World Book Day

Jo’s post just reminded me that it is World Book Day. The title’s a slight misnomer as the rest of world have this on the 23rd April. Due to school terms, however, the UK and Ireland move it to 2nd March to ensure that children can get involved. The aim is to provide a book for every child in the country, which seems laudable to me.

[Note to self: insert clumsy segue away from selflessness and back to me]

Books currently on my bedside table or lying about the flat:

American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Currently reading this in bed. I didn’t take to it as quickly as Neverwhere, likely because I don’t identify with the main character so easily, but am now utterly intrigued and always loathe to put it down. Neil Gaiman‘s prosaic style is quirky and very easy to read, and I’ve no clue where the plot is going.

The Blank Slate – Steven Pinker
A surprisingly controversial book dealing with nature and nurture. Steven Pinker argues that, contrary to popular wisdom, genetics has much more to do with human behaviour than do upbringing and exprience. I was very happy to see him dismantle the myth of ‘the noble savage’ – non-violent tribes who live off the land in complete peace and harmony – as I’d always suspected that was bunk but hadn’t ever bother research it myself 🙂 There are many interesting insights into why we behave the way we do, and it’s continually surprising. He also sometimes uses Calvin and Hobbes cartoons to make his point. It moves very quickly and I often find it fairly complex; since I want to understand rather than skim I have to read it in the daytime when I’m awake. I’m progressing very slowly, but I’ll get there in the end 🙂

The Ancestor’s Tale – Richard Dawkins
Another one I can only read when alert. It presents the evolutionary history of humanity, working backwards from the present day to the eventual dawn of life itself. I’m only a few chapters in (just about to start ‘The Neanderthal’s Tale’), but am finding it utterly fascinating. So far I’ve learnt about how DNA studies can show the migration of humanity across the world, and that this has revealed multiple major migrations from Africa; that foxes can be domesticated in just twenty years, purely by breeding for friendliness, to the extent that they will wag their tails when approached (a byproduct rather than a part of the plan); that it’s entirely possible for you or me to be more closely related to a chimpanzee than another human (for specific genes). I’m enjoying it very much.

Calvin and Hobbies: The Essential Collection
I’ve loved Calvin and Hobbes since I was ten, and almost always have one of the compilations lying around. Delightful, laugh-out-loud funny cartoons that are often thoughtful and touching.

Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross
Amazingly beautiful paintings by the one of the most visually striking artists around. This was a late xmas present, and is great to flick through. I have a large Alex Ross poster taking up much of my bedroom wall, and would love to get hold of some of the book’s images as prints.

Why I am not a Christian – Bertrand Russell
A collection of essays. Despite much of the material dating back to the 20’s it’s remarkably easy to read, and the opinions are presented clearly and seemingly effortlessly. I was reading this on the way to the Bloggers4Labour meetup, and produced it when it happened to come up in conversation. That likely came over as a little weird 🙂 Sure I’m strongly anti-religion, but not that strong!