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Book Group: Past books

Book Group Information

A list of books selected and read by this book group from 2008 to 2013 can be found here. For recent books, see below.

07/16/2014 - 3:30pm Book Group: On Being Certain, by Robert Burton (2008)

On Being Certain: Believing you are Right Even When You're Not by Robert Burton (2008): challenges conventional ideas about "knowledge" and "belief," using findings and frameworks from recent research about how humans actually reason and the structure of the brain. Should change readers' answers to the question "how do we know what we know?" Gives us more tools for being more skeptical about some of our own cherished "knowledge" and some new ways of thinking about our own biases and heuristics.

06/11/2014 - 3:30pm DATE CHANGE Jeff Ctr Book Grp: "The Black Swan" by N. N. Taleb

For June 2014 we have switched our date from the third Wednesday to the second Wednesday. On June 11, we will discuss The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This much-cited book explores why and how humans get blind-sided by rare events. Our brains focus on specifics instead of generalities, and overvalue what we already know and don't consider what we don't. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, and are vulnerable to large events that in fact shape our world.

05/21/2014 - 3:30pm Book group - "Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else"

Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland (2013). We know that income inequality is increasing in America, but how much? How rich are these new super-rich? How do they justify their privilege? Do they spend their money creating jobs, or perhaps making charitable contributions? What is their politics? Why do they profess to experience so much stress? Should we by sympathetic? Apathetic? Or what?

04/16/2014 - 3:30pm Book Group Discussion -- "A Manual for Creating Atheists"

Peter Boghossian is the author of A Manual for Creating Atheists (2013), advocating that we challenge religion for its reliance on faith rather than evidence.

03/19/2014 - 3:30pm Book Group -- "The Art Instinct"

The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution, by Denis Dutton (2009) argues that human proclivities for art are evolutionary traits, shaped by natural selection--inborn and in some ways universal. This approach to art challenges purely cultural explanations of human variety in artistic expression, and takes issue with many familiar aesthetic arguments over such questions as "what is art?" and the role of interpretation. Dutton incorporates scholarship from a variety of disciplines, and is readable for general audiences.

02/19/2014 - 3:30pm Book Group Discussion -- "Quiet" by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking (2012) by Susan Cain celebrates the virtues of introverts, challenging what she calls the "extrovert ideal." She wants introverts to be empowered, recommending that introverts learn how to "act" more extroverted than they really are.

01/15/2014 - 3:30pm Book Group - Wired for Culture, by Pagel

Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist, is the author of Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind (2012). He argues that humans have an innate propensity to contribute and conform to the culture of our birth that not only enabled human survival and progress in the past, but continues to influence our behavior today.

12/18/2013 - 3:30pm Book Group - Krause, Universe From Nothing

In this 2012 book, Lawrence Krause explores A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing.

11/20/2013 - 3:30pm Book Group: The Price of Inequality, by Joseph Stiglitz (2012)

paperback April 2013. Nobel-winning economist. How America has become the most unequal advanced country, how such inequality is damaging us, and what we can do about it. Serious analysis written in an accessible style.

10/16/2013 - 3:30pm Book Discussion Group--Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story, by Jim Holt (2012)

Discusses "why is there something rather than nothing," exploring views of e.g. Aristotle, Leibniz, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, as he journeys to visit a number of contemporary philosophers and cosmologists.

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