29 August, 2007

Catching up

I haven't been keeping up with the books I've read recently so here's a quick catch up post.

Two short books of funny essays by David Sedaris, on the recommendation, ages ago, of my friend P. Me talk pretty one day and Dress your family in corduroy and denim were light, quick reads, but very enjoyable: I like things about large eccentric families and his essays about living in France were very funny and not patronising. [47] [48]

Ahdaf Soueif's Mezzaterra, a collection of essays and journalism mostly about the Middle East, was also enjoyable and interesting: I enjoyed her novels The map of love and In the eye of the sun, and she's very interesting on day-to-day life in Egypt. Her journalism about Palestine was published in the Guardian a few years ago. [49]

Alas poor Darwin, a collection of essays by different people criticising different aspects of evolutionary psychology. This was excellent, examining the problems with the idea that most aspects of human mental behaviour are the products of natural selection, from a variety of different viewpoints: the book was edited by Steven and Hilary Rose, respectively a biologist and a sociologist, and included Stephen Jay Gould on the faults with ultra-Darwinism and Mary Midgley on the problems with Dawkins's selfish gene and the philosophical meanings drawn from this by Daniel Dennett. Very interesting indeed, and a good retort to a lot of the ridiculous stories about evolutionary adaptations that the newspapers print, like this recent Guardian story suggesting that women naturally prefer pink because as 'gatherers' they would have been looking out for red berries. [50]

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