Recommended Humanity Books (for modern citizens)

click: recommended books: main menu (on another page)

Mostly Genetics (some biology)

The Human Advantage (2016) Suzana Herculano-Houzel
A New Understanding of How our Brains Became Remarkable

Humans are awesome. Our brains are gigantic, seven times larger than they should be for the size of our bodies, use 25% of all the energy the body requires each day, and became enormous in hardly any time in evolution, leaving our cousins, the great apes, behind. So the human brain is special, right?

Wrong: according to the evidence uncovered by the author, humans have developed cognitive abilities that outstrip those of all other animals because we have a brain built in the image of other primate brains that managed to gather the largest number of neurons in the cerebral cortex due to a technological innovation that allowed a larger caloric intake in less time: cooking.

comments: this book explains why "dogs are twice as smart as cats" and "humans are twice as smart as gorillas". And why is it that elephant brains are three times larger than human brains, and yet human are three times smarter than elephants.

New science proves why "dogs are smarter than cats" and "humans are smarter than gorillas". Even through elephant brains are three times larger, why are humans smarter?

my review: This book is a real "page turner" and I recommend it for all modern citizens who ever wondered "why humans are so much more intelligent than other species?" Much of my own knowledge on this subject began in 1977 when I read a book by Carl Sagan titled "The Dragons of Eden" (subtitled: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence). In chapter 1 of "The Human Advantage", the author mentions that much brain science popularized in Sagan's book (who was publishing outside his area of expertise) is now considered wrong. Error-1: the concept of the human "triune brain" (where a neocortex is layered over a paleocortex which is layered over a reptilian (limbic) brain) is now considered a complete fiction because the first mammalian brain evolved "before" the first reptilian brain. Error-2: previous books claim the human brain is composed of 100 billion neurons. But it appears that an actual experiment was never done, and the number every book quotes is just a rounded-up estimate. Error-3: the cultural meme that we only use 10% of our brains is totally wrong. In fact, we use 100% of our gray matter (our brains are composed of 10% gray matter layered over 90% white matter which acts as a mechanical substrate). CAVEAT: Everything I have just written comes from chapter 1. The remainder of the book is just as rich with new information. If you enjoyed reading general science books by Carl Sagan then you will definitely enjoy reading "The Human Advantage".

Life at the Speed of Light (2013) by J. Craig Venter
From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life

In 2010, scientists led by J. Craig Venter became the first to successfully create “synthetic life”—putting humankind at the threshold of the most important and exciting phase of biological research, one that will enable us to actually write the genetic code for designing new species to help us adapt and evolve for long-term survival. The science of synthetic genomics will have a profound impact on human existence, including chemical and energy generation, health, clean water and food production, environmental control, and possibly even our evolution.

In Life at the Speed of Light, Venter presents a fascinating and authoritative study of this emerging field from the inside—detailing its origins, current challenges and controversies, and projected effects on our lives. This scientific frontier provides an opportunity to ponder anew the age-old question “What is life?” and examine what we really mean by “playing God.” Life at the Speed of Light is a landmark work, written by a visionary at the dawn of a new era of biological engineering.

The Epigenetics Revolution (2012) Nessa Carey
How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance

Epigenetics can potentially revolutionize our understanding of the structure and behavior of biological life on Earth. It explains why mapping an organism's genetic code is not enough to determine how it develops or acts and shows how nurture combines with nature to engineer biological diversity. Surveying the twenty-year history of the field while also highlighting its latest findings and innovations, this volume provides a readily understandable introduction to the foundations of epigenetics.

Nessa Carey, a leading epigenetics researcher, connects the field's arguments to such diverse phenomena as how ants and queen bees control their colonies; why tortoiseshell cats are always female; why some plants need cold weather before they can flower; and how our bodies age and develop disease. Reaching beyond biology, epigenetics now informs work on drug addiction, the long-term effects of famine, and the physical and psychological consequences of childhood trauma. Carey concludes with a discussion of the future directions for this research and its ability to improve human health and well-being.

Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance (2011) by Richard C. Francis

"The potential is staggering. The age of epigenetics has arrived." Time, January 2010
Epigenetic means "on the gene," and the term refers to the recent discovery that stress in the environment can impact an individual's physiology so deeply that those biological scars are actually inherited by the next several generations. For instance, a recent study has shown that men who started smoking before puberty caused their sons to have significantly higher rates of obesity. And obesity is just the tip of the iceberg many researchers believe that epigenetics holds the key to understanding cancer, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, autism, and diabetes. Epigenetics is the first book for general readers on this fascinating and important topic. The book is driven by stories such as the Dutch famine of World War II, Jose Canseco and steroids, the breeding of mules and hinnies, Tasmanian devils and contagious cancer, and more.

Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy Until You're 80 and Beyond (2007) Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge M.D.

The Code of Codes (1993/2000) Daniel Kevles and Leroy Hood
subtitled: Scientific and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project

Another popularization of the Human Genome Project, this one has the distinction of being the first published as an anthology, and among its contributors are some leading scholars, scientists, and social critics. The three parts of the book present essays covering topics in "History, Politics, and Genetics," "Genetics, Technology, and Medicine," and "Ethics, Law, and Society." Some of the essays are quite provocative, especially editor Kevles's "Out of Eugenics: The Historical Politics of the Human Genome" (creepy to read but necessary so humanity doe not repeat this mistake - NSR) , Dorothy Nelkin's "The Social Power of Genetic Information", Ruth Schwartz Conan's "Genetic Technology and Reproductive Choice", and James D. Watson's "A Personal View of the Project." Still, there is a good deal of substantive overlap among the essays and, while the discussions by experts are more sophisticated and specialized than those appearing in other books, little new information is presented for general readers. Public libraries with either Jerry Bishop and Michael Waldholz's Genome ( LJ 7/90) or Robert Shapiro's The Human Blueprint ( LJ 9/1/91) do not need this title, but academic libraries should consider it.

Leroy Hood, MD, PhD, President and co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, is a pioneer in systems approaches to biology and medicine. Dr. Hood's research has focused on the study of molecular immunology, biotechnology and genomics. His professional career began at Caltech, where he and his colleagues developed the DNA sequencer and synthesizer and the protein synthesizer and sequencer--four instruments that paved the way for the successful mapping of the human genome and lead to his receiving this year's prestigious Russ Prize, awarded by the Academy of Engineering. A pillar in the biotechnology field, Dr. Hood has played a role in founding more than fourteen biotechnology companies, including Amgen, Applied Biosystems, Darwin, The Accelerator and Integrated Diagnostics. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, one of only 10 people in the world to be elected to all three academies. In addition to having published more than 700 peer reviewed articles, he has coauthored textbooks in biochemistry, immunology, molecular biology and genetics, as well as a popular book on the human genome project, The Code of Codes. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lasker Award, the Kyoto Prize and the Heinz Award in Technology. Dr. Hood has also received 17 honorary degrees from prestigious universities in the US and other countries.

The Eighth Day of Creation (1979/1996/2004) Horace Freeland Judson
subtitled: Makers of the Revolution in Biology (25th Anniversary Edition)

In the foreword to this expanded edition of his 1979 masterpiece, Horace Freeland Judson says, "I feared I might seem the official historian of the movement"--molecular biology, that is. If by official he means "authoritative; definitive; the standard against which all others are measured" then his fears are warranted. Detailed without being overly technical, humane without being fulsome, The Eighth Day of Creation tells of molecular biology's search for the secret of life. "The drama has everything--exploration of the unknown; low comedy and urgent seriousness; savage competition, vaulting intelligence, abrupt changes of fortune, sudden understandings; eccentric and brilliant people, men of honor and of less than honor; a heroine, perhaps wronged; and a treasure to be achieved that was unique and transcendent." And in Judson this drama found its Shakespeare.

This lay history of molecular biology now contains material on some of the principal figures involved, particularly Rosalind Franklin and Erwin Chargaff. The foreword and epilogue sketch the further development of molecular biology into the era of recombinant DNA.

DNA: The Secret of Life (2003/2004) by James Watson

What makes DNA different from hordes of competitors purporting to help readers understand genetics is that it is written by none other than James Watson, of Watson and Crick fame. He and his co-author Andrew Berry have produced a clear and easygoing history of genetics, from Mendel through genome sequencing. Watson offers readers a sense of immediacy, a behind-the scenes familiarity with some of the most exciting developments in modern science. He gleefully reports on the research juggernaut that led to current obsessions with genetic engineering and cloning. Aided by profuse illustrations and photos, Watson offers an enthusiastic account of how scientists figured out how DNA codes for the creation of proteins--the so-called "central dogma" of genetics. But as patents and corporations enter the picture, Watson reveals his concern about the incursions of business into the hallowed halls of science. After 1975, DNA was no longer solely the concern of academics trying to understand the molecular underpinnings of life. The molecule moved beyond the cloisters of white-coated scientists into a very different world populated largely by men in silk ties and sharp suits. In later chapters, Watson aims barbs at those who are concerned by genetic tinkering, calling them "alarmists" who don't understand how the experiments work. It is in these arguments that Watson may lose favor with those whose notions of science were born after Silent Spring. Nevertheless, DNA encompasses both sides of the political issues involved in genetics, and Watson is an enthusiastic proponent of debate on the subject.

Who better than James Watson to lead a guided tour of DNA? When he and his English colleague, Francis Crick, discovered the double helix structure of the DNA molecule in 1953, little could they imagine that a mere 50 years later scientists would be putting the finishing touches on a map of the human genome. In this magisterial work, Watson, who won the Nobel Prize with Crick for their discovery, guides readers through the startling and rapid advances in genetic technology and what these advances will mean for our lives. Watson covers all aspects of the genome, from the layout of four simple bases on the DNA molecule through their complex construction into genes, then to the mechanisms whereby proteins produced by genes create our uniquely human characteristics-as well as the genetic mutations that can cause illnesses or inherited diseases like Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Huntington's disease. Watson may have mellowed a little over the years since he displayed his youthful brashness in The Double Helix, but he still isn't shy about taking on controversial subjects. He criticizes biotech corporations for patenting genes, making diagnostic medical procedures horribly expensive and damping further basic research. He notes that while China and other countries with large populations to feed have eagerly grasped the potential of genetically modified foodstuffs, America squandered $100 million on a recall of taco shells and the genetically modified corn used in them. He pleads passionately for the refinement and widespread use of prenatal genetic testing. Watson will probably provoke the most controversy with his criticism of scientists, corporations and government funding sources for their avoidance of important areas of research-notably the genetics of skin coloration-for political reasons. Every reader who wants to understand their own medical future will want to read this book.

Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007) Gary Taubes

 Everyone needs to read this book

The Human Condition (biographies, etc.)

The Square and the Tower (2018) Niall Ferguson
subtitled: Networks and Power, From the Freemasons to Facebook

eye compass squareThis is a book about human networking. People who work in a large corporation (the tower) then later meet in a bar (the square) after working hours is one common example. Other examples include: religious groups, guilds, trade unions, fraternities, and masonic lodges to only name a short list of many. So I suppose "the square" might also refer to the draftsman's "set square" seen just under the compass and eye in the masonic lodge symbol pictured to the right.

The author correctly mentions that the world is transitioning from vertical hierarchies (think China and Russia or the Papacy) to horizontal networks (think many of the Western democracies or Protestantism). Perhaps this is the biggest problem with Americans thinking that Russia interfered with the American presidential election of 2016: most Americans are not aware of the shift from vertical to horizontal. Putin is probably unaware of this as well.

Political Extremism in America: Don’t blame Russia, blame Facebook and Twitter
Video-1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv9JpGc1dgY (length: 3:42)

The Agenda with Steve Paikin
Video-2: https://tvo.org/video/programs/the-agenda-with-steve-paikin/the-age-of-networks (length 29:51)

Quote (p96): The charter for The Royal Society [of London for Improving Natural Knowledge] was explicit in granting to its president, council and fellows (members), and their successors, the freedom 'to enjoy mutual intelligence and knowledge with all and all manner of strangers and foreigners, whether private or collegiate, corporate or politic, without any molestation, interruption, or disturbance whatsoever'. By contrast, the Académie des sciences in Paris was originally the private property of the crown. When it met for the first time on 22 December 1666, it was in the King's library and had an official policy of secrecy.

Comment: This is the first book I've read that has a non-conspiratorial description of the Illuminati (a group of Bavarian academics trying to promote the enlightenment between 1775 and 1785; yep only around for 10-years). Chapter-1 is titled "The Mystery of the Illuminati" while chapter-10 is titled "The Illuminati Illuminated". Ferguson explains that we would not know the name Illuminati if it were not for the Freemasons.

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003) Walter Isaacson

 highly recommended (also provides a unique view of life in prerevolutionary America) 

In this authoritative and engrossing full-scale biography, Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Einstein and Steve Jobs, shows how the most fascinating of America's founders helped define our national character. Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us, the one who seems made of flesh rather than marble. In a sweeping narrative that follows Franklin’s life from Boston to Philadelphia to London and Paris and back, Walter Isaacson chronicles the adventures of the runaway apprentice who became, over the course of his eighty-four-year life, America’s best writer, inventor, media baron, scientist, diplomat, and business strategist, as well as one of its most practical and ingenious political leaders. He explores the wit behind Poor Richard’s Almanac and the wisdom behind the Declaration of Independence, the new nation’s alliance with France, the treaty that ended the Revolution, and the compromises that created a near-perfect Constitution. In this colorful and intimate narrative, Isaacson provides the full sweep of Franklin’s amazing life, showing how he helped to forge the American national identity and why he has a particular resonance in the twenty-first century.

Leonardo da Vinci (2017) Walter Isaacson

 highly recommended (also provides a unique view of life in Renaisanse Italy) 

Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy.

A Mind at Play (2017) Jimmy Soni + Rob Goodman
subtitled: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age

 VERY highly recommended (a must-have for "computer people") 

In this elegantly written, exhaustively researched biography, Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman reveal Claude Shannon’s full story for the first time. It’s the story of a small-town Michigan boy whose career stretched from the era of room-sized computers powered by gears and string to the age of Apple. It’s the story of the origins of our digital world in the tunnels of MIT and the “idea factory” of Bell Labs, in the “scientists’ war” with Nazi Germany, and in the work of Shannon’s collaborators and rivals, thinkers like Alan Turing, John von Neumann, Vannevar Bush, and Norbert Wiener.

Age of Discovery (2016) Ian Goldin + Chris Kutarna
subtitled: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance

To make sense of present shocks, we need to step back and recognize: we’ve been here before. The first Renaissance, the time of Columbus, Copernicus, Gutenberg and others, likewise redrew all maps of the world, democratized communication and sparked a flourishing of creative achievement. But their world also grappled with the same dark side of rapid change: social division, political extremism, insecurity, pandemics and other unintended consequences of discovery. Now is the second Renaissance. We can still flourish―if we learn from the first.

The Undoing Project (2016) Michael Lewis

Science Under Siege (2015) CBC Radio

 highly recommended for all citizens

Not a book; This is a series of CBC radio programs aired first June-2015 on "Ideas" with Paul Kennedy

Are we living through an Anti-Scientific Revolution? Scientists around the world are increasingly restricted in what they can research, publish and say -- constrained by belief and ideology from all sides.  Historically, science has always had a thorny relationship with institutions of power. But what happens to societies which turn their backs on curiosity-driven research? And how can science lift the siege?  CBC Radio producer Mary Lynk looks for some answers in this three-part series.

Comment: in part one I learned that the reason why Europe leaped ahead of China four hundred years ago was primarily due to the work of Francis Bacon who convinced the English government to:

Enlightenment 2.0 (2014) Joseph Heath

Over the last twenty years, the political systems of the western world have become increasingly divided—not between right and left, but between crazy and non-crazy. What’s more, the crazies seem to be gaining the upper hand. Rational thought cannot prevail in the current social and media environment, where elections are won by appealing to voters’ hearts rather than their minds. The rapid-fire pace of modern politics, the hypnotic repetition of daily news items and even the multitude of visual sources of information all make it difficult for the voice of reason to be heard.

In Enlightenment 2.0, bestselling author Joseph Heath outlines a program for a second Enlightenment. The answer, he argues, lies in a new "slow politics." It takes as its point of departure recent psychological and philosophical research, which identifies quite clearly the social and environmental preconditions for the exercise of rational thought. It is impossible to restore sanity merely by being sane and trying to speak in a reasonable tone of voice. The only way to restore sanity is by engaging in collective action against the social conditions that have crowded it out.

CBC Podcast

Book Reviews:

The main problem with political thinking (comments and observations):

Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) Thomas Piketty

At the very minimum, the Introduction to this book should be required reading for every citizen in the western world. The remainder of the book extends the work of Adam Smith (the first economist) and John Maynard Keynes (the first macro economist).

Links:

Excerpts from Section 3, Chapter 7 "Inequality and Concentration: Preliminary Bearings"

Comments and General Observations

The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public Vs. Private Sector Myths (2013) Mariana Mazzucato

Okay so on of the biggest myths popularized in the past 30-years that government gets in the way of business. This book is proof that this myth is false. In reality, governments do the lion's share of all the research while assuming all the risk. It is only at this point when corporate entrepreneurs step in to take credit for all the innovation.

Publisher's Blurb: This new bestseller from leading economist Mariana Mazzucato – named by the ‘New Republic’ as one of the ‘most important innovation thinkers’ today – is stirring up much-needed debates worldwide about the role of the State in innovation. Debunking the myth of a laggard State at odds with a dynamic private sector, Mazzucato reveals in case study after case study that in fact the opposite situation is true, with the private sector only finding the courage to invest after the entrepreneurial State has made the high-risk investments. Case studies include examples of the State’s role in the ‘green revolution’, in biotech and pharmaceuticals, as well as several detailed examples from Silicon Valley. In an intensely researched chapter, she reveals that every technology that makes the iPhone so ‘smart’ was government funded: the Internet, GPS, its touch-screen display and the voice-activated Siri. Mazzucato also controversially argues that in the history of modern capitalism the State has not only fixed market failures, but has also shaped and created markets, paving the way for new technologies and sectors that the private sector only ventures into once the initial risk has been assumed. And yet by not admitting the State’s role we are socializing only the risks, while privatizing the rewards in fewer hands. This, she argues, hurts both future innovation and equity in modern-day capitalism. Named one of the ‘2013 Books of the Year’ by the ‘Financial Times’ and recommended by ‘Forbes’ in its 2013 ‘creative leaders’ list, this book is a must-read for those interested in a refreshing and long-awaited take on the public vs. private sector debate.

Some Example Successes: RADAR, SONAR, aerospace, space flight, microelectronics, internet, IT-revolution, GPS, biotech, nanotech, clean-tech. Today, ARPAe (ARPA energy) is responsible for the lion's share of new energy research.

The Republican Brain (2012) Chris Mooney
subtitled: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality

Bestselling author Chris Mooney uses cutting-edge research to explain the psychology behind why today’s Republicans ("conservatives" for those people outside of the USA) reject reality—it's just part of who they are.

From climate change to evolution, the rejection of mainstream science among Republicans is growing, as is the denial of expert consensus on the economy, American history, foreign policy and much more. Why won't Republicans (conservatives) accept things that most experts agree on? Why are they constantly fighting against the facts?

Science writer Chris Mooney explores brain scans, polls, and psychology experiments to explain why conservatives today believe more wrong things; appear more likely than Democrats ("liberals" for those people outside of the USA) to oppose new ideas and less likely to change their beliefs in the face of new facts; and sometimes respond to compelling evidence by doubling down on their current beliefs.  

Certain to spark discussion and debate, The Republican Brain also promises to add to the lengthy list of persuasive scientific findings that Republicans reject and deny.

Comments:

The Leap: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Economy (2011) Chris Turner

 highly recommended for citizens and investors alike 

The most vital project of the twenty-first century is a shift from our unsustainable way of life to a sustainable one--a great lateral leap from a track headed for economic and ecological disaster to one bound for renewed prosperity. In The Leap, Chris Turner presents a field guide to making that jump, drawing on recent breakthroughs in state-of-the-art renewable energy, cleantech and urban design. From the solar towers of sunny Spain to the bike paths and pedestrianized avenues of the world's most livable city--Copenhagen, Denmark--to the nascent "green-collar" economies rejuvenating the former East Germany and the American Rust Belt, he paints a vivid portrait of a new, sustainable world order already up and running. In his 2007 book, The Geography of Hope, Chris Turner wrote about an emerging world of cleantech possibility. This led to a two-year stint as sustainability columnist for the Globe and Mail, during which many of the fringe developments covered in his book became vital. By the time those two years were up his reporting tracks were being retraced by mainstream outlets like the New York Times. In The Leap, he once again charts the world's near-future course.

Comments:

  1. Almost every Ontario (Canada) resident would agree that the McGuinty Liberals did a poor job explaining to voters how a modified version of Germany's FIT (Feed In Tariff) is intended to transform Ontario's economy. This book (especially chapter 3) does a much better job explaining why FIT (Feed In Tariff) might be the only rational approach to reducing energy costs and CO2 emissions while simultaneously creating a high number of tax-paying  green-collar jobs .
  2. FIT (Feed In Tariff) deals with humanity's CO2 emissions from the opposite end of the problem.
    1. no carbon taxes
    2. no carbon trading schemes or emission trading schemes
    3. no dependency on intergovernmental agreements like Rio, Kyoto, or Copenhagen which would be almost impossible to verify or enforce (think about the current state of international anti-drug and anti-arms agreements)
    4. no government handouts (no subsidies or tax credits)
      • Germany's FIT program is funded by adding approximately 1-cent per KWH to consumers power bills which average $50 per household per year.
      • This created 250,000 tax-paying energy-related jobs over the first 10 years
         
  3. Unlike Germany's actions, Ontario's were more of a stumble in the correct direction

Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy (2010) Will Bunch

So the other day I was exercising at the gym while a poorly educated (you could tell by the grammar) right-wing nut-bar next to me preached a pro-conservative sermon about Saint Ronald Reagan, savior of the free world. I am apolitical so did not offer any counterpoints; but it would have been pointless anyway because you can never argue with "true believers" (especially those who only see politics as a team sport but are unable to articulate the differences between "progressive conservatives" like Churchill and "big business conservatives" like Thatcher and Reagan). While "this preacher" droned on I kept thinking: isn't this the same guy who "fired the air traffic controllers which signaled everyone else that it was okay to attack unions and the middle class", "who's free-trade policies resulted in the creation of a new American phrase: the rust belt", "diverted money from Iran to the contras in Nicaragua then lied about it", "allowed the just-broken up Bell System to begin shifting back in the direction of a monopoly", "instituted Reaganomics (also called the trickle-down economics)", "who's policies ended up creating the Savings and Loan crisis", "created the Strategic Defense Initiative also known as Star Wars (I still remember Caspar Weinberger looking on in stunned silence during the announcement)", "added 2 trillion to the nation's debt"?

Later that evening I was Goggling some stuff about Reagan when I stumbled on this book: Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy which is obviously titled after Reagan's famous speech where he said "Mister Gorbachev. Tear down this wall". So I bought the book (even though I am apolitical) which turned out to be a very good read as well as a refresher about American and world history between 1981 and 1988. But even if you don't buy this book, take some time to read the reviews here: https://www.amazon.com/Tear-Down-This-Myth-Right-Wing/dp/1416597638/

Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft (2011) Paul Allen

Steve Jobs (2011) Walter Isaacson

Shocking revelations:

Comments:

Blackberry The Inside Story of Research in Motion (2010) Rod McQueen

The BlackBerry is — quite literally — everywhere. President Barack Obama admits he can't live without it. Oprah Winfrey declared on her show that the BlackBerry is one of her "favorite things." BusinessWeek put the case for owning one bluntly in an article entitled "No BlackBerry: No Life." Launched in 1984 by Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie with only a $15,000 loan, Research in Motion (RIM) has grown into one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world. The reason: the BlackBerry. RIM had sold more than 50 million BlackBerrys by 2009 and sales of the handheld device generates annual profits in excess of $11 billion. BlackBerry: The Untold Story of Research in Motion is bestselling author Rod McQueen’s fascinating and absorbing biography of the device’s incredible popularity, as well as a never-before-seen glimpse into its origins and development — and the geniuses who were its inspiration.

Thomas Paine's Rights of Man (2008) Christopher Hitchens
subtitled: Books That Changed the World

Philadelphia Writer "Thomas Paine"Thomas Paine's critique of monarchy and introduction of the concept of human rights influenced both the French and the American revolutions, argues Vanity Fair contributor and bestselling author Hitchens (God Is Not Great) in this incisive addition to the Books That Changed the World series. Paine's ideas even influenced later independence movements among the Irish, Scots and Welsh. In this lucid assessment, Hitchens notes that in addition to Common Sense's influence on Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence, Paine wrote in unadorned prose that ordinary people could understand. Hitchens reads Paine's rejection of the ministrations of clergy in his dying moments as an instance of his unyielding commitment to the cause of rights and reason. But Hitchens also takes Paine to task for appealing to an idealized state of nature, a rhetorical move that, Hitchens charges, posits either a mythical past or an unattainable future and, Hitchens avers, disordered the radical tradition thereafter. Hitchens writes in characteristically energetic prose, and his aversion to religion is in evidence, too. Young Paine found his mother's Anglican orthodoxy noxious, Hitchens notes: Freethinking has good reason to be grateful to Mrs Paine.

RELENTLESS: True Story of Ted Rogers (2008) Ted Rogers

Edward Samuel Rogers and the Revolution of Communications (2000) by Ian A. Anthony

Valley Boy (2007) Tom Perkins

iWoz (2006) Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith

The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream (2005) Jeremy Rifkin

The American Dream is in decline. Americas are increasingly overworked, underpaid, and squeezed for time. But there is an alternative: the European Dream--a more leisurely, healthy, prosperous, and sustainable way of life. Europe's lifestyle is not only desirable, argues Jeremy Rifkin, but may be crucial to sustaining prosperity in the new era. With the dawn of the European Union, Europe has become an economic superpower in its own rights--its GDP now surpasses that of the United States. Europe has achieved newfound dominance not by single-mindedly driving up stock prices, expanding working hours, and pressing every household into a double-wage-earner conundrum. Instead, the New Europe relies on market networks that place cooperation above competition; promotes a new sense of citizenship that extols the well-being of the whole person and the community rather than the dominant individual; and recognizes the necessity of deep play and leisure to create a better, more productive, and healthier workforce. From the medieval era to modernity, Rifkin delves deeply into the history of Europe, and eventually America, to show how the continent has succeeded in slowly and steadily developing a more adaptive, sensible way of working and living. In The European Dream, Rifkin posits a dawning truth that only the most jingoistic can ignore: Europe's flexible, communitarian model of society, business, and citizenship is better suited to the challenges of the twenty-first century. Indeed, the European Dream may come to define the new century as the American Dream defined the century now past.

quote: "Europeans should congratulate themselves for producing the most humane approach to capitalism ever attempted"

For a fair economic comparison of the USA to Europe
the author asserts that you must create a table comparing American "States" to European "Countries" (think "United States of Europe") ordered by economic output, then compare the entries line-by-line. Here is a partial list taken from page 65/66. Notice how Europe wins every time? So why does America cling to the fallacy that they are number one in anything?

European Country GDP ($ Billion) GDP ($ Billion) American State
Germany $1,866 $1,344 California
United Kingdom $1,400 $799 New York
France $1,300 $742 Texas
Italy $1,000 $472 Florida
Spain $560 $467 Illinois

Thomas Paine and the Promise of America (2005) Harvey Kaye

Philadelphia Writer "Thomas Paine"The second chapter covers 18th century life in England (which helped forge Paine's intellect) and justifies the purchase of this book. For example, while it was true that all Englishmen had civil rights, full civil rights were only granted to:

Men, who owned land, who earned more than £40 per year, who were Anglican.

This meant that a wealthy upper class had more rights than members of the lower classes, and god help you if you were up against one of them in a court of law. Life in 18th century America was not much different where you only needed to be a White Man of property.

Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (2004) Niall Ferguson

Is America an empire? Certainly not, according to the USA government. Despite the conquest of two sovereign states in as many years, despite the presence of more than 750 military installations in two thirds of the world's countries and despite his stated intention "to extend the benefits of freedom...to every corner of the world," George W. Bush maintains that "America has never been an empire."

"We don't seek empires," insists Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. "We're not imperialistic."

Nonsense, says Niall Ferguson. In Colossus he argues that in both military and economic terms America is nothing less than the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Just like the British Empire a century ago, the United States aspires to globalize free markets, the rule of law, and representative government. In theory it’s a good project, says Ferguson. Yet Americans shy away from the long-term commitments of manpower and money that are indispensable if rogue regimes and failed states really are to be changed for the better. Ours, he argues, is an empire with an attention deficit disorder, imposing ever more unrealistic timescales on its overseas interventions. Worse, it’s an empire in denial—a hyperpower that simply refuses to admit the scale of its global responsibilities. And the negative consequences will be felt at home as well as abroad. In an alarmingly persuasive final chapter Ferguson warns that this chronic myopia also applies to our domestic responsibilities. When overstretch comes, he warns, it will come from within—and it will reveal that more than just the feet of the American colossus is made of clay.

Other Literary Diversions

A Legacy of Quality: J.M. Schneider, Inc. A Centennial Celebration 1890-1990
(1989) authors: Frederick P Schneider and Ray Stanton

Asimov's Guide to the Bible (1982) Isaac Asimov (PhD in Biochemistry)

 highly recommended for Judeo-Christians wishing to learn more about life in ancient times

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (2015) Mary Beard

Opening the book in 63 bce with the famous clash between the populist aristocrat Catiline and Cicero, the renowned politician and orator, Beard animates this “terrorist conspiracy,” which was aimed at the very heart of the Republic, demonstrating how this singular event would presage the struggle between democracy and autocracy that would come to define much of Rome’s subsequent history. Illustrating how a classical democracy yielded to a self-confident and self-critical empire, S.P.Q.R. reintroduces us, though in a wholly different way, to famous and familiar characters―Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Augustus, and Nero, among others―while expanding the historical aperture to include those overlooked in traditional histories: the women, the slaves and ex-slaves, conspirators, and those on the losing side of Rome’s glorious conquests.

The Sun & The Moon  & The Rolling Stones (2016) Rich Cohen

quote from page 186: Richards later said the famous "Jumpin' Jack Flash" riff was in fact the "Satisfaction" riff in reverse

Cosmic Consciousness (1901/2008) Richard Maurice Bucke

Comments:

Forged: Writing in the Name of God -- Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (2011) by Bart Ehrman

The evocative title tells it all and hints at the tone of sensationalism that pervades this book. Those familiar with the earlier work of Ehrman, a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and author of more than 20 books including Misquoting Jesus, will not be surprised at the content of this one. Written in a manner accessible to non specialists, Ehrman argues that many books of the New Testament are not simply written by people other than the ones to whom they are attributed, but that they are deliberate forgeries. The word itself connotes scandal and crime, and it appears on nearly every page. Indeed, this book takes on an idea widely accepted by biblical scholars: that writing in someone else's name was common practice and perfectly okay in ancient times. Ehrman argues that it was not even then considered acceptable—hence, a forgery. While many readers may wish for more evidence of the charge, Ehrman's introduction to the arguments and debates among different religious communities during the first few centuries and among the early Christians themselves, though not the book's main point, is especially valuable.

"Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible and Why" (2005) by Bart Ehrman

When world-class biblical scholar Bart Ehrman first began to study the texts of the Bible in their original languages he was startled to discover the multitude of mistakes and intentional alterations that had been made by earlier translators. In Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman tells the story behind the mistakes and changes that ancient scribes made to the New Testament and shows the great impact they had upon the Bible we use today. He frames his account with personal reflections on how his study of the Greek manuscripts made him abandon his once ultraconservative views of the Bible. Since the advent of the printing press and the accurate reproduction of texts, most people have assumed that when they read the New Testament they are reading an exact copy of Jesus' words or Saint Paul's writings. And yet, for almost fifteen hundred years these manuscripts were hand copied by scribes who were deeply influenced by the cultural, theological, and political disputes of their day. Both mistakes and intentional changes abound in the surviving manuscripts, making the original words difficult to reconstruct. For the first time, Ehrman reveals where and why these changes were made and how scholars go about reconstructing the original words of the New Testament as closely as possible. Ehrman makes the provocative case that many of our cherished biblical stories and widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself stem from both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes -- alterations that dramatically affected all subsequent versions of the Bible.

"The God Delusion" (2006) by Richard Dawkins

The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War (1998) by Robert B. Strassler

The Roman Republic (1966) Isaac Asimov
The Roman Empire (1967) Isaac Asimov

I had always intended to read The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. Last month (2008) I found new hardcopy copies in a Toronto book store but was shocked to learn that a boxed set of six volumes encompassed ~ 4100 pages of small print. Although the price was very reasonable, I was not prepared to read that much history at this time. A short time later I stumbled upon these two gems by Isaac Asimov.

The Roman Republic (1966) by Isaac Asimov

The Roman Empire (1967) by Isaac Asimov

Humanity's Coming Dark Age (a warning)

Humanity's Coming Dark Age - The rise and fall of empires
The Rise and Fall of Empires (published: 2003-01-29)
Symptoms before each collapse: ignorance, superstition, religious fundamentalism, xenophobia, intolerance, rejection of science

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Neil Rieck
Kitchener - Waterloo - Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.