Summer One-liners

Since I haven’t taken the time to write even brief reviews of the books I’ve read over the last several months,  here’s a list of them in roughly the order they were read.  As, or if, reviews are added, they will link from this page.

Shut Up, I’m Talking – Gregory Levey.   Very funny memoir by a Canadian writer in New York who ends up working briefly as a speech-writer for the Prime Minister of Israel.

The Age of American Unreason – Susan Jacoby.  Sobering look at anti-rationalism in America over the last four decades and its ill effects on our nation.

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid – Jimmy Carter.  June book club selection.  President Carter’s version of the history of the Israeli-Palestine conflict.  Not widely regarded as completely accurate, disturbing nonetheless.

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East – Sandy Tolan.  Fascinating story about two families and one house in Israel/Palestine.  Recommended by a friend at work in Tel Aviv.

Inevitable Illusions: How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds – Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini.  Survey of many of the ways we fool ourselves.  Other than some confusing editing in one section, a very interesting look at cognitive science’s understanding of our mental blind spots.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts – Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.   Mostly about confirmation bias, covering the gamut of ways we fool ourselves through self-justification.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time – Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin. July book club selection.  Poorly written, but very inspirational example of the power of a single human.

Why Evolution Is True – Jerry A. Coyne.  Lucid overview of evolution and natural selection, with very clear explanations of all the types of evidence for both.  Minimal (compared to Prothero) but strong criticisms of creationism.

Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction – Susan Blackmore.  My re-entry into trying to understand consciousness, again.  Accurately sub-titled, good overview with an intriguing nod to Buddhist meditation as a means of understanding.

Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness – Daniel C. Dennett.  Analysis of the main philosophical distractions keeping us from moving forward toward understanding consciousness.

Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance–and Why They Fall – Amy Chua.  Given, via her thesis, that tolerance supported the rise of all hyperpowers and intolerance contributed to their declines, Chua analyzes how this applies to the USA now.  Nice historical review of the power and place of previous hyperpowers too.

Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali.   Amazing story of her journey, and disturbing insight into civil war in Somalia and the manifestations of Islam in eastern Africa.

Statecraft: And How to Restore America’s Standing in the World – Dennis Ross.   August book club selection.  Good review of recent examples of good and bad statecraft, prescriptive lists for successful negotiating and mediating, and analysis of what USA needs to do next in regards to foreign policy actions.

The Mind of the Market: How Biology and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives – Michael Shermer.   Great refutation of the standard homo economicus explanation.  Goes far beyond just describing our economic behavior.  Shermer would have been better served by a grander, less marketing-driven title.

Buddhism without Beliefs – Stephen Batchelor.  Recommended by Susan Blackmore.  Sincere meditations on Buddhist meditation without religious trappings/distractions.

Zen without Zen Masters – Camden Benares.  Silly book I’ve had for years.  No content or guidance.    May re-read after another twenty years.

Buddhism Plain and Simple – Steve Hagen.  More detailed than Batchelor (but with less impact on me), also free of religious distractions, focuses on awareness.

Encountering Naturalism: A Worldview and Its Uses – Thomas W. Clark.  Nice introduction to many of the aspects of naturalism.  There is no such thing as contra-causal free will.

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2 comments to Summer One-liners

  • Kelly

    Just got back from a talk by Sam Tanenhaus (NYTimes Book Review Editor) who wrote “The Death of Conservatism.” His talked touched on the deterioration of civility in our political discourse and a loss of respect for the democratic process as key issues — which means other movements are vulnerable to a loss of credibility, too.

    He was very thoughtful and considered in his remarks — right up your alley.

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