This page is of the most important readings of non-fiction
The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of
by Richard Dawkins
The Ancestor's Tale
is a pilgrimage back through time; a journey on which we meet up with fellow
pilgrims along the route as we and they converge on our common ancestors.
Chimpanzees join us at about 6 million years in the past, gorillas at 7
million years, orangutans at 14 million years, as we stride on together, a
growing band. The journey provides the setting for a collection of some 40
tales. Each explores an aspect of evolutionary biology through the stories of
characters met along the way or glimpsed from afar - the Elephant Bird's Tale,
the Marsupial Mole's Tale, the Coelacanth's Tale. Together they give a deep
understanding of the processes that have shaped life on Earth: convergent
evolution, the isolation of populations, continental drift, the great
extinctions. The tales are interspersed with prologues detailing the journey,
route maps showing joining lineages, and life-like reconstructions of our
common ancestors. The Ancestor's Tale represents a pilgrimage on an
unimaginable scale: our goal is four billion years away, and the number of
pilgrims joining us grows vast - ultimately encompassing all living creatures.
- “In The Ancestor’s
Tale Dawkins traces back human ancestry 4bn years to the dawn
of life on Earth. The result is one of the richest accounts of
evolution ever written... Dawkins can still weave a Darwinian spell
as powerful as the one that bewitched specialists and
non-specialists alike when his first book, The
Selfish Gene, appeared in 1976.”
- Clive Cookson, The
A top explanation of evolution and how it affects
the world around us. This is top reading for anyone interested in
Best book I have read this year.
The Ancestor's Tale:
One of the most brilliant scientists of our age gives us his definitive
work: a synthesis of his comprehensive vision of life.
- “Dawkins's new book, which is fabulous in
many more ways than one, is a picaresque account of evolution
running in reverse as a series of wondrous tales of explanation.”
Cornwell, The Sunday Times
Theoretical physics is explaining the universe in a way that sheds light on
our creation and evolution. Stephen Hawkings explores the advances of
physics in understandable terms that are thought provoking.
Anyone interested in the creation of the universe, and the beings in it, should
make this a must read.
The Theory of Everything
Transcribed from Stephen Hawking's Cambridge Lectures, the slim volume
may not present a single theory unifying gravity with the other
fundamental forces, but it does carefully explain the state of late
20th-century physics with the great scientist's characteristic humility
Explicitly shunning math, Hawking explains the fruits of 100 years of
heavy thinking with metaphors that are simple but never condescending--he
compares the settling of the newborn universe into symmetry to the
formation of ice crystals in a glass of water, for example.
While he explores his own work (especially when speaking about black
holes), he also discusses the important milestones achieved by others like
The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our
Jeffrey D. Sachs
A realistic blueprint for worldwide economic
Deemed "the most important economist in the
world" by The New York Times Magazine and "the world's best-known
economist" by Time magazine, Sachs brings his considerable expertise to
bear in the landmark The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time,
his highly anticipated blueprint for world-wide economic success — a goal,
he argues, we can reach in a mere twenty years.
Marrying vivid eyewitness storytelling with concrete
analysis, Sachs provides a conceptual map of the world economy and the
different categories into which countries fall, explaining why wealth and
poverty have diverged and evolved as they have and why the poorest nations
have been so markedly unable to escape the cruel vortex of poverty.
The End of
Poverty does not deliver its worldviews from on high: Sachs plunges into the
messy realities of economies, leading his readers through his work in Bolivia,
Poland, Russia, India, China, and Africa, and concludes with an integrated set
of solutions to the tangled economic, political, environmental, and social
issues that most frequently hold societies back.
I thought I understood economics and the way politics work until I read
this book. The world changes faster than we imagine, and this book
There is a plan for the end of extreme poverty.
End of Poverty website
DNA: The Secrets of Life
James D. Watson
Fifty years ago, James D. Watson, then just twenty four, helped launch the
greatest ongoing scientific quest of our time. Now, with unique authority and
sweeping vision, he gives us the first full account of the genetic revolution
from Mendel's garden to the double helix to the sequencing of the human genome
Watson's lively, panoramic narrative begins with the fanciful speculations
of the ancients as to why 'like begets like' before skipping ahead to 1866,
when an Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel first deduced the basic laws of
inheritance. But genetics as we recognize it today with its capacity, both
thrilling and sobering, to manipulate the very essence of living things came
into being only with the rise of molecular investigations culminating in the
breakthrough discovery of the structure of DNA, for which Watson shared a
Nobel prize in 1962. In the DNA molecule's graceful curves was the key to a
whole new science.
Having shown that the secret of life is chemical, modern genetics has set
mankind off on a journey unimaginable just a few decades ago. Watson provides
the general reader with clear explanations of molecular processes and emerging
technologies. He shows us how DNA continues to alter our understanding of
human origins, and of our identities as groups and as individuals. And with
the insight of one who has remained close to every advance in research since
the double helix, he reveals how genetics has unleashed a wealth of
possibilities to alter the human condition, from genetically modified foods to
genetically modified babies, and transformed itself from a domain of pure
research into one of big business as well. It is a sometimes topsy-turvy world
full of great minds and great egos, driven by ambitions to improve the human
condition as well as to improve investment portfolios, a world vividly
captured in these pages.
Facing a future of choices and social and ethical implications of which we
dare not remain uninformed, we could have no better guide than James Watson,
who leads us with the same bravura storytelling that made The Double Helix one
of the most successful books on science ever published. Infused with a
scientist's awe at nature's marvels and a humanist's profound sympathies, DNA
is destined to become the classic telling of the defining scientific saga of
"Only James Watson could have written this book: no one else knows
DNA from so many perspectives, and no one else writes in such an utterly
riviting and independent manner. DNA is a singularly lucid life
story of a molecule and its determining role in human nature, society,
medicine, and our future as a species. It is an important book and a
delight to read." Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet
One of the most important discoveries of our generation is the
understanding and mapping of genes. The discovery has changed what
we eat, the health of every individual, and our understanding of
"Unlocking the secret of life was the greatest accomplishment of
science in the twentieth century and laid the foundation for medicine in
the twenty-first. Watson brings the story of this revolution to life ?
the grand ideas, human foibles, and social challenges ? in a way that
will both engage the general public and inspire a new generation of
young scientists." Eric Lander, founder and director,
Whitehead Center for Genome Research
"James Watson has been an eyewitness to every revolution in
molecular biology, from the double helix to the genome. He sees further
and more clearly than anybody else in the field. Give this fabulously
good book to anybody who wants to understand what the excitement is all
about." Matt Ridley, author of Genome
War on Sex The
Attack on Law, Lust and Liberty
have some reluctance in recommending this book on the main non-fiction page, but
the discussion of issues of expression and personal privacy are too great to be
Ripped from today's headlines,
with refreshing candor and a wicked sense of humor, Marty Klein names names,
challenges political hypocrisy, and shows the financial connections between
government and religious groups that are systematically taking away rights--and
changing American society, forever.
War on Sex The
Attack on Law, Lust and Liberty
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to
by Lawrence Wright
Wright's book ultimately
points to the greater cultural divide between western "modernism" and
Islamic "traditionalism", a divide that must be bridged before
progressive globalism can become an existential reality in this century.
"It is the nature
of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations,
and to extend it power to the entire planet."
In The Looming Tower Lawrence Wright
traces the intriguing and disturbing history of Islamist terrorism from its
philosophical roots in 1950s Egypt, to the al-Qaeda attacks in the U.S. on
September 11, 2001. By recounting the lives of the most influential Arab
Islamists -- men like Sayyid Qutb, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden and
others -- what
fuels fundamental Islamism is compared to our society.
Bin Laden's call (fatwa) for war
(jihad) against America. He, like Qutb, viewed the U.S. as the global engine
of modernism. America represents everything alien and modern (particularly
secularism and women rights) that threatens Sharia, the illusion of medieval
Islamic law as a governing force in society.
The presence of U.S. troops in Saudi
Arabia after the first Iraq war gave bin Laden his premise to call for acts
of terror against America in 1996: "Terrorizing you, while you are
carrying arms in our land, is a legitimate right and a moral
The Looming Tower, based on five years of
research and hundreds of interviews in ten countries, is the most thorough
and accessible account to date of the people, politics, and theology
behind Islamic terrorism, and how they all shaped the events of September
The Constants of Nature: From
Alpha to Omega--the Numbers That Encode the Deepest Secrets of the
The fundamental constants of Nature, as the name
suggests, play a very important role in the Universe. The speed of light sets
the Universal speed limit and the electric charge sets the scale for the
interaction between atoms and molecules. The Planck constant determines the
scale at which quantum mechanics becomes important. Combining these three
quantities gives something called the fine structure constant. The fine
structure constant is just a number (i.e. no units) and since it is a
combination of constants, it too should be a constant - it shouldn't vary in
space and time.
But why 'should' it be a constant? There
is no principle that says constants should really be constant and there is no
theory which lets you calculate their value. That is, the fundamental constants
are assumed to be constant.
The idea of varying constants is not new and many
modern theories have room for varying constants.
Just the implications make this a concept that should be explored.
how every brain is hardwired for math
Are our brains "hardwired" to count and
conceptualize numbers, or are counting, and other mathematical activities
something that we learn, like playing the piano? Butterworth, editor of the
journal Mathematical Cognition, is convinced that evidence points to the
existence of circuits in the brain devoted to identifying what he calls "numerosities,"
or, more simply, the number of objects in a collection of things. To this
network of specialized circuits, or "Number Module," Butterworth
explains, each person adds the mathematical knowledge of his or her culture.
Butterworth has strong views on how to teach
mathematics, and these form a prominent part of his book. Teachers as well as
readers curious about the brain and psychology will be challenged by the ideas
This surprising book collects the research on how
the brain processes numbers and proposes a theory that the brain has evolved
an inherent ability to do math from the time of birth.
A book of cognitive psychology and the history of
numbers, rather than mathematics, What Counts is a look at
what we all do, but rarely think about. The historical look at how
numbers are used by cultures is as entertaining as the research on cognitive
Butterworth contends that we all possess an
inherent "numerosity" sense--developed to different degrees of
course. The author bases his case on empirical research and historical