So many books, so little time. While I sometimes find nothing of interest in the monthly deals on Kindle books, the month of November 2016 provided a cornucopia of interesting books. I twice combed through the nonfiction titles there were monthly deals on, once on my Kindle, and once again on my desktop, making a list of three dozen books that seemed particularly interesting. During the course of the month, I sampled several of them and bought some. The books I’ve bought are marked as such below. In some cases, I already bought the book before this sale began, and these are marked as “Already Bought.”
Since I have not read all the books, I am not completely qualified to pick the best. But from what I’ve read or started to read, these are my top picks so far.
Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the author of this book is a Somali woman who suffered genital mutilation, who was arranged in marriage to her cousin, who made a film, and who received death threats. But there are also differences. She is older, she was a Hindu even though her parents and siblings were Muslim, she actually married her cousin, and her activism focuses on protecting women from female genital mutilation.
This book is by a medical doctor who used to tell his patients that vitamin supplements just made your urine more expensive. But he was dismayed at watching his wife’s health deteriorate without knowing what to do for her. Since her husband, the doctor, didn’t believe in vitamin supplements, she hadn’t been taking them. Eventually, she asked him if she should try supplements, and not knowing what else he could do for her, he agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to try. After she started to take some supplements, she started to get much better. It turned out that she had fibromyalgia, and she was helped by taking antioxidants. After seeing her health improve, her husband called in his worst fibromyalgia patients and recommended supplements to them to see if it would also help them, and taking the supplements helped all of them. So, he started researching vitamin supplements more, and he wrote this book to tell about how important they are.
The Jewish poet Rodger Kamenetz has conversations with the Dalai Lama and others on Judaism and Buddhism. This book is a meeting of two religious traditions rather than a critique of one by the other.
The title is modeled after Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, a very long but interesting book I have been reading off and on. This book is written by an Episcopalean professor of Christian history, and it looks at Christian history from the perspective of various participants in its history.
Agnostic Bible scholar Bart Ehrman examines how well the Bible answers the question of why people suffer.
Malachi Martin was a Roman Catholic priest who performed exorcisms. Although I’m skeptical that demon possession is real, I wrote my dissertation on the nature of evil, and one of the books I used was People of the Lie by the Christian author M. Scott Peck, who reported witnessing exorcisms and described the character of a being he identified as Satan. Even if the phenomenon of possession is just psychological, it is interesting, and it may shed light on the nature of evil.
Mysticism, the idea of experiencing the divine directly, has found its way into many religious traditions.
This book covers pre-Columbian Native American myths about the origin of the world.
This book covers religious terrorism from different religions, including Christian terrorists who have targeted abortion clinics, the Buddhist splinter group Aum Shinrikyo, and Islam.
A comic book adaption of Genesis that includes elements of Paradise Lost.
A typical apologetic work. Judging by the reviews, this brings up such arguments for creationism as irreducible complexity and fine-tuning, neither of which I consider credible given my understanding of how natural selection works.
This book was written by an Evangelical Christian Professor of Church History and Historical Theology as a history of the diverse array of Christianity for a lay audience. This edition has been updated post-mortem by another author with more up-to-date material on more recent history.
This book covers the creeds of various Christian denominations, making it useful in understanding the differences between different denominations.
This book recounts some of the most important discoveries in the past two centuries that have lent support to Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.
Darwin’s theory of evolution provides a basis for recognizing equality between the races, which undermines religious justifications for slavery that attribute different origins for different races. This book claims that Darwin was an abolitionist whose moral beliefs motivated him towards his theory of evolution by natural selection.
Being happy is a worthwhile pursuit that I consider worth reading about.
I have previously read or perused another book called Resilience, and I understand from experience how important resilience is to getting along in life.
In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honore. $1.99
Something can be said for taking things more slowly. It can be a way to appreciate and enjoy life more without getting caught up in things that don’t actually matter that much.
Although I’m not a boomer, having an aging parent who has collected a lot of stuff is not exclusive to that generation.
I have previously known John Searle for his Chinese room thought experiment, which calls into question whether an AI can actually understand the world. This book is about how we construct civilization by using language to create social realities – such as money, marriage, government, etc. – that do not otherwise have a basis in reality.
A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger. $1.99
Questioning is an important method in philosophy, and this book seems to focus on the importance of questioning.
With the internet, it is much easier to pool collective knowledge than it has ever been. This book looks at the potential for this and how we can use pooled knowledge for our own benefit.