Big Ideas Reading Group Bookshelf 2014

As of September 2014, these are the carryover candidates for the next round of reading. By October 1, please send Chris Boyd your choice of one or two books you would like to be added to this list for the next election.

Guns, Germs, and Steel--The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

Explaining what William McNeill called The Rise of the Westhas become the central problem in the study of global history. In Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond presents the biologist's answer: geography, demography, and ecological happenstance. Diamond evenhandedly reviews human history on every continent since the Ice Age at a rate that emphasizes only the broadest movements of peoples and ideas. 320 pages.

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris

Sam Harris's first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people -- from religious fundamentalists to non-believing scientists agree on one point: science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, argues that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge.

Who Owns the Future?  by Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier is a visionary reckoning with the effects network technologies have had on our economy. There is an alternative to allowing technology to own our future. In this ambitious and deeply humane book, Lanier charts the path toward a new information economy that will stabilize the middle class and allow it to grow. It is time for ordinary people to be rewarded for what they do and share on the web.

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability by Lierre Keith

Examining the question of what to eat from the perspective of both human and environmental health, the account goes beyond health choices and discusses potential moral issues from eating—or not eating—animals. Through the deeply personal narrative of someone who practiced veganism for 20 years, this unique exploration also discusses alternatives to industrial farming, reveals the risks of a vegan diet, and explains why animals belong on ecologically sound farms. 321 pages.

Will You Be Alive 10 Years from Now? And Numerous Other Curious Other Questions in Probability by Paul J. Nahin

Nahin brings probability to life with colorful and amusing historical anecdotes as well as an electrifying approach to solving puzzles that illustrates many of the techniques that mathematicians and scientists use to grapple with probability. He looks at classic puzzles from the past--from Galileo's dice-tossing problem to a disarming dice puzzle that would have astonished even Newton--and also includes a dozen challenge problems for you to tackle yourself, with complete solutions provided in the back of the book. 242 pages.

The 2014 Bookshelf

The 2013 Bookshelf