Recommendations

Discover my recent book recommendations below, or explore the full searchable recommendations archive.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

By Stephen Greenblatt

Recommended on: 8th July 2021

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt. One of the things we love about reading is that it allows us to discover how much we don’t know.  We had no clue, for example, about how the works of ancient Roman writers were able to make their way through two thousand years of mold, mildew, bookworms (the real kind), fire, and purposeful destruction. Greenblatt allows us to follow in the footsteps of Italian politician and humanist Poggio Braccilioni who, in the early 1400s, undertook journeys to northern Europe to seek out such ancient manuscripts as he could find hidden away in monasteries.  By leaning in to Poggio’s methods, we learn how and why manuscripts survived—often under the care of monks who were utterly opposed to the ideas contained in those ancient, heretical documents.  One of Poggio’s discoveries was epic. It was, in fact, Lucretius’s De rerum natura: On the Nature of Things, a poem that spelled out a shockingly prescient worldview of a world derived only of atoms that swerve—not the divine intervention of the traditional Roman deities.  

Greenblatt explores the nature of the Italian world of the middle ages, and also shows how important free thought, shocking though it may be, has been for the development of the modern world. The Swerve is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction. Highly recommended, and an excellent book for audio listening. [Hat tip, Sadegh Nabavi]

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A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence

By Jeff Hawkins

Recommended on: 1st July 2021

A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence, by Jeff Hawkins. Hawkins is a neuroscientist as well as one of the most successful and highly regarded computer architects in Silicon Valley. Some of his scientific papers have become the most downloaded and cited papers in their journals. 

A Thousand Brains is one of the most intriguing books we’ve ever read about the brain—Hawkins takes an utterly novel approach to understanding how the brain works.  As he notes: 

“People often say the brain is the most complicated thing in the universe. They conclude from this that there will not be a simple explanation for how it works, or that perhaps we will never understand it. The history of scientific discovery suggests they are wrong. Major discoveries are almost always preceded by bewildering, complex observations. With the correct theoretical framework, the complexity does not disappear, but it no longer seems confusing or daunting. A familiar example is the movement of the planets. For thousands of years, astronomers carefully tracked the motion of the planets among the stars. The path of a planet over the course of a year is complex, darting this way and that, making loops in the sky. It was hard to imagine an explanation for these wild movements. Today, every child learns the basic idea that the planets orbit the Sun… Similarly, I always believed that the neocortex appeared complicated largely because we didn’t understand it, and that it would appear relatively simple in hindsight. Once we knew the solution, we would look back and say, ‘Oh, of course, why didn’t we think of that?’” 

Hawkin’s book proceeds to lay out precisely those relatively straightforward ideas—often arising from his group’s research—that make the brain much easier to understand.  He also makes a prescient case for why artificial intelligence will advance only by copying the approaches used by the human brain.  Highly recommended for brain buffs and those interested in artificial intelligence.

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Churchill & Son

By Josh Ireland

Recommended on: 17th June 2021

Churchill & Son, by Josh Ireland. Reaching the end of a fantastic book like Churchill & Son is bittersweet. There’s a feeling of satisfaction with the closure, but that satisfaction is mixed with the sad knowledge that you will not be able to return and spend more time with characters and a story you’ve become entranced by.  Winston Churchill is one of history’s astonishing figures—an ostracized man who saw a future few others wished to see. His accurate vision, combined with his ability to unite and marshal his country’s (and others’) forces to combat the Nazi juggernaut was unparalleled.  But when it came to Churchill’s son, Winston took a path that virtually everyone—especially Churchill’s long-suffering wife Clementine—could see was bound for disaster.  By overcompensating for his own neglected upbringing, Churchill groomed his son to become a spoiled, overbearing, overweening character whose descent into alcoholism left him with few friends, and lost him even the respect of his father. As this book so eloquently reveals, being the son of a great man can truly be a curse. This is an amazing behind-the-scenes story of what was really going on from a family perspective during some of the most tumultuous political upheavals of modern history.  This book was hard to put down—highly recommended! (Also good for audio.)

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Teach for Attention! A Tool Belt of Strategies for Engaging Students with Attention Challenges

By Ezra Werb

Recommended on: 10th June 2021

Teach for Attention! A Tool Belt of Strategies for Engaging Students with Attention Challenges, by Ezra Werb. This brief, easy-to-read book provides “from the trenches” teaching strategies for students with ADHD, low self-confidence, distraction, and other attention challenges. There are dozens of true classroom stories that show the strategies in action. Ezra is an educational therapist working with students with attention
 deficits, learning challenges, and spectrum disorders, so his insights can definitely help build your teaching repertoire if you are working with attentionally-challenged students.

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The Tiger

By John Vaillant

Recommended on: 3rd June 2021

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival, by John Vaillant.  This is one of those books that’s hard to put down, as the story unfolds of a tiger with a lethal grudge against a particular human—a grudge that widened to encompass every human the tiger encountered.  John Vaillant is a magnificent story-teller—this brief excerpt gives hint of his literary prowess: “As the encyclopedic reference Mammals of the Soviet Union puts it, ‘The general appearance of the tiger is that of a huge physical force and quiet confidence, combined with a rather heavy grace.’ But one could just as easily say: this is what you get when you pair the agility and appetites of a cat with the mass of an industrial refrigerator. To properly appreciate such an animal, it is most instructive to start at the beginning: picture the grotesquely muscled head of a pit bull and then imagine how it might look if the pit bull weighed a quarter of a ton. Add to this fangs the length of a finger backed up by rows of slicing teeth capable of cutting through the heaviest bone. Consider then the claws: a hybrid of meat hook and stiletto that can attain four inches along the outer curve, a length comparable to the talons on a velociraptor. Now, imagine the vehicle for all of this: nine feet or more from nose to tail, and three and a half feet high at the shoulder. Finally, emblazon this beast with a primordial calligraphy: black brushstrokes on a field of russet and cream, and wonder at our strange fortune to coexist with such a creature. (The tiger is, literally, tattooed: if you were to shave one bald, its stripes would still be visible, integral to its skin.) Able to swim for miles and kill an animal many times its size, the tiger also possesses the brute strength to drag an awkward, thousand-pound carcass through the forest for fifty or a hundred yards before consuming it.”

In The Tiger, you will learn a great deal, not only about tigers and their remarkably human ability to think abstractly, but about how the Russian Far East is slipping toward ecological imbalance, even as brave conservators work to keep this unique region intact. Highly recommended!

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Undisruptable: A Mindset of Permanent Reinvention for Individuals, Organisations and Life

By Aidan McCullen

Recommended on: 6th May 2021

Undisruptable: A Mindset of Permanent Reinvention for Individuals, Organisations and Life, by Aidan McCullen. Aiden knows something about reinvention. He had finally achieved his dream of becoming a professional rugby player, when injury forced him to completely rethink his life’s journey.  Aiden is a master of analogy.  As he observes: “Rather than a rigid set of frameworks or business models, I present the book as a series of mental models. To bring these mental models to life, I offer analogies from nature, anecdotes from business, ancient wisdom, exemplars of perpetual change and evidence from evolution, neuroscience, business and life.” Aiden’s goal is to help you adopt a mindset of permanent reinvention. Enjoy!

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The Cattle Kingdom

By Christopher Knowlton

Recommended on: 25th April 2021

The Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West, by Christopher Knowlton. What an eye-popping read! Many North Americans grow up familiar with cowboys, cattle barons, and the battle of barbed wire fences in the Western US, along with haute cuisine (at least as haute as American cuisine could get) at the legendary Delmonico’s Steakhouses in New York City. And North Americans know at least a little about the meatpacking industry of Chicago and its accompanying scandals.  They may even be familiar with iconic, laconic, literary figures like Shane and the Virginian (an apparent legacy of European aristocracy). 

But until the publication of The Cattle Kingdom, few of us had the opportunity to put together the disparate pieces to understand this important era in US history. We know why the buffalo disappeared (a horrific addendum to the genocidal predations on Native Americans), but Knowlton helps us understand how cattle arose so quickly to take the place of buffalo, why the life of a cattleman became so popular, and how the whole enterprise came crushing finale with the Johnson County war, when local newspapers essentially owned by the elite, wealthy cattlemen spurred an insurrection allowing them to quite literally get away with murder.

This is an in-depth look at virtually every aspect of the history of the cowboy west, from the major players (including fascinating discussions of Teddy Roosevelt, the father of the American conservation movement),  to saddles, barbed wire, the economics of cattle rearing, British attitudes of “I can do what I want with my land,” and of course, the “Big Die Up,” where millions of cattle died in one horrific winter—officially sealing the end to the cattle kingdom. From about 1850 to 1900, the US Kingdom of Cattle was the equivalent to today’s Silicon Empire. A remarkable work of history. Also great for audio listening. [Hat tip, Ryan Holiday.]

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The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect

By Judea Pearl

Recommended on: 22nd April 2021

The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect by computer scientist and philosopher Judea Pearl. For anyone with the slightest interest in statistics, mathematics, or figuring out whether the public is being duped by yet another “solidly researched” fad, this book is for you.  Judea himself observes “In Statistics 101, every student learns to chant, ‘Correlation is not causation.’ With good reason! The rooster’s crow is highly correlated with the sunrise; yet it does not cause the sunrise. Unfortunately, statistics has fetishized this commonsense observation. It tells us that correlation is not causation, but it does not tell us what causation is. In vain will you search the index of a statistics textbook for an entry on ‘cause.’ Students are not allowed to say that X is the cause of Y—only that X and Y are ‘related’ or ‘associated.’

But, in large part due to Judea’s research, “…things have changed dramatically in the past three decades. Nowadays, thanks to carefully crafted causal models, contemporary scientists can address problems that would have once been considered unsolvable or even beyond the pale of scientific inquiry. For example, only a hundred years ago, the question of whether cigarette smoking causes a health hazard would have been considered unscientific. The mere mention of the words ‘cause’ or ‘effect’ would create a storm of objections in any reputable statistical journal. Even two decades ago, asking a statistician a question like ‘Was it the aspirin that stopped my headache?’ would have been like asking if he believed in voodoo. To quote an esteemed colleague of mine, it would be “‘more of a cocktail conversation topic than a scientific inquiry.’ But today, epidemiologists, social scientists, computer scientists, and at least some enlightened economists and statisticians pose such questions routinely and answer them with mathematical precision. To me, this change is nothing short of a revolution. I dare to call it the Causal Revolution, a scientific shakeup that embraces rather than denies our innate cognitive gift of understanding cause and effect.”

We love this book, which explains the new science of causality in a straightforward fashion. You’ll find yourself thinking about correlations in a new way.  

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Heroes & Hormones: From Screen Slave to Superhero

By Mali Alcobi

Recommended on: 15th April 2021

Heroes & Hormones: From Screen Slave to Superhero, by Mali Alcobi. Mali is an expert in work-life balance who helps both employees and organizations develop systems that help people lead productive, yet happy lives. Mali speaks around the world on this topic—which is how Barb happened to meet her and to read her book. Heroes and Hormones is one of those deceptively simple reads that teaches a few critical points—like how to train yourself to prioritize family even as you are pulling your weight at work. This book also has a good review of what you need to be doing healthwise, from exercise to the right foods, to keep your life on track—and not wake up one day at your seeming career peak only to find your family has given up on you, and your body is beginning to show the aftereffects of too much stress and too little care. This quick read will help you balance your priorities with dozens of practical tips.
Mali is the founder of Dynamix – Work-Life Balance. Barb and Mali will be speaking for Microsoft together next month—Barb can say with confidence that Mali is a great choice if your company is looking for a work-life balance speaker.

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Out on Good Behavior: Teaching Math while Looking Over Your Shoulder

By Barry Garelick

Recommended on: 6th April 2021

Out on Good Behavior: Teaching Math while Looking Over Your Shoulder, by Barry Garelick. We greatly enjoyed and got a lot out of this brief, sardonic memoir of an outstanding math teacher in an era when teaching math in public schools is becoming increasingly divorced from what neuroscience has revealed about how students actually learn math. Garelick’s witty observations give a sense of what’s going on in a way that would be difficult for most parents to discover—and some of Garelick’s observations are priceless: “I once told my eighth-grade algebra class that my classroom is one place where they won’t hear the words ‘growth mindset’—to which the class reacted with wild applause. Someone then asked what my objections to ‘growth mindset’ were.  I said I didn’t like how it was interpreted: Motivational cliches like ‘I can’t do it…yet’ supposedly build up confidence leading to motivation and success. I believe it’s the other way around: success causes motivation more than motivation causes success. [Or, as researchers Szu-Han Wang and Richard Morris have noted: “we rapidly remember what interests us, but what interests us takes time to develop.” And this Slate Star Codex article about growth mindset remains timeless.] 

Garelick presciently observes: “Where students frequently see through ineffective educational fads, people in education—after buying into such theories—see what they want to see.” Out on Good Behavior is well worth reading if you care about what your child is learning—or not learning—in school, particularly when it comes to math.

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You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington

By Alexis Coe.

Recommended on: 30th March 2021

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe.  If you’re a history buff, as we are, you will get a lot out of Coe’s seemingly lighthearted and oft-times irreverent look at George Washington.  We’ve long wished for a fairly dispassionate book about Washington that discussed his good and bad sides without taking snide potshots or putting him on a pedestal. Alexis Coe’s book walks that fine line—perhaps most importantly, she is able to outline Washington’s integrity combined with a deep-rooted racial hypocrisy that is sometimes quite breath-taking. Here’s a sample from the book’s beginning that gives a sense of Coe’s delightful, but deeply thought-provoking alternative take on America’s leading founder: 

“All of the Founding Fathers have problems. Thomas Jefferson strikes modern audiences as beyond hypocritical, John Adams as tiresome, and James Madison as downright boring. But according to Washington’s own biographers, he’s in real trouble. Joseph Ellis calls him ‘the original marble man.’ Ron Chernow says he is ‘composed of too much marble to be quite human.’ Harlow Giles Unger says he’s ‘as stonelike as the Mount Rushmore sculpture.’ What is to blame for Washington’s inhuman stature? Well, for starters, his renowned self-control. ‘My countenance never yet betrayed my feelings,’ Washington once said. That was an exaggeration, but he was discreet enough to land himself, as Richard Brookhiser has lamented, in ‘our wallets, but not our hearts.’ Every biographer humbly endeavors to break Washington out of his sepulchre—by proceeding in almost the exact same way as the one who came before him. First, his biographers stick a portrait of the man Ellis calls America’s “‘foundingest father’ on the cover. Many favor Washington’s most iconic image, his rigid and gloomy face on the one-dollar bill, but most prefer a painting that shows his whole body, because his thighs drive them wild. Brookhiser, examining a portrait from 1792, can’t help but notice how ‘well-developed’ they are. Ellis admires how they ‘allowed him to grip a horse’s flanks tightly and hold his seat in the saddle with uncommon ease.’ For Chernow, Washington’s “‘muscular thighs’ were just the beginning. He was a ‘superb physical specimen, with a magnificent physique . . . powerfully rough-hewn and endowed with matchless strength. When he clenched his jaw, his cheek and jaw muscles seemed to ripple right through his skin.’ They pair that visual coffin of a cover with a verbal coffin of a title, often adhering to the same stale format. George Washington: A Biography. George Washington: A Life. George Washington: A President. The more adventurous among them might throw in a hyperbolic word or two (Destiny! Power! Genius!) or a phrase borrowed from Washington’s time, immediately lost on potential new readers (‘His Excellency’ or “‘For Fear of an Elected King’). With titles this stodgy, presidential biographies will always appear as if they are for men of a certain age, intended to be purchased on Presidents’ or Father’s Day. The Thigh Men, as I came to think of these kinds of biographers over the years, are a decidedly ‘size matters’ crowd. Chernow’s book on Washington, which won the Pulitzer Prize, clocks in at almost a thousand pages, a record among single-volume editions on our first president—in no small part because it takes every opportunity to remind readers that the great general was very, very manly.”

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CorkScrew Solutions: Problem Solving with a Twist

By Clarke Ching

Recommended on: 24th March 2021

CorkScrew Solutions: Problem Solving with a Twist, by Clarke Ching. We love Clarke Ching’s writing, so we’d probably read a book of his even if it was about dirt.  But in fact, this latest book by Clarke is a delightful, quick and easy read about how to solve problems when any approach you take to solving the problem has a major drawback. You’ll find a valuable set of tools—enjoy!

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The Cancer Code: A Revolutionary New Understanding of a Medical Mystery

By Dr. Jason Fung

Recommended on: 17th March 2021

The Cancer Code: A Revolutionary New Understanding of a Medical Mystery, by Dr. Jason Fung.  This is an extraordinarily insightful book. If you simply have an interest in a disease that has killed far more than COVID has, or you fear cancer might be in the future for you or a loved one, this book will give you ideas for subtle tweaks that could make an enormous difference in what unfolds long term.

As the book begins, you might think—well, been there, done that—the book’s just describing how it’s carcinogens that cause cancer.  Oh yes, and maybe genetics.  But in Dr. Fung’s masterful hands, you gradually learn that cancer often involves a process where cells revert to primordial states. In these states, rather than playing nicely with the rest of the cells of the body, malignant cancers forge ahead on their own ancient kill-or-be-killed fashion, using ancient anaerobic pathways to fuel themselves while poisoning other cells and gaining building materials for new malignancies.  

You will gain extraordinary insight into cancer that is often not conveyed by cancer experts.  This is a not-to-be-missed book. Also great for audio.

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Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art

By Rebecca Wragg Sykes

Recommended on: 1st March 2021

Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, by Rebecca Wragg Sykes. We have to admit, like many a fellow Homo sapiens, we’re enamored of Neanderthals. So we were very excited to get our hands on this book. And indeed, Kindred did a great job of pointing out not only the surprising intelligence of Neanderthals and their cunning abilities with stone tools, but also of describing the enormous time spans involved in the Neanderthal sojourn in Europe and parts of Asia.  We did notice that reviewers often observed that the book was “fact packed,” which can often be a bit of code to avoid unkindness.  Sadly, after a while, the facts grew monotonous, while interpretation was often lacking. The lead up to why the Neanderthals vanished was something of a bustalthough humans are a reasonable bet to being the culprits, at least in part, we instead hear of inbreeding and disease. 

Kindred is an interesting read if you’re into the current nitty-gritty of Neanderthal anthropological findings. But if you’re looking for a more conclusive read, you may wish to wait a few more years until more definitive findings might come available.

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Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide

By Cass Sunstein

Recommended on: 1st March 2021

Cass Sunstein’s Going to Extremes is, quite simply, a classic. We wish every person would read this book. This excerpt gives an excellent idea of the key ideas that the book delves into.

“Much of the time, groups of people end up thinking and doing things that group members would never think or do on their own. This is true for groups of teenagers, who are willing to run risks that individuals would avoid. It is certainly true for those prone to violence, including terrorists and those who commit genocide. It is true for investors and corporate executives. It is true for government officials, neighborhood groups, social reformers, political protestors, police officers, student organizations, labor unions, and juries. Some of the best and worst developments in social life are a product of group dynamics, in which members of organizations, both small and large, move one another in new directions… When people find themselves in groups of like-minded types, they are especially likely to move to extremes… Political extremism is often a product of group polarization, and social segregation is a useful tool for producing polarization.”

This is one of the top ten books we would recommend that all well-read people should read.

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Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation

By Susan Williams

Recommended on: 25th February 2021

Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation, by Susan Williams, tells a fascinating tale about how love, racism, and politics can intertwine to affect an entire country.  Sir Seretse Khama was born to inherit the throne of leadership in what was then the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland. This area would become Botswana, and Khama was to be elected its first president.  Seretse’s strong stance against corruption has helped make today’s Botswana one of the most advanced, with the highest GDP, in all of Africa. 

But behind all this is an extraordinary love story between Khama and his wife, Lady Khama, who was born Ruth Williams, the daughter of George and Dorothy Williams of South London. Initially, virtually everyone who was anyone in both Bechuanaland and England  opposed the weddingthe English because they opposed a white woman marrying, of all people, a black man, and the Botswanans  because they opposed Khama marrying, of all people, a white woman. But the Botswanans were soon to prove much more accepting, while the English powers that be (save for Churchill!) dug in their heels. We found the book to be a bit heavy on the behind-the-scenes political maneuveringwe would have loved to have known more of what Seretse and Ruth themselves were thinking. But then, a biographer can only work with what’s available. How Seretse and Ruth found a way through a world of rampant prejudice is the stuff of legend.

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Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem

By Simon Singh

Recommended on: 10th February 2021

Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem, by Simon Singh. Wow, what a book!  You might expect this volume to be the next best thing to Ambien as a sleep-inducer, but instead, Fermat’s Enigma is a real page-turner, providing a dazzling overview of the growth of mathematics from Pythagoras, (whose different way of thinking led to his being burned to death by a proto-cancel culture mob), through Euclid, and on through the early mathematical giants of Euler,  Gauss, Sophie Germaine (a mathematical savant who managed to save Gauss’s life while inadvertently revealing she was a woman), the tragic geniuses Évariste Galois (who wrote as much as he could of his key mathematical discoveries the night before his death), and Yutaka Taniyama (spoiler alert—it didn’t go well for him).  You don’t need to know much more than elementary math to enjoy this book, because an enormous part of the story is the personalities and fascinating lives of the mathematicians. By the time we finally homed in on Andrew Wiles and his solution, we thought—well, the drama is done, we’re back to the humdrum modern world.  But that’s when the book really came alive. Highly recommended!

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Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick

By Wendy Woods

Recommended on: 10th February 2021

Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick, by Wendy Woods. It looks like we’re on a roll this month with fantastic reads! Good Habits, Bad Habits is one of those life-changing books where the implications of what you’re discovering unfold gradually, until it hits that you’ve been oblivious to a vital part of you.  Although Wendy writes in an easy-to-read, friendly way, the book is not just woo-woo fluffy stuff—Dr. Wood is a UK-born psychologist who is the Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at University of Southern California, as well as the Distinguished Visiting Professor at INSEAD Business School in Paris. Her research on the brain’s habitual system is world class. (Our very own Terry recommended this book to Barb.)  

As a bit of historical background, Skinnerian research about the habitual system was quashed about fifty years ago by the burgeoning cognitive revolution. “Cognivistas” claimed (with some legitimacy) that Skinner’s behaviorists had been suppressing them. The problem is that Skinner and his behavioral approaches were on to something big—a lot of learning does take place through simple stimulus-reinforcement learning. Only in the past decade has this come to be more widely appreciated— except, sadly, in the field of education. (But follow our merry, mischievous crew this year… there is much more on that to come!) 

Good Habits, Bad Habits is an extraordinary book. Your relationships, productivity, health, and ability to learn will all benefit from reading it—and it’s so well-written, that you’ll enjoy every word.  Also excellent as an audio book (it is, as of this writing, free through the Audio book trial).

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Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know

By Adam Grant

Recommended on: 3rd February 2021

We have long been fans of Adam Grant, whose powerful book Give and Take is one of our favorites.  His newest book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, is worth the price of the book in the first chapters alone. Grant nails it, for example, with his discussion of the problems of being too smart—as our own Santiago Ramon y Cajal has pointed out, geniuses can flounder not because of their intelligence, but because of their lack of flexibility.  Key graf:

“Mental horsepower doesn’t guarantee mental dexterity. No matter how much brainpower you have, if you lack the motivation to change your mind, you’ll miss many occasions to think again. Research reveals that the higher you score on an IQ test, the more likely you are to fall for stereotypes, because you’re faster at recognizing patterns. And recent experiments suggest that the smarter you are, the more you might struggle to update your beliefs. One study investigated whether being a math whiz makes you better at analyzing data. The answer is yes—if you’re told the data are about something bland, like a treatment for skin rashes. But what if the exact same data are labeled as focusing on an ideological issue that activates strong emotions—like gun laws in the United States? Being a quant jock makes you more accurate in interpreting the results—as long as they support your beliefs. Yet if the empirical pattern clashes with your ideology, math prowess is no longer an asset; it actually becomes a liability. The better you are at crunching numbers, the more spectacularly you fail at analyzing patterns that contradict your views. If they were liberals, math geniuses did worse than their peers at evaluating evidence that gun bans failed. If they were conservatives, they did worse at assessing evidence that gun bans worked. In psychology there are at least two biases that drive this pattern. One is confirmation bias: seeing what we expect to see. The other is desirability bias: seeing what we want to see. These biases don’t just prevent us from applying our intelligence. They can actually contort our intelligence into a weapon against the truth. We find reasons to preach our faith more deeply, prosecute our case more passionately…” 

 This fascinating book contains so much more, on “idea cults,” the problems with perspective-taking, resisting the impulse to simplify, the difference between skepticism and denialism…  The insights don’t stop coming. Think Again is also a great book for audio.

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P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever

By Raj Haldar, Chris Carpenter, and illustrator Maria Beddia

Recommended on: 28th January 2021

We have it directly from Barb’s pediatrician daughter Rosie that P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever, by Raj Haldar, Chris Carpenter, and illustrator Maria Beddia is actually one of the greatest children’s books evuh!  Many children get tired of spelling rulesP Is for Pterodactyl features words that break all the rules. You and your gleeful youngster will have a blast with this bizarrely educational book.

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