenure was her decisive leadership during the 1982 Falklands War. While resisting closer ties with Western Europe, she helped forge new relations with the Eastern bloc of nations.

Jean Monnet ( 1888-1979), a French economist and diplomat, played a crucial but largely behind-the-scenes role in the reconstruction of his country following both world wars. Well connected to business and political figures on both sides of the Atlantic, he was often cast in an oppositional "internationalist" role to the more nationalistically oriented Charles de Gaulle. Because of his efforts over half a century to bring people and nations together, Monnet is generally credited with being the chief architect of a united Europe.

Mahatma Gandhi ( 1869-1948) was the political and religious leader who guided his native India to independence in the first half of the twentieth century. He developed and practiced an ascetic philosophy of living, which many of his close associates also followed. His innovative approach to the resolution of conflict--saryagraha, or nonviolent resistance--rarely prevailed in India after his assassination, yet it has inspired political activists and dissidents throughout the world.

Coming from different countries and social backgrounds, and trained in a range of vocations, these eleven individuals all became leaders in the sense that I am using the term: persons who, by word and/or personal example, markedly influence the behaviors, thoughts, and/or feelings of a significant number of their fellow human beings (here termed followers or audience members). The leaders' voices affected their worlds, and, ultimately, our world.



Fri Oct 19, 2007 2:58 pm
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So is the alignment on this page screwed up for anyone else? It's pretty much unreadable for me.



Sat Oct 20, 2007 2:00 pm
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I wondered what you were talking about. It looks fine to me, although, I suppose it's possible that some errant tag in my first post caused a problem that only shows on certain platforms or browsers, or with certain settings. If he has time, maybe Indie could look over the code -- he'd probably be more liable to catch it that I would.



Sat Oct 20, 2007 11:24 pm
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Stupendously Brilliant


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Yeah, I suspect that it is because the amazon link you posted is really long and the board seems to have stretched in order to keep the link on a single line.



Sun Oct 21, 2007 4:15 am
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Did my edit fix the problem? I wonder why your browser wouldn't divide a long link up onto multiple lines. What browser are you using?



Sun Oct 21, 2007 12:18 pm
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Stupendously Brilliant


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Indeed it did. Cheers.



Sun Oct 21, 2007 2:38 pm
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One of the books on my must-read list is The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker.

From Booklist
Quote:
Experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist Pinker is fascinated by the symbiosis between language and thought. In this stimulating volume, a continuation of the discussion found in The Language Instinct (1994), he argues for the "real-world importance" of "the relation of language to our inner and outer worlds." Anchoring his discussion of why semantics matter to 9/11 and other momentous public events, Pinker teases apart the gap between the literal meanings of words and their elaborate connotations, which leads to fresh explanations of humor, the importance of metaphors, and the significance of swearing. Some of the most mind-expanding chapters involve the subtlest, most taken-for-granted aspects of mind, namely our sense of time, space, and causality. Drawing on philosophy, evolutionary psychology, physics, neurology, anthropology, and jokes, Pinker presents a convincing theory of conceptual semantics, itemizing the "fundamental ideas" that form the "language of thought." From politics to poetry, children's wonderful malapropisms to slang, Pinker's fluency in the nuances of words and syntax serves as proof of his faith in language as "a window into human nature."



Mon Oct 22, 2007 6:16 pm
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I've made this selection before, but I think it even more pertinent and really a worthwhile read for Booktalk

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Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/074321157X/fivelementcom-20


The text is written by Jonathan Shay, a brilliant combination of ancient classicist and psychiatrist specialist in the field of PTSD and combat survival. Odysseus' journey home becomes the paradigm for US soldiers returning home from Vietnam. The book was published before the ill-thought invasion of Iraq, but I think it will prove a fruitful challenge for Booktalk to make the connections between the two wars, and the ancient story.

Here is Jonathan Shay's page at the Macarthur Foundation 2007 Fellows page: http://www.macfound.org/site/c.lkLXJ8MQKrH/b.2913825/apps/nl/content2.asp?content_id=%7BE9E1451F-45BD-4CAE-BC81-1DBB22F276D0%7D&notoc=1

Quote:
From Publishers Weekly
It's not exactly a secret that those returning from war often have difficulties adjusting to the peaceful life at home. Nor is it a secret that hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans have had emotionally rocky homecomings. The main reasons Vietnam veterans have suffered disproportionately have been identified in many books. Shay (Achilles in Vietnam), a Tufts Medical School faculty member, serves as a Veterans Administration psychiatrist administering to emotionally troubled Vietnam veterans and offers his second study engaging the Homeric epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, in order to describe and explain veterans' plight. Shay presents an amalgam of scholarly Homeric interpretation and case studies of maladjusted Vietnam veterans, arguing that leaders-from top policy makers to drill instructors-hold the key to preventing many psychological problems in the military. He advocates fostering a climate of community at the unit level by training and supporting competent, open-minded, ethical military leaders who have the full support of their superiors. While it's an intriguing argument, the case studies do not contribute to existing literature, and the tone of the book-which contains countless italicized words and phrases-comes off too often as hectoring or stridently didactic. Readers with a working knowledge of The Odyssey and a familiarity with the effects of PTSD among Americans who served in the Vietnam War may get the most out of this book, which could affect policy if it finds its way to upper echelons of command.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal
Shay, a psychiatrist in the Department of Veteran Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Boston, has worked with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Vietnam veterans for many years. In his first book, Achilles in Vietnam, Shay explored the stresses and psychological injuries caused by armed combat, using the insight of Homer's Iliad. That book was warmly received in both the medical and the military professions. In the first third of the new book, Shay uses Odysseus's epic journey to explore the stresses faced by veterans who return home, still scarred by their intense experiences. In Shay's interpretation, Odysseus experienced nearly all of the symptoms he has observed in returned veterans of modern wars fearfulness, inability to trust or be close to anyone, emotional outbursts, violence, criminal activity, sexual adventurism, and so forth. Clearly, Homer understood and appreciated what war really meant to the participants. The second section deals with healing techniques. The third contains Shay's suggested measures for prevention of such long-lasting injuries. Whether or not one agrees with Shay's prescriptive measures, this is a mandatory purchase for any library serving the military or their families, or where medical professionals deal with any kind of stress-related disorder. It is also a fresh take on a literary classic. Highly recommended. Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist
This book's readers ought to read Shay's Achilles in Vietnam(1994), too. Although the main thrusts of the two books differ, asdo the characters of Achilles and Odysseus, they arecomplementary. Shay, a psychiatrist with a Ph.D. in neuroscience,worked with the V.A.'s Veterans Improvement Program for more than adecade. The veterans in the program, especially those who experiencedgreat difficulty returning to society and family, soon learned thatShay wasn't just interested in them; he actually listened tothem. This led to productive realizations for doctor and patientsalike, such as that feeling guilty about what a man has or hasn't donedoesn't necessarily imply that he is guilty. Just as Homer's warhero Achilles "speaks" to the psychology of the soldier, the characterand experience of Homer's returning vet Odysseus, Shay says, are fontsof insight for vets, their families, and their employers. Meanwhile,nonvets will perceive from this book the wisdom of replacing wholeunits rather than individual soldiers at the front. William Beatty
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review
Richard Rhodes Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Why they Kill and The Making of the Atomic Bomb: "A brilliant successor to Shay's groundbreaking Achilles in Vietnam."

Library Journal: "[A] fresh take on a literary classic."

Thomas E. Ricks Defense correspondent, The Washington Post "Should be read by anyone interested in the effects of combat on troops or in the meaning of Homer's works -- and by everyone who wants to better understand today's United States."

Asa Baber Vietnam-era marine veteran and the Men columnist for Playboy "One hell of a book. It is well written, honest, healing, and aimed at all of us who have trouble handling the stress of our crazy world."

Gregory Nagy Professor of classical Greek literature, Harvard University "A true American Odyssey."

Steven Pressfield Author of Gates of Fire and Last of the Amazons "Jonathan Shay plumbs the Odysseus myth for healing, working the real-life agonies of his own clients at the V.A. in Boston into the wisdom left to us by Homer. An important book."

Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor USMC, retired, Marine Corps Gazette "Groundbreaking work in understanding, preventing, and treating mental injuries....Leaders at all levels would profit from a journey with both Achilles and Odysseus. Homer and Jonathan Shay are excellent tour guides."



Mon Oct 29, 2007 1:46 pm
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I'll second Seeker's suggestion for Steven Pinker's "The Stuff of Thought". I was going to suggest "How the Mind Works" as an alternative, since I'm currently reading Daniel Dennett's "Freedom Evolves", in which Dennett cites "How" as the book with which Pinker defected from the camp represented by he and Dawkins -- but looking over the Amazon reviews, I'd say that "The Stuff of Thought" looks like the more eloquent of the two.


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Mon Oct 29, 2007 2:41 pm
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MadArchitect wrote:
I'll second Seeker's suggestion for Steven Pinker's "The Stuff of Thought". I was going to suggest "How the Mind Works" as an alternative, since I'm currently reading Daniel Dennett's "Freedom Evolves", in which Dennett cites "How" as the book with which Pinker defected from the camp represented by he and Dawkins -- but looking over the Amazon reviews, I'd say that "The Stuff of Thought" looks like the more eloquent of the two.


Third on the Pinker book. Fits the criteria of being in the top 1000 on Amazon and I just got an email from Amazon and it is also #3 of 10 on the list of best Science books of 2007.

Mr. P.


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Thu Nov 15, 2007 9:47 am
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Post The First Word
I would like to suggest The First Word by Christine Kenneally.

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A compelling look at the quest for the origins of human language from an accomplished linguist

Language is a distinctly human gift. However, because it leaves no permanent trace, its evolution has long been a mystery, and it is only in the last fifteen years that we have begun to understand how language came into being.

The First Word is the compelling story of the quest for the origins of human language. The book follows two intertwined narratives. The first is an account of how language developed-how the random and layered processes of evolution wound together to produce a talking animal: us. The second addresses why scientists are at last able to explore the subject. For more than a hundred years, language evolution was considered a scientific taboo. Kenneally focuses on figures like Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker, along with cognitive scientists, biologists, geneticists, and animal researchers, in order to answer the fundamental question: Is language a uniquely human phenomenon?

The First Word is the first book of its kind written for a general audience. Sure to appeal to fans of Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct and Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, Kenneally's book is set to join them as a seminal account of human history.


I'm sorry, but I don't know how to add a link other than to copy the url.

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/bookse ... 901&itm=29



Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:37 pm
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