Book Diet #8

Recently, the book I have enjoyed most is Joe Henrich's The Secret of Our Success. The subtitle says very well what it is about: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter. I found the interaction between culture and biology totally mind-boggling and think that this is one of those great books that synthesize different areas of understanding into a compelling narrative, in a very accessible and entertaining way. Here is a good interview with him, by Tyler Cowen, if you want to get a preview.
Henrich has a new book out, The WEIRDest people in the world (review by Dan Dennet), which I am eager to read - alas my copy is stuck in the mail.

If one takes "big picture" books as a genre, then Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel certainly is one of the most prominent examples. I had not read it until last year and liked it very much. I continued straight on to his follow-up Collapse but have so far passed on the latest one, Upheaval.

Why we Sleep by Matthew Walker did not leave a permanent impression on me, mostly because I needed no convincing that sleeping is important. I easily average 8,5 hours per night and generally sleep well. What really peaked my interest though was this fantastic blog post that goes though the first chapter of the book and finds a plethora of errors; very worthwhile to check out!

Back to cultural evolution. This View of Life by David Sloan Wilson was certainly interesting as well, but not as captivating to my brain as Henrich's book above. The question whether group selection is real or not gets mixed into the subject matter and I find the debate around this both confusing and semantic at times.

Last for today is Camus' The Plague. I stumbled upon my old copy, in German translation, which I must have read many years ago. But I remembered nothing of it when I started reading the other day. It is of course very well written, but also a bit dense, which is why I only progress a few pages every night in bed.