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Recommended Reading
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March 21, 2012
3:35 am
First-Eater
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I recommend these books to my readers. Each of them has held my interest, influenced my thinking, and/or made me laugh. I regularly add to the list.

You can help support gnolls.org by buying these books (or anything else...kitchen appliances, TVs, movies, clothes, video games) through the links to Amazon.com. It costs you nothing, and I get a small commission.


Banana - Dan Koeppel
Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World - Dan Koeppel
    Who knew our taste for a sweet, yellow tropical fruit would change the world? This wonderfully obsessive history of the banana covers everything from its political consequences (you'll learn…

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March 21, 2012
7:24 am
valerie
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Evolution in Four Dimensions, Richard Dawkins.

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March 21, 2012
9:18 am
Wanderer
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March 2, 2012
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Thanks J.  I have read a few books by Dawkins, and he never disappoints, but not The Selfish Gene.  I will remedy that immediately.

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March 21, 2012
5:05 pm
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Valerie:

I think you mean Jablonka and Lamb!

I'm not very far into it...but already they seem to be setting up a lot of straw men, e.g. "The idea that there is a gene for adventurousness, heart disease, obesity, religiosity, homosexuality, shyness, stupidity, or any other aspect of mind or body has no place on the platform of genetic discourse."

Dawkins spends much of chapter 3 in The Selfish Gene addressing this very point: "Expressions like 'gene for long legs' or 'gene for altruistic behavior' are convenient figures of speech, but it is important to understand what they mean.  There is no gene which single-handedly builds a leg, long or short.  Building a leg is a multi-gene cooperative enterprise.  Influences from the external environment too are indispensable: after all, legs are actually made of food!  But there may well be a single gene which, all other things being equal, tends to make legs longer than they would have been under the influence of the gene's allele."

So far it feels a lot like Rose, Lewontin, and Kamin's "Not In Our Genes": an argument against a cartoon version of Dawkins, not against what Dawkins actually says.  But I'll reserve judgment until I've read more.

Jason:

The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype are his most important works.  To me, everything else seemed like either a popularization of more basic Darwinian principles (not that there's anything wrong with that!) or a rehash.

As you read The Selfish Gene, make sure to read the endnotes along with the text.

JS

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March 21, 2012
8:58 pm
Immigrant
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March 21, 2012
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Great selections!  I've read "The Selfish Gene" and am reading "Extended Phenotype." 

For basic starter on Evolution, I have Three recommentations:

 Richard Dawkins' "Greatest Story Ever Told"

Donald Prothero's "Evolution; What the Fossils say and Why it Matters"

Michael Shermer's "Why Darwin Matters"

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March 22, 2012
2:04 pm
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Margaretrc:

Thanks for the suggestions!  Basically I'm asking if there's anything better, more up-to-date, and easier to read than "The Blind Watchmaker".

JS

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March 25, 2012
9:35 am
Sam Knox
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For me, "Darwin's Dangerous Idea", by Daniel Dennett?

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March 25, 2012
2:16 pm
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Sam:

I love that book too -- but Dennett isn't exactly beginner reading!  Sometimes I wish he was just a touch less smart so he'd be easier to follow.

JS

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March 28, 2012
5:45 pm
Immigrant
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J. Stanton said:

Margaretrc:

Thanks for the suggestions!  Basically I'm asking if there's anything better, more up-to-date, and easier to read than "The Blind Watchmaker".

JS

I totally apologize. Dawkins' book is "The Greatest Show on Earth", not the Greatest Story Ever Told. I didn't have the book in front of me and goofed.  That is his latest book and it's a wonderful primer on evolution and the evidence for it.  It is much newer and easier to read than "The Blind Watchmaker", Which I've also read (and like tremendously!)

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March 28, 2012
5:53 pm
Immigrant
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J. Stanton said:

Margaretrc:

Thanks for the suggestions!  Basically I'm asking if there's anything better, more up-to-date, and easier to read than "The Blind Watchmaker".

JS

P.S.  My son, who is more of a Computer Science person--doesn't normally like Biology--picked up and started reading "The Greatest Show On Earth" when he was here visiting and ended up taking it home with him because he wasn't finished when it was time for him to leave.  He said he like it a lot.

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March 28, 2012
6:52 pm
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Margaretrc:

I haven't finished "Greatest Show On Earth" yet.  I like it so far, but style-wise it's in a bit of an uncomfortable place — it can't decide if it wants to be a polemic or a sincere attempt to convince.  

It's a solid book, full of interesting facts (if at perhaps excessive length), but I'm still hoping for something better.  Jerry Coyne is next on the list.

JS

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April 4, 2012
11:23 am
Beth
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Off topic rant -- I understand why people talk about why evolution is true & creationism isn't worth the time.   For my own self, when I pick up a book on evolution, I want to read about the interesting ideas in evolution, not about why creationism is bunk.  That's why I got a few pages into "Why evolution is true" and quit reading it.   

 

There are so many interesting ideas in evolution, so when I read about evolution, it is evolution that I want to learn about.   The only idea about creationism that I find interesting is why people want to believe it, which is rather off topic for evolution per se.

 

Sorry for the rant, I just wanted to say this ...

 

Beth

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April 4, 2012
10:19 pm
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Beth:

Thanks for the feedback, and no, that's not an off-topic rant!  I agree with you that I want to read about "Why Evolution Is True", not "Why Creationism Is False", and I'm still looking for the best book to recommend in that area.

JS

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April 23, 2012
8:57 pm
Cameron, Tx
Gnoll
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JS:

"Margaretrc:

I haven't finished "Greatest Show On Earth" yet.  I like it so far, but style-wise it's in a bit of an uncomfortable place — it can't decide if it wants to be a polemic or a sincere attempt to convince.  

It's a solid book, full of interesting facts (if at perhaps excessive length), but I'm still hoping for something better.  Jerry Coyne is next on the list."

Agreed. I finished it but I almost didn't. I like Dawkins but that book made too many attitude shifts.

Life's Origin: The Beginnings of Biological Evolution by J William Schopf is decent.

I want to read more books on abiogenesis. Specifically how life could have been started on earth by volcanic lightning. Super awesome stuff.

A good starting off point:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2%80%93Urey_experiment

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May 27, 2012
8:27 am
Cameron, Tx
Gnoll
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Ishmael by Daniel Quinn is pretty damn good.

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October 23, 2012
11:07 am
Indiana
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I haven't read anything on evolution/creationism, feel free to skip this post if you're looking for a good recommendation along those lines.

 

I did find a lot of new-to-me information on logical fallacies/errors in thought patterns in You Are Not So Smart by David McRainey. Much as the title may imply, I previously thought I had a pretty solid grasp on the many ways our thinking can go awry.  This book introduced me to a few new ones.  I'm not certain if I'm happy or a bit uneasy after reading it, but there you go, I found it interesting.

 

Free Will by Sam Harris is another recent read that I 'enjoyed' (if that's the right word).

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May 15, 2013
9:48 pm
Edgar Westmoreland
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This is quite different than any I see listed here but I found it entertaining and informative.

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley

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May 16, 2013
7:24 pm
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Daniel Taylor:

Nick Lane's "Power, Sex, Suicide" talks about that, though it's not the focus (the focus is the origin of eukaryotes).

Interestingly, I didn't read Ishmael until after I had written TGC, and others told me there were some similiarities.

E Craig:

Bozo Sapiens is an entertaining and thorough (though breezy and informal) book on the subject of human cognitive error.

Edgar:

It's on my "to read" list.

JS

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February 14, 2014
6:43 pm
Elizabeth
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I'm really surprised this book isn't on your list: "Food and Western Disease: Health and Nutrition from an Evolutionary Perspective".

 

It's by far the most educational and informative book out there in regards to diet. It's extensively researched by a leading scientist/doctor in the field and is the go-to source before you pick up any other book in regards to nutrition or what kind of diet you should be eating. This is it folks, this book tells you everything in an unbiased manner. If you don't have a scientific background, you will be looking up a lot of words, but it's still worth it.

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February 18, 2014
1:48 am
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Elizabeth:

Congratulations on having actually read it! 

I was surprised to realize, once I'd read it myself, that more than one prominent blogger/scientist had built their reputation largely on, um, "appropriating" material from Food and Western Disease.

Yes, it's an excellent reference, though it must still be taken with a grain of salt -- the anti-salt sections, for instance, are being obsoleted by the evidence.  However, you are correct that it's the scientific foundation for "paleo".

I haven't updated this list in far too long, and have several books I need to add to it.  Thanks for the reminder!

JS

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