The Book Stack

I’ve got a stack of new books that I want to get to this fall, although it’s not going to be easy. If your interests run in the same currents, you may be interested in some of them…

Us and Them, by David Berreby. Berreby takes a look at how we put ourselves in groups, and put others outside them. I read it when Berreby asked me to give it a blurb, but I would like to return to it to really delve into all the rich material he’s brought together, from history, neuroscience, and a range of other disciplines.

The Pterosaurs: From Deep Time. I’ve always thought these flying reptiles have gotten the short end of the paleontological stick since I wrote an article about them for Discover. They’re much more elegant and surreal than dinosaurs. Imagine a hairy bat-like reptile the size of a small plane soaring overhead. This new book is by David Unwin, a British paleontologist who is one of the world’s leading pterosaurologists.

The Evolution of Insects. This book has two pleasures. One is the way it surveys the vast diversity of insects. The photographs alone are remarkable, my favorite being the picture of a praying mantis-like insect that has become a pale-white mimic of an orchid. But the other pleasure is the way it manages to convey the sweep of the 400 million year history of these animals.

Bioethics and the New Embryology. If you want to have form an opinion about the ethics of stem cells, cloning, and the like, you really need to understand some of the science behind it. Scott Gilbert, a Swarthmore biologist, writes the leading developmental biology textbook, and he recently decided to write a short overview of the most relevant material to the bioethics debates. Before you decide when life begins, read this.

The Best American Science & Nature Writing 2005. Plenty of good stuff in there–Malcom Gladwell, Oliver Sacks, Sherwin Nuland, and the like. An article of mine about morality and the brain is also included.