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POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 10:49 am
by Chris OConnor
POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

This is the official poll for selecting our next non-fiction book. We'll be reading and discussing it in October and November and possibly longer if the discussion is going well. Please join this process and help us select our next book for discussion.

The rules are simple and should make sense to those that actually participate in our book discussions. All we ask is that you don't vote if you're not going to participate. We aren't asking you for your opinion on these three books. We're asking you which books you would actually read and discuss with us. And the way we've found to eliminate the people that just aren't serious is to require 25 or more posts on our forums. If you don't participate on our forums we know from experience you probably won't suddenly start participating just because a particular book is selected. So if you want to discuss books with us take the time to prove you're serious by joining other discussions on the forums. Build yourself up to 25 or more posts and we'll welcome you to the book selection process. Otherwise, your votes will not be counted.
To vote...

You may cast 3 total votes. All 3 votes can go for one book or you can divide them up however you see fit. Just make a post stating how many of your 3 votes you wish to assign to each book.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on each of the 3 books, whether they be positive or negative. Don't be shy about speaking your mind. Our book selection process is a discussion of the books and how suite they are for a discussion. If you think one book stands out above the rest just say so. Likewise, if you think one of the books would not lead to quality discussion we want to hear this too.

Now, on to the book choices. Let the voting begin!

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

From Publishers Weekly
Readers with an eye on European politics will recognize Ali as the Somali-born member of the Dutch parliament who faced death threats after collaborating on a film about domestic violence against Muslim women with controversial director Theo van Gogh (who was himself assassinated). Even before then, her attacks on Islamic culture as "brutal, bigoted, [and] fixated on controlling women" had generated much controversy. In this suspenseful account of her life and her internal struggle with her Muslim faith, she discusses how these views were shaped by her experiences amid the political chaos of Somalia and other African nations, where she was subjected to genital mutilation and later forced into an unwanted marriage. While in transit to her husband in Canada, she decided to seek asylum in the Netherlands, where she marveled at the polite policemen and government bureaucrats. Ali is up-front about having lied about her background in order to obtain her citizenship, which led to further controversy in early 2006, when an immigration official sought to deport her and triggered the collapse of the Dutch coalition government. Apart from feelings of guilt over van Gogh's death, her voice is forceful and unbowed—like Irshad Manji, she delivers a powerful feminist critique of Islam informed by a genuine understanding of the religion.

From Bookmarks Magazine
Although Ayaan Hirsi Ali remains Public Enemy #1 for radical Muslims, she refuses to be silenced. In this captivating memoir—an act of courage itself—she shares the evolution of her values, beliefs, and identity, all propelled by an urgent mission to educate Western countries about the bigotries of other nations. Set against a terrifying geopolitical landscape of African wars and Muslim fundamentalism, Hirsi Ali addresses timely topics: the plight of refugees and women; the Muslim clan system; forced marriage; political asylum; and, perhaps most significantly, her own personal religious crisis. Written in descriptive, clear prose, Infidel, with its radical feminist criticism of Islam, offers a disturbing view of the modern world—and inspired every critic who read it.

From Booklist
Hirsi Ali, internationally acclaimed for her book The Caged Virgin (2006) and her film depicting the oppression of Muslim women, which cost the life of her colleague Theo van Gogh, now offers a compelling memoir of her life. Stripped of her Dutch citizenship and threatened with the same fate as van Gogh, Hirsi Ali continues to defy conventions regarding Muslim women. She writes poignantly of growing up in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya in a strict Muslim family. She was subjected to female circumcision and brutal beatings by a mother who wanted her to conform to the obedience expected of women. With the rising influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Somalia, her ambitions were even more repressed. She defied a forced marriage and fled to the Netherlands, fighting for the rights of Muslim women and a more open practice of Islam. Her rising political prominence and outspokenness have made her a target of Islamic extremists. Hirsi Ali's spirited recollections and defense of women's rights to independence and self-expression are inspiring to women of all cultures.

Book Description
Ayaan Hirsi Ali captured the world’s attention with Infidel, her coming-of-age memoir, which spent thirty-one weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of today’s most admired and controversial political figures. She burst into international headlines following the murder of Theo van Gogh by an Islamist who threatened she would be next; and she made headlines again when she was stripped of her citizenship and forced to resign from the Dutch Parliament.

Infidel shows the coming of age of this elegant, distinguished—and sometimes reviled—political superstar and champion of free speech—the development of her beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary determination to fight injustice done in the name of religion. Raised in a strict Muslim family, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female circumcision, brutal beatings, an adolescence as a devout believer, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four countries under dictatorships. She escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she fought for the rights of Muslim women and the reform of Islam, earning her the enmity of reactionary Islamists and craven politicians.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
by TS Kuhn Review
There's a "Frank & Ernest" comic strip showing a chick breaking out of its shell, looking around, and saying, "Oh, wow! Paradigm shift!" Blame the late Thomas Kuhn. Few indeed are the philosophers or historians influential enough to make it into the funny papers, but Kuhn is one.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is indeed a paradigmatic work in the history of science. Kuhn's use of terms such as "paradigm shift" and "normal science," his ideas of how scientists move from disdain through doubt to acceptance of a new theory, his stress on social and psychological factors in science--all have had profound effects on historians, scientists, philosophers, critics, writers, business gurus, and even the cartoonist in the street.

Some scientists (such as Steven Weinberg and Ernst Mayr) are profoundly irritated by Kuhn, especially by the doubts he casts--or the way his work has been used to cast doubt--on the idea of scientific progress. Yet it has been said that the acceptance of plate tectonics in the 1960s, for instance, was sped by geologists' reluctance to be on the downside of a paradigm shift. Even Weinberg has said that "Structure has had a wider influence than any other book on the history of science." As one of Kuhn's obituaries noted, "We all live in a post-Kuhnian age." --Mary Ellen Curtin

From Wikipedia
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), by Thomas Kuhn, is an analysis of the history of science. Its publication was a landmark event in the history, philosophy, and sociology of scientific knowledge and it triggered an ongoing worldwide assessment and reaction in — and beyond — those scholarly communities. In this work, Kuhn challenged the then prevailing view of progress in "normal science." Scientific progress had been seen primarily as a continuous increase in a set of accepted facts and theories. Kuhn argued for an episodic model in which periods of such conceptual continuity in normal science were interrupted by periods of revolutionary science. During revolutions in science the discovery of anomalies leads to a whole new paradigm that changes the rules of the game and the "map" directing new research, asks new questions of old data, and moves beyond the puzzle-solving of normal science.

Product Description
Thomas S. Kuhn's classic book is now available with a new index.

"A landmark in intellectual history which has attracted attention far beyond its own immediate field. . . . It is written with a combination of depth and clarity that make it an almost unbroken series of aphorisms. . . . Kuhn does not permit truth to be a criterion of scientific theories, he would presumably not claim his own theory to be true. But if causing a revolution is the hallmark of a superior paradigm, [this book] has been a resounding success." —Nicholas Wade, Science

"Perhaps the best explanation of [the] process of discovery." —William Erwin Thompson, New York Times Book Review

"Occasionally there emerges a book which has an influence far beyond its originally intended audience. . . . Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions . . . has clearly emerged as just such a work." —Ron Johnston, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Among the most influential academic books in this century." —Choice

One of "The Hundred Most Influential Books Since the Second World War," Times Literary Supplement

Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) argued that scientific advancement is not evolutionary, but rather is a "series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions", and in those revolutions "one conceptual world view is replaced by another". The University of Chicago Press has released The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions to the benefit of all students of the history of science, philosophy, and the impact of science on society (and society on the development of science). If every there were a true classic on the history and development of science that is "must" reading for each new generation, it is Kuhn's benchmark work, The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions. -- Midwest Book Review

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens
by Christopher Hitchens

Book Description
The first new book of essays by Christopher Hitchens since 2004, ARGUABLY offers an indispensable key to understanding the passionate and skeptical spirit of one of our most dazzling writers, widely admired for the clarity of his style, a result of his disciplined and candid thinking. Topics range from ruminations on why Charles Dickens was among the best of writers and the worst of men to the haunting science fiction of J.G. Ballard; from the enduring legacies of Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell to the persistent agonies of anti-Semitism and jihad. Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for arthe enduring relevance of Karl Marx. The book forms a bridge between the two parallel enterprises of culture and politics. It reveals how politics justifies itself by culture, and how the latter prompts the former. In this fashion, ARGUABLY burnishes Christopher Hitchens' credentials as-to quote Christopher Buckley-our "greatest living essayist in the English language."

"As contemptuous, digressive, righteous, and riotously funny as the rest of the author's incessant output, this memoir is an effective coming-of-age story, regardless of what one may think of the resulting adult . . . Hitchens paints a credible and even affecting self-portrait."
- The New Yorker

"In this frank, often wickedly funny account, Hitchens traces his evolution as a fiercely independent thinker and enemy of people who are convinced of their absolute certainty ... Revealing and riveting."
- Kirkus Review

"The most erudite and astute political and social commentator of this era has written a memoir that not only give the reader a view of the man behind the words but also a perceptive look at society over the past decades. Hitchens fascinates with the life he has lived and observed and, as always, relates his story with precision and consideration."
- Bill Cusamano, Nicola's Books

"Hitch is as Hitch does, and he's not apologizing to anyone."
- Drew Toal, Time Out New York

"[H]e has so many great quotes and quotables . . . that one cannot read his latest masterpiece for having to stop, find a pencil and page stickers in order to underline and signify his many remarks, each greater than the other."
- Liz Smith,

"Few writers can match his cerebral pyrotechnics. Fewer still can emulate his punch as an intellectual character assassin. It is hard not to admire the sheer virtuosity of his prose ... With Hitchens one simply goes along for the ride. The destination hardly matters."
- Ed Luce, The Financial Times

"[D]electable, sassy fun . . . this book is intelligent and humane . . . Hitch-22 reminded me why I love the author of The Missionary Position, his fervent slapping of Mother Teresa, and his book about the war crimes of Henry Kissinger. Hitchens takes no prisoners, not even himself."
- Mark Oppenheimer, The New Haven Review

"After reading Hitch-22, the only thing you can be sure of is that this flawed knight will not breathe contentedly unless he has a dragon to slay."
- Ariel Gonzales, The Miami Herald

"... a fat and juicy memoir of a fat and juicy life."
- Diana McLellan, The Washington Post

" ... a complex portrait of a public intellectual."
- Alexandra Alter, The Wall Street Journal

"[An] extraordinary memoir by a truly astonishing figure of our literary age . . . This is among the most awaited books of the season, and while it confounds, misleads, exasperates and, on occasion, even bores, it also entertains to an almost shocking degree and illuminates almost as much. I laughed out loud - raucously and continuously - reading this book."
- Jeff Simon, Buffalo News

"Hitch-22 is among the loveliest paeans to the dearness of one's friends . . . I've ever read. The business and pleasure sides of Mr. Hitchens's personality can make him seem, whether you agree with him or not, among the most purely alive people on the planet."
- Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"If you find yourself in the midst of Christopher Hitchens's memoir and he hasn't said something to anger, inspire, or at least annoy you, wait a few pages. More the account of an intellectual and political odyssey than a conventional autobiography, HITCH-22 chronicles the critic-journalist-activist's often storm-tossed journey across the ideological spectrum. What makes it a most rewarding trip is that he's a traveling companion with a vigorous mind and a gift for sparkling prose."

"Whether he's dodging bullets in Sarajevo, dissing Bill Clinton, (with whom he says he shared a girlfriend at Oxford) or explaining his switch from leftist to Iraq war supporter, this foreign correspondent, pundit, and bon vivant makes for an enlightening companion. Give HITCH-22 an 11 out of 10 for smarts, then double it for entertainment value."
- Kyle Smith, People Magazine

"a fascinating, absorbing book: the rare contemporary memoir that is the record of a life of true accomplishment and authentic adventure . . . Hitchens is bravely, or at least defiantly, candid about qualities his detractors might use to undermine or perhaps explain his love of war and his rabid hatred for religious people."
- Lee Seigel, The New York Observer

"[Hitchens] indulges in both an endearing critical self-examination and an action-packed adventure story."
- The New Haven Advocate

"Christopher Hitchens may long to be a cogent man of reason, and he can certainly be a pitiless adversary. But he knows there are two sides to any decent match, and it's touching, in HITCH-22, to see how often he'll race to the other side of the court to return his own serve. Which may explain why, though he tries to be difficult, he's so hard to dislike."
- The New York Times Book Review

"At its heart, Hitch-22 is a celebration of literature and a denunciation of idleness. "Hitchens is inarguably a man of action: He pursues history as it happens . . . eloquent, enlightening, and entertaining."
- Gregg LaGambina, The Onion's AV Club

Hitchens expresses ambivalence about the term "public intellectual" but, as "Hitch-22" demonstrates, it suits him. The disputatious bon vivant is alive on the page, behind the speaker's podium and in "unglamorous houses on off-peak cable TV."
- The Sunday Oregonian

"Christopher Hitchens' memoir has the same nerve and frankness that first made me admire him . . . His perspective on becoming an American citizen is refreshing at a time when it's easy to become jaded about our role in the world."
- Mark Rahner, The Seattle Times

"With the possible exception of Tom Wolfe and Maureen Dowd's, Christopher Hitchens' marvelous byline is the most archly kinetic in current-day American letters. Every article, review and essay has the romantic whiff of a durable vintage. You might disagree with him. You might question his motives. But not for a second will you ever be bored . . . goes on to call the memoir cunning, illuminating . . . Being able to shape-change, shed skins, sit on the hillside overlooking suburbia like a coyote, Hitchens represents a dying breed of public intellectual whose voice matters precisely because it can't be easily pigeonholed or ignored."
- Douglas Brinkley, The Los Angeles Times

"One of the most engaging, exciting books I've read in years . . . The writing is lovely - introduction aside, which threatens early onset pretentia - Hitchens' cold-eyed evaluation of his younger self feels honest. To be sure, "Hitch 22'' is often a chronicle of Hitchens' best efforts. He teaches us that "cheap booze is false economy'' and reveals a youth engaged in boarding school homosexuality. But thankfully, Hitchens' efforts, friends, and close calls are rendered wonderfully in this strange book. Ultimately, "Hitch 22'' is about cultivating and maintaining one's intellectual integrity. As Hitchens writes, "t is always how people think that counts for much more than what they think.''. . . But memoir generates pleasure through voice and sensibility, not through comprehensiveness. Nobody ever said self-awareness must lead to self-revelation, and even if you don't like what Hitchens thinks, it's easy to admire how he thinks."
- Michael Washbum, The Boston Globe

"When the colorful, prolific journalist shares a tender memory, he quickly converts it into a larger observation about politics, always for him the most crucial sphere of moral and intellectual life."
- The New York Times Book Review

"Hitchens offers up surprising revelations about the methods behind his madness as one of the world's most beloved and often hated scribes . . . bold and brassy Hitchens characteristically treats himself as the subject he knows best."
- The Philadelphia City Paper

"Reading Hitch-22, his fascinating memoir of a career in combat journalism (both literal and figurative), one gets a sense that those looking for that tragic moment when a reliable man of the left became a fellow traveler of the right are asking the wrong question. On the big political issues that have long animated him-Middle Eastern politics, the dangers of religious messianism-his views have been surprisingly constant."
- Michael C. Moynihan, Reason Magazine

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 10:50 am
by Chris OConnor
Let the voting begin!

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 10:56 am
by lindad_amato
3 votes for Arguably by Hitchens

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 11:37 am
by barakarahman
3 votes for Infidel

Did you read the rules?

-- Chris

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 11:41 am
by GentleReader9
Hello. Thanks for letting me vote! It's been a long time since I logged in. I would be willing to read any of those books. They all look interesting. So I am giving them each one vote, which is fair since someone who is gone so much shouldn't influence outcomes.

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 11:44 am
by ginof
three votes for the structure of scientific revolutions

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:36 pm
by realiz
Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens
by Christopher Hitchens

3 votes. They do all look interesting, but I like the idea of the range of discussion topics that these essays will introduce.

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 6:39 pm
by giselle
1 vote for "Infidel"
2 votes for "Arguably"

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:34 pm
by Chris OConnor
I'm excited by the people voting so far. This could be a great book discussion no matter what books ultimately wins this poll. :)

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 11:37 am
by Robert Tulip
Three votes for The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by TS Kuhn.

Getting in ahead of the 2012 fiftieth anniversary of this epochal book can contribute to public debate about the nature of science.

Debate about paradigm shift is central to contemporary discussion of climate and of religion. Understanding how Kuhn framed this process of the shift of opinion with regard to both cosmology (Ptolemy-Copernicus-Galileo-Newton-Einstein) and evolution (Darwin) can deepen our understanding.

Kuhn shows that psychology and politics are as important as facts in shifting the mindset that governs the spread of scientific knowledge. There is much superficial talk about paradigms. Going back to read Kuhn himself, and looking at how his theory can be further applied, would present a highly educational and interesting Booktalk discussion.

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:08 pm
by Robert Tulip
Chris O'Connor wrote:OK, then I guess I should do a poll. I was hoping to have more people involved. Maybe if I send an email to the entire community. I hate doing that because some people consider it spam.
We have three superb books to choose from here. A further email to the entire community with the opening post here and a link and a deadline (one week?) would be a great way to encourage some dormant members back. I can't imagine why anyone would object to that.

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 9:17 pm
by Chris OConnor
I already did an email with a link to this poll. I'm not sure everyone received it.

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Sat Sep 17, 2011 4:46 pm
by nomsisa
I would be interested in all three selctions, still I 'll vote to read Hitchens' work.
Strange.. I liked Hitchens.. when he was leaning toward the left... somhow the wind has changed and he is drifting in an oposite direction. But he remains a good read..and a most interesting writer...
"Arguably " has my vote... but would be delighted with the others as well... Great selections, Chris, all around.
Thanks, nom

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Sat Sep 17, 2011 10:59 pm
by Chris OConnor
Hi Nom,

If you go back up and read the first post you'll see that we have a rule requiring voters to have at least 25 posts on our forums to be allowed to vote in book polls. I could post a long explanation for why we have this rule but this just isn't the place. Maybe I should create a page I can link to when issues like this arise.

In your case we might bend the rule because you said enough in your post to make us believe you're probably serious about participating. But from experience new members, members with very few posts (<25), and members with really brief posts - these people will simply never participate when it comes time for the actual book discussion. You appear to be different. But only time will tell.

As you can see "barakarahman" has 1 total post on our forums and that forum was a vote in this poll. His post was brief and to the point and there is nothing in his or her favor for being included in our poll. Even though I made an edit of his or her post and suggested reading the rules there have been no more visits or posts by this person. They simply vanished and probably will never return. That right there is the basis for the 25+ post rule.

Please get out there on the forums and make some posts. Get involved in some of the discussions we have going on. Show us you're not a hit-and-run voter. :)

Re: POLL: October, November and December 2011 NON-FICTION book selection

Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:16 am
by nomsisa
Hi Chris...
I have tried to erase my post...No need to bend the rules for me... I should have read your instructions. :(