Book Review: ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’ by Jared Diamond

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Diamond’s approach to history: look for patterns, and apply the scientific method as much as possible, achieved here to its fullest degree with linguistics and archeological findings, and a robust side dish of evolutionary biology.

That said, I’m so biased in favor of this approach, because it’s exactly the one I like. I happen to hold a degree in biology, with a minor in Classical Civilizations and a second almost-minor in Political Science (it would have been a full minor if my school allowed classes to be counted twice for minors).

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Book Review: ‘Gulp’ by Mary Roach

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary CanalGulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve enjoyed everything else by Mary Roach I’ve read—she tends to focus on the unsung heroes of science, the ones that explore the weird niches that are either not glamorous enough for media attention (Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void) or that explore areas affected by societal taboos (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, this one). Continue reading

Book Review: ‘The Mind’s Eye’ by Oliver Sacks

The Mind's EyeThe Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a neuroscience major, what I really read Oliver Sacks for is the case studies approached with an academic bent. So basically presentation of the condition and then a discussion of what could be causing the symptoms/underlying problems/all that good stuff.

The systems neuroscience professor who first recommended him to me rolled his eyes a little before mentioning that Sacks doesn’t consider himself an academician, really—and he does mention it at the beginning of this book, he mainly thinks of himself as a physician. This book is pretty focused on the clinical stuff, though. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘The Universe Within’ by Neil Shubin

The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and PeopleThe Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People by Neil Shubin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like most books that focus more on breadth rather than depth, if you know any particular field in here in detail you’ll find this a rather superficial read. In particular, I studied biology and skipped all the extremely high-level overviews of basic evolutionary biology and chemistry. At the same time, though, I’m not much familiar with paleontology or extensively familiar with geology (amusingly, Shubin cites one of the other books I’m currently reading—The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future—as a more detailed look at the mechanisms behind seasonal change and so on; I’m sure Alley was the source for the information about Milankovitch) and since that’s what Shubin’s focus is, it worked out okay. Also, Shubin brings a lot more personality to the table. He’s a fun writer. Continue reading