Thursday, January 28, 2021

The gene - Siddhartha Mukherjee

What a nice book is the fifth item on this recommendation list. See my home page for the previous entries.
In his masterpiece Siddhartha Mukherjee traces the history of genetics, from the Moravian monk Gregor Mendel’s experiments on pea crops to 21st century scientists’ human genome mapping. It is like a crash course in history of biology, minus all the complicated organic chemistry details, plus a bit of suspence, insights, drama and family history. 
I don’t think one can really understand what’s going on in these first decades of the third millennia without a basic knowledge of biology and genetics. There are plenty of excellent free online courses on the subject, but if you are not keen on that or just want a very accessible introductory overview, this book is a great place to start.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The tipping point - Malcolm Gladwell

Item number four. Let’s look at epidemics from a different, non health-related angle.
In “The tipping point” Malcolm Gladwell explains how ideas, messages, products and services can spread like viruses do. All they need to become viral is the perfect balance of three ingredients:
1. The law of the few - not all the infected/infectious individuals are the same: a successful chain of contagions includes connectors, mavens and salesmen.
2. The stickiness factor: how memorable is the underlying message?
3. The power of context: time and place count.
All the authors mentioned in this list have a special gift (sometimes more than one): Malcolm Gladwell’s one is his ability to make all his points clear and inspiring by use of a set of extremely revelatory examples.
Although the book was published over twenty years ago its message is still valid today.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari, The third chimpanzee - Jared Diamond

Third item on the list. This is actually a pair of volumes. As usual, see my home page for the previous entries.
Do you want to know why we - as in "we, humans" - are the way we are? What makes us similar to other living beings (hence "the third chimpanzee")? What makes us different? Why our brain works the way it does (hence "sapiens")? Why we do the things we do? And why some of us do those things a little differently? Most importantly, do you want to know how we evolved to be what we currently are?
Yuval Noah Harari and Jared Diamond will brilliantly answer all those questions and many more.
Harari is a new entry on this list, whereas we have already met Diamond (Guns, germs and steel). They are two of the finest writers I've read. Highly recommended.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Guns, germs and steel - Jared Diamond

Time for the second item on the list. See my home page for the first one.
In "Guns, germs and steel" Jared Diamond (one of my favorite authors) tries to answer one of the most debated questions of modern times: why have some Eurasian civilizations managed to conquer others, and not the other way around?
It's a book for those who have a very convincing answer to it: some kind of Eurasian intellectual, moral or genetic supremacy. As convincing as wrong, as a matter of fact. And it's also a good read for those who think the previous answer is wrong, and as a consequence are right, but lack a convincing explanation for that claim.
Finally, it's a book for anyone who's always wondered what the answer to that question is but has never managed to find it.
This gem has been around for more than twenty years and has been read by lots of people, yet there still seems to be plenty of confusion about its topic. Read it and spread the word!
P.S. this is just the first of Jared Diamond's works on this list.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Spillover - David Quammenn

A good thing about the current pandemic is that I’ve had plenty of time to read. Over the next few weeks I’m gonna post about some of the best books I’ve come across so far.
Here's the first one.
Are you fed up with the Covid related schizophrenia? With overdramatic media coverage, contradictory expert opinions or negationist-conspiratorial social media content? Are you looking for a solid source of information, possibly not boring or too technical?
David Quammen's Spillover has it all: facts, figures, history, interviews and an enjoyable narrative style.
P.S. it was written in 2013!