25. November 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Informational Book, Noelle, NonFiction, Science

The Self Illusion by Bruce Hood, 349 pages, read by Noelle, on 11/20/2014

Prone to existential depressive episodes related to identity?  Me too!  Feel like delving further into such quandaries?  If you answered, “Why not?”, then read this book!  I personally find it exciting/ weirdly comforting when science challenges traditional Western thought.

Summary from Publisher:  Most of us believe that we are unique and coherent individuals, but are we? The idea of a “self” has existed ever since humans began to live in groups and become sociable. Those who embrace the self as an individual in the West, or a member of the group in the East, feel fulfilled and purposeful. This experience seems incredibly real but a wealth of recent scientific evidence reveals that this notion of the independent, coherent self is an illusion – it is not what it seems. Reality as we perceive it is not something that objectively exists, but something that our brains construct from moment to moment, interpreting, summarizing, and substituting information along the way. Like a science fiction movie, we are living in a matrix that is our mind.
In The Self Illusion, Dr. Bruce Hood reveals how the self emerges during childhood and how the architecture of the developing brain enables us to become social animals dependent on each other. He explains that self is the product of our relationships and interactions with others, and it exists only in our brains. The author argues, however, that though the self is an illusion, it is one that humans cannot live without.
But things are changing as our technology develops and shapes society. The social bonds and relationships that used to take time and effort to form are now undergoing a revolution as we start to put our self online. Social networking activities such as blogging, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter threaten to change the way we behave. Social networking is fast becoming socialization on steroids. The speed and ease at which we can form alliances and relationships is outstripping the same selection processes that shaped our self prior to the internet era. This book ventures into unchartered territory to explain how the idea of the self will never be the same again in the online social world.

15. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction, Science

Zoom: How Everything Moves: From Atoms and Galaxies to Blizzards and Bees by Bob Berman, 323 pages, read by Kira, on 09/05/2014

Zoom download (3) 513k+gGpDAL._SY300_ j=0125_UBobBerman Berman explain the scientific workings of things that move.  From the movement of the Big Bang, to the sound that moving sand makes at the base of a dune, to the speed of different insects, Berman explains the science of movement.  This was an engaging read that I enjoyed.

29. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Kira, NonFiction, Science · Tags:

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell., 512 pages, read by Kira, on 07/20/2014

davgol  Malcolm_GladwellBoy with menacing shadowAnother great book by Gladwell!  In this title he explores how our wounds our struggles can be the source of our strengths.  Interesting pieces that I learned: apparently Goliath was suffering from acromegaly (due to pituitary tumor) that caused him visual difficulties (thus he had another person guide him to the battle field) in addition to his giantism; Marching Day in England is where the Protestant march and celebrate their victory over the local Catholics! imagine if the Northerners came down to the South and celebrated the South’s loss in the Civil war!   He talks about the advantages that come from being a big fish in a small pond.  For example, the same percentage of Science majors switch over to Humanities in a Top School as compared to a medium school, despite the fact that the ATC test scores of students at the top school are generally way above those at medium schools (unless all these schools are grading on a curve, which wasn’t clearly discussed).

When the impressionists were shunned from the high art society in France, they created their own art show. And their art became more popular.  The most interesting take-away message is, if you’re going to fight the big and powerful, you don’t play by their rules.  You change the game.

Negatives: Though Gladwell holds up Jay Freireich’s cure of childhood leukemia as admirable, Freireich violated the physicians oath – do NO harm

03. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, NonFiction, Science

Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love, and Language from the Insect World by Marlene Zuk, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 07/01/2014

Sex on Six Legs is a fascinating look at the world of insects. This book covers not only their reproduction but also communication, social systems and much more. Insects are the most numerous animals on the planet and their variety testifies to that fact. Zuk is obviously a big fan of the insect world and has a lot of knowledge about the studies that have taken place regarding insects. I found this book a lot more interesting than I thought I would. It is a great read, educational and entertaining.

19. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction, Science, Self Help · Tags:

The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease by Daniel E. Lieberman, 460 pages, read by Kira, on 06/16/2014

humbod  Fabulous HominidTimelinediabetesWhats-the-Paleo-Diet-3book!  The first half recounts the changes in human physiology, from the time we first diverged from apes (chimpanzees specifically) to modern times. Dr Lieberman discusses the physical adaptations and what they mean for the way our bodies function.  Then he takes this history of the human body and shows us evolutionary mismatches between our physiology and our modern lifestyle, first starting with the foods we eat, and then discussing our bodies needs to be physically active, that we were born to run/walk long distances, and that our bodies suffer if we fail to be active.  For example he notes that people that run barefoot, rarely suffer foot injuries, in contrast to runners that wear shoes (barefooters also hit with the ball of the foot first, unlike shod runners who strike with their heel).  Type II Diabetes, Heart disease, and cancer are discussed in detail.  I found it especially interesting how our bodies process different types of foods, how damaging starches and carbs are, compared to protein, fat, fiber, and how the composition of what you eat, affects whether it is sent for fat storage, whether it triggers insulin shock or absorbed slowly and more healthily.

21. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, History, Informational Book, Marsha, NonFiction, Science · Tags: ,

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny, 208 pages, read by Marsha, on 05/19/2014

livesThis most excellent book is both sad and fascinating at the same time.  I could hardly put it down.  In fact, I have started writing stories about each of the people featured in the book, using fiction to fill in the gaps that nonfiction couldn’t find answers for.  The authors do a wonderful job of painting ten portraits of people who spent decades of their lives in a state hospital for the mentally ill.  Using the items found in their long abandoned suitcases along with interviews from a few staff members and medical records, the authors try to piece together the life of each person before and during their stay at Willard State Hospital in New York.  Along with the chapters on the individuals, the authors provide interesting factual information about what it took to admit someone to such a place, how they were treated during their stay, and what the diagnoses were at the time.  The book focuses on the early part of the 20th century, before deinstitutionalization became a way of doing business.  The ease with which an individual could be locked away for decades of his or her life is staggering.  I hope that by writing more about these individuals I can do some justice to their lives, which would have been forgotten had it not been for Penney and Stastny.

For most of human history people believed the earth was the center of the universe and the sun, planets and stars all revolved around the earth. There were many different ideas of how the universe was set up but all of them followed the Biblical teachings that the earth was the center of everything. Then came some radical thinkers who tried to reconcile what they had learned with what they observed about the universe. They couldn’t get the two to match up. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton all used science and observation to try and understand the universe. They and others like them were also persecuted by the Church and other scientists who believed the earth-centric configuration of the universe. I thought this was a very well-organized and interesting book. It was easy to follow and understand and I think it is perfect for kids starting to learn about the universe. I did think the last chapter on groups who still believe the earth is the center of the universe was a little less scientific explanation and a little more preachy, but other than that it was a great read.

27. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Business, Informational Book, NonFiction, Rachel, Science

Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier, 396 pages, read by Rachel, on 04/27/2014

THE DAZZLING NEW MASTERWORK FROM THE PROPHET OF SILICON VALLEY

Jaron Lanier is the bestselling author of You Are Not a Gadget, the father of virtual reality, and one of the most influential thinkers of our time. For decades, Lanier has drawn on his expertise and experience as a computer scientist, musician, and digital media pioneer to predict the revolutionary ways in which technology is transforming our culture.

Who Owns the Future? is a visionary reckoning with the effects network technologies have had on our economy. Lanier asserts that the rise of digital networks led our economy into recession and decimated the middle class. Now, as technology flattens more and more industries-from media to medicine to manufacturing-we are facing even greater challenges to employment and personal wealth.

But there is an alternative to allowing technology to own our future. In this ambitious and deeply humane book, Lanier charts the path toward a new information economy that will stabilize the middle class and allow it to grow. It is time for ordinary people to be rewarded for what they do and share on the web.

Insightful, original, and provocative, Who Owns the Future? is necessary reading for everyone who lives a part of their lives online.

02. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction, Science

Perv: the Sexual Deviant in All of Us . by Jesse Bering, 265 pages, read by Kira, on 11/27/2013

Jesse Bering asks thoughtful questions in this examination of what acts or even thoughts are considered deviant in our culture.  Are you ready to label someone deviant because you’re grossed out by the thought of their behavior, or because you’re concerned about the harm to the individual (or animal)?perv.rscreen-shot-2013-10-16-at-7-59-03-amperv-the-sexual-deviant-in-all-of-us  Nope, its Not 50 Shades of Gray.images  He draws a distinction between pedophilia and hebephilia (attraction to physically mature teenagers).  He asks us to make choices that actually improve children’s lives, and not prioritize moralizing.  Bering uses both logical arguments as well as scientific research.

27. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction, Science · Tags:

Gifts of the Crow: how perception, emotion, & thought allow smart birds to behave like humans by John Marzluff & Tony Angell., 287 pages, read by Kira, on 11/26/2013

giftscrow   corvids5-500x666This book describes the multiple and unexpected intelligences of corvids aka the crow family.

Tony-Angell crowCorvids outscore dogs and equal primates on a number of dimensions, with their tool use, and understanding that other creatures have minds (minds that can be deceived) capabilities.  Also, Corvids engage in play, from repeatedly sliding down snowbanks, to using a piece of bark to surf the air via updrafts.  They recognize individual humans, and have been know to gift humans with small tokens,

Initially, I really wanted a New Caledonian Crow for a pet (they seem to be the brightest of the lot).  However, after reading the sections where the crows mob other individual birds, and mercilessly tease other animals, I changed my mind.  The authors present a very balanced look at corvids, including the limitations of corvids as demonstrated by the research.  Some of the sections on how corvid brains function, shed light on human brains (yes, these avian dinosaurs show convergent evolution with humans).

Very interesting.corvidstackweb

 

Tony-Angell-2corvidmap

16. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, NonFiction, Science

The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle, 48 pages, read by Angie, on 11/14/2013

The Doctor: Donna, come on, think: Earth, there must have been some sort of warning. Was there anything happening back in your day, like… electrical storms, freak weather, patterns in the… sky?
Donna Noble: Well, how should I know? Um, no. I don’t- I don’t think so. No.
The Doctor: [disappointed] Oh, OK, nevermind.
Donna Noble: Although, there were the bees disappearing.
The Doctor: [dismissive] The bees disappearing.
The Doctor: [sarcastic] The *bees* disappearing.
The Doctor: [revelational] The bees disappearing!

Of course the bees are disappearing, any fan of Dr. Who knows that. In fact it is true that honeybees at least have been disappearing. Colonies have collapsed and scientists have been trying to work out why. They have explored changing habitats, overwork, diet, mites, fungus, pesticides, and cell phones. Luckily cell phones have been cleared, but the others have all been found to contribute to colony declines. I didn’t realize how important bees were to our way of life. They are the main pollinators for not just flowers but many of the foods we rely on. This book is a wake up call to the role bees play in our lives and what we should do to protect them.

13. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction, Science

Dog sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior can Make you a Better Friend to your Pet by John Bradshaw, 352 pages, read by Kira, on 11/09/2013

DOG SENSE dsugroup dogsense John Bradshaw (not to be confused with the guy who wrote about the family), challenges the conventional wisdom that dogs need to be dominated.  He examines the myth that wolves live in a strict hierarchy with submission and dominance displays.

He contends that the wolves that had been studied, were captive wolves confined much closer together than what wolf groups experience in nature – also that the wolves that were studied were American Timber wolves, NOT the European Grey Wolf, the closest Canid ancestor from which ALL domestic dogs have descended (he explores the genetics of domestic dogs, and though it would have been possible to domesticate other canids – jackals, coyotes, dholes, foxes).

He notes that in the wilderness, groups of wolves form around familial bonds, with the supposed alpha pair, being the parents of the others in the group.

Bradshaw then outlines why punishment is ineffective in training animals (including dogs).

 

02. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Science

Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science by Marc Aronson, Marina Budhos, 166 pages, read by Angie, on 11/02/2013

Sugar is something we take for granted. It is always available at the store. It isn’t very expensive. We can add it to anything we want and it is in a lot of what we eat. And there are alternatives to regular brown or white sugar. This was not always the case. Sugar was an unknown until around a thousand years ago. However, once people got a taste of it they wanted more. It started out as a spice added to foods like any other spice, but then it separated itself from others and became a sweetener. As the demand for sugar grew, production also had to grow. Huge sugar plantations sprouted up throughout the Caribbean and South America. Millions of slaves were brought from Africa to work in the brutal plantations. More slaves actually than were brought to America. Sugar was a time sensitive crop the required back-breaking labor, hot fires, and lots of slaves.

This book starts with the stories of how Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos were connected to sugar and how they decided to write this book. Then we go into the history of sugar and the sugar/slavery connections. Next we see how sugar helped shape the world and abolish slavery. France, England, America, the Caribbean, India, Africa, Asia: slavery and sugar helped mold these places into what they are today. Slavery was abolished in many countries because of the sugar slaves. Gandhi started his peaceful resistance movement because of sugar slaves. It is amazing how many connections you can draw throughout history and the world all because of sugar. Aronson and Budhos did an excellent job highlighting these connection and writing a very readable nonfiction book.

30. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Science

Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age by Cheryl Bardoe, 40 pages, read by Angie, on 10/29/2013

Mammoths, mastodons and elephants are all cousins. They all appeared around the same time, but for some reason 10,000 years ago mammoths and mastadons went extinct. Scientists don’t know why they disappeared. The two leading theories are global warming or over hunting by humans. It is hoped that by studying mammoths and mastodons and why they went extinct a way can be found to help elephants who are endangered. This is a very informative, interesting and well-researched read.

28. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Science

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker, 144 pages, read by Angie, on 10/26/2013

Dead people are fascinating. Long dead people are a puzzle. Figuring out who skeletons were is a fascinating puzzle. This book by Sally Walker investigates the graves in and around the Chesapeake Bay. All the graves date from the 17th century and were some of the first people in the Jamestown colony. It is amazing what scientists can find out about people just from looking at their bones. Teeth have ridges: must have used some corrosive materials to clean them. Buried in a trash pit under a house: must have been an indentured servant who died. Small holes in bones: must have had rickets. Archaeologists are even able to figure out who exactly a person was just by where and how they were buried. This book highlights how graves are found and excavated, the steps taken to preserve the remains and what is learned from them. If you are a fan of CSI or Bones, you will definitely appreciate the science of this book.

24. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Informational Book, NonFiction, Science

Fossil Fish Found Alive by Sally M. Walker, 64 pages, read by Angie, on 10/24/2013

The coelacanth was a fish that many thought had went extinct 70 million years ago. No fossils of this fish have been found since then. Imagine the surprise when a live specimen was found in 1938. It turns out the coelacanth is not extinct at all but lives off the southern coast of Africa and India. Since 1938 researchers have been looking for and studying these amazing fish. There are still lots of things we don’t know about the coelacanth, but researchers and ichthyologists are still looking for answers. Sally Walker did a great job detailing the hunt for these prehistoric fish. The way this book was written really builds anticipation for each discovery. I loved the many photos and illustrations and the details included by Walker. Highly readable nonfiction.

16. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Kira, NonFiction, Science

My Beloved Brontosaurus : On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs by Brian Switek, 256 pages, read by Kira, on 10/14/2013

mbb cover and flap  brontosauronator_LargeWide sauropods-990x576    Paleontologists have done for Dinosaurs as Astronomers have done for the Ex-Planet Pluto.  Pluto is No longer considered a planet, and Brontosaurus is No longer the name of a dinosaur, rather it is the Ex-Name of Apatosaurus.  What happened is that overly enthusiastic paleontologists discovered “new” species or even new genuses when they found slightly different skeletons. Othniel Marsh was quiet prolific in this respect.

Brian Swintek weavpteranodaones the story of his childhood fascination witUCMP_Pteranodon_left pterah dinosaurs into this scientific history of dinosaurs and our knowledge about them.  Like Swintek, I was myself was interested in dinosaurs as a kid, especially pterodactyls.  I was entranced with the mural and skeleton of pteranodons in the New York Natural History Museum.  You turned around a corner and entered a 3-story high exhibition room with a pteranodon skeleton aloft in the air, then as your rounded the corner fully you saw this 3 story mural of pteranodons perched on a cliffside with the beach and ocean behind them.  I visited this museum 3 different times in my life separated by 10 years each time, and I always found myself entranced with this display.

Also, did you know that Dinosaurs still roam the earth? or should I say flit about.  All birds are a subgroup of dinosaurs.

mbbrontEvolution_of_dinosaurs_EN.svgarchaeopteryx,_bambiraptor,_chicken_comparison

10. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Informational Book, NonFiction, Science

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach, 348 pages, read by Angie, on 10/09/2013

Mary Roach is one of my favorite nonfiction writers. Not only are the subjects she chooses to write about fascinating, but her writing style is both humorous and educational. She takes topics that most people don’t think about or want to think about, like dead people and digestion, and makes you want to learn more. I am always amazed at the people she finds to interview, the resources she uses and the topics she chooses to discuss. Gulp is all about our digestive system from one end to the other. Your average person doesn’t really want to know that much about the processes of the alimentary canal. As long as things are working properly we are ok in our ignorance. Not Mary; she wants all the dirty little details and she wants to share them with us. After reading several of her books I really do believe poop might be one of her favorite subjects since she incorporates mention of it in a lot of her books. I learned many things in this book: cows chew a mouthful of food up to 40 times; rats and rabbits eat their poop to get needed nutrients and without it their growth will be stunted; Elvis died due to an enlarged colon and constipation. Seriously! There is a disease that causes your colon to not push things through which causes it to be enlarged and you to have constipation. There are documented cases of 28 inch colons (average is 3 inches or so). Elvis could change waist sizes by several inches depending on whether he had gone to the bathroom that week. While these things might seem like stories you would read in the National Enquirer, Roach backs them all up with research studies and interviews of scientists. I will definitely continue reading everything she chooses to study as I haven’t found a clunker yet.

30. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction, Science, Self Help

The Autistic Brain : Thinking across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek, 240 pages, read by Kira, on 09/28/2013

Temple Grandin does for Autism what Susan Cain did for Introversion.  Grandin shows us the strengths associated with Autistic and Asperger’s syndrome, citing research showing superior ability to focus on details.  She suggests that we quit seeing only the deficits, but acknowledge that some characteristics are actually strengths.  Her attention is limited to high-functioning  end of the spectrum while, the lower end of the spectrum is given short shrift.  She backs up most of her arguments with scientific research (though a few times, she just says “That doesn’t make sense” without showing why).  IntertempleGesting, but not as enjoyable asclaire-danes-and-temple-grandin_original Anibrainmals in Translation.

29. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, NonFiction, Science

The Mystery of Darwin's Frog by Marty Crump, Steve Jenkins (Illustrations), Edel Rodriguez (Illustrations), 39 pages, read by Angie, on 09/28/2013

Darwin’s frog is the only frog that carries its young in its mouth. When the eggs hatch the male frog scoops them up and carries them around until they turn from tadpoles to baby frogs. Fascinating species and really interesting book.