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A Year in Reading - 2009

The year is almost gone and I've just finished Let The Great World Spin: A Novel by Colum McCann and one of my favorite reads of the year. Other favorites include Lorrie Moore's Collected Stories, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, a collection of stories by Wells Tower, and Deaf Sentence by David Lodge.

On the non-fiction side I found A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy worthwhile. I consider Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True the best on the subject I've read. I also learned much from Intelligence and How to Get it by Richard Nisbett. He makes a strong case for the proposition that enviornment plays a greater role in intelligence than was previously thought.

In previous years there were always a couple of books that I struggled getting through, this year I pretty much enjoyed everything I read. If you're interested in my other reading you can peruse the rest of this years list here.

If you have favorites you'd like to share please do.


 

Comments

I usually read at work where I have a lot of time, but since I bought this damn laptop I haven't read much. Recently though I started reading Autism's False Prophets by Paul Offit. Damn I thought it was gonna be nothing much new, but the autism pseudoscience goes pretty far back, and it's pretty disgusting. Facilitated communication gets a (dis)honorable mention, as well as secretin and of course, infamous Andrew Wakefield and the antivaccine movement.

It really makes you wonder how could the media (and many doctors) be so stupefyingly gullible, but then again, we all saw those videos on CNN and elsewhere about that guy who supposedly was conscious being "facilitated" by some woman, and the media ate it up yet again.

your recommendation of coyne is intriguing, i wonder why you don't post more of his stuff here. but it makes me curious philosophically speaking: why are books defending evolution so popular among people, especially well-educated atheists such as yourself, who already KNOW that "evolution is true"?

i mean, as you know my trip is the jewish thing. there are plenty of books about "how judaism is true", but i stopped reading them many years ago. i figured out their weak points and their strong points and synthesized my own position. why haven't you done this with evolution yet? why are you still reading these books for children?

and thanks andyo for the tip on the autism book. i have a horse in the race with this, haven't synthesized my full positon yet and am still looking for new quality material.

In my case, although a pretty well-educated atheist and believer in the scientific method, I am still rather ignorant scientifically, and not at all gifted in the subject.

This makes books like Greatest Show on Earth, Why Evolution is True, Big Bang, Why does E=mc2 etc etc invaluable. They explain fascinating and complex scientific concepts in a way I can understand. Like Andyo, I don't read them to galvanise my beliefs but to actually learn something.

i wonder why you don't post more of his stuff here

I do, you just aren't paying attention?

there are plenty of books about "how judaism is true", but i stopped reading them many years ago. i figured out their weak points and their strong points and synthesized my own position. why haven't you done this with evolution yet?

Judaism is static. It hasn't changed for eons, not true for science.

I have figured out the strong points and do have a position, but I find the new evidence for evolution interesting in its own right. Science is constantly refining our knowledge of the subject. Why do I like Coyne, because his writing is clear. He has an ability to explain a complex subject in a way that is accessible to the layman.

The study of judaism is not unlike Tooth Fairy and Fairy Tale Science

haven't checked out your link yet but:

Judaism is static. It hasn't changed for eons, not true for science.

you should know after all my posting here this just isn't true. sometimes i wish it was.

you should know after all my posting here this just isn't true. sometimes i wish it was.

You mean the Hebrew Bible has changed?

What did you think I meant by static?

ok, checked out the "tooth fairy science" link. if you're up to it, could you put that in one paragraph as far as how it relates to judaism and it's development/non-development? kthxby

WEIT is also on my to-read list. In my case, it's not so much that it will make me "believe" MORE in evolution, it's that it's just plain interesting to me and I'm sure laymen would learn a great deal about evolution. Same way I "believe" in the expanding universe and still read Hawking's A Brief History of Time, back in the day.

"The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Talib is the best real-world philosophy/probability book I've ever read. He writes in an entertaining, approachable, intellectually honest way. If leaders in business, government and academia adopted even a fraction of the mindset he advocates in his writing, the world would be a vastly richer place.

It's not a self-help book, but understanding NNT's ideas would bring far greater value to anyone's life than devouring a library full of forgettable feel-good literature.

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