A smooth, expert, and often startling history that emphasizes that no behavior separates us from other animals, but we...

HUMANIMAL

HOW HOMO SAPIENS BECAME NATURE’S MOST PARADOXICAL CREATURE—A NEW EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY

A lively exploration of “the epic meandering journey that every organism has made.”

That humans are conscious, cultured, and much cleverer than any other animal—but an animal nevertheless—is no secret to popular science writers. A steady stream of books explains how we got that way, and readers will not regret choosing this cheerful addition to the genre from British science journalist Rutherford (A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes, 2017, etc.). Humans use tools, he explains, but many mammals and birds do the same. They are often no more than sticks poked into a hole to tease out food, but ingenious variations arise; many are adopted by others, becoming a rudimentary cultural element. In the author’s native Britain, out of 1,000 sexual acts that could result in a baby, only one actually does, as he reports in a long section shooting down the belief that only humans have sex for pleasure. The author then steps back, admitting that one can never know why nonhumans engage in nonproductive intercourse, but innumerable creatures do so. Readers under the illusion that behavior like homosexuality, anal intercourse, and even necrophilia are “contrary to nature” will learn that the opposite is true. Rutherford also ably explores current conceptions and focus on cooperation through communication. Animals can deliver signals, and a few ancestors of Homo sapiens may have talked, but we took it to a new level. “We transmit information,” writes the author, “not just via DNA down the generations, but in every direction, to people with whom we have no immediate biological ties. We log our knowledge and experience, and share them. It is in the teaching of others, the shaping of culture, and the telling of stories, that we created ourselves.”

A smooth, expert, and often startling history that emphasizes that no behavior separates us from other animals, but we remain an utterly unique species.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61519-531-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: The Experiment

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

HOW TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM

Known for her often contentious perspectives, New York Times opinion writer Weiss battles societal Jewish intolerance through lucid prose and a linear playbook of remedies.

While she was vividly aware of anti-Semitism throughout her life, the reality of the problem hit home when an active shooter stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue where her family regularly met for morning services and where she became a bat mitzvah years earlier. The massacre that ensued there further spurred her outrage and passionate activism. She writes that European Jews face a three-pronged threat in contemporary society, where physical, moral, and political fears of mounting violence are putting their general safety in jeopardy. She believes that Americans live in an era when “the lunatic fringe has gone mainstream” and Jews have been forced to become “a people apart.” With palpable frustration, she adroitly assesses the origins of anti-Semitism and how its prevalence is increasing through more discreet portals such as internet self-radicalization. Furthermore, the erosion of civility and tolerance and the demonization of minorities continue via the “casual racism” of political figures like Donald Trump. Following densely political discourses on Zionism and radical Islam, the author offers a list of bullet-point solutions focused on using behavioral and personal action items—individual accountability, active involvement, building community, loving neighbors, etc.—to help stem the tide of anti-Semitism. Weiss sounds a clarion call to Jewish readers who share her growing angst as well as non-Jewish Americans who wish to arm themselves with the knowledge and intellectual tools to combat marginalization and defuse and disavow trends of dehumanizing behavior. “Call it out,” she writes. “Especially when it’s hard.” At the core of the text is the author’s concern for the health and safety of American citizens, and she encourages anyone “who loves freedom and seeks to protect it” to join with her in vigorous activism.

A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-13605-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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