Books by Steven Pinker

Released: Feb. 13, 2018

"For those inclined to believe that the end is not nigh and who would like to keep up with recent science, this book is a…well, not a godsend, but a gift all the same."
The bomb? The plague? Trump? Not to worry; things are getting better. So writes eternal optimist Pinker (Psychology/Harvard Univ.; The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, 2011, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 30, 2014

"Fatter and more complex than Strunk and White, and some of the more technical arguments may make this a tough sell on the first-year comp front. Still, Pinker's vade mecum is a worthy addition to any writer's library."
Yet another how-to book on writing? Indeed, but this is one of the best to come along in many years, a model of intelligent signposting and syntactical comportment. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 4, 2011

"Classic Pinker, jammed with facts, figures, and points of speculative departure; a big, complex book, well worth the effort for the good news that it delivers."
Frightened of your own shadow? Worried about lone gunmen and psycho killers? Pinker (Psychology/Harvard Univ.; The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, 2007, etc.) encourages readers not to fret so much. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 11, 2007

"Call it continuing education for brain owners, an instruction manual on how thought works—and how to think better."
Consider the lexicon, Watson: The words a person uses tell you who that person is. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

"A rich, sophisticated argument that may leave pious souls a little uneasy."
The well-published MIT cognitive scientist and linguist (How the Mind Works, 1997, etc.) takes on one of philosophy's thorniest problems in this lucid view of what makes humans human. Read full book review >
HOW THE MIND WORKS by Steven Pinker
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

"Fascinating stuff."
With verve and clarity, the author of The Language Instinct (1993) offers a thought-challenging explanation of why our minds work the way they do Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 24, 1994

Another in a series of books (Joel Davis's Mother Tongue, p. 1303; Ray Jackendorf's Patterns in the Mind, p. 1439) popularizing Chomsky's once controversial theories explaining the biological basis of language. Variously mellow, intense, and bemused—but never boring—Pinker (Director, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience/MIT), emphasizes Darwinian theory and defines language as a "biological adaptation to communicate." While Pinker bases his argument on the innate nature of language, he situates language in that transitional area between instinct and learned behavior, between nature and culture. Starting with what he calls a "grammar gene," Pinker describes the way primitives, children (his special interest), even the deaf evolve natural languages responding to the universal need to communicate. He refutes the "comic history" of linguistic determinism, the belief that language shapes thinking, undermining it with examples from music, mathematics, and kinship theory. Following his lively, user-friendly demonstration of even the most forbidding aspects of linguistics, and his discussion of vocabulary, how words are acquired, built, and used, he rises to a celebration of the "harmony between the mind...and the texture of reality." This theme, the power and mystery of the human mind, permeates Pinker's engaging study, balanced with the more sober scientific belief that the mind is an "adapted computational model": "To a scientist," he writes, "the fundamental fact of human language is its sheer improbability." Among the many interesting though not sequential ideas: If language is innate, biologically based, then it can't be taught either to animals or computers. Pinker shows why adults have difficulty learning a foreign language, and he mediates coolly between rules and usage, between systematic and non-prescriptive grammar. Designed for a popular audience, this is in fact a hefty read full of wonder and wisdom. Read full book review >