Books for the New Year

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

What books are you going to be reading as 2006 unfolds? I suspect most of us are always behind and short of time, but I am curious as to what has caught the attention of GNXP readers. I’ll be working my way through Will Provine’s The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics, somewhat parochial of course, but that’s why I’m asking what you’ll be reading….


  1. Hi. I was just doing a google search of “archeology” “blog” and noticed the second item referred to “The Life of Meaning” and a particular post, “The War on Trees.” Thanks for the kind words. My core interest is more in the direction of political philosophy, but I got sidetracked…Anyway, enough about me. 
    I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld scifi, “The Peloponnesian War,” by Donald Kagan, and “Boyd,” a biography of an influential figure in the development of the theory of air to air combat. 
    Most of my reading these days is online. Next I’m going to look at your post below, “Evoking the season.”

  2. online huh? well, be careful there! :) i limit my online reading by making home an internet-free zone.

  3. I’m reading “GEN-E-SIS The scientific quest for Life’s Origins” by Robert Hazen. What were the earliest forms of life on earth?

  4. Behind and short of time, that’s the story of my life. I’ve got a huge stack sitting here in my room that’ll probably last me the entire year, but I’ll only list the top baker’s dozen, roughly in the order I intend to read them: 
    1. Blueprint for Action by Thomas Barnett 
    2. Why Globalization Works by Martin Wolf 
    3. Inside al Qaeda by Rohan Gunaratna 
    4. Complexity by M. Mitchell Waldrop 
    5. The Bell Curve by Herrnstein and Murray (finally, after picking up what I know on the subject from articles and papers online) 
    6. Genome by Matt Ridley 
    7. The Agile Gene by Matt Ridley 
    8. Consilience by E.O. Wilson 
    9. Evolution (the Oxford Reader) by Mark Ridley 
    10. The Theory of Evolution by J.M. Smith 
    11. Wider Than the Sky by Gerald Edelman 
    12. The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler 
    13. Karl Marx: The Red Prussian by Leopold Schwartzschild 
    As you can see, there’s more than a slight GNXP influence there.

  5. Well I HAVE Models for Smooth Infinitesimal Analysis by Moerdijk and Reyes. Most of it is beyond me so far; I am studying their Appendix I.

  6. hm. is anything published by the santa fe institute worth reading? (re: complexity) and matt, no offense to the other matt, but the ridley (matt) books are a bit light for you i would think. why not sub evolutionary genetics by j.m. smith while you read his more popular book?

  7. “why not sub evolutionary genetics by j.m. smith while you read his more popular book?” 
    Because after buying my textbooks and bus pass this coming term, I won’t have $60 lying around. ;) All of the books I listed above were either birthday/Xmas gifts or bought used for $7 or less. 
    As for Complexity, I got it based solely on someone else’s recommendation. My impression upon reading the reviews and flipping through it quickly is that it’s sort of the SFI equivalent of Horace Judson’s The Eighth Day Of Creation (which was also an interesting book) — i.e. just as much about the personalities as the science. I like that kind of thing, but if you’re more meat and potatoes oriented then I’d give it a miss.

  8. Matt, 
    Karl Marx: The Red Prussian by Leopold Schwartzschild 
    Where on earth did you find that? Let me know how Koestler’s book turns out, too. I just bought Barnett’s book but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to read much of it and forgot to bring it home for Christmas. Here’s what I’m reading over the weekend: 
    1. Suicide of the West by James Burnham 
    2. Princes of Darkness by Laurent Murawiec 
    3. Stolen Valorby B.G. Burkett 
    4. The World Was Going Our Way by Christopher Andrew (EXCELLENT READ!) 
    No HBD books, I know! I bought a slew but they all got packed and I won’t get them until I move into my apartment in mid-January. :( Not only that, I now have 168 books on HBD topics on my wish list. Does that suck or what?

  9. BTW, if anyone has any HBD-related books (I “lack motivation” when it comes to math, so no hardcore population genetics stuff, please) that they are eager to rid their libraries of, drop me a line.

  10. Santa Fe Institute: I would be very interested in seeing a GNXP review of something by s. Kauffman, perhaps the Origins of Order.  
    Here’s a bibliography of that kind of thing: 
    Maybe if Cosma Shalizi isn’t bust he’ll make up a reading list sometime.

  11. Or was that an entirely rhetorical question, Razib?

  12. I’m probably not a typical gnxp reader (I still have trouble with 8th grade algebra), but for what it’s worth, I’m looking forward to the following titles: 
    1. Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision form Ancient Judea to Modern America, by Leonard Glick 
    2. Szasz Under Fire: The Psychiatric Abolistionist Faces His Critics, edited by Jeffrey Schaler 
    3. Fair Women, Dark Men: The Forgotten Roots of Racial Prejudice, by Peter Frost 
    4. The Murderer Next Door, by David Buss  
    5. What Evolution Is, by Ernst Mayr 
    Happy New Year, all.

  13. “The Art of Being Ruled” by Wyndham Lewis.

  14. Arcane, 
    I got The Red Prussian based on a reference in the 2nd Addendum to Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies. Out of print for ages of course, but it’s amazing the things you find going used for $3 on The internets are truly wonderful.

  15. Of course, having just said that, I just found Evolutionary Genetics going for dirt cheap there too. Okay Razib, you win. :)

  16. I finally read Lecky’s History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe, (after owning it for 20 years, but really, good libraries are like wine cellars-the fun is in the anticipation). A great read-one fascinating historical detail after another-Mankind is truly insane. 
    You can’t beat the browning pages of a first edition for the atmosphere-but the work has been placed online here
    Don’t skip the footnotes! 
    Mr. McIntosh-I’d move The Sleepwalkers up in your list to assure it’s perusal.

  17. Or was that an entirely rhetorical question, Razib? 
    no. i have tried to read some of their stuff, the math isn’t always easy, so i asked someone who was an evolutionary geneticist if their evolutionary genetics stuff was worth it, and he said no. they might be relevant in other places, but i’ve decided to hold off on their biological stuff now because of the learning curve related issues. re: kauffman, my understanding is the theory is WAY ahead of the data re: gene-gene networks.

  18. (1) The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch 
    (2) Making Sense of Heritability by Neven Sesardic 
    (3) Race, Intelligence, and Genetics by Frank Miele 
    (4) Among Orangutans by Carel van Schaik 
    (5) A Primer of Ecological Genetics by Jeffrey Conner and Daniel Hartl 
    (6) Measuring Intelligence by David Bartholomew 
    (7) Words and Rules by Steven Pinker 
    (8) The Brothers Ashkenazi by Israel Joshua Singer 
    (1) is by an Oxford physicist, the “on-paper” inventor of the quantum computer. Deutsch is most well known for his advocacy of the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, but his book ranges over a much wider swath of material, including evolution and philosophy of science. The book is also beautifully written. (Deutsch is clearly an extraordinary talent.) If some of the more far-out ideas about parallel universes turn out to be correct, I think this book deserves to go down as a classic of natural philosophy. 
    (2) is a sharp and incisive critique of the various prejudices and misconceptions held by the legion of scientists and philosophers who denounce the behavioral-genetic study of psychological differences. (Some big names come in for a pounding: Lewontin, Block, Kitcher, etc.) Prof. Jensen, who reviewed this book for Cambridge University Press, recommends it to all who are interested in the subject; I’m about 90 pages into it, and so far I agree with his assessment. 
    (3) is a book-length interview of Prof. Jensen, who talks not only about the subjects in the title but also his admiration for Gandhi, his love of music, and his idealistic view of the scientific endeavor. I find this to be an inspirational book. It is also quite informative for newbies to GNXP topics. 
    I’ve commented about (4) before. Beautiful photographs, interesting content about orangutan intelligence and possible relevance to human evolution. 
    (5) is a useful introduction to population and quantitative genetics. Try this one first if the textbooks in the right sidebar are too daunting. Some familiarity with correlation, regression, and ANOVA would be helpful. The algebra is quite mild. 
    (6) is a plain-language book by a statistician at the London School of Economics. It is deep enough, however, to be useful to differential psychologists. The distinction between principal components and factor analysis, for example, is particularly insightful. 
    Read (7) to know what Pinker really does for a living. It’s actually quite a fascinating book. Pinker has an uncanny knack for turning the most unimaginably obscure scholarly arcana (e.g., verb forms used the Saxon conquerors; I’m not sure that’s actually in the book, but just to give you an idea) into lively and stimulating reading. This book also contains a brief description of MEG, a new brain-imaging technology that holds great promise. 
    I’ve commented about (8) before. The author is the brother of the Nobel laureate. An awesome novel, a worthy successor to the European tradition embodied by Tolstoy.

  19. A Primer of Ecological Genetics 
    if you like this (i’ve not read this myself), theory of population genetics and evolutionary ecology is likely the next step up. i’ve only skimmed much of this book, but it seems pretty thorough (ecological genetics isn’t something that i am very focused on myself).

  20. Isaac Bashevis Singer was the second Isaac Singer famous in America. The first one invented the sewing machine. He had 20+ children by ~5 wives / girlfriends, and most of them were, believe it or not, trained as singers.

  21. Whoops, I didn’t read the post carefully enough. What books will I be reading? Well, I’ve already read everything in my list, except (2). Here’s my to-read list: 
    (1) A First Course in Factor Analysis by Andrew Comrey and Howard Lee 
    (2) Genetics and the Analysis of Quantitative Traits by Bruce Lynch and Michael Walsh 
    (3) Clocking the Mind: Mental Chronometry and Individual Differences by Arthur Jensen 
    (4) The Selfish Gene (3rd ed.) by Richard Dawkins 
    (5) Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think edited by Alan Grafen and Mark Ridley 
    (6) Mathematical Tools for Applied Multivariate Analysis by J. Douglas Carroll 
    (7) Factor Analysis by Richard Gorsuch 
    I used to read a ton of fiction, but alas no more. If a new book by either Richard Price or Steven Millhauser comes out (or if I hear good things about Anthony Briggs’s new translation of War and Peace), I might cop that, but otherwise I’m training for the big fight here …

  22. do you have the dawkins festschrift in hand? amazon says it isn’t coming out ’till 2006. re: lynch & walsh, excellent, though i also recommend the falconer quant. genetics book to those who haven’t done much quant. genetic reading.

  23. No, the Dawkins collection comes out in March, I think at the same time as the 30th-anniversary edition of The Selfish Gene. Prof. Jensen’s new book comes out in April, although I’ll probably have a copy in hand well before then. 
    The new edition of The Selfish Gene will have another introduction by Dawkins and a preface by Robert Trivers that was in the first edition but somehow got dropped from the second. It will probably also have new endnotes reflecting the latest developments in the relevant fields. 
    I have heard that (6) in my list of to-read books is not only a good introduction to multivariate statistics but a good introduction to linear algebra, period. As I feel that my basic linear algebra textbook was not that good (although I had a good teacher), I’m looking forward to that. 
    Yes, Falconer’s book is quite excellent. I especially recommend reading chapters 7, 8, and 9 quite thoroughly, as they derive the basics of quantitative genetics (variance components, resemblance among relatives, etc.) from the ground up, using nothing but (relatively) simple algebra.

  24. Mark, that one by Kagan is a very good, but it is somewhat of a “starter” (though very good for a starter) for understanding the history of that war. I read it a few years back when I was getting heavily into that period of Greek history.

  25. Actually scratch Carroll for now, I should go Genes in Conflict : The Biology of Selfish Genetic Elements

  26. Jason, 
    That review is already available on Rushton’s web site.

  27. Currently in process: 
    * “Gitanjali,” poems by Rabindranath Tagore. Gorgeous. 
    * “The Sleeping Car Murders,” an excellent Euro-mystery by Sebastien Japrisot. 
    * Will Eisner’s “Comics and Sequential Art,” great if you’re interested in visual storytelling.  
    * “I’m Just in It For the Food,” by the Food Network’s Alton Brown. Really great if you’re a straight guy just getting interested in food prep. 
    Soon to come: J.M. Smith, Moerdijk and Reyes, J. Douglas Carrolll … 
    Oh sorry, that was someone else. Next I’ll probably treat myself to one of those erotic French graphic novels I love so much.

  28. I promised myself that I’d finally work my way through Seven Pillars of Wisdom sometime this year, and read more appellate cases, but beyond that I made no commitments.

  29. That review is already available . . . 
    I was, of course, talking about the actual book. I didn’t mean a book review was in my queue.

  30. I’m first in line at the library for the new book by Razib’s fave, Michelle Malkin

  31. Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky 
    Jewish History, Jewish Religion : The Weight of Three Thousand Years Israel Shahak  
    While I would much rather avoid reading about these subjects, the incredible pull Israel and its supporters have on US foreign policy compel me to become more educated on the subject.

  32. Israel Shahak is in a league with Noam Chomsky, a hate-filled, un-serious “scholar”. Not a place to go for understanding anything. Just in case you don’t know already.

  33. Not only that, Shahak is absolutely adored by the far-right, as well as the far-left, and is a huge advocate of the virulently anti-Western and anti-American “Eurasianist Movement” founded by Alexander Dugin. What a nut!

  34. Ok, looks like I’ve secured a copy of the Lynn book sooner than I anticipated. Also Daniel Dennett has a book coming up in Feb. that looks possibly interesting.

  35. I’m not reading these at the moment, and they are far from the usual GNXP interests, but I recommend them just because they are among the most fascinating books I can recall: 
    Oliver Rackham: The History of the Countryside 
    A. Hyatt Mayor: Prints and People [about the history of engravings, etchings, etc.] 
    Nicholas Penny: The Materials of Sculpture 
    Marina Warner: From the Beast to the Blonde [a history of fairy tales]