Over a decade in the making, this game-changing book is Robert Sapolsky’s genre-shattering attempt to answer that question as fully as perhaps only he could, looking at it from every angle. Sapolsky’s storytelling concept is delightful but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person’s reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its genetic inheritance.
And I mention this now because it is dirt cheap on Kindle.
People of the Book: A Novel, by Geraldine Brooks, is one of my favorite books. The focal character is a book restorer, brought in to examine and work with a book that has an incredible recent, and ancient, history. Inspired in part by a real event, this book takes the reader through history and across Europe and North Africa. So cheap on Kindle you would be crazy to not get it.
Speaking of this author, Geraldine Brooks also has another book, Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, about a 17th century village on pandemic lock-down. I haven’t read it, but I thought for some reason it might be worht noting.
Jailbird: A Novel by Kurt Vonnegut, for two bucks. This is related to current events:
Jailbird takes us into a fractured and comic, pure Vonnegut world of high crimes and misdemeanors in government—and in the heart. This wry tale follows bumbling bureaucrat Walter F. Starbuck from Harvard to the Nixon White House to the penitentiary as Watergate’s least known co-conspirator. But the humor turns dark when Vonnegut shines his spotlight on the cold hearts and calculated greed of the mighty, giving a razor-sharp edge to an unforgettable portrait of power and politics in our times.
Also, while we are talking about cheap books, Powder Burn by Carl Hiaasen, in case you are a Hiaasen fan. I’ve not read any of his more recent books, and maybe that is because I don’t like them as much as his earlier books, but I don’t want to put down any book I’ve not read.
Isaac Asimov’s robot books form a somewhat confusing and internally contradictory, but overall fantastic and important corpus of science fiction. One of the Asimov robot books is on sale right now super cheap in Kindle format: The Caves of Steel (The Robot Series Book 1) for $1.99.
Referring to Wikipedia (so get mad at them, not at me, if this seems wrong to you) the robot series of books (not counting short stories) in order of the stories themselves runs something like this:
In An Appetite for Wonder, Richard Dawkins shares a rare view into his early life, his intellectual awakening at Oxford, and his path to writing The Selfish Gene. He paints a vivid picture of his idyllic childhood in colonial Africa, peppered with sketches of his colorful ancestors, charming parents, and the peculiarities of colonial life right after World War II. At boarding school, despite a near-religious encounter with an Elvis record, he began his career as a skeptic by refusing to kneel for prayer in chapel. Despite some inspired teaching throughout primary and secondary school, it was only when he got to Oxford that his intellectual curiosity took full flight.
Arriving at Oxford in 1959, when undergraduates “left Elvis behind” for Bach or the Modern Jazz Quartet, Dawkins began to study zoology and was introduced to some of the university’s legendary mentors as well as its tutorial system.
It’s to this unique educational system that Dawkins credits his awakening, as it invited young people to become scholars by encouraging them to pose rigorous questions and scour the library for the latest research rather than textbook “teaching to” any kind of test. His career as a fellow and lecturer at Oxford took an unexpected turn when, in 1973, a serious strike in Britain caused prolonged electricity cuts, and he was forced to pause his computer-based research. Provoked by the then widespread misunderstanding of natural selection known as “group selection” and inspired by the work of William Hamilton, Robert Trivers, and John Maynard Smith, he began to write a book he called, jokingly, “my bestseller.” It was, of course, The Selfish Gene.
Here, for the first time, is an intimate memoir of the childhood and intellectual development of the evolutionary biologist and world-famous atheist, and the story of how he came to write what is widely held to be one of the most important books of the twentieth century.
It is a very good account of the incredibly important work on evolution done by the Peter and Rosemary Grant on Daphne Major island in the Galapagos. This is the study that demonstrated real time evolution of birds among the group initially studied by Charles Darwin. Those observations by Darwin helped shape is conception of natural selection, and the more recent work by the Grants is a modern day demonstration that Darwin was right.
Black Holes and Baby Universes: And Other Essays in kindle form cheap right now.
In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein returns to reveal an amazing array of possibilities for understanding our universe.
Building on his earlier work, Hawking discusses imaginary time, how black holes can give birth to baby universes, and scientists’ efforts to find a complete unified theory that would predict everything in the universe. With his characteristic mastery of language, his sense of humor and commitment to plain speaking, Stephen Hawking invites us to know him better—and to share his passion for the voyage of intellect and imagination that has opened new ways to understanding the very nature of the cosmos.
Though he is one of Key West’s most skilled fishing captains, Breeze Albury barely ekes out a living on the meager earnings of his trade. Meanwhile, Cuban and Colombian drug smugglers thrive all around—and they have their sights set on Albury and his fishing boat.
After the smugglers cut his three hundred trap lines and crush his livelihood, Albury is forced to run drugs to survive. But when he gets busted by the crooked chief of police and becomes a target of the drug machine’s brutal hit men, Albury becomes a vigilante on the seas of Florida, unleashing a fiery and relentless vengeance on the most dangerous criminals south of Miami.
Along with Powder Burn and A Death in China, this is one of the early suspense thrillers written by Carl Hiaasen and Bill Montalbano, a writing team praised for their “fine flair for characters and settings” (Library Journal). Perfect for fans of the Doc Ford novels by Randy Wayne White, Trap Line is an action-packed preview of Hiaasen’s stellar Florida-set crime novels including Sick Puppy, Tourist Season, and Razor Girl.
Douglas Adams’s “six-part trilogy,” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy grew from a blip of a notion into an ever-expanding multimedia universe that amassed an unprecedented cult of followers and became an international sensation. As a young journalist, Neil Gaiman was given complete access to Adams’s life, times, gossip, unpublished outtakes, and files (and became privy to his writing process, insecurities, disillusionments, challenges, and triumphs). The resulting volume illuminates the unique, funny, dramatic, and improbable chronicle of an idea, an incredibly tall man, and a mind-boggling success story.
In Don’t Panic, Gaiman celebrates everything Hitchhiker: the original radio play, the books, comics, video and computer games, films, television series, record albums, stage musicals, one-man shows, the Great One himself, and towels. And as Douglas Adams himself attested: “It’s all absolutely devastatingly true—except the bits that are lies.”
Updated several times in the thirty years since its original publication, Don’t Panic is available for the first time in digital form. Part biography, part tell-all parody, part pop-culture history, part guide to a guide, Don’t Panic “deserves as much cult success as the Hitchhiker’s books themselves” (Time Out).