Wednesday, October 08, 2008

My latest reads

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Dawkins' first book remains popular for a reason. While pretty much every great scientist of the age is eventually found to be fundamentally wrong on at least one point in future times, Dawkins probably represents the best and most comprehensive argument for Darwinian evolution theory in our era.

The book is not particularly difficult to understand in terms of scientific jargon or understanding - the author wisely avoids that pitfall - but it does take a certain amount of abstract thinking on the part of the reader. Dawkins is aware of this and as he describes the reason for greater promiscuity amongst men, the concept of selfishness being a survival trait and so on, he constantly reminds the reader that he is talking from a strictly genetic evolutionary standpoint.

As such, this work from the seventies is still as fresh and valid as ever and offers a tremendously convincing argument for how we humans came to be and why we do the things we do, and it's accessible to anyone. Dawkins is one of those scientists who reminds us that reality can be as mind blowing and fascinating as any religious fiction, and I think he is right.

Early Childhood Education by Eva L. Essa

A modern, comprehensive and well designed book. ECE is a large guide to all aspects of teaching young children. The book covers topics as wide ranging as the history of ECE, theories of ECE, laws governing child care centres, theories of play and the benefits of toys and the challenges that lie ahead for the field of ECE. The book is designed for Americans but as we all know, children across the world all have common needs and characteristics, and this book covers them well. It also has some excellent bonus material such as a list of useful web sites for teachers. While this book is very highly rated, its size, its price and its scope mean I can only recommend it to someone who is a teacher or at least seriously interested in ECE.

Speeches that Changed the World
An excellent compendium. This book contains exactly what its name would suggest. Each speech is proceeded by a short explanation of the situation and the person involved. Naturally the book is somewhat western biased but this is not a major drawback. There will be lines in here that pretty much everyone will know ("I have a dream.....") but there will also be many that are less popular but no less important. Each oratory is but a few pages long and since the book starts with Jesus Christ and ends with George W Bush, the reader can open it at any page and be entertained with a great speech from a random era. Easily readable for anyone and highly educational.

The English by Jeremy Paxman
Jeremy Paxman is known for being the presenter of the very famous "University Challenge" show and is known for getting impatient and ordering students to "Come on! Come on!" when they are slow to answer. In this book, Paxman looks at the history and the modern state of the English people and their culture. He is a funny and witty writer and his work makes light reading at times, but he also addresses serious issues such as the Notting Hill Carnival riots and the current confusion over the English as a nationality and identity. Definitely entertaining for anyone interested in English people.

The Seven Ages of Britain
Let's face it, most of us employ the logical fallacy of looking at history from the point of view of the major players - Kings, Queens and explorers. But most of us are not related to royalty or noblemen, we are related to common people who saw events in their time from a very different perspective. That is the great thing about this book which is based on a TV show, it tells us about history through the eyes of my ancestors, common people who managed to survive and reproduce through several different ages on Britain.

This book is, for me, gripping and highly educational but perhaps it only appeals to British people. Let me make this point though: wouldn't it be great if people from every national could learn about history through the eyes of their common ancestors - the people that got us here - in addition to the history of the small group of elites?

My next planned purchase is Robert Fisk's "The Great War for Civilisation" but I really should read my way through my backlog of twenty odd books first.

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