Please Participate: Book List

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Please Participate: Book List

Postby Capellini on Wed Feb 28, 2007 9:47 pm

I've been wanting to put together a reading list for this site for a while, but I'm just too busy and important to find the time. Then I had this brilliant idea: I'll just make you guys do it.

So, here's the deal. If you've read a book that you feel is relevant and worthy material for the kind of discussions we have here, please post it.

BUT WAIT! Don't just post a book title. That will make me very aggravated, and I may delete it just out of spite. What we want is something more comprehensive. Share the title and author, list the category it would fall in, rate it's comprehensive difficulty, and then give a short review.

When choosing a category, here's your list: Religion, Science, Politics, History, Other. You can state a book belongs in more than one if you think it does.

The rating system should be a scale of 1-4, with 1 being "I jurst lirned to rede yesturday, and I git this buk jus fine", and 4 being "This book gives Stephen Hawking an inferiority complex".

The review should be a few sentences on what the book is about, what the reader will get out of it, and any caveats. Also, if you see a review posted by someone else and you would offer an alternate review, send me a pm. Once this list gets to be lengthy enough, I'm going to start to sort and repost the list in a new reference section.

As an example, I will post a review next.
True terror lies in the futility of human existence.

Malcolm Reynolds is my co-pilot.

"The only freedom deserving the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." - John Stuart Mill
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Postby Capellini on Wed Feb 28, 2007 9:50 pm

The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins

Science

Rating of 2.5

This book is an easy read, and Dawkins does a great job of explaining all the related science, but it's a very long book, and it requires constant engagement. There are no light breaks in the very comprehensive material. However, it's broken down well enough so that you can take breaks in between for a breather.

As for the content itself: it's essentially a complete evolutionary history of humans. He starts with Homo sapiens, and moves backwards through evolutionary history, hitting on points where major groups branched off, and telling life history stories and other neat anecdotes about various species along the way. I found it absolutely fascinating, and really a fun read. If you're interested in evolutionary biology or zoology, this is a must-read.
True terror lies in the futility of human existence.

Malcolm Reynolds is my co-pilot.

"The only freedom deserving the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." - John Stuart Mill
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Postby EarthRise on Wed Feb 28, 2007 10:03 pm

The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes

Science

Rating of 2.2

A fascinating look into mutation and migration (catch that alliteration? yeah, it was hardcore), this book covers research done by a team including Sykes himself to track the movement of humanity across the earth from its starting point in the region of the Fertile Crescent. The team based its data on donated blood from numerous regions around the globe, using the rate of mutation of mitochondrial DNA to follow the variations. And because mitoDNA only passes through the mother, they were able to extrapolate back to seven original women who, in essence, were the "Eves" of humanity.

The last chapter of the book is kinda overdone, in that Sykes drops his scientific demeanor and tries his hand at fiction writing, depicting the lifestyles of the seven Eves (rather badly, in my opinion). This chapter left me with a bad taste in my mouth, but on the whole, the science is stable and the conclusions viable.

Very pleasant.
[...] the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.
-Darwin
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Postby dukes on Wed Feb 28, 2007 11:24 pm

Actually, we have a section for this, to which I have posted. Here's a book that lends insights to the current state of affairs in the mideast.It is not a best-seller, in fact is tough to find, but it discusses some of the precursor events to today's situation. Where we are today is merely the result of where we have been.
Christ you know it ain't easy,
You know how hard it can be.
The way things are going
They're gonna crucify me.

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Postby ke_mikiao on Thu Mar 01, 2007 2:42 pm

the Bible


cant argue whats in it unless you've read it.


well......you can and many people on both sides do.....but still a good idea to read.

Has death life, destruction And ninjas (ok....no ninjas, sorry :( )
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"Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow." - Kay, Men in Black
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Postby St John the Blasphemist on Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:51 pm

ke_mikiao wrote:the Bible

Depends which version.

Compare the King James's "Neither cast ye your pearls before swine"

with the New English Bible's "Do not feed your pearls to pigs".

Don Watson's Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language wrote:The translators of the NEB could not have brought more loathing on themselves if they had taken to Ely Cathedral with a Sherman tank: a good deal less in fact, because a cathedral can survive pillaging, and faith can be renewed, but words once lost are gone forever.

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Postby Warlord of Elephants on Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:06 pm

Our Inner Ape - Frans de Waal (2.5)

Very engaging and full of examples of chimp and bonobo behavior and how they relate to human behavior. Also some of the more foolish 'scientific truths' are exposed and put to rest, such as "chimps are egalitarian vegans" and "spoken or symbolic language is necessary for communication to form plans and political alliances". All in all I found very enjoyable and full of 'ah ha' moments about things I had often wondered about. Sin. WoE.
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Postby Capellini on Thu Mar 01, 2007 11:45 pm

Thanks to WoE and EarthRise for following format.

To be clear, I'm not interested in what you're currently reading. That's a discussion. I don't want a discussion here. I plan on copy-pasting the responses into a reading list for newbies, so I'd really appreciate it if people stuck to the format, since I don't intend to edit posts that aren't right, and those books are therefore just not going to make it to the collection.
True terror lies in the futility of human existence.

Malcolm Reynolds is my co-pilot.

"The only freedom deserving the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." - John Stuart Mill
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Postby EarthRise on Fri Mar 02, 2007 1:43 pm

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Fiction

Rating of 3.2

This book is somewhat of a mystery, though not anything like the mysteries we recognize. More along the lines of a fiction describing a tired old man as he sorts through the ruins of his dying town and begins to make connections in such a way that the reader cannot help but be amazed. The mystery, then, is why the town died, how all the lives of the town are inextricably tied together, and why determining these connections could revive the economy of the town, aptly named Empire Falls.

The prose is brilliant and the descriptions lucid, but the best part of the book is the way in which it takes your cerebrum, slaps it, wrings it out, and puts it back in place.

(Cap: are we allowing fictions into this, or are we trying to maintain scientific rigor?)
[...] the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.
-Darwin
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Postby Capellini on Fri Mar 02, 2007 3:40 pm

Fiction would get shoved in the 'other' category. I'm mostly looking for books that will help newbies understand and participate in the topics that come up in the Serious section, so if you have a fiction work that you think does that, post it.
True terror lies in the futility of human existence.

Malcolm Reynolds is my co-pilot.

"The only freedom deserving the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." - John Stuart Mill
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Postby Cardinal Queequeg on Fri Mar 02, 2007 6:07 pm

The Ottoman Centuries by Lord Kinross

History/Nonfiction

Rating: 3.0


This book is very challenging, and very rewarding. It traces the Ottoman Empire from its most distant roots to the rise of the Turkish Republic. There is some exciting and informative reading here, and it provides insight into the political history of both Europe and the Middle East, as well as the Balkans. This book is far from dry reading. In addition to an exciting description of the fall of Constantinople, it includes interesting information about the true, historical "Dracula," glimpses of the sometimes serene, sometimes brutal life inside a Sultan's palace, and leaves readers scratching their heads while pondering the ramifications of leading an empire while managing a harem that includes hundreds of women, eunuchs, and slaves. It is an encyclopedic history that gives the reader an appreciation for the many philosophical differences that Westerners have with the people of the Middle East, and for the many similarities that we share. This book is a masterpiece, and it truly will reward the diligent reader.

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Postby EarthRise on Fri Mar 02, 2007 6:20 pm

Capellini wrote:Fiction would get shoved in the 'other' category. I'm mostly looking for books that will help newbies understand and participate in the topics that come up in the Serious section, so if you have a fiction work that you think does that, post it.


Mm... Empire Falls isn't a book that will help, but I guess I'll leave it for the heck of it. Would you suggest removing it?
[...] the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.
-Darwin
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Postby rkzenrage on Fri Mar 02, 2007 7:46 pm

Joseph Campbell's
Hero With A Thousand Faces, then The Masks Of God Vol. 1-4
http://search.ebay.com/The-Masks-of-God_W0QQfromZR40
A solid 4.
Amazing. They show you how religion developed and how all are based on archetypes. Great stories, easy to read because he has a very interesting style while educating you.
If you like these, read all his work, I have and never regretted it.
The Power Of Myth series is great and you can get it on DVD.
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Hakuin answered, "How am I supposed to know?"
"How do you know? You're a Zen master?" exclaimed the samurai.
"Yes, but not a dead one," Hakuin answered.
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Postby Warlord of Elephants on Sat Mar 03, 2007 12:12 am

Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors: By Nicholas Wade

Just finished this one. Wow. Difficulty around 3 with peaks at 3.5 (trying to keep all the names of the different genes straight) It uses genetics and archeology to trace human origins from the human chimp split though the diaspora out of Africa and up to modern times. Full of insights and thought provoking theories. He also presents some very compelling arguments that evolution is continuing into the present day. Very good book. Sincerely the Warlord of Elephants

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I devoured my 'good' twin in utero

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Postby St John the Blasphemist on Sat Mar 03, 2007 4:15 am

Hope the censor-bot isn't working overtime on this.

On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt

Philosophy/Sociology/Language

Rating: 2.9

Academic/Scholarly essay in booklet format.

The publisher's blurb pretty much sums it up:
One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, as Harry Frankfurt writes, "we have no theory."

Frankfurt, one of the world's most influential moral philosophers, attempts to build such a theory here. With his characteristic combination of philosophical acuity, psychological insight, and wry humor, Frankfurt proceeds by exploring how bullshit and the related concept of humbug are distinct from lying. He argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all.

Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner's capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

Harry G. Frankfurt is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University. His books include The Reasons of Love (Princeton), Necessity, Volition, and Love, and The Importance of What We Care About.
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