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Thread: Maciamo's book selection

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    2 out of 2 members found this post helpful.

    Post Maciamo's book selection



    I am interested in nearly all the domain of human knowledge. That makes a generalist rather than a specialist, which is also the nature of the philosopher always craving to understand better the world around us.

    There is too much information out there to waste time reading uninteresting or badly written books. I have selected here the works which I think are the best at summarising the knowledge in their field while being well written enough to be comprehensible and enjoyable for lay people. I have intentionally left out books that were too heavy or too technical.

    History of Philosophy

    Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaarder


    History of the Universe, Earth, Life and Sciences

    A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson


    History of Society, Lifestyle and Technologies

    At Home: A short history of private life, by Bill Bryson


    Neurology & Psychology

    The Human Mind: And How to Make the Most of It, by Robert Winston


    Gender Psychology

    Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps, by Allan & Barbara Pease


    Population History & Anthropology

    Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond


    Genetics & Evolution

    The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, by Gregory Cochran & Henry Harpending


    Genetics & Biology

    Genome, by Matt Ridley


    Linguistics

    The Story of English, by Robert McCrum, Robert MacNeil & William Cran


    Language history

    Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World, by Nicholas Ostler



    Economics & History

    Seeds of Change : Six plants that transformed mankind, by Henry Hobhouse



    Evolutionary Biology & Genetics

    The Ancestor's Tale, by Richard Dawkins
    Last edited by Maciamo; 11-06-11 at 23:20.
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    Other great books but requiring a bit more knowledge in the field to be properly enjoyed :

    Evolutionary Genetics

    The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins


    Human Genetics

    The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture , by Matt Ridley

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    Here are something travelogues, which I enjoy for their writing style and the writer's personal insight into the hidden facets of the countries visited.

    I am a big fan of Bill Bryson. I have read almost all his books now. Here are my three favourite ones (besides A Short History of Everything), respectively about the USA, England and Australia :

    The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America


    Notes from a Small Island


    Down Under


    Jan Morris is also a favourite travel writer :

    A Writer's World: Travels 1950-2000



    About Japan

    The Roads to Sata: A 2000-mile Walk Through Japan, by Alan Booth


    Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan, by Alan Booth


    Lost Japan, by Alex Kerr
    Last edited by Maciamo; 28-04-11 at 13:51.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Anyone interested in the Indo-Europeans and the migrations that took place in Europe during the Neolithic and Bronze Age should read these books :


    The Horse, The Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World , by David W. Anthony


    (Let me say that I disagree a bit with chapter 14 though. Anthony doesn't think that a massive invasion of IE steppe people took place toward the Corded-Ware culture. I do because nothing else would explain the strong presence of R1a exactly within the boundaries of the Corded-Ware culture. The problem is that Anthony never mentions once Y-DNA studies, even though his book is from 2007.)

    ----

    The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000-3500 BC, by David W. Anthony


    This is a big-format, hard-cover book printed on glossy paper and contain a lot of colour pictures (archaeological remains) and maps. It deals with the Neolithic period in south-east Europe.

    ----

    Encyclopedia of Prehistory: Europe (volume 4)


    This is the most complete and detailed work on European prehistory with which I am familiar. It is among the very best, but is quite expensive.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 02-02-10 at 20:11.

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    I would like to recommend these books on European history, all masterpieces.

    Widely acclaimed as the best single-volume history of Italy to date,
    The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Regions and their Peoples, by David Gilmour is one of the most vivid and elegantly written history books I have read. Note that half of the book is about modern Italy since the unification in the 1860's.




    The New Spaniards, by John Hooper is a very insightful look into recent Spanish history. There is no better account to understand how Spanish society and politics evolved in the 20th century.




    More light-hearted and humorous, but nevertheless well researched, well-written and full of interesting anecdotes is 1000 Years of Annoying the French, by Stephen Clarke.


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    Thanks Maciamo!

    If you have an interest in the evolution of society and culture, and how this ties to the evolution of consciousness, religion, science, and everything else, I recommend the field of transpersonal psychology. Here's a good starting point that is from a kind of anthropological point of view.

    Up from Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution
    Ken Wilber
    51Zvp7IAZhL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    ...
    I get the impression you read occasionally.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    Here are three of the best books I have read recently, all by one of my all time favourite authors, Mike Ridley (already listed above for Genome and The Agile Gene).


    The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, a masterful explanation of how sexual selection has shaped evolution, and especially human evolution. Chock-full with interesting facts.




    The Rational Optimist makes a very good case of why we shouldn't pay too much attention to the alarming headlines in the news and should instead think, for good reasons, that most of the world's problems will work themselves out. A great read for anyone interested in history, society and economy.





    The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge explains how all human systems and ideas evolve over time by a process not unlike natural evolution, including by natural selection. The economy, technologies, society, political systems, mores, and even religions all evolve this way. This is perhaps Matt Ridley's most important work as it summarizes all his ideas and theories and applies them to all every facet of human society.



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    I have also read most of Malcolm Gladwell's books. Not as compelling as Matt Ridley's books, but still well worth reading if you have time.

    Outliers: The Story of Success




    Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking




    David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants


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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Three very, very good books that I warmly recommend.

    Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in A Bacterial World, by Jessica Snyder Sachs deals with the human microbiome and the dangers of antibiotics. It's the best place to start reading for anyone interested in the symbiosis between humans and bacteria.




    Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain is one of the most uplifting psychology books I have read. Any quiet-loving introvert like me should read this book. Modern society often feels like a place designed for extroverts, but it doesn't have to be so.




    Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World, by Mark Miodownik, takes a look at some of the most useful materials in the recent history of mankind. Chapters cover metals, paper, concrete, chocolate, foam (e.g. aerogel), plastic, glass, graphite, and porcelain.


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    Three other great books.


    A New Earth: Create a Better Life
    , by Eckhart Tolle
    explains how the ego causes most of our suffering and how we can be happier by learning to recognise the ego and distancing ourselves from it. The author only has a very average grasp of history, linguistics and science, so there are factual mistakes, but that does not affect much the purpose of the book.

    Last edited by Maciamo; 24-06-17 at 10:59.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard is a very well written history of Rome from foundation to 212 CE.






    Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari looks at the future of humanity, how new technologies and the demise of religions will reshape our values, lifestyle and what it means to be human.



    Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari retraces the history of humankind in a very unique and enlightening fashion. One of the best history books in recent years.



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    Biohistory: Decline and Fall of the West, by Jim Penman argues that epigenetic changes caused by the way children are brought up are one of the main driving forces behind the rise and fall of civilisations. The author makes a convincing case that all civilisations suffer from historical cycles correlated with changes in temperament regarding basic values such as work and education. As civilisations get more prosperous, people become lazier, more hedonistic, less strict with children, which gradually leads to looser morals, less discipline, more leniency toward crime, and eventually the decline of the values on which that civilisation was built. The cycles of civilisations, be it in Europe, Japan, China, India or the Middle East, always last for about 300 to 400 years. According the Penman, Western countries, which each have slightly different cycles, peaking around the 19th century (early 19th for France, late 19th for Britain or Germany) and are already in the declining phase, which typically takes 150 to 200 years to reach the bottom.

    I found this book thanks to the videos posted by Tomenable, which I encourage you to visualise first. The ideas in this book are certainly thought-provoking and I agree with most of it. The author makes one important mistake though in linking religion with increased C (Civilisation-building traits, such as hard work, small number of children, lots of time and energy devoted to children's education, etc.). It's really all the opposite. Very religious throughout history tended to have lots of children and not to value education as much as less religious people, hence the fall of the Roman Empire coinciding with the rise of Christianity, leading to a millennium of Dark Ages in Europe, which only abated with the rise of sciences and the Enlightenment.

    Last edited by Maciamo; 09-08-17 at 20:22.

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    The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, by Erin Meyer is very interesting book on cultural differences between countries, which I warmly recommend.



    The author is an American married to a Frenchman and a professor at INSEAD international business school in Paris. She builds on the work on famous cross-cultural psychologist Geert Hofstede, who I have mentioned several times on this forum. I used Hoftsede's cultural dimensions to make the map of individualism vs collectivism. Erin Meyer proposes 8 cultural dimensions of her own.

    1) Communicating: Low context (e.g. English-speaking countries) vs high context cultures (France, Russia, Asian countries)
    Low context means that people of that culture assume that others think very differently from them and everything should be explained clearly and accurately to be understood. High context cultures use a lot of innuendos, second degrees, hidden messages and cultural references that won't easily be understood by outsiders.

    2) Evaluating: direct negative feedback
    (e.g. France, Germany, Russia, Israel) vs indirect negative feedback (Asian, African and Latin American countries)

    3) Persuading: principles-first
    (Italy, Spain, France, Russia) vs application-first (English-speaking countries) vs holistic approach (Asian countries)
    Principles-first countries have a more theoretical approach, while application-first are more pragmatic and empirical. The holistic approach looks at the whole picture rather than the details.

    4) Leading: egalitarian
    (Nordic countries, Netherlands, Israel, Australia) vs hierarchical (Asian, African and Latin countries)

    5) Deciding: top-down
    (India, China, Russia, France, Italy, USA) vs consensual (Nordic countries, Netherlands, Japan)

    6) Trusting: task-based
    (English-speaking and Germanic/Nordic countries) vs relationship-based (African, Asian and Latin countries)
    Relationship-based countries need to build personal relationships before they can trust someone to do business. These cultures don't distinguish the private and professional spheres. Allegiances are first to people rather than companies or organisations.

    7) Disagreeing: confrontational
    (Israel, Russia, and most European countries except Sweden and UK) vs avoids confrontation (East Asian countries and to a lower extent other Asian countries)

    8) Scheduling: linear time
    (Japan, Germanic & English-speaking countries) vs flexible time (African and South Asian countries, China, and to a lower extent Russia, Turkey and Latin countries)

    Linear time means that people have strictly organised schedules and punctuality is expected.
    My "default mode" is closest to the British for almost every dimension. Regarding the persuading dimension, I grew up with the French/Belgian theoretical approach (education/nurture), but became much more pragmatic from my late teens as it fitted better my character (nature). However, I have always valued more the big picture than details, so in that dimension only I think I would fit better in the East Asian holistic approach. This is why I favour multidisciplinary approach to science too.

    When I entered university, it was extremely hard for me to choose my major, as I wanted to study everything. We can only understand the world if we see every aspect of it, from different angles and at different levels. To understand history one mustn't just know about historical facts, but should also understand human psychology, how people relate with one another (sociology and anthropology), differences between cultures, which in turn are influences by languages. Understanding psychology requires a good grasp of how the brain works (neuroscience), but also of genetic variations that determine how individual brain (and other biological functions) can differ. One cannot attempt to understand the global economy without first learning about cultural differences, which are rooted in historical and genetic divergences. Everything is linked.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 07-08-17 at 15:38.

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    Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe from the First Venturers to the Vikings, by Jean Manco is the best book I know of about historical population genetics and archeogenetics. It is the main reason I did not write a book of my own, as it would have been very similar to Jean's book, except that her writing style is superior to mine. The structure of the book is chronological and she introduces the main relevant concepts in the first two chapters, clearly and eloquently explaining how DNA can be used to retrace ancestry, or how archaeology and linguistics often can and should be combined with genomics to make sense of human prehistory and ancient migrations. She rightfully warns of the dangers of not confusing pots for people - although in the first version of the book she ironically falls in that trap with the Bell Beakers, assuming that there were one homogeneous ethnic group (which I was told was corrected in this second edition). Overall the book is very well structured, well researched, clear and coherent. It is an informative and comprehensive introduction to European population history that I think everyone on this forum should read. It's a great complement to my articles, which often require a basic knowledge of prehistory and population genetics to be understood, which this book aptly provides.


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    2 out of 2 members found this post helpful.
    I am currently reading David Reich's book Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past.

    For the newbies who don't know him, David Reich is a professor of genetics at Harvard University whose lab pioneered the sequencing of large number of ancient DNA samples. He explains how he and his colleagues tested the whole genome of Neanderthals, discovered by chance a new type of archaic humans, the Denisovans, how much modern humans inherited from archaic humans and how ancient DNA revolutionised our understanding of prehistory, notably by showing that human races 5,000 to 10,000 years ago were radically different from today and that all modern populations are relatively recent blends. The book focuses mostly on how modern ethnic groups came into being and how ancient DNA made it possible to identify these 'ghost populations' from which we descend.


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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    I have created a Libib library with all the books I have read (minus those I disliked). I did not include textbooks, travel guides or most fictions or works of literature.

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    though it is mostly seen as a kid`s book, I would recommend "Advantures of Til Eulenspiegel" (I am not sure about proper title of the book)....
    It is well known in German world, and pretty much unknown outside of it

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