The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army by Stephan Talty
Captivating. I loved this book so much I immediately went to Netflix and ordered the 2 available documentaries on Napoleon's 1812 invasion of Russia. Also tried to convince my wife that our family should trace Napoleon's route for a family vacation (still working on her). This is a part of history that I did not know well.....and I had no idea that typhus played such a major role in Napoleon's defeat. Books that combine disease and history are a particular love of mine, and this is one of the best examples. Talty is a wonderful writer, masterfully evoking the horrid details of the retreat from Moscow and the larger role that disease has had in shaping human history. Highly recommended.
Hella Nation: Looking for Happy Meals in Kandahar, Rocking the Side Pipe, Wingnut's WarAgainst the GAP, and Other Adventures with the Totally Lost Tribes of America by Evan Wright
This is the sort of book we should be assigning in our sociology classes. Wright is an ambassador to the marginalized, an embedded reporter with America's freaks, degenerates, and psychopaths. We spend time with right wing movie producers, anarchists, alcoholic skate board punks, and HIV positive porn stars. Durkheim taught us that by defining deviance we construct what is normal. Hella Nation would work well in the classroom as our students could engage in systematic study of social organization and structure through the entertaining lens of drug addicts and white supremacists. These essays were originally published in Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone, and the book does not always hang together in terms of narrative (an editor willing to cut would have helped out as well). Despite its flaws I'd nominate Hella Nation to our curriculum.
Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang
Overview of the big topics, concepts and science of our brains. Useful as a companion to other books on the brain and behavior as a way of condensing and consolidating the range of materials. Well written but seldom insightful, grounded in research but not in any big ideas or new breakthroughs. Enjoyably short chapters and chunked materials, studies and descriptions familiar from other works. Nothing new or ground breaking, but a competent and pleasurable journey through the biology and behavioral research on our evolved brain.