A skillfully entertaining education.

SAPIENS

A GRAPHIC HISTORY, VOLUME 2: THE PILLARS OF CIVILIZATION

The second installment of the graphic adaptation of Harari’s bestselling 2014 book.

Harari, Vandermeulen, and Casanave pick up the human project at the very beginning of the agricultural revolution, advancing the narrative of human history via Casanave’s vibrant, expansive panels of artwork, many of which evoke early comic strips, and plenty of amusing, tongue-in-cheek dialogue. Our amiable guides from Volume 1—Yuval, Zoe, Professor Saraswati, Cindy and Bill (they are now farmers), Detective Lopez, and Dr. Fiction—return to lead us through the proceedings, while historical figures move in and out of the narrative to provide insightful, appealing commentary about farming, animal domestication, and other relevant topics regarding the agricultural revolution and where it has led us as a species. Kafka meanders through a few dozen pages, discoursing on the massive complexities of the human brain and memory retrieval, the proliferation of numbers and data, and, of course, the detriments of bureaucracy involved in storing, accessing, and controlling information. Harari and company have deep reservations about many of the consequences of our “achievements,” problems that have included sickness and disease, unmanageable population increase, and sheer drudgery. The proliferation of private property, a natural consequence of working the land, was undoubtedly momentous, but it also contributed to the rise of slavery, complex social hierarchies, the second-class citizenry of women and other marginalized groups, and widespread racism. Throughout, the authors seek to present a concise rendering of the full march of humankind and point out elements that are fictionalized, misrepresented, or exaggerated—and show how those elements have shaped human behavior, norms, and mores. The section on American slavery and its consequences into the present is particularly illuminating. Ultimately, balance in society is key to maintaining some semblance of order amid seemingly chaotic circumstances: “If people have faith in nothing, social order collapses, causing a lot of suffering….A big part of politics is about finding the right balance.”

A skillfully entertaining education.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-321223-7

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

THE MEATEATER GUIDE TO WILDERNESS SKILLS AND SURVIVAL

The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more