Tuesday, July 3, 2007

This Week at the Library (3/7)

I've had a lot of good reading the last few weeks, which is not suprising given how heavily steeped my library selections were in science. I began with Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade. The cover of the book is of a mature acacia tree, silhouetted by a beautiful African sunset. Before the Dawn is a work of anthropology, and it focuses on humanity as we became human and began to populate the globe. All aspects of human society at that time are brought into focus -- race, religion, and so forth. It reminded me a bit of Guns, Germs, and Steel. If you're interested in anthropology, I think this book is worth checking into. While reading it, I couldn't get a certain Johnny Clegg tune out of my head.

We are scatterlings of Africa, both you and I...
We're on the road to Phelamanga, beneath a coppy sky
And we are scatterlings of Africa, on a journey to the stars..
Far below we leave forever dreams of what we were....

I then read two related books about neurology. The first was Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, which dealt with the biological origins of belief. I found it interesting, but I enjoyed Phantoms in the Brain far more. It was a genuine pageturner. I enjoyed every moment I spent reading it. Phantoms deals with mysteries of the human mind -- phantom limbs, stroke oddities, delusions, hallucinations, and so on. Technical knowledge about the field may help in better understanding some of the biology mentioned, but you need nothing to appreciate the weirdness that the brain is capable of generating.

The next book I read was Jacques-Yves Cousteau's The Whale, and it was interesting enough. It isn't exactly an informative book about whales; it chronicles some of Cousteau's trips and a lot of the material is his logs. There are many pictures, but I was looking more for information. I changed genres for my next book when I read The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. It is a work of poetry, and rather than read it straight through like a novel, I read the chapters one at a time and savored them. I've posted some of my favorite quotations here.

After this, I read Isaac Asimov's Extraterrestial Civilizations, whereupon Mr. Asmiov explains the requirements for life to arise in the universe, and speculates on what kind of organisms might form in varying atmospheres. He also writes about human colonization efforts. I read this mainly because of the author. On a similar note, I read Space Station: Base Camps to the Stars, which was a history of human efforts to establish a space station in orbit. I found it to be highly interesting.

My next book was a history book titled Hitler's Shadow War, and it put forth the idea that the second world war was really just a farce -- something Hitler did to draw attention away from his genocidal policies. While it failed to prove this to me, it did offer a lot of information on the Holocaust. The last book I read was a work of fiction by Jean M. Auel, called The Clan of the Cave Bear. I ran across this while reading about Neanderthals. The book is about a young Cro-Magnon girl who is adopted by a tribe of Neanderthals. The "Clan", as they call themselves, are very different humans than we are, and the girl -- Ayla -- must struggle to fit in. As she does, we learn about how these humans might have lived. I loved this book and decided to read more of the series.

So that concludes my last two weeks of reading. As I said, highly enjoyable. Next week:
  1. The Valley of Horses, the sequel to The Clan of the Cave Bear.
  2. Nightfall and Other Stories by Isaac Asimov.
  3. Dolphin Days by Kenneth S. Norris.
  4. The Tribe of Tiger by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
  5. Jewish Wisdom by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.
That should make for a lovely week of reading.

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