The 2014 Science, Religion, and History group read discussion thread
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Last year, members of the the thread read The Social Conquest of Earth (1 month in 2013, 2 in 2012) The Ghost Map, The Great Transformation, Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality and Among the Creationists.
Unfortunately, I myself could participate and read only one of the books listed above, Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality, but I do plan to read a few more this year, with the group.
Are we taking votes for our first quarter's read? I have a few recommendations:
What the Buddha Thought by Richard Gombrich, 206 p.
In What the Buddha Thought, Richard Gombrich argues that the Buddha was one of the most brilliant and original thinkers of all time. Intended to serve as an introduction to the Buddhas thought, and hence even to Buddhism itself, the book also has larger aims: it argues that we can know far more about the Buddha than it is fashionable among scholars to admit, and that his thought has a greater coherence than is usually recognised. It contains much new material. Interpreters both ancient and modern have taken little account of the historical context of the Buddhas teachings; but by relating them to early brahminical texts, and also to ancient Jainism, Gombrich gives a much richer picture of the Buddhas meaning, especially when his satire and irony are appreciated. Incidentally, since many of the Buddhas allusions can only be traced in the Pali versions of surviving texts, the book establishes the importance of the Pali Canon as evidence.
The book contains much new material. The author stresses the Buddhas capacity for abstraction: though he made extensive use of metaphor, he did not found his arguments upon it, as earlier thinkers had done. He ethicized and radically reinterpreted older ideas of karma (human action) and rebirth. Similarly, building on older texts, he argued for the fundamental importance of love and compassion, and analysed fire as a process which could stand as a model for every component of conscious experience. Morally, the Buddhas theory of karma provided a principle of individuation and asserted each individuals responsibility for his own destiny. To make the book completely accessible to the general reader, the author provides an introductory section of Background Information, for easy reference.
When the Great Abyss Opened: Classic and Contemporary Readings of Noah's Flood by J. David Pleins, 195 p. (Disclaimer: Pleins is my advisor.)
The story of Noah's flood is one of the best-loved and most often retold biblical tales, the inspiration for numerous children's books and toys, novels, and even films. Whether as allusion, archetype, or literal presence--the American landscape is peppered with "recreations" of the ark--the story of Noah's animals and the ark resonates throughout American culture and the world.
While most think of Noah's ark as a dramatic myth, others are consumed by the quest for geological and archeological proof that the flood really occurred. Persistent rumors of a large vessel on the mountain of Ararat in Turkey, for instance, have led many pilgrims and explorers over the centuries to visit that fabled peak. Recent finds suggest that there may have been a catastrophic flood on the shores of the Black Sea some 7,600 years ago. Is this then the reality behind the ancient tale of Noah? More to the point, why does it matter?
What does the story of the Flood mean to us and why does it so stir the collective imagination? When the Great Abyss Opened examines the history of our attempts to understand the Flood, from medieval Jewish and Christian speculation about the physical details of the ark to contemporary efforts to link it to scientific findings. Unraveling the mythical dimensions of the parallel Mesopotamian flood stories and their deeper social and psychological significance, J. David Pleins also considers the story's positive uses in theology and moral instruction. Noah's tale, however, has also been invoked as a means of justifying exclusion, racism, and anti-homosexual views. Pro-slavery advocates, for example, used the story of Noah's Curse on Ham's son Canaan to rationalize the enslavement of Africans.
Throughout this expansive and lively book, Pleins sheds new light on our continuing attempts to understand this ancient primal myth. Noah's Flood, he contends, offers a unique case study that illuminates the timeless and timely question of how fact and faith relate.
The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for Rational World by Paul Davies, 232 p.
Throughout history, humans have dreamed of knowing the reason for the existence of the universe. In The Mind of God, physicist Paul Davies explores whether modern science can provide the key that will unlock this last secret. In his quest for an ultimate explanation, Davies reexamines the great questions that have preoccupied humankind for millennia, and in the process explores, among other topics, the origin and evolution of the cosmos, the nature of life and consciousness, and the claim that our universe is a kind of gigantic computer. Charting the ways in which the theories of such scientists as Newton, Einstein, and more recently Stephen Hawking and Richard Feynman have altered our conception of the physical universe. Davies puts these scientists' discoveries into context with the writings of philosophers such as Plato. Descartes, Hume, and Kant. His startling conclusion is that the universe is "no minor byproduct of mindless, purposeless forces. We are truly meant to be here." By the means of science, we can truly see into the mind of God.
Otherworld Journeys: Accounts of Near-Death Experience in Medieval and Modern Times by Carol Zaleski, 205 p.
Dozens of books, articles, television shows, and films relating "near-death" experiences have appeared in the past decade. People who have survived a close brush with death reveal their extraordinary visions and ecstatic feelings at the moment they died, describing journeys through a tunnel to a realm of light, visual reviews of their past deeds, encounters with a benevolent spirit, and permanent transformation after returning to life.
Carol Zaleski's Otherworld Journeys offers the most comprehensive treatment to date of the evidence surrounding near-death experiences. The first to place researchers' findings, first-person accounts, and possible medical or psychological explanations in historical perspective, she discusses how these materials reflect the influence of contemporary culture. She demonstrates that modern near-death reports belong to a vast family of otherworld journey tales, with examples in nearly every religious heritage. She identifies universal as well as culturally specific features by comparing near-death narratives in two distinct periods of Western society: medieval Christendom and twentieth-century secular America. This comparison reveals profound similarities, such as the life-review and the transforming after-effects of the vision, as well as striking contrasts, such as the absence of hell or punishment scenes from modern accounts.
Mediating between the "debunkers" and the near-death researchers, Zaleski considers current efforts to explain near-death experience scientifically. She concludes by emphasizing the importance of the otherworld vision for understanding imaginative and religious experience in general.
Exodus and Revolution by Michael Walzer, 149 p.
A noted political philosopher offers a moving meditation on the political meanings of the biblical story of Exodus -- from oppression to deliverance and the promised land.
Dreaming in the World's Religions: A Comparative History by Kelly Bulkeley, 280 p.
From Biblical stories of Joseph interpreting Pharoh’s dreams in Egypt to prayers against bad dreams in the Hindu Rg Veda, cultures all over the world have seen their dreams first and foremost as religiously meaningful experiences. In this widely shared view, dreams are a powerful medium of transpersonal guidance offering the opportunity to communicate with sacred beings, gain valuable wisdom and power, heal suffering, and explore new realms of existence. Conversely, the world’s religious and spiritual traditions provide the best source of historical information about the broad patterns of human dream life
Dreaming in the World’s Religions provides an authoritative and engaging one-volume resource for the study of dreaming and religion. It tells the story of how dreaming has shaped the religious history of humankind, from the Upanishads of Hinduism to the Qur’an of Islam, from the conception dream of Buddhas mother to the sexually tempting nightmares of St. Augustine, from the Ojibwa vision quest to Australian Aboriginal journeys in the Dreamtime. Bringing his background in psychology to bear, Kelly Bulkeley incorporates an accessible consideration of cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology into this fascinating overview.
I read two of the books last year and had previously read one more of them.
What would people think of choosing 6 books instead of 4 books this year? I'm thinking this would give people a chance to skip the books that don't fit in with their interests and still do more group reads.
What would people think about choosing the first half of the year's books with this first vote instead of voting and nominating for each book?
I think we need to set some dates since everything petered out after the last discussion and nothing was done.
January 5th cutoff for nominations? (would give people still on holiday a chance to get back)
January 12th for end of voting?
First book discussion thread set up February 1st?
If no one else wants to set things up, I'll do it, but I'd love for someone else to step in! Piyushi, do you want to do it?
Jonathan, I love your nominations and I would read any of them, but the first one, What the Buddha Thought looks a bit problematic for me to get a copy for less than $20, so I'd vote no on that one.
Three titles I'd like to add to the nomination mix:
Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals, 1962-1966 by Thich Nhat Hanh
Best known for his Buddhist teachings, Thich Nhat Hanh has lived in exile from his native Vietnam since 1966. These remarkable early journals reveal not only an exquisite portrait of the Zen master as a young man, but the emergence of a great poet and literary voice of Vietnam. From his years as a student and teaching assistant at Princeton and Columbia, to his efforts to negotiate peace and a better life for the Vietnamese, Fragrant Palm Leaves offers an elegant and profound glimpse into the heart and mind of one of the world's most beloved spiritual teachers.
The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality - Dalai Lama
Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Niels Bohr, Einstein. Their insights shook our perception of who we are and where we stand in the world, and in their wake have left an uneasy coexistence: science vs. religion, faith vs. empirical inquiry. Which is the keeper of truth? Which is the true path to understanding reality?
After forty years of study with some of the greatest scientific minds, as well as a lifetime of meditative, spiritual, and philosophic study, the Dalai Lama presents a brilliant analysis of why all avenues of inquiry—scientific as well as spiritual—must be pursued in order to arrive at a complete picture of the truth. Through an examination of Darwinism and karma, quantum mechanics and philosophical insight into the nature of reality, neurobiology and the study of consciousness, the Dalai Lama draws significant parallels between contemplative and scientific examinations of reality.
This breathtakingly personal examination is a tribute to the Dalai Lama’s teachers—both of science and spirituality. The legacy of this book is a vision of the world in which our different approaches to understanding ourselves, our universe, and one another can be brought together in the service of humanity.
The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom - Simon Winchester
In sumptuous and illuminating detail, Simon Winchester, bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman, brings to life the extraordinary story of Joseph Needham—the brilliant Cambridge scientist, freethinking intellectual, and practicing nudist who unlocked the most closely held secrets of China, once the world's most technologically advanced country.
I agree with the 6 instead of 4. That way each book can only be two months' worth. When you have three months you might have people reading and reviewing at the end when it's not so fresh for the people who read it at the start - so less fresh conversation. Just a thought.
Of course, that would mean not choosing any lengthy books. I had some suggestions that were 300, 400 pages and I decided not to suggest them for that reason.
I propose we vote from the 5th to the 12th and then just start! No need to wait a few weeks from voting to thread-starting!
I would prefer the Dalai Lama book from your suggestions. I read the Winchester book a few years ago and don't feel a strong need to read it again. It is a VERY fascinating book, and as a former student of Chinese I am in awe of Needham's ability to learn the language in his thirties. But then again, he was in love.
The Thich Nhat Hanh book looks great but I'd prefer something a little more relevant to the "science, religion, and history" theme. I tried to suggest books that covered at least two of those three. But if I am outvoted, I won't mind reading it! :)
What does everyone think?
I'm okay with doing 6 rather than 4, even though my problem is mainly just reading time rather than lack of interest. I'm hoping to do better this year than last. But I do think it's important to provide enough lead time for all of them, and choosing several at a time in advance would probably help with that.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. This is an application of modern work in psychology to religion and politics. It's long at 528 pages, but acknowledgements start on p. 373, and I think it would be really interesting.
And one that will almost certainly be rejected as too expensive—but there's more hope for ILL if books are chosen in advance:
Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early 'Abbasaid Society (248 pages, bibliography starts on p. 197)
"From the middle of the eighth century to the tenth century, almost all non-literary and non-historical secular Greek books, including such diverse topics as astrology, alchemy, physics, botany and medicine, that were not available throughout the eastern Byzantine Empire and the Near East, were translated into Arabic.
Greek Thought, Arabic Culture explores the major social, political and ideological factors that occasioned the unprecedented translation movement from Greek into Arabic in Baghdad, the newly founded capital of the Arab dynasty of the 'Abbasids', during the first two centuries of their rule."
Also, a general note: I'm deliberately including both the overall page count and the page where the end material starts, because I wouldn't want to exclude books just because they had a lot of footnotes—in fact, I'd much prefer to read ones that were well-documented.
I should note that while What the Buddha Thought is ~$80 new, used it's $21 on Amazon. A tad more reasonable. But it might be hard to get on interlibrary loan. We can scratch that one then.
I had also been thinking that it might be nice to do group reads just of individual articles, which could lead to just as deep discussion without requiring as much time commitment. They could happen on the off-months from the books, or something.
Please go ahead with setting up the nominations and votes, I will happily nominate and vote :)
I also quite like the 6 books idea, do we want to take it a step ahead and make 8 books, 2 books per quarter, so people can choose either or both of the books, that may also eliminate the problem of not being able to choose longer books.
#9 and #10 Glad to see you both found the thread, my original Origin of the Species buddies :)
Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love (432 pages, bibliography p. 376)
"Galileo Galilei's telescopes allowed him to discover a new reality in the heavens. But for publicly declaring his astounding argument--that the earth revolves around the sun--he was accused of heresy and put under house arrest by the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Living a far different life, Galileo's daughter Virginia, a cloistered nun, proved to be her father's greatest source of strength through the difficult years of his trial and persecution."
13: I’m still going with my original choices over these.
17: group reads just of individual articles
Hmm, this might be an idea. Do you have articles in mind?
19: Yes, I’d definitely go for Galileo’s Daughter, since I have it but haven’t read it, and I thought Longitude was excellent.
I like pretty much all suggestions; in general it is important for me that the books aren't too expensive, most of the books that are suggested here are not available in my library and interlibrary loans here are also very expensive, so books that are more widely available in cheap editions are more convenient for me. However, if people do wish to do a more expensive book some time that's fine too, I probably won't be participating on every book selected, so I don't mind skipping one :)
I too read Galileo's Daughter. I am also hesitant to pick a book over 200/250 pages because, as a full time college student, I just can't make time for a 400-pager.
Although I enjoyed The Man Who Loved China, I think many people in this group will find it a weak choice for the group's theme. While Needham was a historian of technology, there's not a whole lot about technology, let alone science. There's some discussion of Chinese historiography, but it's much more about Needham and his eccentric and interesting life than about the topics he studied.
I'm a bit hesitant about increasing to 6 or 8 books from 4 if it means that we have to impose extreme limitations on length. It's one thing to avoid books over 400 pages, but keeping it under 250 could be very difficult.
>24 aulsmith: What sort of books are you currently interested in?
If we're going to do articles we might want to look at those "Best of" anthologies, like the Best American Science Writing 2012. I've found them inexpensive and usually having several surprising and interesting articles. The newer ones are pretty readily available (at least in the States)
I will subscribe to whatever the group decides, 6 books, 8 books, or the status quo of 4 books.
I had to pass on Among the Creationists because I could not find a reasonably priced copy--but that doesn't mean it didn't work well for the people who read it, just as since longer books don't work out well for some people, it doesn't mean that some longer books shouldn't be considered. I doubt we'll ever find books that will appeal to everyone. Having two titles per quarter to chose from might give opportunities to people who would otherwise be shut out due to lack of interest in a given area, cost, availability or length.
Welcome Samantha! I find the Dawkins book interesting. I won't read him on religion again, but he is a good writer, so anything he writes in science is bound to be fascinating.
What about Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. I wanted to read this as I am to hear the author speak later this month. The other book on my nightstand is Doris Kearn Goodwin's new book, The Bully Pulpit. Of course, both books are very long--I have a weakness for door-stoppers. I would be interested in The Selfish Gene and I think that I do have a copy somewhere.
#31 That is the idea and hope. We can always reconsider in another quarter or two if this doesn't work out.
#28 Hi Samantha, welcome to the group. Excellent nomination in the form of The Selfish Gene, I would be quite interested in reading it as well.
I've been hit with a book bullet by Zoe's suggestion of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Maybe we should read that one before we read Dawkins? ;-)
A different idea on science books. There are numerous group reads starting to mark the centennial of the beginning of WWI this year. Would anyone be interested in reading about the 1918 influenza outbreak that was fueled by the war? I recently picked up Flu: The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It off my local FOL rack. The reviews I've read say that another book, The Great Influenza, goes more deeply into the subject of President Wilson and his war politics, but is more Amerocentric.
I have The Great Influenza, haven't read it yet.
There is a section in the anniversary edition, at least, where Dawkins in his typical in your face way suggests that religion (which he calls a "meme") is a kind of mental virus that propagates according to the same selective pressures that govern gene selection.
I'm definitely interested in the 1918 influenza outbreak. It's a tricky choice between those two books: The Great Influenza is significantly more highly rated, but it's also much longer, at 546 pages with the afterword not starting until p. 449.
Skimming through the thread, I think we read:
The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance
Was there another?
Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages. Notes begin on p. 299.
"Europe was in the long slumber of the Middle Ages, the Roman Empire was in tatters, and the Greek language was all but forgotten, until a group of twelfth-century scholars rediscovered and translated the works of Aristotle. His ideas spread like wildfire across Europe, offering the scientific view that the natural world, including the soul of man, was a proper subject of study. The rediscovery of these ancient ideas sparked riots and heresy trials, caused major upheavals in the Catholic Church, and also set the stage for today's rift between reason and religion."
The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus. Appendix begins p. 263.
"Part biography of a book, part scientific exploration, part bibliographic detective story, The Book Nobody Read recolors the history of cosmology and offers a new appreciation of the enduring power of an extraordinary book and its ideas. Prodded by Arthur Koestler’s claim that when it was first published nobody read Copernicus’s De revolutionibus—in which Copernicus first suggested that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe—renowned astro-historian Owen Gingerich embarked on a three-decade-long quest to see in person all 600 extant copies of the first and second editions of De revolutionibus, including those owned and annotated by Galileo and Kepler. Tracing the ownership of individual copies through the hands of saints, heretics, scalawags, and bibliomaniacs, Gingerich proves conclusively—four and a half centuries after its publication—that De revolutionibus was as inspirational as it was revolutionary."
The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe. Long, with bibliography beginning on p. 557, but I read some sections for class years ago and remember it as being very readable.
"This title presents a thought-provoking account of the scientific achievements and lives of cosmologists from Babylonians to Newton."
Men of Mathematics. Another long one, with index beginning p. 581, but it's a classic.
"Here is the classic, much-read introduction to the craft and history of mathematics by E.T. Bell, a leading figure in mathematics in America for half a century. Men of Mathematics accessibly explains the major mathematics, from the geometry of the Greeks through Newton's calculus and on to the laws of probability, symbolic logic, and the fourth dimension. In addition, the book goes beyond pure mathematics to present a series of engrossing biographies of the great mathematicians -- an extraordinary number of whom lived bizarre or unusual lives. Finally, Men of Mathematics is also a history of ideas, tracing the majestic development of mathematical thought from ancient times to the twentieth century. This enduring work's clear, often humorous way of dealing with complex ideas makes it an ideal book for the non-mathematician."
"Lindberg surveys all the most important themes in the history of ancient and medieval science, including developments in cosmology, astronomy, mechanics, optics, alchemy, natural history, and medicine. He synthesizes a wealth of information in superbly organized, clearly written chapters designed to serve students, scholars, and nonspecialists alike. In addition, Lindberg offers an illuminating account of the transmission of Greek science to medieval Islam and subsequently to medieval Europe. And throughout the book he pays close attention to the cultural and institutional contexts within which scientific knowledge was created and disseminated and to the ways in which the content and practice of science were influenced by interaction with philosophy and religion."
ETA: I don't know where this touchstone went; it appears fine when I'm editing.
I just need to buy some sort of ereader so I have more access, more inexpensively.
As Piyushi said in the first post, one book was started in 2012 and finished in 2013 - The Social Conquest of Earth. I didn't join in on that one, but I'll take their word for it. ;-) There were also a few small group reads before the group acquired a name and a separate identity, namely The Gnostic Gospels and, I think, On the Origin of the Species.
#51 I didn't join in that one either, though I was part of the group read on On the Origin of Species in 2012, a book that I managed to finish just this month, Katherine (qebo) and Rachel (The_Hibernator) being two of the fellow readers who did finish the book, much ahead of me, if I may add.
#51, #53 & #54 Themed reads seems to be quite an interesting idea, I am in! Influenza, Plague or whatever other pathogen the group chooses!
I definitely think Burkert would be a good choice for Greek religion. My only hesitation in recommending his classic Greek Religion is that it was originally published in 1985, and I'm not familiar enough with more recent scholarship to be able to say with certainty what has changed since then (since I approached the subject via history of science, not from a background in religion), plus the fact that it's a bit longer—though when I actually look inside, the 500+ pages are much less daunting because the notes start on p. 339. So I'd also be happy to read that one.
His very short Savage Energies might also be interesting—it seems to be a collection of five essays.
I'm only partway through Flu, but it's a better put together in terms of being able to skip around.
42: The section on memes in The Selfish Gene is only a couple of pages and not very informative. (It might make more sense if read within the context of the whole book, but I, as usual, was after something very specific, and didn't want to take the time.)
I am not a fan of the memetic theory of religion. I don't think people in religious studies - even people in evolutionary psychology of religion - take it very seriously. It's one of those popular ideas that doesn't seem to really explain much or have much substance when it comes to the religious phenomena.
Please vote yes for only one of these options:
Vote: Do you want to choose one book per quarter for group reads? - 4 books per year
Please vote yes for only one of the three options:
Vote: Do you want to have group reads every two months? - 6 books per year
Vote: Do you want to have a choice of two group reads per quarter? - 8 books per year
If someone else can set up the voting, please do so. I'll check back in a day or three when I get the computer back.
In all seriousness, hope you get that fixed.
Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors by Nicholas Wade.
"Nicholas Wade’s articles are a major reason why the science section has become the most popular, nationwide, in the New York Times. In his groundbreaking Before the Dawn, Wade reveals humanity’s origins as never before—a journey made possible only recently by genetic science, whose incredible findings have answered such questions as: What was the first human language like? How large were the first societies, and how warlike were they? When did our ancestors first leave Africa, and by what route did they leave? By eloquently solving these and numerous other mysteries, Wade offers nothing less than a uniquely complete retelling of a story that began 500 centuries ago."
I was searching for books by this author after coming across a New York Times article he wrote about the possible Near Eastern origin of the Etruscans. I know nothing about genetics and am not remotely qualified to judge the reliability of the study, but I definitely found it interesting to consider.
I think I'll go ahead and set up a list, hopefully not stepping on anyone's toes since we can just reject the whole thing later, because I'm more likely to actually do it while the idea is fresh in my mind.
I don't actually understand how the scores are calculated: this list is currently "numbered and unnumbered", which means you can rank items if you want, or just vote yes/no without ranking, and I don't know quite how those different options interact. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.
For that matter, I hope I'll be able to read the books myself. I'm getting even more excited about them after seeing them all compiled in a pretty list with covers, but somehow I never manage to read as much as I want in a year.
I'm worried that a book whose initial vote is negative is just eliminated from the list, which doesn't really work well for votes like this.
Basically, the first few votes are the most important; there's much less difference between rankings later on. If want all your votes to be equal, you can change to an "unnumbered" list.
I find the whole scoring process fairly opaque, though I'm not sure how much that matters. But I do want to make sure everyone knows that not all votes are equal by default.
I'd start by putting the first four choices into separate quarters, since those are presumably the highest priority and we had said that reading multiple books per quarter might not be realistic for everyone. And then fill in the next four books, going down the list? So it would be something like:
Before the Dawn
The Man Who Loved China
The Great Influenza and Flu
The Selfish Gene
The Ornament of the World
Greek Thought, Arabic Culture
The Book Nobody Read
The Beginnings of Western Science
Except the selections for Q3 and Q4 would then be thematically very similar, so I might switch them to add some more variety:
The Ornament of the World
The Beginnings of Western Science
The Book Nobody Read
Greek Thought, Arabic Culture
The other thing is that we had talked about discussing specific books in specific months, rather than spread over the whole quarter, so that everyone would have the book equally fresh in their mind at the time of discussion and the discussion would be less likely to trail off. If we're doing two books per quarter, we could just assign them each 6 weeks (or 4 weeks in the first quarter, since January is almost gone), or we could choose smaller periods if that's preferable.
* Don't choose all the books now, because we might have more ideas later in the year.
* Randomize the top choices so the appeal doesn't decrease steadily from Q1 to Q4.
* Make sure each quarter includes books for everyone who voted, so e.g. the top choice and the top choice of people who didn't vote for the top choice.
* Rather than go strictly by rank, select two books for each quarter that emphasize different aspects of science, religion, history, e.g. one that is heavy on science, one that is heavy on religion.
* Great Influenza & Flu seems to be 1st. It’s not fair to sum the scores, but Great Influenza is a close 2nd, and Flu increases the votes to 13 (5 people voted for both, 8 people voted for one or the other).
* This makes Before the Dawn 2nd w/ 11 votes, Ornament of the World 3rd w/ 10 votes, Book Nobody Read 4th w/ 10 votes. The next score down is 4 less, with 2 votes fewer.
* So how about starting with these four for the four quarters?
* Then the task of the 2nd book for each quarter could be to add or improve the rank of as many participants as possible.
* The next tier, with nearly identical scores, is The Man Who Loved China, The Selfish Gene, Greek Thought, Arab Culture.
* The best pair seems to be The Selfish Gene and Ornament of the World.
* The best balance of the others seems to be The Man Who Loved China with Book Nobody Read, and Greek Thought, Arab Culture with either Great Influenza / Flu or Before the Dawn. We’re starting late though, so for anyone who wants to read both books, it’d best be in a full quarter.
* The Man Who Loved China paired with...
GI: adds 2, improves 1
BD: adds 2, improves 1
OW: adds 3, improves 2
BNR: adds 2, improves 4
* The Selfish Gene paired with...
GI: adds 1, improves 3
BD: adds 3, improves 2
OW: adds 3, improves 4
BNR: adds 1, improves 4
* Greek Thought, Arab Culture paired with...
GI: adds 2, improves 2
BD: adds 2, improves 2
OW: adds 2, improves 0
BNR: adds 5, improves 0
So I’d say:
Great Influenza & Flu
Before the Dawn
Greek Thought, Arab Culture
Ornament of the World
The Selfish Gene
Book Nobody Read
The Man Who Loved China
I don't know if anybody is planning to read both the influenza books. It sounded like people were interested in the subject, but would most like to read the one already sitting in their TBR stacks. I know I'll probably just read the copy of Flu I picked up from the FOL sale shelf - and possibly read the other at a later date.
Perhaps one of the others could be added to the first quarter?
Going Clear has a slightly higher score, adds 2, improves 1. Righteous Mind adds 1, improves 3 (but 2 only slightly). So it'd seem that Going Clear wins.
I'd think also that anyone who wants to read any of the numerous books that didn't make the cut is welcome to start a group read thread regardless.
I'll try to read both in the second quarter, Ornament in the third, and maybe the china one in the fourth.
Looks good to me.
I voted for all of the top four, and none of the next three, but I'll probably read The Selfish Gene because I'll be interested in the conversation and I last read it 25-30 years ago. I'll read Going Clear too if I have time, though the group reads are adding up, I'm not a speedy reader, and I want to save room.
And of course, despite the massive TBR pile, I just requested both of the flu books from the library. I suspect that the longer one just won't get read, but the shorter one at least has a chance.
So, the schedule is at #102? Will qebo edit that post to include touchstones, please?
One more comment, after reading the list again. In first quarter, we have the 2 flu books and no other? There was a consensus, I thought, that those two would go together as a theme read if either was chosen. Shouldn't there still be another choice for those who don't want the flu?
Yes, well, sporadic volunteer effort with different people jumping in at different times to move it along. If we wait for consensus, it gets too bogged down. I'd be happy with a bunch of the other books too, and I'm not planning to read both chosen books every quarter, so if anyone starts a group read on the side, I'll be tempted to join.
I'll start Flu probably next weekend.
It's too bad we've already picked all our books for this year. :(
I also have both of the "flu" books checked out; I'll take a peek at those, too, to see if I'll read one or the other or both. "Comparative literature," maybe.
Ferreira takes on the story of general relativity beginning from the early days through the doldrums of the 60s and 70s to the exciting work today in uniting gravity with the other forces of nature and in understanding the large scale structure of the universe. It's a well-written popularization that talks about the theory and how it's been developed, and also gives a sense of the people behind the work. Highly recommended - no math needed!
Quarter Three is approaching fast with planned reads of:
The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by María Rosa Menocal
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
What an interesting juxtaposition! One about tolerance, the other where the discussion itself may get a bit contentious.
(I found the general collection at Cloisters in NY fairly disappointing compared to my memory of it, but the special exhibit of Canterbury glass and the books in the museum shop more than made up for that. This is one of those.)