Category Archives: Book Notes

E.O. Wilson: ON HUMAN NATURE

I first read this book shortly after its 1978 hardcover publication, and it was revelatory; elegantly written and insightful, it challenged conventional ideas about human nature, especially the one about the mind being a ‘blank slate’ completely molded by environment, … Continue reading

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Kinsley: OLD AGE

Michael Kinsley’s OLD AGE: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE (Crown/Tim Duggan Books 2016) is another slender book that, like part of Junger’s, was originally published as various magazine pieces. Kinsley is known for his ‘law’ — “A gaffe is when a politician … Continue reading

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Junger: TRIBE

Sebastian Junger’s TRIBE: On Homecoming and Belonging (Grand Central/Twelve 2016) is one of several short, relatively ‘incidental’, books I’ve read in the past month — ‘incidental’ in that they’re mostly off-topic to my more serious themes of science, philosophy, and … Continue reading

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Lilla: THE ONCE AND FUTURE LIBERAL

THE ONCE AND FUTURE LIBERAL: After Identity Politics (Harper, 2017) is by Mark Lilla, a professor at Columbia University, and is much more explicitly about politics than most books I read. (Because my concerns extend far outside the relatively narrow … Continue reading

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Gladstone: THE TROUBLE WITH REALITY

The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time (Workman, 2017) is by Brooke Gladstone, co-host of a syndicated radio program, “On the Media,” that I occasionally hear on my NPR station. The book is small, 91 … Continue reading

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Kakutani: THE DEATH OF TRUTH

Michiko Kakutani’s THE DEATH OF TRUTH: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump (Tim Duggan Books, 2018) is, remarkably, the first book by the long-time and influential book reviewer for the New York Times, now retired. It has extensive … Continue reading

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Levitan: NOT A SCIENTIST

Journalist Dave Levitan’s NOT A SCIENTIST: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science (Norton 2017) addresses a dozen or so kinds of mistakes that are typically behind any politician’s use of the phrase “I’m not a scientist, but…”, and … Continue reading

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Nichols, THE DEATH OF EXPERTISE

Tom Nichols’ THE DEATH OF EXPERTISE: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters (Oxford, 2017) is one of the better in the batch of recent books I’ve read about current events and how they reflect issues of science … Continue reading

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Levitin: A FIELD GUIDE TO LIES

Daniel J. Levitin’s A FIELD GUIDE TO LIES: Critical Thinking in the Information Age (Dutton, 2016) is a nice complement to the book previously reviewed. Levitin an academic at UC Berkeley and has written three previous books, including This Is … Continue reading

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Ariely: PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL

Dan Ariely’s PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Harper 2008) is one of the earliest popular books that summarizes various findings of experimental psychology in recent decades that reveal the biases of human nature. Key point: traditional … Continue reading

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