There are already more than a dozen good reviews on Goodreads that cover the book's strong and weak points (nothing stood out as way off the mark), soThere are already more than a dozen good reviews on Goodreads that cover the book's strong and weak points (nothing stood out as way off the mark), so I don't feel I really have to sell or defend this one - just check them out for yourself. I came across this roaming the stacks at the library and it was a welcome find.
Patrick Hunt takes ten archaeological discoveries you've heard of, but probably only knew about in outline. For each discovery he gives a little Indiana Jones-style introduction story, a little background to separate the fact from legend (or what is certainly known, from what is speculated, from what might never be proved or disproved), some relatively obscure facts the casual reader will probably find interesting, an explanation for why this discovery remains important today, and finally a summary section (with the occasional anecdote for good measure).
I liked it for being a quick, fun, and easy read. If you're curious about any of these discoveries or about archaeology in general, it's a good place to start. ...more
An easy and interesting read on the cultural regions of North America. Colin Woodard traces the history of the 10 nations occupying the continental UnAn easy and interesting read on the cultural regions of North America. Colin Woodard traces the history of the 10 nations occupying the continental United States, northern Mexico, and southern Canada (First Nation in northern Canada and Greenland is briefly discussed in the epilogue). Perhaps you shared my first thought: three countries with eleven nations, can we check the math on that? On page 3 Woodard anticipates this question and defines the terms state and nation: "A state is a sovereign political entity like the United Kingdom, Kenya, Panama, or New Zealand [...] A nation is a group of people who share - or believe they share - a common culture, ethnic origin, language, historical experience, artifacts, and symbols." This book explores who are the people of these nations, where did they come from, where are their cultural boundaries, what do they they have in common with their neighbors, where do they differ, and how does this all tie together to form, and inform, our familiar ideas of what it means to be American?
Okay, a lot of ground to cover in one book. And plenty of bones to pick along the way.
While my background is in social science, Anthropology is not my discipline and any detailed criticism is beyond my expertise. That said, I'll restate what Woodard offers as the basis for his ideas and share my thoughts on the book itself.
Joel Garreau published The Nine Nations of North America in 1981, and of course it's the obvious starting point for comparison. I've never read it myself, but I heard about it in a sociology class in high school and I found the idea fascinating - that as Americans we're not really just one unified people, but distinct cultural groups with our own ideas, values, etc. Woodard states in the Acknowledgements and Suggested Readings that Garreau was his starting point as well, and this book was his attempt to provide was Garreau was lacking: a historical explanation for how these distinct nations emerged. Furthermore, Woodard notes that a Republican Party campaign strategist, Kevin Phillips (no relation), identified the nations and their boundaries back in 1969. As he concedes in the introduction, other writers might draw different lines, sub-dividing or merging as they see appropriate. But most people will agree on the premise, if not the details.
The pros: The book succeeds in its style, pace, and tone. It's very readable. Each time I finished a chapter I felt drawn right to the next one. That's hard enough to achieve in fiction, so bravo. Woodard provides just enough information to satisfy your curiosity about a given topic or to answer a question you wondered about but weren't quite sure how to ask, without laboring through tedious minutiae. Or at least we have similar tastes.
The cons: While I like the tone of the book in the sense of writing style, I imagine many readers will be put off by the portrayal of the Deep South. One of the unifying themes of the book is the political and social hostility between Yankeedom (the New England-based nation inheriting the Puritan traditions of social equality and enlightenment through government mandates and social conformity) and the Deep South (heirs to the tradition of Caribbean slave lords who formed a rigidly hierarchical society based on the classical slave states of Greece and Rome). Woordard is from Portland, Maine, and it's pretty clear which side he's on.
It was refreshing to read about the tyranny and horror of the colonial period, a subject that in school is usually brushed over in broad strokes. The Deep South definitely gets the worst of it. I'm not complaining. This is a topic that educators at all levels address in generalities because either: 1) they don't really know the material that well, or 2) they don't want to stir the pot. Woodard does on both counts. But while he exposed the mythology of the Deep South, he glosses over other nations, particularly Yankeedom. And on this point, I'm sure he'll find plenty of critics, and they'll be right. I suppose as a fellow "Yankee" from New Hampshire I should stand for the rosy portrayal of my homeland. But I know from experience that the ideological agenda of Yankeedom is not as enlightened or as altruistic as it pretends to be. As the book progresses, and especially in the final two chapters addressing the current political landscape, Woodard seems to shift from analysis of cultural values to summarizing his own. I don't know if this was intentional or a natural blind spot in his writing, but the tone changes. And I do share his values and opinions for the most part, but if I were writing I would have been more careful to maintain an even criticism or to highlight these opinions as my own for the sake of transparency. I really hate recommending an otherwise solid book with the added disclaimer about the author's hidden agenda or biases.
All that said, yes, it is still a excellent book and certainly worth the read. As above, it's readability alone earns it credit by opening up the topic for a wide audience. ...more
Fans of Durant's magnum opus series The Story of Civilization will recognize his light style to cover heavy topics. However, be advised that this bookFans of Durant's magnum opus series The Story of Civilization will recognize his light style to cover heavy topics. However, be advised that this book, unlike Civilization is very brief, general, and abstract. His prose has the familiar richness and smoothness of his other works, but his purpose is different. This looks like it was not written to tell the stories of another age, but instead to prompt philosophical discussion on philosophic topics.
I still think it's an interesting read and a good introduction to Will Durant, but I think most fans of his other writing will be left wanting more. ...more
A short and accessible introduction to the City. Other users with far more experience on the topic have already posted excellent reviews, and I have nA short and accessible introduction to the City. Other users with far more experience on the topic have already posted excellent reviews, and I have nothing technical or critical to add for this one. I'll just say it was a pleasure and it left me wanting more. ...more
I bought this book for 48 cents, and it's been worth every penny. Like most anthologies this is a fairly straightforward overview of the time period (I bought this book for 48 cents, and it's been worth every penny. Like most anthologies this is a fairly straightforward overview of the time period (1787-1848), covering, well, major problems in the early republic. In general, the focus is on social problems, especially categorized and presented in terms of the concerns and viewpoints of sociology in 1992; I'm not particularly for or against that, but it's fairly standard material in that sense.
The exposition and summaries by the editors are easy to read and to the point, providing good orientation to the documents. The best part of this anthology, as with any good anthology, is that the primary documents take the center stage. It's always interesting to hear (I guess, read) people in their own words with their own tone and style. It gives you a much better sense of not only what they thought on a given topic, but what their opinions were based upon and what were their deeper concerns or priorities. At 568 pages there is a lot to chew on, but just about everything is brief and concise enough to give you a good taste. ...more
Walten Neff sets the standard for excellent scholarly work on psychology and social science in general. This book is by far the best overview on the tWalten Neff sets the standard for excellent scholarly work on psychology and social science in general. This book is by far the best overview on the topic of work (as he noted in 1974, there wasn't much that psychology had to say on the topic then, and I haven't personally come across anything striking since). More than that, he uses a light, accessible writing style to explore various aspects of work and behavior, exploring each issue from multiple angles. This is probably the single best thing about the work, since it provide the balance and perspective that you don't generally find in scholarly publications, whether for professionals or the general public.
I read this book in pieces over the course of two years, so it wouldn't make much sense to get into the details of the ideas and issues reviewed (except in the most general and pointless way), so I'll leave the comments to the general theme, scope and style of the book. Students and professionals of the social sciences would strongly benefit from reading this at any point in their career, if not for the specific issues related to work or the methods of psychological study, than certainly to use as a model of good writing. ...more
This book is translated from Ifrah's original French to English by E.F. Harding. The translation is excellent, very readable, with many additional traThis book is translated from Ifrah's original French to English by E.F. Harding. The translation is excellent, very readable, with many additional translator's notes inserted to provide useful or interesting background information.
Ifrah does an excellent job covering the hisorical record of computing, starting with an excellent overview on the history of writing and of numbers. He clearly states what is based on the history record, what is theorized from it, and what is pure speculation (at present). He covers number systems throughout the world and explains the advantages each had over others, arguing why certain ones "survived" the rest. Ifrah is a good storyteller, making the subject much more interesting and important that I expected. He covers a lot of ground in a relatively short book (410 pages for the entire span of history).
The book is at times a bit technical, which could be a turnoff to the general public. The math and the theories are not present as too difficult, brought up to show their relevance in computation and not the more "heavy" mathematics. The translator's notes made it easier to read, and the more difficult parts I did not understand were not a serious hindrance to the rest of the book.
One thing I would like to highlight: Ifrah illustrates that systems of representation and communication (such as Indo-Arabic numerals, binary code, the abacus) have been extremely important in the history of mathematics and the history of civilization. For example, the abacus made calculation of relatively large numbers possible, as did the adoption of the decimal system (we take for granted today, doing calculations in fourth grade that the best in the world could not do even 500 years ago; could you imagine counting pebbles instead of using an abacus, or writing out "345 and 2/10 and 6/100 and 8/1000" instead of "345.268" every time?). Likewise, it was only when they attempted computers with binary (its simplicity and its special properties) instead of base 8 or 10 that allowed the possibility of modern computers. If any of the above sounds interesting, then this book is definitely worth checking out. ...more
The above Goodreads description of this book is terrible: wrong, misleading, and an injustice to this magnificent book.
Mirko Grmek's book is translatThe above Goodreads description of this book is terrible: wrong, misleading, and an injustice to this magnificent book.
Mirko Grmek's book is translated from the original French by Russel C. Maulitz and Jacalyn Duffin (who is one of my favorite writers and author of History of Medicine, which is the best overview of medicine I've found yet). Grmek does an excellent job to separate the "story" of AIDS from the "medicine" by putting the epidemic (pandemic) in context. He explores the early history of the epidemic and traces back story lines and evidence to their origins, as best he can. He explores both the social and medical issues at the time and social and medical repercussions once the disease turned into an epidemic.
Grmek does not seem to have any particular agenda or motivation other than a rigorous and thorough study of the epidemic (as The New York Times Book Review says, "a refreshingly fair account by a first-class mind with no axes to grind"). Grmek approaches the topic from four directions: 1) review of the epidemic from its first cases, trying to capture a play-by-play as it unfolded based on scientific literature, media articles, popular myths and opinions, etc.; 2) a biological overview of the disease and the "real science" behind it (written in thankfully plain English); 3) a thoroughly historical analysis of the disease and its possible origins prior to the current epidemic (especially interesting as it gives the reader a good sense of medical history in general and HIV in particular); 4) and finally, the biological and social conditions of the epidemic, clarifying many of the popular misconceptions and debunking many of the ungrounded popular myths and stories surrounding AIDS.
Throughout the book Grmek explores attitudes of the medical community and the (mostly American) public at the time of the outbreak. There was a generally sense of invulnerability by the public regarding diseases, and the medical community was in general very resistant to taking steps to deal with the epidemic early on, largely due to the spirit of the times. Medical science had just, more or less, eradicate smallpox, contained most epidemics since World War II, and suffered public censure for poorly administrated vaccinations (swine flu). There was a general sentiment that widespread epidemics were a thing of the past. Grmek summarizes, "AIDS, [according to virologist Robin Weiss:] by all rights must preoccupy us because it is a new ailment and because it is spreading. I [Grmek:] might add that AIDS also fascinates us because it concerns sex and blood: an extraordinary outlet for phantasms. AIDS is fatal in its overt form. We had forgotten such plagues existed. The AIDS epidemic caught us unaware and aroused the return of irrational fears because it exposed the impotence of modern medicine just when we had begun to believe that the infectious diseases had been vanquished for good." In this way, AIDS was and is at least as important as social/professional concern as a medical one.
This book truly sets the standard for good medical writing, historical research, social studies, and public awareness. It is well written in mostly plain English. Some medical/technical language is used and data is provided, but never so much as to deter the reader from the issue. Thoroughly researched and well written, this book should be standard for all medical students and history or social science student as a fine example of professional work and writing. The book was published originally in 1989 (English 1990); I would very much like to see an update with the information since. ...more
There's no simple way to capture what this book is about or Wiesel's style. Yes, it's about the Holocaust, specifically Wiesel's own experience in theThere's no simple way to capture what this book is about or Wiesel's style. Yes, it's about the Holocaust, specifically Wiesel's own experience in the concentration camps. But I can't really convey what it felt like to read it. It doesn't read like anything else I've come across. Even though most children can read the words, it's certainly for an adult audience with all the cruelty and suffering.
I received this book two years ago, and it took me two years to read. It's a short book, but very dark. ...more
I never read this book cover to cover, but I did read a good amount and would recommend on that basis. I read the 3rd edition (not on Goodreads), prinI never read this book cover to cover, but I did read a good amount and would recommend on that basis. I read the 3rd edition (not on Goodreads), printed in 1965, and I would recommend that edition; I assume the updates have only improved.
The 3rd edition is 996 pages loaded with information, but all very straightforward, readable prose. The focus is on the geography, culture and concerns at each period it covers. Geography is especially notable, as it contains many excellent maps to use for comparing political boundaries over time. There is an excellent bibliography (which I always look for with serious, scholarly texts) and appendices.
The weakness of this book is the same criticism I have about most other Western Civilization books that claim universality. There is some coverage of Asian and US history, but mostly it focuses on Europe (little to no mention of Africa, South America, Oceania, etc.). They should just call it a History of Modern Europe and its Circumstances. Also, the perspective is disproportionately weighted toward the 20th century and the immediate antecedents. Maybe it's my own bias or sentiment, but I feel more apologetic for this text than other related work (such as The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, which seems more deliberately biased). I hope that the more recent editions have corrected this bias. With that being said, I still feel this text is a good cut above its peers with the weight that it does give to the past and non-Western history, especially given that it was printed in 1965. ...more
I read this book around 2000 and reviewed it again December 2008. It's an interesting, if somewhat morbid, book. The book is oversize and covers 176 pI read this book around 2000 and reviewed it again December 2008. It's an interesting, if somewhat morbid, book. The book is oversize and covers 176 pages, heavy with excellent illustrations.
Kiple uses light and straight-forward prose. The writing is not too technical and aimed at the general public. A worthwhile read for interest for a good sense of history, a side less told. ...more
I read this book in a class on Early Greek Philosophy, and this book was hard to digest at the time. This book is an excellent reference for philosophI read this book in a class on Early Greek Philosophy, and this book was hard to digest at the time. This book is an excellent reference for philosophy students and maybe classics scholars, but not so much for the general public. This book is focused on the Pre-Socratics (philosophers before Socrates) and therefore does not contain anything by Socrates, Plato or Aristotle. However, I think they added in some Greek philosophers that came after Socrates but were outside his teaching and influence.
Barnes has done his work compiling and editing (and translating?) these texts. He takes care to show his work, noting every questionable, contested, missing, or reconstructed piece of the text. Commendable for scholarly work; tedious for the general public. There's always a trade off in deciding what to preserve and what to gloss over, and Barnes takes preservation to the extreme. Decent book for introductory course on philosophy, probably very good for graduate students, bad starter for the general public. For an introduction to Western Philosophy, try Sophie's World. ...more
A novel and interesting approach to teaching history. This book, as the title says, provides a timetable where you can look up what the human race wasA novel and interesting approach to teaching history. This book, as the title says, provides a timetable where you can look up what the human race was doing at various times and places throughout history. Each year or era is cross indexed with a sphere of human activity, such as arts, politics, science, etc. The book is oversize and runs a whopping 676 pages, and even then the entries are necessarily short in order to cover the whole of human history.
The book's strength is apparent at first glance. It is very accessible and allows even the most casual reader a good opportunity to flip open to any page and get a sense of the major events and concerns of a given time. What were the scientific or philosophical issues during the time when Charlemagne was on his conquests? It's convenient and fun. Grade school and high school classrooms and libraries would do well to have a copy of this book on hand.
I recommend the book, but I must give a few cautions. You will find, of course, the same problems and biases that affect every other history book written. The only context provided for interpreting events (besides the reader's prior familiarity) is other, equally brief, entries; this leads any given entry open to misinterpretation. Furthermore, there are always inherent biases in selecting or describing meaningful events. For example, in the 6th and 5th century BC there is a summation of Learning and Philosophy along the lines of "Humankind reaches a pinnacle of wisdom," or so; this is in reference to Socrates and the Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Old Testament Jewish scholars, and various other unrelated but approximately concurrent notable philosophical people and groups. It's an interesting idea (and the editors were not the first to propose it), but it's a proposition and not a historical "fact." The entire book is subject to the same kind of simplification and "fudging" of information, and experts would almost certainly take issue with much or all of the material. Of course, you can decide for yourself what is fair and what's hair splitting.
Finally, this approach necessarily has to partition time into single years or spans of years, providing a snapshot of what happened in that time frame. It is not well suited for capturing trends and events that span more than one given time frame. For example, it would have a hard time pinpointing origins of capitalism in practice or in ideas in a given year or decade, and any attempt to cover that topic would have to select a more or less arbitrary point for reference, or just to make mention in passing. That makes it hard to use as a reference for such abstract and nebulous ideas and concepts. In short, it provides a lot of information, but it can't cover everything and it's fairly limited as a reference tool for a serious scholar.
So given its flaws and limitations, I commend the editors for taking on this mammoth task and for organizing and writing it in such an accessible way. If you're interested in history, give it a look. It's worth checking out. ...more
An excellent book on Constitutional Law and at the same time on general issues with government, policy, social movements, and rights. Law Professor MaAn excellent book on Constitutional Law and at the same time on general issues with government, policy, social movements, and rights. Law Professor Mark Tushnet explores the meaning and the context of 16 famous Supreme Court cases and their legacy through opposing opinions.
Each chapter is introduced with a background for the issues, followed by the mostly unabridged opinion, and closed with follow up remarks on the later impact and importance of the decision and the dissent. I was at first surprised to find Tushnet "underselling" the value of the dissents, and sometimes the rulings, often claiming that the impact was minor in contributing to major events and issues, such as the Civil War, civil rights, segregation, Free Speech, the Great Depression, Japanese internment camps, prayer in school, birth control, and homosexuality.
As he explains in the Introduction, Tushnet advocates for what he calls Popular Constitutionalism, in which the public is more aware of an active about Constitutional issues, and in which social-political power ("constraints"), not the Supreme Court, should be the force to shape our laws. He has identified himself publicly as "socialist"; while the books has clear progressive leanings, Tushnet provides a fair and balanced account of the opinions he surveys. I think this is overall an admirable effort to get the public more aware and involved in law and politics without being preachy or pushing for specific policy. Furthermore, he explores some of the less obvious issues with making court rulings to show why court rulings are not so cut and dry.
To clarify a minor issue, not every opinion is proper dissent: Justice Gibson commented on the 1803 Marbury v. Madison on a separate separate case two decades later; President Andrew Jackson wrote a letter to Senate with the veto of the bill for a second Bank of the United States, mostly in response to McCulloch v. Maryland claiming the Supreme Court overstepped their ground in that case; Justice Jackson's memorandum supporting Brown v. Board of Education, though not a dissent at all, was included because it showed a different perspective than Justice Warren submitted for the official record (in fact the memorandum was not made public until 1988). Justice Brandeis felt compelled to write his own concurring opinion for Whitney v. California, included both to provide an additional perspective on First Amendment interpretation and for its recognized status as a convincing and powerfully worded court opinion.
The cases reviewed:
1. Marbury v. Madison, 1803 2. McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819 3. Dred Scot v. Sanford, 1857 4. The Civil Rights Cases, 1883 5. Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896 6. Lochner v. New York, 1905 7. Whitney v. California, 1927 8. National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. , 1937 9. Korematsu v. United States, 1944 10. Goesaert v. Cleary, 1948 11. Brown v. The Board of Education, 1954 12. Baker v. Carr, 1962 13. Abington School District v. Schempp, 1963 14. Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965 15. Morrison v. Olson, 1988 16. Lawrence v. Texan, 2003
The court opinions, as you would expect, are often lengthy and hard to digest, but the language is not too technical. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how clear and readable most of the text was. Strongly recommended for the general public with at least a high school reading level, and of course to all law and political science students. ...more