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You can click to view my favorites for anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels.

Richard Potts, et al (1996).  Humanity's Descent : The Consequences of Ecological Instability 

Richard Byrne, The Thinking Ape: Evolutionary Origins of Intelligence (Oxford Univ Press 1995).
Among other things, it has one of the best short summaries of the many attempts to teach animals the rudiments of language.

Deacon book Terrence Deacon, The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain (W. W. Norton, August 1997).
As I said in The New York Times Book Review (10 August 1997):
        In our evolutionary ascent from an ape-like ancestor, we gained our most prized possession, the mental abilities that underlie language. We're still trying to figure out what language is (from monkey cries to structured syntax), how it works (the short-term processes in the brain that construct and deconstruct utterances), and why it evolved (the Darwinian processes that bootstrapped it over the long run).
        That's what Terrence W. Deacon's book, "The Symbolic Species," is about. His first section is on symbols and language, the next tackles the brain's language specializations, and the last addresses the coevolution of language and the human brain, ending up with Darwinian views of consciousness. It's a work of enormous breadth, likely to pleasantly surprise both general readers and experts. Continued....

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: Fates of Human Societies (W. W. Norton, 1997).
The Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction. The author of The Third Chimpanzee writes here about the cultural evolution of the last 13,000 years:
    "Until we have some convincing, detailed, agreed-upon explanation for the broad pattern of history [why Eurasians did so much better than Africans, Americans, and Australians], most people will continue to suspect that the racist biological explanation is correct after all. That seems to me the strongest argument for writing this book."
    "History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences in peoples' environments, not cause of biological differences among the peoples themselves."
UBS amazon.com Powell's

Jared Diamond, Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality (BasicBooks -- Science Masters Series, 1997).
One thing you have to realize about Jared Diamond is that, like me, he is a Ph.D. physiologist who not only thinks about how things work on the short time scale of physiology but has ventured into pondering how things came into being on a longer evolutionary time scale. His chapters are:
  • The Animal with the Weirdest Sex Life
  • The Battle of the Sexes
  • Why Don't Men Breast-feed Their Babies? The Non-Evolution of Male Lactation
  • Wrong Time for Love: The Evolution of Recreational Sex
  • What Are Men Good For? The Evolution of Men's Roles
  • Making More by Making Less: The Evolution of Female Menopause
  • Truth in Advertising: The Evolution of Body Signals

Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee (HarperCollins, 1992).
        "Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history. Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny. Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history. In contrast, we’re still struggling with the mess which agriculture has tumbled us, and it’s unclear whether we can solve it."
UBS amazon.com Powell's
Merlin Donald, Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition (Harvard University Press, 1991).
UBS amazon.com Powell's
Loren Eiseley, The Star Thrower (1976).
        "Curious, I took a pencil from my pocket and touched a strand of the [spider] web. Immediately there was a response. The web, plucked by its menacing occupant, began to vibrate until it was a blur. Anything that had brushed claw or wing against that amazing snare would be thoroughly entrapped. As the vibrations slowed, I could see the owner fingering her guidelines for signs of struggle. A pencil point was an intrusion into this universe for which no precedent existed. Spider was circumscribed by spider ideas; its universe was spider universe. All outside was irrational, extraneous, at best raw material for spider. As I proceeded on my way along the gully, like a vast impossible shadow, I realized that in the world of spider I did not exist."
UBS amazon.com Powell's
Melvin Konner, The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit (Holt 1990 softcover).
UBS amazon.com Powell's
Richard Wrangham, Dale Peterson, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (Houghton Mifflin, 1996).
From Kirkus Reviews , 08/15/96:
        "Forget Rousseau. Forget Konrad Lorenz. Wrangham and Peterson say that after 40 years of gorilla and chimpanzee watching, it is hard not to conclude that human males are but evolutionary heirs of male ape aggression. Our primate male cousins gang up to murder and rape, expand their territory (and genes), and fight to get to the top. But at the same time that MacArthur fellow Wrangham (Biological Anthropology/Harvard) and Peterson (Jane Goodall's coauthor on Visions of Caliban) present overwhelming (and depressing) evidence of male mayhem from observations in the wild, from history, from ethnography and politics, they are not die-hard biological determinists...."

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