The 2014 Science, Religion, and History group read discussion thread

Talk75 Books Challenge for 2014

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The 2014 Science, Religion, and History group read discussion thread

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Dec 27, 2013, 3:48pm

This is in continuation to the 2013 thread started by Rachel (The_Hibernator) for organising more structure reads on a quarterly basis on science, religion, and/or history.

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.

Dec 27, 2013, 6:03pm

I read a couple of them, and I'll be here again this year.


Dec 27, 2013, 8:56pm

I only had time for two, but I am back for more.

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.

Dec 28, 2013, 11:00am

I've added this to the group wiki. Will add individual book threads as they come up!

Edited: Dec 28, 2013, 11:35am

Thanks to PiyushC for setting up the thread. I'm glad there is still interest in the group.

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.

Dec 28, 2013, 11:51am

Streamsong -

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! :)

Dec 28, 2013, 12:07pm

Since Thich Nhat Hanh was so critical of the American's role in the Vietnam war (nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr for his work for peace in Vietnam), I was looking for something explaining his view. My first choice would be Vietnam: lotus in a sea of fire but it looks almost impossible to find copies.

Edited: Dec 28, 2013, 12:19pm

Traditionally this group has waited about a month between choosing a book and starting it, so the two weeks that I suggested is actually shortening that time frame. There are people who rely on interlibrary loans (which for me is very slow, especially if someone else has the book checked out.) There are also international readers in this group who need time to order the book if it is not available in their country.

What does everyone think?

Dec 28, 2013, 1:32pm

I’m paying attention but not really over here in 2014 until I’ve finished 2013... I’d be most interested in the Dalai Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh. I’d be interested in What the Buddha Thought too, but as streamsong notes it’s not that easy to get hold of. I’m fine with 6 books, expect to sit out some, happy with shorter books since my track record on longer books for this group is poor.

Dec 28, 2013, 1:45pm

I'm still alive, and thanks to Piyush, have found the thread. :)

Dec 28, 2013, 1:52pm


Edited: Dec 28, 2013, 2:01pm

One relevant book that I have on my TBR pile is The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a World of Tolerance in Medieval Spain. I was reminded of it when I saw it a few days ago on the list of 501 Must-Read Books. ETA: 352 pages, but the postscript starts on p. 282 so much of that is notes.

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.

Edited: Dec 28, 2013, 2:09pm

And a possibility of a different sort:

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.

Edited: Dec 28, 2013, 2:13pm

Zoe, since you are studying religion and magic as a historian, maybe you could suggest a good popular-level book about your area of study? It would be fun to have an expert to elaborate for us. :)

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.

Dec 28, 2013, 2:13pm

>11 streamsong: Janet!!!!!!

>13 _Zoe_: Yeah, I'd been thinking about reading The Righteous Mind

Dec 28, 2013, 2:14pm

Rachel you're alive! Good to see!

Dec 28, 2013, 2:14pm

>14 JDHomrighausen: Sure, I'll see if I can think of something. Unfortunately it's an obscure enough area that there aren't a lot of popular books about it, but surely I can find something.

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.

Dec 28, 2013, 2:15pm

#5 Hi Janet,

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 :)

Dec 28, 2013, 2:16pm

I wish I had been systematic enough to write one post with suggestions, but instead I'm just going to continue listing individual books as they come to mind.

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."

Dec 28, 2013, 2:40pm

10: Rachel! I did assume you are still alive though, since you were prompted to surface a few months ago.

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.

Dec 28, 2013, 3:21pm

I'm going to try to join in again as well... I was here for a bit last year and then I had all sorts of other things keeping me busy, but hey, new year new chances, and stuff like that :)
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 :)

Dec 28, 2013, 3:37pm

Ornament of the World sounds interesting. Galileo's Daughter was good but I'm not sure I want to reread it.

Dec 28, 2013, 5:28pm

> 22

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.

Dec 28, 2013, 7:35pm

My current interests seem to be drifting away from those of this group, but there have been a couple books suggested that are on my backlog, so I'll hang around and see what gets decided.

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.

Dec 29, 2013, 9:15am

>20 qebo: I have some vague ideas of articles, and certainly authors. I'll give it some more thought if people are interested. Does anyone else have ideas of articles that might be appropriate?

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?

Dec 29, 2013, 11:37am

I've kind of moved on (at least temporarily) to disaster studies and second wave feminist political philosophy. I'm sure sociology of religion will resurface (it always does), but I'm getting pickier in what I read. No more reconciling theology and science. No more theology in general. No more speculative sociology of first and second century Christianity. But general history of science is always a side interest, so there are always books on your lists that I'll be at least thinking about reading.

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)

Dec 29, 2013, 11:53am

#25 Zoe, I perhaps didn't articulate my point well enough; if people choose one book of the two, every quarter, they may perhaps have less of an issue with longer books, than say, if there is a new book to be read every 2 months.

I will subscribe to whatever the group decides, 6 books, 8 books, or the status quo of 4 books.

Edited: Jul 31, 2016, 8:55am

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Dec 29, 2013, 12:07pm

>27 PiyushC: That makes sense, assuming we have enough participation that there will be at least some people reading each of the books. It's hard to get a sense of the numbers; I know I can't promise to participate reliably, though I'm hopeful that 2014 will be a much better reading year than 2013 for me.

Dec 29, 2013, 12:07pm

PiyushC, I see what you're driving off. It's similar to the last group read we did last year, where the 'chosen' book was Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality but there was enough interest that a thread for Among the Creationists occurred at the same time. People chose one or the other or both, depending on their interests.

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.

Dec 29, 2013, 12:13pm

Okay, I guess I'm convinced that 8 would be reasonable. That does allow us to make sure that we always have one short book and one readily-available book (possibly the same one, possibly not), without completely excluding other books from consideration.

Dec 29, 2013, 3:21pm

> 28

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.

Edited: Jul 31, 2016, 8:55am

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Dec 29, 2013, 3:48pm

I think Dawkins is mainly very outspoken on religion without leaving any space for other ideas/opinions. I did really like reading The Selfish Gene; I'm a biologist/geneticist myself and his views have been influential in the field, so it's interesting to read the original work. It is really a science book though, no religion or history involved, so if we want something that touches on all three topics it might not be the best choice.

Dec 29, 2013, 8:32pm

I was thinking about reading with this group, but I wasn't sure of the focus. I am more interested in science and history than religion. I really liked The Ghost Map when I read it.

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.

Dec 30, 2013, 4:01pm

#30 Hi Janet, yes, just like we did it in the last quarter. This is also a format which I have seen work reasonably well in my RL Bookclub, where we also experimented with 3 books at a time, but it led to too much of fragmentation.

#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.

Edited: Jul 31, 2016, 8:55am

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Dec 31, 2013, 7:34am

If we select The Selfish Gene, please go ahead and host the thread.

A sample thread from last year for your reference:

Dec 31, 2013, 9:56am

Whether or not the group decides on The Selfish Gene (I'm inclined to think it's too far off topic), I'd be interested. I read it many years ago, and a refresher would be useful.

Dec 31, 2013, 10:54am

Katherine, could you elaborate a bit on why it's too far off topic? Does it hit the 2 out of 3 criteria? I haven't read it, but will do so if it's picked.

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.

Dec 31, 2013, 11:03am

40: Selfish Gene is science, not religion, not history. We've been choosing books w/ at least 2/3. I'm fine with science. And if we're going for multiple books simultaneously, with the idea that people can read one or both, then maybe it's fine to have each book cover 1/3.

I have The Great Influenza, haven't read it yet.

Dec 31, 2013, 11:07am

>41 qebo: Selfish Gene is science, not religion, not history. We've been choosing books w/ at least 2/3.

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.

Dec 31, 2013, 11:14am

I would be down to read The Selfish Gene, but let's wait until the 5th to start voting. In the meantime we can still do more recommendations. :)

Dec 31, 2013, 11:17am

I'm inclined to agree that The Selfish Gene is mostly just science, so it wouldn't be a top pick for me, but I wouldn't be strongly opposed to it either. It mostly depends on how successful we are at finding books that fit more of the categories and also appeal widely.

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.

Dec 31, 2013, 11:29am

42: Ah. Yes. The God Delusion elaborates on the theme. I don't have the edition that I read of The Selfish Gene on hand to check.

Dec 31, 2013, 11:36am

Do we have a wiki for this group read? I was looking for a list of the books we read in 2012.

Skimming through the thread, I think we read:

God's Philosophers
Religion Explained
The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance

Was there another?

Dec 31, 2013, 11:47am

Thinking back to Jonathan's request for something related to my area of study, here's one possible suggestion: On Greek Religion by Robert Parker. It's not entirely popular, and at $28.45 it's not exactly cheap either—but it's probably about as cheap and popular as you'll get for a work by a top scholar in the field, and relatively short with the appendix starting on p. 265. I haven't yet read it myself, and would like to.

Dec 31, 2013, 12:01pm

Other possibilities from the TBR pile:

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."

Edited: Dec 31, 2013, 12:14pm

The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 B.C. to A.D. 1450. 455 pages, but I can't view inside to see how much is notes.

"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.

Dec 31, 2013, 12:45pm

On Greek Religion looks interesting.

Edited: Dec 31, 2013, 12:49pm

..... wondering if a theme read would work with the influenza books. If people read either of those two books (or another?), which do seem to cover slightly different aspects, it might make for good conversation.

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.

Dec 31, 2013, 1:11pm

Oh, and I thought of another one that's even closer to my area of specialization: Ancient Greek Divination by Sarah Iles Johnston. This is one that I've actually read, and enjoyed. Again, not the cheapest at $26.86, but you won't get much better for this sort of book. And it is super short, with the index of places starting on p. 183.

Dec 31, 2013, 1:13pm

Oh, and I think that's a good idea about a themed read for the influenza books.

Dec 31, 2013, 1:15pm

51, 53: I like the themed read idea too. Since I already have one book and would rather read it than get another.

Dec 31, 2013, 1:30pm

Zoe, I am really loving your suggestions. What about Walter Burkert on Greek religion? Do you think he's on a good source on the subject?

Dec 31, 2013, 1:37pm

#41 While 2/3 would be more ideal, I personally have no issues with 1/3 of a characteristics match, as long as the book excites enough interest.

#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!

Edited: Dec 31, 2013, 2:12pm

>55 JDHomrighausen: I'm glad you like the suggestions! I hope you'll have an opportunity to read these books even if we don't end up choosing them for the group reads.

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.

Dec 31, 2013, 4:22pm

40: The Great Influenza is one of those "watch the disaster unfold" books. The author traces the flu as it makes it's way into the United States. It's episodic, moving from one mis-step in prevention to another. You're just getting involved in what's going on in Philadelphia when you're suddenly in an army camp in the Middle West. If you like reading non-fiction books as adventure novels, this one will do nicely. However, it's impossible to skim or read only sections of, and it's huge.

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.)

Dec 31, 2013, 9:25pm

> 42

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.

Edited: Jul 31, 2016, 8:55am

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Edited: Jan 4, 2014, 10:34am

This is mostly a test, but is not a bad preliminary question.

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

Current tally: Yes 1, No 1, Undecided 3

Edited: Jan 4, 2014, 10:36am

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

Current tally: Yes 1, No 2, Undecided 1

Edited: Jan 4, 2014, 10:36am

Please vote yes for only one of the three options:

Vote: Do you want to have a choice of two group reads per quarter? - 8 books per year

Current tally: Yes 6, No 1

Edited: Jan 4, 2014, 10:38am

Quite honestly, I don't really care. I will read any and all that interest me, and won't read the others. Might be different if I could borrow them.

Jan 4, 2014, 10:37am

That's better--haven't set up a vote before.

Jan 4, 2014, 11:09am

Like MarthaJeanne, I'll read what interests me, and skip over what doesn't (I'm more interested in science and history than in religion), so the number of books doesn't matter so much. A good range of choices does, although I hope that wouldn't dilute the conversation.

Jan 4, 2014, 11:43am

I DO agree with the people who say that three months is too long. There are a few people who finish within the first couple of weeks, and then it seems everyone else hangs on till the very last moment. It makes for a difficult discussion.

Jan 4, 2014, 11:47am

I wonder if it would be useful to say that the discussion will take place in a specific month (say, the last of the three months). Then people can choose how early to start reading based on how long they expect it to take. Just because we're having a discussion every three months doesn't mean the discussion actually has to go on for the whole three months.

Edited: Jul 31, 2016, 8:55am

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Jan 5, 2014, 11:45pm

Well, crud. I've been fighting with my computer all evening. Windows keeps crashing. "unexpectedly stopped working. Error code STOP 00000000". DD thinks I need to uninstall & reinstall windows--but I need some help with it.

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.

My apologies.

Jan 6, 2014, 3:27am

Your computer is helping you get to your TBR pile by removing its interweb distractions!

In all seriousness, hope you get that fixed.

Jan 8, 2014, 11:00am

Since we haven't actually done the voting yet, I thought I'd mention one other interesting-seeming book that I just came across:

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.

Jan 8, 2014, 11:09am

Also, I'm curious about the list-based voting method that's being used to determine the selections for One LibraryThing, One Book. I wonder how that would work here. It allows ranking rather than just yes/no, which could be good or bad, and it would get more visibility for the group, while possibly encouraging people to vote even if they have no intention of participating. So there are various trade-offs, but it might be fun to try.

Jan 8, 2014, 11:15am

73: I was thinking along the same lines. I haven't ever set up a list. Seems worth a try as an experiment, because this is the sort of thing that a list _should_ be good for, so if it's flawed, then we can generate feature requests.

Jan 8, 2014, 11:22am

Okay, I can go ahead and set one up (or you can, if you want?). We can try voting that way, but not take the results as final if it turns out badly for whatever reason.

Jan 8, 2014, 11:27am

I won't have time until this evening at the earliest, so you're welcome to go ahead from my perspective. Per post 70, streamsong said someone else could set up voting because her computer is out of commission, but she's been on her thread so you might check in. I think voting by list would be easier than by multiple yes/no because so many books are in the running.

Jan 8, 2014, 11:33am

Hmm, it might also be an interesting test to try both methods and see whether the results are significantly different. More effort, but interesting.

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.

Jan 8, 2014, 11:40am

Go for it.

Jan 8, 2014, 11:53am

Okay, there's now a list of 31 possible books. If there are any that I forgot, feel free to add them (and note it in a message here so that others will notice). I think the default sort order is number of members, as long as there are no votes.

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.

Jan 8, 2014, 11:54am

Oh, and I listed both of the flu books, but I think if either one of them is chosen we'll actually end up doing a themed read rather than focusing on a specific book.

Jan 8, 2014, 1:02pm

Quick post from work to say thank you, Zoe!

Jan 8, 2014, 1:26pm

You're welcome! I'm glad you don't mind that I went ahead and did it.

Edited: Jan 8, 2014, 1:44pm

I'm watching this group read and will probably participate once the books are picked. I don't want to vote, though, because I haven't been reading a lot of non-fiction lately and everything looks equally interesting to me.

Jan 8, 2014, 1:54pm

>83 kgodey: Seems like a reasonable approach. I hope you'll be able to join us!

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.

Jan 8, 2014, 7:46pm

So, how do items disappear from a list? There were originally 31 and now are only 30 (I don't know which one is missing). I didn't delete it.

Jan 8, 2014, 8:09pm

Lucy (sibyx) just gave a rave review to Before the Dawn that immediately put it on my wishlist here:

Jan 8, 2014, 8:12pm

86: Yeah, it leapt onto my wishlist for the same reason, and I have several similar books so I'm hesitant to buy it, but a group read would offer the perfect excuse.

Jan 8, 2014, 9:26pm

I bought it today as soon as I heard of it, and have enjoyed the first two chapters so far.

Jan 9, 2014, 7:26am

85: The count reflects only books that have votes. At the end of the list is Otherworld Journeys which no one has voted for, making 31.

Jan 9, 2014, 8:05am

>89 aulsmith:. Hmm. I'm seeing a 30 next to Otherworld Journeys, and a 29 next to Exodus and Revolution, which also has zero votes. There was a visible 31 when I first made the list.

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.

Jan 9, 2014, 8:14am

Okay, I went through the list and this thread, and it looks like the missing book is Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire. If anyone wants to vote for this book, please go ahead and re-add it.

Jan 9, 2014, 11:11am

I'm trying to go through and check what each ranking is worth when it comes to calculating the score.

1: 4
2: 3.36
3: 3.04
4: 2.83
5: 2.68
6: 2.56
7: 2.46
8: 2.38
9: 2.31
10: 2.25
11: 2.2
12: 2.15
13. 2.11
21: 1.87
22: 1.85

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.

Jan 9, 2014, 11:52am

I voted and figured out how to resort my rankings so my top books are at the top, so I'm set!

Jan 9, 2014, 11:52am


Jan 9, 2014, 1:01pm

90-91: Thumbs down only voting does not remove a book from the list. Only clicking on "Remove book from list" when there are no votes at all does that. Someone probably did it by mistake.

Jan 9, 2014, 1:02pm

>95 aulsmith: That's a relief, thanks.

Jan 9, 2014, 3:59pm

Thanks for setting the Vote up, Zoe. I have casted mine, seems quite a voting process / algorithm.

Jan 21, 2014, 11:33pm

So... looks like a choice of 2 books per quarter is the winner (of posts 61, 62, 63)? And the book voting seems to have settled. Now what?

Edited: Jan 22, 2014, 11:10am

If people are satisfied with the voting method, I guess we just divide them up into quarters? I always tend to over-analyze things, so my first thought would have been to review the pros and cons of the list method and see whether we want to stick with these results, but it might be better just to move on.

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.

Jan 22, 2014, 11:20am

Other considerations:
* 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.

Jan 22, 2014, 11:23am

>100 qebo: Makes sense. That's much more effort than I'd be willing to put into it, but I'd be happy for someone else to produce a more careful analysis and reading plan.

Jan 22, 2014, 4:17pm

I plopped the top dozen books in a spreadsheet with columns for score and vote count and rank for each of the 17 people who voted, and came up with...

* 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:
Quarter 1:
Great Influenza & Flu

Quarter 2:
Before the Dawn
Greek Thought, Arab Culture

Quarter 3:
Ornament of the World
The Selfish Gene

Quarter 4:
Book Nobody Read
The Man Who Loved China

Jan 22, 2014, 4:18pm

Also, of books in the next tier of scores, two stand out because they were top choices for several people: Going Clear, Righteous Mind. And they would help with the religion theme which otherwise is rather weakly represented.

Jan 22, 2014, 4:43pm

I'm happy with your list in 102. But I also agree that adding in Going Clear and The Righteous Mind would help with the religion theme, if we could fit them in somehow.

Jan 22, 2014, 4:50pm

Good job!!

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?

Jan 22, 2014, 5:01pm

105: I'm also going to read only one of the flu books, the one I've had around for awhile, The Great Influenza.

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.

Edited: Jan 22, 2014, 5:27pm

Manfred Vasold has written a book on the Spanish flu that I can get hold of.

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.

Jan 22, 2014, 6:03pm

107: Oh, good, because you were one of the people who didn't vote for either of the flu books and I was shuffling books around on the spreadsheet trying to get everyone in.

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.

Jan 22, 2014, 6:04pm

So, to avoid confusion - The flu books are to be read by the end of March?

Jan 22, 2014, 6:08pm

The group reads are definitely adding up! I'm really tempted to try to schedule an "unofficial" read of The Righteous Mind as well, since I already own that one, but there are already 4 other books in my TBR pile on the list of planned reads (you know your TBR pile is too big when...).

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.

Jan 22, 2014, 6:09pm

109: Yes. Seems the appropriate season. If this is the decision. It's not like I'm in charge. I happened to have a slow afternoon at the office.

Jan 22, 2014, 6:12pm

>109 The_Hibernator: Maybe set the reading target at two weeks before the end of March, to allow some time for discussion after everyone's done reading?

Jan 22, 2014, 7:34pm

The main reason I'm not enthusiastic about Going Clear is that I read Beyond Belief in November, and I'm not sure I can handle more Scientology right now.

Jan 22, 2014, 7:37pm

113: I wouldn't read two of them either.

Jan 24, 2014, 10:23am

I quite like the schedule listed by Katherine in #102.

Jan 24, 2014, 11:41am

I was hoping Before the Dawn would stay in the first quarter, since I just brought it home from the library, but have no problem with the schedule in #102--I'll just be ahead of the game.

Jan 24, 2014, 12:04pm

I've gone ahead and tracked down copies of most of the books that were chosen, but since my participation will be spotty owing to the demands of real life, any schedule is fine by me. I'll be chiming in as I can.

Jan 24, 2014, 12:11pm

116> I had reserved it, so as to be sure and have it, so that's two of us ahead of the game. Now I'm waiting for the flu book.

Jan 24, 2014, 12:19pm

I've also acquired Before the Dawn already, and have even read half of it. But I'm also reading at least five other books simultaneously, so I'm happy to take my time.

Jan 25, 2014, 12:20am

This all sounds fascinating; once a thread starts I will be on it!

Jan 25, 2014, 1:49am

Well, I didn't realize we were voting for the entire year all at one time. I'm not sure I would have voted the same had I realized. Having said that, I'm willing to go along.

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?

Jan 25, 2014, 9:59am

121: Well, I didn't realize we were voting for the entire year all at one time.
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.

Jan 25, 2014, 10:00am

#122 Thanks! :-)

Edited: Jan 25, 2014, 10:24am

122,124: And there, another volunteer has done it for me. :-) Sorry; when I posted, it was rambling thoughts building on Zoe's general idea, not a plan to be the definitive list.

Jan 25, 2014, 10:27am

#125 As you said, a "volunteer effort with different people jumping in at different times to move it along" - that is exactly what your list was. Now we can stop talking about WHAT to read, and begin reading!

Jan 25, 2014, 3:25pm

My computer's down altogether (fix- by computer friend didn't work well and now it's worse than ever, so I'm haulting it to the computer fixers at Best Buy about 40 miles away). I'm doing a quick post from my work computer since I needed to stop in and split cells today, anyway.

I'll start Flu probably next weekend.

Jan 26, 2014, 5:26pm

I just requested the first quarter books from my library, so I'll be in for the reads.

Karen O.

Jan 29, 2014, 7:03pm

Ooo! I just read a fantastic review of Lonely Planets!

It's too bad we've already picked all our books for this year. :(

Jan 31, 2014, 12:22pm

Rachael, that book immediately leapt onto my wishlist--it does sound fascinating!

Jan 31, 2014, 10:37pm

#129 That does sound good. And the review mentions Carl Sagan - is any of his work still relevant enough to be considered for a group read?

Feb 2, 2014, 1:17pm

Seemed about time to be setting up a thread for the flu group read: here.

Feb 2, 2014, 1:27pm

I'm not familiar enough with Carl Sagan's books to know which would be appropriate for this group...yes, now that I look, I'm guessing The Demon Haunted World would be the most appropriate, though. I don' t know if it's dated or not?

Feb 7, 2014, 7:36am

Is anyone else planning to read Going Clear? It's making me a bit antsy. He's relying a great deal on secondary sources and missing a lot of nuance. I'll probably put it down if no one else wants to discuss it.

Feb 7, 2014, 8:56am

134: I might, but almost certainly not in February. I've just started the 450 page flu book.

Feb 7, 2014, 5:11pm

134: Well, I have the book from the library, so that's a start. I'll take a gander at it tonight to see if I'm going to read it. It certainly has had a lot of buzz.

Karen O.

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.

Feb 7, 2014, 10:00pm

I read Going Clear in January, as I hear Wright speak about it then. I liked the book, so if others are reading it I will popinto the thread and give my opinion. I also have The Great Influenza out of the library, but I am not sure when I will get to it.

Feb 8, 2014, 3:18pm

I am interesting in Going Clear but only because I won't be reading the flu books.

Feb 8, 2014, 4:11pm

I will be reading The Great Influenza this first quarter, with bulk of the reading scheduled for March.

Feb 10, 2014, 2:12pm

Okay, I started a discussion list for Going Clear here

Feb 13, 2014, 10:03pm

I came across a new book that may be of interest here: The Perfect Theory by Pedro G. Ferreira. Comments posted on my thread...

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!

Mar 31, 2014, 3:44pm

I have finished The Great Influenza, a 3* for me. I won't be reviewing any of my March reads, and there is no discussion group for the book, hence just posting my rating here.

Mar 31, 2014, 3:46pm

>142 PiyushC: Flu book discussion is here.

Mar 31, 2014, 3:53pm

>143 qebo: Thanks Katherine!

Edited: Apr 1, 2014, 1:08pm

I set up a thread for Before the Dawn here.

Apr 1, 2014, 2:29pm

>145 qebo: Thanks Katherine.

Apr 1, 2014, 5:28pm

Oh, good. I was halfway through Before the Dawn and then put it aside when we decided to do it in the second quarter, so it will be nice to get back to it.

Jun 17, 2014, 9:10am

Quarter two has been pretty quiet, I think. I still have a copy of Before the Dawn from the library, but have not started reading yet.

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.

Jun 17, 2014, 9:20am

I'm looking forward to Ornament, and will probably also read The arts of intimacy : Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the making of Castilian culture at the same time.

(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.)

Jun 17, 2014, 10:43pm

I'm planning to do The Ornament of the World. However, I might switch over to Selfish Gene if Ornament doesn't hold my interest. Not time enough for both, I don't think.

Jun 18, 2014, 7:55am

Ahhh, I still want to read all the earlier books! I'm hoping to at least finish Before the Dawn in the next month, and get started on Greek Thought, Arabic Culture.

My focus for next quarter will be on The Ornament of the World, since that's the one I already own.

Jun 18, 2014, 10:11am

I have just started with Before the Dawn; and I plan to read The Selfish Gene in the next quarter.

Edited: Jul 31, 2016, 8:55am

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Jun 29, 2014, 5:44pm

>154 Samantha_kathy: Go for it, and post the link here so everyone knows it's done. Thanks! I just got the book (which I read long ago but in my years of heavy library usage). I also just started Before the Dawn...

Edited: Jul 31, 2016, 8:55am

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Jul 9, 2014, 11:52am

Edited: Aug 18, 2014, 9:44am

Oct 27, 2014, 11:45am

A thought for next year: I don't think choosing all the books in advance worked out very well after all; participation seemed to be higher when we chose each book as we went along.

Oct 27, 2014, 6:09pm

>160 _Zoe_: An excellent point. There's something exciting about deciding on a book for a group read that's definitely been lacking this year. However, I will say that by choosing all the books at once, I didn't have to worry about missing the quarterly voting. I simply placed all the books on hold at the library at one time, and timed the pick up date to coincide with the proper quarter. I'm willing to do the selection process either way next year.

Nov 2, 2014, 5:31pm

I've read only 2 of the 8 selections, have another 2 on hand that I intend to read but haven't gotten to. I finished The Selfish Gene a month late, haven't yet reviewed it, and although it is eminently discussable, RL is scattering my time and I rather doubt I'll focus enough to compose coherent thoughts any time soon. So about next year... I dunno. I like the idea, but my track record is abysmal. I'm inclined to agree that choosing everything at the beginning of the year isn't ideal; difficult to anticipate available time, mood, etc.