My Favorite Books
The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker In a word--zounds!
The Nurture Assumption: Why children turn out the way they do–parents matter less than you think and peers matter more, Judith Rich Harris. Not only a great book every parent (and teacher) should read, but also a first rate exposition on why what 'everybody' thinks–including ivory tower academicians–can sometimes be dead wrong. Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, MIT, said of the book "Being among the first to read this electrifying book has been one of the high points of my career as a psychologist. One seldom sees a work that is at once scholarly, revolutionary, insightful, and wonderfully clear and witty....I predict it will come to be seen as a turning point in the history of psychology." Contrast that with preeminent expert T. Berry Brazelton on the book's thesis: "absurd." And Jerome Kagan, a dean of scholarly research on children, who said, "I'm embarrassed for psychology." People don't like it when it's pointed out their whole life's worth of research is worthless. It'll take another fifty years for this book's full impact to be felt.
The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, James Surowiecki. From Bookmarks Magazine: "Surowiecki first developed his ideas for Wisdom of Crowds in his “Financial Page” column of The New Yorker... [It’s] a thought-provoking, timely book: the TV studio audience of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire guesses correctly 91 percent of the time, compared to “experts” who guess only 65 percent correctly."
Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond. This book will give you new perspective on humans, and why our societies are the way they are. A 'required-reading' Pulitzer Prize winner. But see these cogent analyses of GGS's shortcomings by Timothy Burke and by Bryan Caplan.
The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain, Terrence W. Deacon. Jerome Kagan from Harvard University (Jerome and I clearly like the same books!) has said that "If you have only one book to read on the evolution and function of the human brain, this is the one I would recommend." I would go further--if you have only five books you could read for the remainder of your life, make this one of them.
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