Saturday, February 23, 2008

Five best: books that explore human nature

Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, is the author of several books, including How the Mind Works and, most recently, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature.

For the Wall Street Journal, he tagged a five best list of books that explore human nature.

One title on Pinker's list:
By Napoleon A. Chagnon
Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1968

To understand human nature, first understand the conditions that prevailed during most of human evolution, before the appearance of agriculture, cities and government. "Yanomamö," Napoleon A. Chagnon's summation of his 30 years among the "fierce people" of the Amazon rainforest, is vividly (and often humorously) written and packed with implications for human nature. For one, he rebuts the idea that aboriginal people would live in peace and harmony if just left alone by the modern world; violence, Chagnon shows, is endemic to the Yanomamö. His book is a courageous work, both physically (the Yanomamö nearly killed him) and intellectually (fellow anthropologists wanted to kill him).

Read about another title from the list.

--Marshal Zeringue