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: ‘She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth’ by Helen Castor

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before ElizabethShe-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It’s hard for me to tell how much is filling in the blanks and how much is lifted directly from sources without having access to them, but the footnotes suggest that Castor exhausted what was available, and given her area of expertise, I’m inclined to trust her ability to comprehensively read extant sources. It would be nice to have more archeological evidence included as a counterpoint, but she worked well with what she had, as far as I can tell. (I minored in Classics, wrong era and location!) Continue reading

Graphic Novel Review: ‘The Complete Maus’ by Art Spiegelman

The Complete Maus (Maus, #1-2)The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are a lot of first-hand accounts of the Holocaust out there, and pretty much all of it—all of it that I’ve seen, anyway—has focused on the immediacy of the concentration camps. Not that they shouldn’t; it’s a horse that cannot be beaten to death until the planet stops having genocide or the more politically-challenged ‘ethnic cleansing,’ but it is not what makes ‘Maus’ really really stand out. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization’ by Steven Solomon

Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and CivilizationWater: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization by Steven Solomon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Any book that takes a mere thirty pages to mention Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ probably has a strong economic angle. I wasn’t surprised to see that Solomon writes for economy/business publications: this book is very centered around economic gain and exploitation. It’s not an unexpected view, but if you were looking for something entirely around the use of water in an engineering, ecological, social, or other scientific context this isn’t the book for you. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘The House of Wisdom’ by Jim Al-Khalili

The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the RenaissanceThe House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance by Jim Al-Khalili

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As you may have guessed, this book is about how the Arab/Muslim groups (really Arabic-speaking, something Al-Khalili explains early on; a number of the luminaries in this book had little to no Arab blood) did a lot more for science and the Age of Enlightenment than simply pass on some translated Greek texts. It’s a view that deserves more consideration, and he does a great job of giving it relevant context in the last chapter, which discusses what modern Muslim/Arabic-speaking countries should do to foment more scientific progress. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Shaped the Modern World’ by Jane Gleeson-White

Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Shaped the Modern WorldDouble Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Shaped the Modern World by Jane Gleeson-White
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(DISCLAIMER: I’m more well-read and educated in history than accounting. I think this book would be overall more enjoyable for accountants. There aren’t enough books about accounting out there.) Continue reading