Just picked up “An Ancestor’s Tale” by Richard Dawkins on sale at B&N for ten bucks, and “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond. Haven’t done more than crack the covers on each yet — stuck at work. The skinny book is “A World History of Salt” which I found at a used bookstore a week ago. I’m about a quarter of the way into that.*
Who’s read these books, and how did you like them? What’s similar to these that I might also like, given that I’ve got an interest in history and science?
*I was under the impression that the Salt book had more sizzling gypsies in it.
I spoke with a Borders clerk a few months ago about Jared Diamond’s book The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations. He had just finished one of his other books (I forget which; he’s written a lot) and was eager to start that one. The clerk just loved books in the science genre so I figure he should know which are worthwhile and which are not. Unfortunately, I haven’t read any myself yet, though I might just go to the library now and see which of his books are available.
I’ve read some of Dawkins, although not the title you mention. Intelligent and engaging writing, detailed and very precise. You’ll like him. I read “Collapse…”, by Jared Diamond, which is the precursor to GG&S. “Collapse…” is about why certain societies fail, whereby GG&S is about why other societies succeed. As a result, there’s supposedly a lot of overlap. However, I have to say that Diamond is a little dry and verbose. After finishing his book, I felt…relieved, but happy, as if I had done a good deed. In another thread somewhere, someone mentioned that GG&S is tighter and a quicker read. Better hope so.
Read GG&S a few months ago. Normally, for a book that size, it would take about 2 evenings. Took 2 weeks. (Had to pay an overdue book fine too. For it and the others in “the batch”. Got a dirty look from “her” and now she doesn’t talk to me anymore. Sheesh.) A really tough slog. “Collapse” wasn’t nearly as bad. But quite a bit more depressing. (Societies survive or collapse under hardship based on people picking the right leaders. We are in deeeeeeeep trouble.)
I’ve read some Dawkins. Fairly good. Keep in mind that his is very narrow minded and doesn’t tolerate any view other than his own. This is great when he lashes into Gould (who deserved it), but not so good on other things.
On reading your post, I eagerly went off to Amazon to look for this book. I’m a fan of Diamond’s. I’ve read* Collapse*, Guns, Germs and Steel * and The Third Chimpanzee. * According to what I could find, Diamond has not written a book with the title The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations however, Eugene Linden (who I am not familiar with) apparently has. Are you sure the Borders clerk didn’t confuse Diamond with Linden?
To the OP, as you could probably tell, I recommend Diamond.
I generally like books of the style of Salt - dealing exhaustively with a limited subject - but I put Salt down without finishing it. Its been a while, but I seem to remember that after a bunch of interesting stuff up front, it got way more into economics than interested me.
IMO just about anything by Dawkins is worth looking into, but just about everything by Dawkins tends to bog down into an unrelenting single minded tirade.
I think just about anyone who wishes to be well read and culturally/historically informed should have at least a passing familarity with GGS.
Good choices - but after the three of these you might be in the mood for a nice murder mystery or light comedy. Maybe a little Travis McGee or Dortmunder.
Ancestor’s Tale is great. More technical than Dawkins’ other books, but a fantastic take on describing the journey and explaining the evidence.
If you are like me, and are inundated by Creationists and sometimes end up forgetting about how much evidence there really is that supports the Theory of Evolution, this will be a great resource.
ETA: missed this
I don’t recall him “[bogging] down into an unrelenting single minded tirade” in AT.
I am also reading “The Ancestor’s Tale.” I am about 2/3 of the way through. I find it extremely interesting and I was not really familiar with Dawkins until I got this book. I got it right before his latest book came out and then I kept hearing about this “arrogant,” “ranting” “abrasive” guy named Dawkins, and I kept wondering, "is this the same guy they are talking about who wrote “Ancestor’s Tale?” Because it didn’t seem to come through in that book. I was always amazed about thinking that we are all related and how far back you’d have to go to find your common ancestor, but this book is cool in that it goes to extremes to find out how far back you’d have to go to find out how closely you are related to a tree or a bacterium. Coolness.
Ancestor’s Tale is wonderful. Engaging and informative, and a quick read for a book its size.
Guns, Germs, and Steel, despite Mt. Everest-sized mounds of praise, I could not get through. I was interested in it for a long time and even waited in queue at the library to get it, but I wanted to hang myself after just a few pages. Really some of the dryest words I’ve ever read.
I read The Ancestor’s Tale late last year and really, really enjoyed it. Although I’d read some essays by Dawkins, this was the first full-length book of his that I read. It’s very accessible, and he continually agrees with the reader, who is presumably thinking that evolution is pretty incredible (but certainly credible) stuff. As noted by Shawn1767, he’s not abrasive at all in The Ancestor’s Tale, but I noticed he does launch some pre-emptive strikes against creationists when warranted. I’ve since purchased some more books by Dawkins and look forward to reading them.
Prompted nearly entirely by reading about them in this thread and others on the SDMB, I will soon be reading *Salt * and *Guns, Germs and Steel * (which must rank pretty highly in the List of Books Read By All Dopers).