New Books Network

Frans De Waal, “The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among Primates” (Norton, 2013)
Humans are quite a bit like chimpanzees, genetically speaking. Of course humans are quite a bit like fruit flies, genetically speaking. But when it comes to behavior, humans are much more like chimpanzees than fruit flies. And so the question arrises: what can we learn about ourselves from chimpanzees? According... Read More
Nancy Segal, “Born Together-Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study” (Harvard UP, 2012)
Identical twins, separated at birth, raised in different families, and reunited in adulthood. In 1979, psychology researchers in Minnesota found some twins who had been reunited after a lifetime of separation, and brought them in to participate in a research study. And so began the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared... Read More
Dominic Pettman, “Human Error” (UMinnesota, 2011)/”Look at the Bunny” (Zero Books, 2013)
“The humans are dead.” Whether or not you recognize the epigram from Flight of the Conchords (and if not, there are worse ways to spend a few minutes than by looking here, and I recommend sticking around for the “binary solo”), Dominic Pettman‘s Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines (University... Read More
Helen Longino, “Studying Human Behavior: How Scientists Investigate Aggression and Sexuality” (University of Chicago Press, 2013)
What explains human behavior? It is standard to consider answers from the perspective of a dichotomy between nature and nurture, with most researchers today in agreement that it is both. For Helen Longino, Clarence Irving Lewis Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, the “both” answer misses the fact that the... Read More
Jared Diamond, “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?” (Viking, 2012)
It’s pretty common–and has long been–for people to think that the “way it used to be” is better than the way it is. This tendency to idealize an (imagined) past is particularly strong today among critics of modern civilization. Think of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents, but one example of... Read More
Marlene Zuk, “Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live” (Norton, 2013)
The Hebrews called it “Eden.” The Greeks and Romans called it the “Golden Age.” The philosophes–or Rousseau at least–called it the “State of Nature.” Marx and Engels called it “Primitive Communism.” The underlying notion, however, is the same: there was a time, long ago, when things were much better than... Read More
Barbara R. Ambros, “Bones of Contention: Animals and Religion in Contemporary Japan” (University of Hawai’i Press, 2012)
It opens with a parakeet named Homer, and it closes with a dog named Hachiko. In the intervening pages, Barbara Ambros explores the deaths, afterlives, and necrogeographies of pets in contemporary Japan. Bones of Contention:Animals and Religion in Contemporary Japan (University of Hawai’i Press, 2012) takes readers through the urban... Read More
Signe Rousseau, “Food and Social Media: You Are What You Tweet” (AltaMira Press, 2012)
The other day I found myself in a cooking situation that’s fairly common: I had a few odd ingredients–some oxidized strips of bacon, a withered red pepper, a bunch of half-wilted parsley–and needed to use them before they went bad, but how? The cookbooks on my counter didn’t have an... Read More
Michael David Kaulana Ing, “The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism” (Oxford University Press, 2012)
How did the authors of the one of the most important Confucian ritual texts in early China recognize, explain, and cope with mistakes and dysfunction in ritual? The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism (Oxford University Press, 2012) brings readers into the intricacies of the text of the Liji. Michael... Read More
John S. Allen, “The Omnivorous Mind: Our Evolving Relationship to Food” (Harvard University Press, 2012)
Did Proust have it right? Does food, whether it’s a madeleine from an aristocratic childhood or the Velveeta mac-and-cheese my mom used to make, have a special significance for our memory, perhaps even our very being? In his new book, The Omnivorous Mind: Our Evolving Relationship to Food (Harvard University... Read More