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Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2007 10:16 pm
by Chris OConnor
Official Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Q2 2007 = April, May & June

Please read these directions BEFORE you vote!

How many nonfiction books will we be reading?

We'll be reading 2 nonfiction books in 2nd quarter of 2007. This poll will select 1 of the 2 nonfiction books for community discussion, while the Q2 2007 Freethinker Book Poll will select the other book. So we're reading a total of 2 nonfiction books where one is of general interest and the other advances issues of importance to freethinkers. Periodically, there will be some overlap of these two sections.

How long will the poll stay open?

This poll is opening on Thursday, March 21st, 2007 and will be closing on Saturday, March 31, 2007. This is a total of 10 full days. I'll probably shut the poll down in the middle of the day on Saturday the 31st as this is the last day of the month and I'd love to have the new winning books announced before the 1st of April. So cast your votes early!

Who can vote?

All active members are invited and encouraged to vote and participate in our book selection process, but please follow these simple rules:

Only cast a vote if you have 10 or more posts on our forums. If you don't have at least 10 you should have no problem jumping into some discussion threads and meeting this rather relaxed criterion. You can meet this requirement in one day.

Don't vote if you don't plan on participating if your book wins. Again, if you vote for a book and it wins we really hope you participate. You should not be influencing the direction of the community if you're not actively involved.

If you vote for a book and it does not win we still hope you read and discuss the winning book with us, but we understand if you opt to not participate. Please try to get involved no matter which book wins, as this is all about education AND entertainment. We can all learn from our book selections and from each other, and reading a book you typically would never have even picked up is a great way to expand your horizons and perspective on life.

How do I vote?

If you are an active member with 10 or more total posts AND you plan on participating in the Q2 2007 discussion if your chosen book wins THEN you are permitted to cast a total of 5 votes. You can use your 5 votes however you see fit, which could mean assigning all three votes to just one of the book choices, or distributing the 5 points or votes over the book choices according to your own interest level for each book. No half-points assigned to books. ::204

You should make a brief post to this thread telling everyone how you wish to distribute your three votes.

Nothing further needs to be said, however you're welcome and encouraged to be as verbose as you like. Just make it crystal clear how you are voting.

It is inevitable that some people will either forget to cast all three votes or will not have read this entire post. They will simply vote on one book. If this happens I will be assigning all 5 of their votes to the one book they selected.

You are permitted to change your vote at any time during the voting period, but not after I close the poll. The poll is closed on the last day of the polling period as stated above.

This thread can and SHOULD be used as an open discussion of the books on the poll. You're welcome to try to sell people on a particular book, or dissuade them from another. I am asking you all to comment on the votes as you see them. Don't be shy...speak your mind. ::80


As always, we will need a discussion leader that is willing to be active in the reading and discussion of the winning book. If you are up to the task please let us all know in this forum by making a post and stating your interest.

Or, if you are only interested in being the discussion leader if your choice of books wins the poll, you may wait to see if it wins and then let us know of your interest in the forum that is created to discuss that book. But please consider volunteering!

Being a discussion leader does not entail being an authority on the subject matter or defending the author's position. You simply need to attempt to stimulate discussion.

And here are our NONFICTION book choices for 2nd Quarter 2007 (April, May & June). Please read about all books before casting your votes. Think hard about which book will be the most educational, entertaining, and worthy of discussion. May the best book win!

Drum roll please...

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2007 10:37 pm
by Chris OConnor
Book 1 Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War by Barbara Ehrenreich
In this ambitious work, Barbara Ehrenreich offers a daring explanation for humans' propensity to wage war. Rather than approach the subject from a physiological perspective, pinpointing instinct or innate aggressiveness as the violent culprit, she reaches back to primitive man's fear of predators and the anxieties associated with life in the food chain. To deal with the reality of living as prey, she argues that blood rites were created to dramatize and validate the life-and-death struggle. Jumping ahead to the modern age, Ehrenreich brands nationalism a more sophisticated form of blood ritual, a phenomenon that conjures similar fears of predation, whether in the form of lost territory or the more extreme ethnic cleansing. Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War may not offer a cure for human aggression, but the author does present a convincing argument for the difficulties associated with achieving peace.

From Kirkus Reviews
An iconoclastic study in which social commentator and Time essayist Ehrenreich challenges accepted notions of why human beings wage war. In her tenth book Ehrenreich (The Worst Years of Our Lives, 1990, etc.) takes a multidisciplinary approach in her investigation of ``the feelings people invest in war and often express as their motivations for fighting.'' She makes a thorough examination of a wide range of historical, psychological, sociological, biological, and anthropological literature to come up with her unique theory: that the accepted view that human beings engage in wars because of an innate aggressive, warlike instinct--especially in men--is untrue. Instead, Ehrenreich persuasively argues that the ``roots of the human attachment to war'' can be found in feelings and emotions that are imprinted on all of us due to events that took place many millennia ago, when our earliest ancestors spent most of their waking hours in fear of being devoured by predators. What Ehrenreich calls humankind's ``sacralization of war'' (the tendency to invest the emotional trappings of religious fervor in war) stems from the evolution of humans from prey into predators, the feelings engendered in ``a creature which has learned only `recently,' in the last thousand or so generations, not to cower at every sound in the night.'' The human predilection for war, as Ehrenreich puts it, can be viewed ``as a way of reenacting the primal transformation from prey to predator.'' Also key was ``a global decline in the number of large animals, both `game' and predators, for humans to fight against.'' In making these original arguments, Ehrenreich challenges long-held theories of evolution and psychology promulgated by Darwin, Freud, and other scholars. Ehrenreich's work is convincing, at least to the general reader. Her ideas likely will be challenged by those whose theories she seeks to discredit.

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 3/21/07 11:40 pm

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:03 am
by Chris OConnor
Book 2 In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
"Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans--in fact, few Kansans--had ever heard of Holcomb. Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there." If all Truman Capote did was invent a new genre--journalism written with the language and structure of literature--this "nonfiction novel" about the brutal slaying of the Clutter family by two would-be robbers would be remembered as a trail-blazing experiment that has influenced countless writers. But Capote achieved more than that. He wrote a true masterpiece of creative nonfiction. The images of this tale continue to resonate in our minds: 16-year-old Nancy Clutter teaching a friend how to bake a cherry pie, Dick Hickock's black '49 Chevrolet sedan, Perry Smith's Gibson guitar and his dreams of gold in a tropical paradise--the blood on the walls and the final "thud-snap" of the rope-broken necks.

Book Description
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:09 am
by Chris OConnor
Book 3 Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Challenging the prevailing wisdom that the goal of economies should be unlimited growth, McKibben (The End of Nature) argues that the world doesn't have enough natural resources to sustain endless economic expansion. For example, if the Chinese owned cars in the same numbers as Americans, there would be 1.1 billion more vehicles on the road

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:16 am
by Chris OConnor
Book 4 Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower by Zbigniew Brzezinski

Book Description
From the most highly respected analyst of foreign policy writing today, a story of wasted opportunity and squandered prestige: a critique of the last three U.S. presidents' foreign policy.

America's most distinguished commentator on foreign policy, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, offers a reasoned but unsparing assessment of the last three presidential administrations' foreign policy. Though spanning less than two decades, these administrations cover a vitally important turning point in world history: the period in which the United States, having emerged from the Cold War with unprecedented power and prestige, managed to squander both in a remarkably short time. This is a tale of decline: from the competent but conventional thinking of the first Bush administration, to the well-intentioned self-indulgence of the Clinton administration, to the mortgaging of America's future by the "suicidal statecraft" of the second Bush administration. Brzezinski concludes with a chapter on how America can regain its lost prestige. This scholarly yet highly opinionated book is sure to be both controversial and influential.

New York Times, 3/6/07
"[C]ompelling... Brzezinski's verdict on the current president's record -- "catastrophic," he calls it -- is nothing short of devastating."

Washington Post. 3/14/07
"Brzezinski has described the challenge of future American leadership with unusual clarity."

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:25 am
by Chris OConnor
Book 5 The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do by Judith Rich Harris
Whether it's musical talent, criminal tendencies, or fashion sense, we humans want to know why we have it or why we don't. What makes us the way we are? Maybe it's in our genes, maybe it's how we were raised, maybe it's a little of both--in any case, Mom and Dad usually receive both the credit and the blame. But not so fast, says developmental psychology writer Judith Rich Harris. While it has been shown that genetics is only partly responsible for behavior, it is also true, Harris asserts, that parents play a very minor role in mental and emotional development. The Nurture Assumption explores the mountain of evidence pointing away from parents and toward peer groups as the strongest environmental influence on personality development. Rather than leaping into the nature vs. nurture fray, Harris instead posits nurture (parental) vs. nurture (peer group), and in her view your kid's friends win, hands down. This idea, difficult as it may be to accept, is supported by the countless studies Harris cites in her breezy, charming prose. She is upset about the blame laid on parents of troubled children and has much to say (mostly negative) about "professional parental advice-givers." Her own advice may be summarized as "guide your child's peer-group choices wisely," but the aim of the book is less to offer guidance than to tear off cultural blinders. Harris's ideas are so thought-provoking, challenging, and potentially controversial that anyone concerned with parenting issues will find The Nurture Assumption refreshing, important, and possibly life-changing.

From Publishers Weekly
Harris, author of a college-level textbook on child development, offers a contribution to the increasingly popular trend to absolve parents from feeling responsible for the rearing of their children. The inability of psychologists to demonstrate that parents have predictable effects on children, it is argued, vitiates the long-standing assumption of parents' crucial role in children's personality development. While the author's skepticism of the view that parents' behavior produces necessary and direct effects on children is itself well founded, her counterpoint to the "nurture assumption" is not. Rather than attempting to examine the evident complexity of parental influence on children, the author instead avoids the problem altogether, asserting that one must recognize "that children learn separately, in each social context, how to behave in that context." By consequence, the primary influence on a child's social development, Harris asserts, is not the family setting (in which the author thinks children merely learn how to behave toward other family members), but rather the peer group. Pleasant as this theory may be to some parents, this book contains not a shred of empirical research to support it. What substitutes for research are numerous anecdotes and pages of opining. Here, for example, is one of many personal observations the author uses to bolster her own argument: "I believe high or low status in the peer group has permanent effects on the personality. Children who are unpopular with their peers... never get over that. At least I didn't." While this kind of evidence is unlikely to sway the critical reader, it will undoubtedly find favor among those parents who, like the author, find in this book's thesis a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, which will mitigate guilty feelings about how they treated their children, feelings that, as the book implies, need not be analyzed.

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:26 am
by Chris OConnor
Well, these are your 5 book choices. ::44

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 1:00 pm
by Chris OConnor
This post isn't an actual vote.

Blood Rites doesn't interest me much. ::120 ::120

In Cold Blood was an incredible movie so I'd enjoy the book too I'm sure. ::121 ::121

Deep Economy looks pretty decent. ::121

Nurture Assumption looks great. ::121 ::121

Second Chance looks awesome. ::121 ::121 ::121

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 3/22/07 2:00 pm

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 1:32 pm
by MadArchitect
3 votes for "Second Chances"

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 1:50 pm
by George Ricker
I'm casting all 5 votes for Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower by Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Brzezinski has been involved in the creation of American foreign policy and is a very able political commentator. I'm sure I'll disagree with much of what he has to say, but I'm also sure he'll give me at least one or two new things to think about.

To recapitulate:

Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower by Zbigniew Brzezinski - 5 votes from me and 3 votes from Mad Architect for a total of 8 votes.


"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:09 pm
by SarahBewley
The Nurture Assumption

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 8:25 am
by Chris OConnor

Welcome to the community! :) I look forward to your participation on the forums. ::80

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 8:04 pm
by Loricat
How's my count?

Second Chances: 15
Deep Economy: 12
Nurture Assumption: 3 (or 8 if Sarah is voting all 5)

C'mon. I want to be involved -- we need 4 more votes for Deep Economy! :b

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 7:39 am
by Mr. P
5 for Deep Economy.

Mr. P.

I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

What is all this shit about Angels? Have you heard this? 3 out of 4 people believe in Angels. Are you F****** STUPID? Has everybody lost their mind? - George Carlin

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper

Re: Q2 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!

Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:49 am
by irishrosem
Loricat, you know I'm really torn with these book choices, which is why I haven't voted yet. My first choices in each section are U.S.-centric texts, but I understand how insensitive that would be to our non-U.S. participants. At first I thought, oh great Religious Expression and the American Constitution in the freethinker's discussion and Second Chances in the non-fiction discussion. Those would probably be great complimentary books, where each could possibly feed at least part of the discussion of the other. I had intended to cast all my votes for those two books, until I realized they were both about U.S. Government and law.

Mr. P. just knocked Deep Economy up to number one. I could knock Second Chances, my first choice, back up to number one if I gave it all five of my votes