What have you been reading?

John and Chad both have updates about their books, and even though I'm tempted to join the club I figure there's been enough meta on here lately (I wrote two different posts about the current status of my writing but scrapped them both). Instead I thought I would ask what you have been reading lately. It is the summer, after all, and I hope that those inclined to do so have had some time to take in some good books.

This past weekend I polished off Rex Appeal and Tyrannosaurus Sue, a bit of a digression from what I should have been reading but it was difficult to resist. Reading Tyrannosaurus Sue after Rex Appeal definitely generated more food for thought than if I had read each separately. I also took Huxley with me to the beach yesterday but it was difficult getting comfortable with such a hefty tome. Next time I should probably just bring a paperback...

Most of what I read ends up feeding the blog monster in one form or another, and any day now I should also be receiving a copy of Jane P. Davidson's A History of Paleontology Illustration to review. As much as I liked The Earth on Show and Scenes From Deep Time I've been hoping someone would move beyond the Victorian era and it seems like Davidson has done just that. This week I really want to commit myself to Huxley and a few other things but you can expect a review of the new book shortly after it arrives in my mailbox.

As a side note, I'll also have a few more paleontology interviews coming up soon. Things have been a little slow in that respect because for many people it is the field season but a few friends have been gracious enough to grant me their time. I would love to do a video interview or two at the annual SVP meeting coming up this October but I still have no idea of whether or not I'm even going to be able to make it, so for now I'll do the best I can with what I've got.

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I have spent most of today finishing up Jane Davidson's A History of Paleontology Illustration (a review of which I intend on will writing up shortly), but I took a quick break to blow a few bucks at the Cranbury Bookworm. Here's what I came home with; Evolution for John Doe - Henshaw Ward (1925)…
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It's always a good day when a new book arrives at the door, but I've been a little worried lately as a number of books that were shipped weeks ago hadn't turned up. With only one or two exceptions they all came today (pictured above beneath the Christmas tree), and four of them are review copies…

Argh. I was meaning to get some capsule book reviews online today, but I got sidetracked this weekend and haven't pulled them together yet. . . now you ask a question like this and drown me in guilt!

Let's see. I'm midway through both Zimmer's Microcosm and Hofstadter's I Am a Strange Loop, and both are good so far. Leonard Mlodinow's The Drunkard's Walk was enjoyable (it'd be a good antidote to mathphobia), and Alan Sokal's Beyond the Hoax was awesome wrapped in win. The asides and autobiographical passages of Bart Ehrman's God's Problem were better than the ostensible subject matter, which had a sort of phoned-in quality. Creswick, Farach and Poole's Introduction to Renormalization Group Methods in Physics has lots of good stuff which I wasn't expecting.

I'm still reading my T.rex book (get it!), I'm expecting the fossil dog book in the mail any day now, and my dad is giving me Benton's "When Life Almost Died," about the Permio-Triassic extinction.

I'm actually trying right now to read 100 books in a year (I'm very behind, only at #45, but I can try), and I'm looking for some shorter books that are still informative. Are any of those shortish? Or not going to take me an age to think carefully through? I'm always looking for new stuff!

I'm reading Gould's Wonderful Life right now and I'm really enjoying it. Have you read it?

Also, J got me a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is just awesome.

I just finished The Canon by Natalie Angier recently, good basic stuff, very "readable" style. I've started on Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica novel, and it seems to have all the elements I love about his writing.

Lastly, I am working my way through my old Calvin and Hobbes books by Bill Watterson, with my 6 (almost 7!) year old nephew who thinks Calvin is his favourite book character ever.

I'm currently having a DUNE OVERLOAD and feel stupid for missing out on it for so long.

I haven't really been keen on Paleo or science lately but really badly want to get my hands on a copy of The Plausibility of Life.

By Louis B�rub� (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink

Wow, Seed needs to upgrade their comment software.

By Louis Bérubé (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink

I've been taking my time in getting through 'The Beginning of the Age of Mammals' by Kenneth Rose, and have just started today reading 'Biostratigraphy: Microfossils and Geologic Time' by Brian McGowran. I'm not too sure how much I'm going to like the latter, but Rose's book is fantastic.

I just finished Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicle, I'm currently reading Timbit Nation: A Hitchhiker's View of Canada, and probably next I'll start on Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear.

Brian, have you checked out Debus and Debus'Paleoimagery yet? It's a bit breezy (almost bloggy?) in style, bouncing from one case study to another, and has some typographical and (if memory serves) factual errors. Nevertheless, it has quite a bit on post-Victorian Paleoart. I'm looking forward reading Davidson, as well as your review!

Scicurious; You can read Tyrannosaurus Sue in an afternoon (only ~240 pages). The rest are a bit longer, with Rex Appeal being the only other one that is short enough to get through quickly (and I don't agree with all the science in it).

Zach; I definitely intend on getting the new T. rex book. I'm on the review list at the moment but I need to get through Davidson's book first. It looks short so I should be able to run through it in no time.

Louis; Yeah, any "special" characters and you just get a weird jumble when it comes through. I'll put in a word to see if anything is in the works to fix the problem.

Neil; I actually keep forgetting about it since it's so expensive. I've been spoiled by cheap used books so when I see a $45 price tag on such a book it's hard for me to justify it (especially since I probably have many of the illustrations somewhere in my library already). I do want to check it out, though, and it's been on my wishlist for a while. Maybe now is the time to get it.

And unfortunately I'm afraid the production value doesn't quite warrant the price tag (all the pictures are black and white I believe). Still, it does have some photos of obscure dino-parks and newspaper illustrations etc., stuff that I haven't seen elsewhere at least. It might be one to get from the library and scan/copy the interesting bits for reference...

Thanks for the suggestions! I may put up a post on my own blog when I'm done with the year's worth of books, but not all of them are scientific or brainy (in fact, most of them aren't). But if anyone wants to see...


Great site here. Michael Barton at Dispersal of Darwin told me about it in regards to your comments on Joseph Hooker. (I recently profiled the JDH website on my blog).

As to readings: I just finished Bones of Contention this morning by Roger Lewin. I loved it - indeed, I am going to assign it in my next history of science course. I just wrote a post about it, "The Problem of Scientific Exploration," on my blog:


On the bedside table: "The Last Imaginary Place: A Human History of the Arctic" which I'm reviewing for The Historian and "Java Man" by Roger Lewin for myself. Any recommendations on books in the history of biological anthropology?

All best,