Taming Tibet:Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development


Reviewed Jan. 2017

Tibet and the Tibetan people cast a shadow of heroism through much of the world, except of course China, the actor upon which the heroism is implied.

As the largest and most 'backward province' of China, Tibet, the 'roof of the world' has one of the harshest environments continually inhabited by humans. And were it not for China's new communist government, exerting sovereignty over it in 1951, Tibet would likely have remained a footnote in travellers' stories, instead of a craved destination for the adventurous.

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?


Reviewed Aug. 2016

Author Frans de Waal answers the question in the title early and in the affirmative. This is the latest offering of the animal behaviouralist, whose book 'The Bonobo and the Atheist' is profiled on this site.

But in this book, the scope of his insights and observations is broader. And maybe more importantly, his political challenge is more pointed. Those who still insist on measuring animals capabilities against those of humans in a human context have to deal with a twist.

The Human Age:The World Shaped by Us


Reviewed March 2015

Diane Ackerman is an extraordinary wordsmith with imaginative metaphors and choice of vocabulary that seem almost too rich. She employs short chapters allowing time to rest and consider what she has imparted.

I am tempted to compare her with the travel writer Jan Morris, but she sent me scurrying for a dictionary too often where Ackerman allows me to relax with snippets of humorous rollicking colloquialisms.

The Prehistory of the Mind


Reviewed October 2008

This book deals with the evolution of the human mind from the common ancestor with the apes six million years ago to the most modern humans who appeared sometime between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago.

His thesis is that all previous versions of humans had intelligence, in some cases highly developed. The earliest versions had general intelligence, social intelligence (also possessed by chimpanzees) and natural history intelligence. Later versions added technical intelligence and finally language intelligence.

The Inheritors


Reviewed October 2015

I come to this novel a full 60 years after it was first published. While not as famous as his 'Lord of the Flies', Golding is not alone in thinking 'The Inheritors' his best novel.

And just imagining such a story goes beyond that of most novelists. Most extrapolate and elaborate common modern human themes and experiences to express ideas we can readily share. Golding creates a variant of 'human', our closest ancestor, the neanderthal, and endows them with a way of life and viewing the world.