Book Reports

Book recaps and reviews

  • Automation is not a Glass Cage (3/24/2015) - Recap/review of "The Glass Cage" by Nicholas Carr, in which he argues that automation is poised to cognitively cripple us, and I explain why he's thinking about the brain totally wrong.
  • righteous and smug (12/16/2014) - Review & recap of Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind", a primer on the what morals are, why they exist, and how we make moral judgments.
  • guns, germs, steel, and creeping determinism (9/23/2014) - Review/recap of Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel", a just-so story about how societies came to develop as they did thanks to local geography...
  • muscle car truth facts (8/26/2014) - Some trivial notes on "Engines of Change", mostly about the history of muscle cars, but also horrible names, Lee Iacocca, unbridled masculinity, and the wreck of the Andrea Doria.
  • the brain’s illusion (8/7/2014) - Review/recap of "Incognito" by David Eagleman, on how the brain fools us and we buy into it, and what that means.
  • sexual outlaw, erotic mystic (5/29/2014) - Recap/review of "Heaven's Bride" by Leigh Eric Schmidt. The story of Ida C. Craddock, a sex educator, free thinker, "scholar of phallic antiquities", and martyr to free speech...
  • being purified by fire (5/7/2014) - Recap/review of "Purified by Fire", by Stephen Prothero, on the history of cremation in the US, and how it went from an affront against god and humanity, to a novelty, to a monetized and otherwise unnoteworthy practice.
  • Yellow Journalism and Butchery (3/23/2014) - Recap/review of "The Murder of the Century" by Paul Collins. The ludicrous and nigh-unbelievable story of a dismembered corpse, a love triangle, sensationalized headlines, missing heads, latter-day phrenology, narcissistic and flamboyant lawyers, yellow journalism, and war.
  • dallas 1963 (11/1/2013) - Recap/review of "Dallas 1963" by Bill Minutaglio and Steven Davis, a really interesting look at what was happening in Dallas leading up to Kennedy's death, and a JFK assassination book that manages to *not* be about the assassination.
  • case….closed? (10/20/2013) - Review/recap of "Case Closed" by Gerald Posner, an argument that Oswald killed JFK, and I muse on global conspiracies and the permanence of JFK speculation.
  • insert FDR quote (9/18/2013) - Recap/review of "The Culture of Fear" by Barry Glassner. How the media propagates unfounded fear, luring us into fearing the wrong thing and ignoring the things that should worry us, and how human memory and judgment can explain why those fears stick.
  • unbelief (9/11/2013) - Review/recap of "Unbelievable" by Stacy Horn. The story of JB Rhine, a forgotten parapsychologist at a major university, who for a brief time, gave the world evidence that ESP and telepathy existed.
  • the idiot box, amirite? (9/3/2013) - Recap/review of "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman, in which Postman argues that TV is our intellectual doom, and I argue that he's wrong, mostly.
  • where we’re going… (8/6/2013) - Recap/review of "The Big Roads" by Earl Swift, a story of how freeways came to be, which turns out to be far more interesting than it has any right to be.
  • insert moby dick reference (7/28/2013) - Recap/review of "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn, a great demonstration of the Socratic method, but a silly argument about the future of society and the wisdom of our forebears.
  • out of the flames (7/23/2013) - Review/recap of "Out of the Flames" by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. The story of Michael Servetus, John Calvin, and how the printing press changed European theocracy and allowed their ideas to become permanent, rather than fleeting...
  • now you see it (6/30/2013) - Recap/review of "Now You See It" by Cathy Davidson. ...How can brain science be used to improve education, schools, pedagogy, and workplaces? And how can't it?
  • push it to the limit (6/13/2013) - Recap/review of "The Limit" by Michael Cannell, the story of Ferrari F1 racing in the 1950s and 1960s, a time of unimaginably lethal driving, technical innovation, and the head-to-head battle of two very different drivers.
  • the time of cholera (5/30/2013) - Recap/review of "The Ghost Map" by Steven Johnson. The story of a cholera outbreak at a time when sewers dumped into sources of fish and drinking water and a time before anyone knew what germs were.
  • four sheets to the wind (4/30/2013) - Review/recap of "Last Call" by Daniel Okrent, the story of Prohibition in America, the shocking political foresight that engineered it, and the shocking amount of drinking that was still happening.
  • deceive, inveigle, obfuscate (2/5/2013) - Recap/review of "Charlatan" by Pope Brock. A story of quacks, flim-flam, balls, ballsacks, goat balls, pseudo-medicinal Ponzi schemes...
  • the crater of doom (1/15/2013) - Recap/review of "T-Rex and the Crater of Doom" by Walter Alvarez. A story of how dinosaurs went extinct, the history of geological thought, and the hunt for a giant comet-hole...
  • an undersea mass sponge migration (1/9/2013) - Review/recap of "Ghost Hunters" by Deborah Blum. A story of spiritualism, con-men, scientists, seances, and mediums. And, possibly, communication with the ethereal plane.
  • dude, where’s my septum (10/9/2012) - Recap/review of "Cocaine" by Dominic Streatfeild. ...The history of cocaine, from stimulant to anesthetic to illicit drug to multi-billion dollar corporation...
  • breaking the hobo code (8/28/2012) - Review/recap of "The Code Book" by Simon Singh. A history of codes, human error, human insight, exactly what a public key is, the genius of Turing and the misanthropy of Babbage.
  • …an immunity to iocane powder (7/28/2012) - Review/recap of "The Poisoner's Handbook" by Deborah Blum. ..." The story of poisonings and medical examiners; fraud, deceit, the man who wouldn't die, many people who did, and the search for the perfect poison...
  • pour one out for mr. shelby (7/12/2012) - Review/recap of "Go Like Hell" by AJ Baime, the story of Ford, Ferrari, 1960s car racing, transnational pissing contests, and extremely fast cars.
  • remember brian’s song? (5/21/2012) - Review/recap of "The Emperor of all Maladies" by Siddhartha Mukherjee. A history of cancer, dating back to 2500 BC and Imhotep, through a future where cancer is cured.
  • i immediately regret this decision. (4/5/2012) - Review/recap of "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz. How we decide, and how what we think we want for decisions often isn't...
  • the Martians love Kuato (3/9/2012) - Review/recap of "Packing for Mars" by Mary Roach, featuring the space race, space vertigo, space pooping, and extreme high-altitude jumping.

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