I have this awesome picture in my head in which Jared Diamond did not write this book. He instead wrote a detailed, engaging account of the history ofI have this awesome picture in my head in which Jared Diamond did not write this book. He instead wrote a detailed, engaging account of the history of plant and animal domestication.
"But Rhiannon," you might say, "doesn't that remove his entire thesis, that geography determined just about everything about the course of human civilization?"
And, I would respond yes, it does.
"And, isn't that kind of removing the whole book?"
No, I counter. It just removes the douche-y social Darwinist parts. Plus, if he weren't trying to prove an overarching point about the entirety of human history, readers wouldn't be subjected to his style of argument, which largely consists of applying only certain parts of his thesis at certain points (see his arguments regarding the lengths of human habitation of North American versus how those same arguments are applied regarding Africa), waving away pieces of evidence that would call his thesis into question, and neglecting to include any citations, instead relying on a "Further Reading" section. Removing all of this would leave the only parts really worth reading: the stuff about plant and animal domestication. Which was awesome....more
This is a very solid biography of Galileo, with an added focus on his relationship with his eldest daughter, who spent most of her life in a FlorentinThis is a very solid biography of Galileo, with an added focus on his relationship with his eldest daughter, who spent most of her life in a Florentine convent. The book is tied together with translations of her many letters to him (sadly, his letters to her have been lost - thought to have been destroyed by the Mother Superior after her death).
I really enjoyed this, both for her clear writing style, and for the focus on Suor Maria Celeste. We get the "great man" style of biography with the parts about Galileo - a really fascinating figure to me - and we also get a story about an intelligent woman in a period we don't have a lot of female biographies from. The parts about daily life in a convent were really interesting to me as a look into a historically female-run society.
The author's thesis seems to center on tearing down the popular idea of Galileo as an intellectual bad boy taking on the Catholic church head-on, submitting instead a view of him as a devout Catholic who didn't see a necessary confrontation between faith and science. This is a thesis I can totally support, but I feel like Sobel sometimes sacrifices scholarship for readability, in that a lot of her assertions aren't cited. There is an extensive bibliography in the back of the book, but that isn't necessarily helpful for the more casual reader. There were points where I wasn't sure where history ended and the author's inferences began, and some footnotes would have really served to clear that up for me....more