Category Archives: Books

Fundy Christians, MAGAjerks, Proud Boys, School and Library Board Members, Ban-Burning Books

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I use the word “burning” metaphorically. But it might as well be literal. If you ban a list of books in a system of libraries, the libraries have a bunch of recycling to do, and eventually … to the county incinerator go the books.

Book Man
In fact, I give you no truck, no room, no wiggle-space, if you even look at a book funny, because that is how it starts. I am champion of the books, all the books, and I am not alone, not by a long shot.

Here is a recent, disturbing, but typical example. Christians in Boundary County, Idaho, mobbed the local public library board, demanding the removal of a large number of books, including Gender Queer: A Memoir* by Maria Kobabe**, a book the library did not actually have.

These thugs intimidated the administrator of the libaries, Kimber Glidden, into resignation, in which she noted:

“My experience and skill set made me a good fit to help the district move toward a more current and relevant business model and to implement updated policy and best practices. However nothing in my background could have prepared me for the political atmosphere of extremism, militant Christian fundamentalism, intimidation tactics, and threatening behavior currently being employed in the community.”

Gidden told reporters at Route Fifty that “If [this] was really about banning books, we’d have to have the books.” Food for thought. They don’t care about the books, they only care about being bullies, and intimidating people who love books, and the kids the books are there for.

In another case, MAGA-Republicans and Fundy-Christians took over the Lafayette, Louisiana library last year and this happened:

  • The library board rejected a grant to fund a program about voting rights, saying it was too left wing.
  • A display about Pride Month was cancelled, and today library displays are forbidden about any distinctive group — even French Cajun culture, of which Lafayette is the unofficial capital.
  • And this summer, when a popular librarian, Cara Chance, ignored that order and put up a display that included queer teen romance books, the board tried to fire her.

The actual police showed up at the Granbury High library in Granbury Texas to investigate a complaint made by book-burning-fundies last May. Five books were subsequently removed from the library shelves. The removal of these books was targeted harassmement of Trans students and other non-heteronormative-binary people by the school admins. This sort of thing has caused loss of life among school children. Even in relatively liberal Minnesota suburbs, a school board member went out of his way to indicate his discomfort with non-heteronormative school children, as noted in this LTE written by Yours Truly:

Plymouth Sun Sailor, Aug 11, 2022.

Locally, where the Jay Hesby problem recently emerged, we have an open seat on the Wayzata School District board. Hesby is one of a few candidates running. Sheila Prior, an active member of the school community especially interested in reading education, is also running, and she is by a gazillion miles my choice for the upcoming special election. (Feel free to visit her web site and donate ten bucks or more to this great cause. I just did!)

I gets scarier. Recently in the Reno Nevada area, suited up members of the “Proud Boys” (I call them Cucked Children) actually entered a library to disrupt a children story time because they did not like the book that was being read. They did the same thing near San Francisco, South Bend, Indiana, and Woodland California. There was violence. Over books. At events involving children. Derek Chauvin got extra time on his murder sentence because he carried out violence in the presence of children. For christakes.


Notes:
-* Links to books on Amazon help support this blog, see note below
-** From the publisher:

2020 ALA Alex Award Winner
2020 Stonewall — Israel Fishman Non-fiction Award Honor Book

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Then e created Gender Queer. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fan fiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: It is a useful and touching guide on gender identity—what it means and how to think about it—for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.

This special deluxe hardcover edition of Gender Queer features a brand-new cover, exclusive art and sketches, a foreword from ND Stevenson, Lumberjanes writer and creator of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and an afterword from Maia Kobabe.


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Lucas Davenport vs Virgil Flowers: Which is better?

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People argue. Some say the Prey novels with Lucas Davenport are the best. Others, usually women, say it’s that fucking Flowers all the way. Like that. I say, why not have both. Righteous Prey is the new Sandford novel that comes out in October, available now for preorder. Beloved heroes Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers are up against a powerful vigilante group with an eye on vengeance in a stunning new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author John Sandford.

“We’re going to murder people who need to be murdered.” So begins a press release from a mysterious group known only as “The Five,” shortly after a vicious predator is murdered in San Francisco. The Five is believed to be made up of vigilante killers who are very bored…and very rich. They target the worst of society—rapists, murderers, and thieves—and then use their unlimited resources to offset the damage done by those who they’ve killed, donating untraceable Bitcoin to charities and victims via the dark net. The Five soon become the most popular figures on social media, a modern-day Batman…though their motives may not be entirely pure.

After a woman is murdered in the Twin Cities, Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport are sent in to investigate. And they soon have their hands full–the killings are smart and carefully choreographed, and with no apparent direct connection to the victims, The Five are virtually untraceable. But if anyone can destroy this group, it will be the dynamic team of Davenport and Flowers.

I’ve ordered mine, have you ordered yours?

(BTW the price is lower than typical, not sure why, but I’m not asking questions.)


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Starry Messenger: New Neil deGrasse Tyson Book

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Starry Messenger*, a new book by Neil deGrasse Tyson, is coming out on September 20th, and you can pre-order it here.

Bringing his cosmic perspective to civilization on Earth, Neil deGrasse Tyson shines new light on the crucial fault lines of our time—war, politics, religion, truth, beauty, gender, and race—in a way that stimulates a deeper sense of unity for us all.

In a time when our political and cultural views feel more polarized than ever, Tyson provides a much-needed antidote to so much of what divides us, while making a passionate case for the twin chariots of enlightenment—a cosmic perspective and the rationality of science.

After thinking deeply about how science sees the world and about Earth as a planet, the human brain has the capacity to reset and recalibrates life’s priorities, shaping the actions we might take in response. No outlook on culture, society, or civilization remains untouched.

With crystalline prose, Starry Messenger walks us through the scientific palette that sees and paints the world differently. From insights on resolving global conflict to reminders of how precious it is to be alive, Tyson reveals, with warmth and eloquence, an array of brilliant and beautiful truths that apply to us all, informed and enlightened by knowledge of our place in the universe.Book Cover of Starry Messenger by Neil deGrasse Tyson


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Is The US On The Verge Of A Civil War: Yes, apparently

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How Civil Wars Start* and how to stop them” is a new book by Barbara Walter. Not Barbara Walters, Barbara Walter.

I quote from recent WaPo article:

“[There is a] scale that goes from negative 10 to positive 10. Negative 10 is the most authoritarian, so think about North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain. Positive 10 are the most democratic. This, of course, is where you want to be. This would be Denmark, Switzerland, Canada. The U.S. was a positive 10 for many, many years. It’s no longer a positive 10. And then it has this middle zone between positive 5 and negative 5, which was you had features of both. … scholars found was that this …variable was really predictive of a risk for civil war. That full democracies almost never have civil wars. Full autocracies rarely have civil wars. All of the instability and violence is happening in this middle zone. “

The US is in or near the middle zone.

This idea makes a lot of sense. This appears to be a must read book.


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A Trove of Excellent Books Cheap

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The intersection of STEM and equity; moving stories of overcoming racism and unfairness. Cheap on Kindle for most of you (YMMV).

I Never Had It Made:An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson*.

Before Barry Bonds, before Reggie Jackson, before Hank Aaron, baseball’s stars had one undeniable trait in common: they were all white. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke that barrier, striking a crucial blow for racial equality and changing the world of sports forever. I Never Had It Made is Robinson’s own candid, hard-hitting account of what it took to become the first black man in history to play in the major leagues.

I Never Had It Made recalls Robinson’s early years and influences: his time at UCLA, where he became the school’s first four-letter athlete; his army stint during World War II, when he challenged Jim Crow laws and narrowly escaped court martial; his years of frustration, on and off the field, with the Negro Leagues; and finally that fateful day when Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers proposed what became known as the “Noble Experiment”—Robinson would step up to bat to integrate and revolutionize baseball.

More than a baseball story, I Never Had It Made also reveals the highs and lows of Robinson’s life after baseball. He recounts his political aspirations and civil rights activism; his friendships with Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, William Buckley, Jr., and Nelson Rockefeller; and his troubled relationship with his son, Jackie, Jr.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope*

Now a Netflix Film, Starring and Directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor of 12 Years a Slave

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala—crazy—but William refused to let go of his dreams. With a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks; some scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves; and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to forge an unlikely contraption and small miracle that would change the lives around him.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a remarkable true story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. It will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual’s ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.

My Remarkable Journey: A Memoir Kindle Edition*

In 2015, at the age of 97, Katherine Johnson became a global celebrity. President Barack Obama awarded her the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation’s highest civilian honor—for her pioneering work as a mathematician on NASA’s first flights into space. Her contributions to America’s space program were celebrated in a blockbuster and Academy-award nominated movie.

In this memoir, Katherine shares her personal journey from child prodigy in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia to NASA human computer. In her life after retirement, she served as a beacon of light for her family and community alike. Her story is centered around the basic tenets of her life—no one is better than you, education is paramount, and asking questions can break barriers. The memoir captures the many facets of this unique woman: the curious “daddy’s girl,” pioneering professional, and sage elder.

This multidimensional portrait is also the record of a century of racial history that reveals the influential role educators at segregated schools and Historically Black Colleges and Universities played in nurturing the dreams of trailblazers like Katherine. The author pays homage to her mentor—the African American professor who inspired her to become a research mathematician despite having his own dream crushed by racism.

Infused with the uplifting wisdom of a woman who handled great fame with genuine humility and great tragedy with enduring hope, My Remarkable Journey ultimately brings into focus a determined woman who navigated tough racial terrain with soft-spoken grace—and the unrelenting grit required to make history and inspire future generations.

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir*

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by: The Washington Post, NPR, Shelf Awareness, Esquire, Electric Literature, Slate, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and InStyle

A chillingly personal and exquisitely wrought memoir of a daughter reckoning with the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather, and the moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of a tragedy

At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.

With penetrating insight and a searing voice that moves from the wrenching to the elegiac, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Natasha Trethewey explores this profound experience of pain, loss, and grief as an entry point into understanding the tragic course of her mother’s life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of fierce love and resilience. Moving through her mother’s history in the deeply segregated South and through her own girlhood as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, Trethewey plumbs her sense of dislocation and displacement in the lead-up to the harrowing crime that took place on Memorial Drive in Atlanta in 1985.

Memorial Drive is a compelling and searching look at a shared human experience of sudden loss and absence but also a piercing glimpse at the enduring ripple effects of white racism and domestic abuse. Animated by unforgettable prose and inflected by a poet’s attention to language, this is a luminous, urgent, and visceral memoir from one of our most important contemporary writers and thinkers.

Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition*

The uplifting, amazing true story—a New York Times bestseller!

This edition of Margot Lee Shetterly’s acclaimed book is perfect for young readers. It’s the powerful story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, who lived through the Civil Rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.


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Climate Change Action For Kids: The Tantrum That Saved The World

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The Tantrum That Saved the World* by Megan Herbert and Michael Mann is about a young girl who might be thought of as being on some sort of spectrum, but well at the rational end of the irrationality-rationality spectrum, who gets tired of the “bla bla bla” and forces the climate change issue.

It sounds like a book based on Greta Thunberg, but in fact, the first edition of The Tantrum That Saved the World predated Greta.

The book starts out with the little girl inheriting a huge problem she didn’t ask for, reshaping her very strong emotions into positive and inspiring action. We then encounter information about climate change science presented in a way that is fully accessible to children. Finally, as all worthwhile things do, there is an action plan. My copy came with a nice poster.

Tantrums are bad. Except when they save the world.


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Kids: Would you save the planet please?

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Check out this new book by my friend and colleague, Paul Douglas: A Kid’s Guide to Saving the Planet It’s Not Hopeless and We’re Not Helpless*. Chelen Ecija is the illustrator.

Not hapless either!
This new book, targeted to kids 9-13 years of age (4-6th grade), addresses the climate crisis, and offers doable solutions and activities for kids to help address it.

Part of the book is a mini-course in earth system science, tarted to the specified age group. It is clear and detailed enough to be a good text in 6th grade, when many of these concepts are being covered. The authors outline pre-existing environmental disasters and how they have been fixed, to give hope to the kids, and describes what you can do. The readers are even encouraged to go into climate related fields whey the grow up!

If you are linked to a middle school (like, your kid goes to one) maybe give a copy to the science faculty there!

Highly recommended.


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A short list of banned books

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To Kill a Mockingbird*
The Hate U Give*
The Color Purple: A Novel*
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian*
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning*
The Catcher in the Rye*
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley*
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings*
The Lord Of The Rings Illustrated Edition*
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Pantheon Graphic Library)*
Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel (Modern Library 100 Best Novels)*
The Handmaid’s Tale*
Hop on Pop (I Can Read It All By Myself)*
Lord of the Flies*
1984*
The Giver (Giver Quartet, 1)*
Lawn Boy*
The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition*
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone*
The Complete Maus*
Lolita*
The Glass Castle: A Memoir*
Fahrenheit 451*
Out of Darkness*
Critical Race Theory (Third Edition): An Introduction (Critical America, 20)*
And Tango Makes Three: Book and CD*
Assata An Autobiography*
The Kite Runner*
The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy*
The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War*
A Civic Biology: The Original 1914 Edition at the Heart of the “Scope’s Monkey Trial”*
The Bluest Eye*
Jack of Hearts (and other parts)*
All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto*
Impending Crisis of the South “Annotated”*
Animal Farm*


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Excellent Critical Race Theory Novel: Tangerine

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It exposes white privilege. It indicts white supremacy. It problemetizes the cult of football. What’s not to love?

Tangerine* by Edward Bloor is written from the perspective of a sort of disabled (but not really? that’s part of the plot) middle school who is white, frail, very smart, repressed, and an excellent soccer player. He is forced to leave his white suburban school and either attend a nearby Catholic school, or alternatively, go to the “inner-city” tough kid not very white school. He readily picks the latter, for some very good reasons, and there he meets his first real fears, his first real friends, and sets about making and breaking heroes.

There are also tangerines, the fruit, which play a special role in the narrative.

This is a book that should totally be banned and burned if you don’t want kids to examine their own privilege, think about fairness and class, or confront racism. Or be mean to football. It is one of those books often assigned in middle school, and this is the time we are reading all the middle school books. Fits the bill as quick and entertaining, meaningful adult reading.


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On this terrible anniversary …

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… how about a little light reading?

We just finished this as part of our family reading (which is these days middle-grade fiction):  We Dream of Space*

Newbery Medalist and New York Times–bestselling author Erin Entrada Kelly transports readers to 1986 and introduces them to the unforgettable Cash, Fitch, and Bird Nelson Thomas in this pitch-perfect middle grade novel about family, friendship, science, and exploration. This acclaimed Newbery Honor Book is a great choice for readers of Kate DiCamillo, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Rebecca Stead.

Cash, Fitch, and Bird Nelson Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the country waits expectantly for the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, they each struggle with their own personal anxieties. Cash, who loves basketball but has a newly broken wrist, is in danger of failing seventh grade for the second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade on Main and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn’t understand. And Bird, his twelve-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander, but feels like she’s disappearing.

The Nelson Thomas children exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household, with little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga. As the launch of the Challenger approaches, Ms. Salonga gives her students a project—they are separated into spacecraft crews and must create and complete a mission. When the fated day finally arrives, it changes all of their lives and brings them together in unexpected ways.

Told in three alternating points of view, We Dream of Space is an unforgettable and thematically rich novel for middle grade readers.

We enjoyed it.


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Amazing science books

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You probably don’t get nature like I do.

And by that I don’t mean “get nature” but rather, “get Nature, the magazine.” I do get Nature, which is very expensive, so maybe you don’t have to. A recent newsletter from the Mother Mag includes a list of great new science books, and I was pretty impressed with the books, so I’m giving you the list*. Take the money you saved on not subscribing to Nature and get one! Continue reading Amazing science books


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Ray Bradbury Wants You To Read These 100 stories

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Ray Bradbury wrote an unknown number of stories, but over 400. Some say 600. Doesn’t matter. Back in 1980, Knopf published 100 of these stories, chosen by Bradbury himself to represent the rest. The Stories of Ray Bradbury is over 900 print pages. The stories date from 1943 to 1980. And now, for a presumably limited time and probably just in the United States, you can get this book* in futuristic electronic Kindle form for three bucks.

It is worth noting that a second book, “Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales“, was produced in 2003, and includes another 100 stories, with no overlap between the two books. As far as I know that book is not on sale at this time.


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Cranky Uncle Gets Crankier: Climate Change in the Classroom and on the Smart Phone!

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A while back I reviewed Cranky Uncle vs Climate Change by Dr. John “Skeptical Science” Cook.

Since then a lot has been happening on the Cranky Uncle front, and I thought I should catch you up.

John, in cooperation with Facebook and Yale Climate Connection, has created the Facebook Climate Science Information Center. It is HERE. There is an article about this effort HERE.

There is a Cranky Uncle game for your smart phone, which you can get HERE.

Teachers can use the Cranky Uncle game in their classroom (K12 through College) by filling out THIS HERE form.

Also, related, there is a new version of The Conspiracy Handbook by Lewandowsky and Cook, which you can get HERE.

John Cook, author of Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change: How to Understand and Respond to Climate Science Deniers, is a George Mason University expert in climate communication working with Facebook, said research shows that simply saying information is wrong is not enough. “You also have to explain why or how it is wrong. That is important from a psychological point of view,” Cook said of the new “myth-busting” section of the climate portal.


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Can law keep up with runaway technology?

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Can the law keep up with technology?

Joshua Fairfield asks that question in his new book* Runaway Technology: Can Law Keep Up?, expected out on March 1st.

This is a well written and engaging academic treatment of the problem, looking at technologies as diverse as genetically engineered organisms, deep fakes, and the basic problem of robots taking over the world. Virtual reality is increasingly real (in a material as well as legal sense). Fairfield includes a well deserved (but in my mind too narrow) critique of science, and underscores how limitations in thinking about scientific process and technological advances complexifies the legal problems science and technology create.

Ultimately, he argues in favor of a new kind of law, and he situates law itself as part of the science and technology the law is trying to keep up with. This is also an examination of language and culture, and how technology and law are both embedded in, shaped by, and constraining of, basic humanity. You will find some interesting philosophy in these pages.

This is not escapist literature, and it is not a book by a good writer about a thing the writer found interesting. This is an expert treatment by an expert in a critically important area. This book will be assigned in law classes.

The answer addressed in Runaway Technology to the question “can the law keep up?” is really not so much “yes” or “no,” but rather, it will, but can society and democracy keep up the co-evolution of law, science, and technology, and do so in a way that protects society and democracy.

I’m sure most readers of this blog will want to read this book.


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Combating Specious Ideas: Review of How To Argue With A Racist

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I wrote a review of Adam Rutherford’s new book, “How to Argue With a Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don’t) Say About Human Difference.” The review is published in American Scientist. American Scientist, by the way, is a great magazine that I highly recommend. A notch or two above all the others. Three notches in some cases.

The review is here.


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