This book by a psychologist who helped developed some of the therapy used for OCD actually seems a bit dated now, but it was only published five years...moreThis book by a psychologist who helped developed some of the therapy used for OCD actually seems a bit dated now, but it was only published five years ago (in 2001). Anyway, Baer focuses on the obsessive part of OCD (that's the imp, from Edgar Allen Poe's "Imp of the Perverse"). Baer likes his classic quotes and has many, which add a bit of historical interest and depth to his book.
I learned a few new things about OCD - he explains the difference between CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and ER/P (exposure response/prevention) clearly, and shows how each works better for different people. He describes how OCD often accompanies depression - especially post-partum depression - which was rather illuminating, and he also goes into a bit about the different varieties of obsessive thoughts - violent, sexual, religious - basically, whatever would disturb you the most is what you get if you are prone to OCD (e.g., only religious believers would obsess over going to hell, thinking bad thoughts about doG, etc.). An interesting bit is that for many people OCD seems to get worse when everything in their life is going fairly well - when there is a lot of stress or illness in someone's life, it appears less likely to go out of control.(less)
Another collection of essays from a favorite non-fiction author: The Great American Pie Expedition, a look at Hoppin' John, Elvis sightings in the Kal...moreAnother collection of essays from a favorite non-fiction author: The Great American Pie Expedition, a look at Hoppin' John, Elvis sightings in the Kalamazoo area, New Madrid earthquake scare, truck stops, art made out of (or by) insects, delivering honey in NYC (including to the World Trade Center basement), the rise (and fall) of the five and dime. (less)
De Waal doesn't have the frenetic and funny writing style that Sapolsky does (another primatologist whose books I've raved about here), but he is neve...moreDe Waal doesn't have the frenetic and funny writing style that Sapolsky does (another primatologist whose books I've raved about here), but he is nevertheless good and not without a bit of dry humor. He waxes much more philosophical than Sapolsky - this book is organized into sections on Power, Sex, Violence, and Kindness, and he looks at our how these things are displayed by our nearest animal relatives: chimpanzees, bonobos (formerly called 'pygmy' chimps, now recognized as a separate species), gorillas, and to a lesser extent, baboons & other social primates.
There are some pretty eye-popping stories here, both of exceptional understanding and intelligence amongst these primates, and of exceptional cruelty. Even though I'd read a bit about bonobos, I never realized just how very different they are. And how female bonobos join together to suppress male violence. And how much sex of all kinds bonobos engage in (it's a social "lubricant" ).
Chimpanzees, on the other hand, engage in male coalition-building and politicking a lot more, and two of them will sometimes gang up on an alpha male and murder him. There is a very graphic story about a male who died of his injuries in a zoo when this happened - for some reason, the fact that this individual's testicles were squeezed and he was basically castrated by the two other males really shocked me. Chimpanzees, like humans, focus on sexual identity. (less)
A meandering memoir about buying a villa in Tuscany and restoring the grotto, making wine, planting all kinds of flowers and making geometric patterns...moreA meandering memoir about buying a villa in Tuscany and restoring the grotto, making wine, planting all kinds of flowers and making geometric patterns of grass and tile. Not recommended unless you really like reading about gardens.
I do, and it was still difficult sometimes, not being to see any pictures of this place, and thinking that Tuscany must be absolutely stuffed with foreigners with beautiful homes and peasant gardeners with green fingers.
The book doesn't describe this place half as well as the photos do (and the author's pencil illustrations in the book? Not so great.):
I'm the last person in my family to read this book. They all loved it, I was a little less impressed. Sure, it was interesting, a fun and fast read, b...moreI'm the last person in my family to read this book. They all loved it, I was a little less impressed. Sure, it was interesting, a fun and fast read, but it was awfully glib. I didn't like all the accolades about Levitt by Dubner, especially most of the vignettes between chapters.
I think the chapters really were more like magazine articles than a well put-together book.
Still, worth reading, and some of the miscellaneous stuff (not even the economic stuff, which was rather peripheral, I thought) was fascinating. I loved the stories about Superman and the Klan, Nicolae Ceausescu & banning abortion and its ramifications, and the chapter on kid's names.
The subtitle of this book is a bit misleading...it is partially a biography of a Smithsonian archaeologist and human bone specialist, Doug Owsley, wit...moreThe subtitle of this book is a bit misleading...it is partially a biography of a Smithsonian archaeologist and human bone specialist, Doug Owsley, with short chapters on some of his work at Waco and in Guatemala, and partially an account of the lawsuit he & several other anthropologists were involved in over the right to study Kennewick Man, a 9600 y.o. skeleton found eroding out of the Columbia River in Washington state.
In 1990, a law called NAGPRA (Native American Grave Protection & Repatriation Act) was passed, allowing Indian tribes in the US to claim human remains & other sacred objects that are related to their tribe for religious ceremonies, reburial, etc. The problem with Kennewick Man is that it is so old that it cannot be directly linked to any living tribes - especially without studying it, which a coalition of tribes from that part of WA did not want to allow.
The press has framed this mainly as a battle between Indian traditionalists and scientists, but the book shows some interesting insights into different govt. departments and political reasons for the battle. My only complaint is that Owsley is portrayed in such a fawning manner...the author just went a little overboard in the hero worship department. Not that Owsley doesn't deserve it, from everything I've heard, but it detracted from the book.
Although Owsley did win the case in 2002, and they got to study the skeleton, the whole question of "who owns the past" is still being debated.(less)
These are sometimes really fascinating and on-target, but sometimes overly pedantic and dated looks at racism,sexism,and class in traditional kid lit...moreThese are sometimes really fascinating and on-target, but sometimes overly pedantic and dated looks at racism,sexism,and class in traditional kid lit (especially Babar, as you might expect). I liked the title essay, and the one on Rosa Parks and why her story is so often mistold, but the essays on what a radical (in the revolutionary sense) kid's lit should look like, Pinocchio and multiculturalism in the early 1900's, and why progressive education is not a new idea dragged more than a bit. I learned quite a bit, but it wasn't scintillating reading.
I would love to see this updated (from 1995), though.
And no, we shouldn't burn Babar, but we don't need to give him to kids without some critical examination of his hidden messages. ;)(less)
A short and very uneven book, part memoir, part examination of atheists/agnostics/nonbelievers and those who write "None" on the religion box on vario...moreA short and very uneven book, part memoir, part examination of atheists/agnostics/nonbelievers and those who write "None" on the religion box on various forms. I really enjoyed parts of this book, but in other places I was annoyed by the author's relatively shallow examination of the issues, or his complete disregard for some issues of importance to parents. Plus he was so wishy-washy about some things. I understand the reasons for keeping your head down, but a book like this isn't the place to talk about keeping your head down. Take a stand already.(less)
This was fascinating non-fiction, but it was slow going in parts, because the author goes into such depth on some species and the mechanisms of their...moreThis was fascinating non-fiction, but it was slow going in parts, because the author goes into such depth on some species and the mechanisms of their ecological invasions. He also describes the methodological and philosophical debates current among ecologists.
This is good, because he's not over-simplifying things, but it let's face it: reading about plankton identification techniques, the ways to test the climbing abilities of brown tree snakes, and our inability to know the history of marine invertebrate ecology may not be everyone's cup of tea.
Burdick focuses on three main areas: Guam and the brown tree snake (originally from Australia); Hawaii and it's native birds & fruitflies and intoduced pigs, earthworms, wasps, and trees; and San Francisco Bay and the green crabs and hundreds of other marine plants & animals that are rrevocably changing our oceans and shores.
I learned a ton of mind boggling things - for example, the Hawaiian Islands are part of an ongoing geological process, and its birds (the ones not already extinct), different on each island, are descended from birds that were blown from islands that have already sunk back into the ocean.
There are more bizarre varieties of marine invertebrates that I could have imagined. Many are larval forms of jellyfish, sponges, and things not clearly plant or animal, visible only under a microscrope. Every shoreline and different part of the ocean has native species with its own interactions, but ballast water (thousands of gallons pumped in & out to balance ships) has transported hundreds of these species to entirely new places, with unknown consequences. That's probably how zebra mussels came to the Great Lakes.
There are nice biographical bits on several seminal ecologists (with a few good jokes concerning their larval states), the history of "alien" research, what these scientists actually spend their time doing, and their hopes for the future.
What this book doesn't do is try to cover all of the different kinds of invasive species that may be changing your local environs today - so don't expect an overview of kudzu, the emerald ash borer, the mosquito that carries the West Nile virus, or carp.(less)