Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What is Alexander H. Harcourt reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Alexander H. Harcourt, author of Humankind: How Biology and Geography Shape Human Diversity.

His entry begins:
Bernard Cornwell’s Waterloo.

Waterloo was published in 2014, but I came across it just this last month, May 2015, in the wonderful Daunt Books on Fulham Rd. in London. Let me give an example of the store’s excellence. I had just got back from Sicily. A friend told me about Leonardo Sciascia, a writer from there, dead 15 years ago. In a spirit of extravagant, even ridiculous optimism, I asked the salesperson behind the Daunt counter if by any chance they had any Sciascia. Instead of a puzzled look, he took me straight to the foreign authors bookshelves, and there pointed to five books by Sciascia. I bought the lot.

Back to Waterloo. Much has been written about the battle of Waterloo. But Bernard Cornwell with his skill as a fiction writer, most relevantly of the Richard Sharpe Napoleonic Wars series, energetically and fascinatingly describes that awful day. And the aftermath - the wounded left for days some of them, stripped by looters, even killed if they struggled.

The book reminded me once again of the tactical and strategic brilliance of Wellington...[read on]
About  Humankind, from the publisher:
An innovative and illuminating look at how the evolution of the human species has been shaped by the world around us, from anatomy and physiology, to cultural diversity and population density.

Where did the human species originate? Why are tropical peoples much more diverse than those at polar latitudes? Why can only Japanese peoples digest seaweed? How are darker skin, sunlight, and fertility related? Did Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens ever interbreed? In Humankind, U. C. Davis professor Alexander Harcourt answers these questions and more, as he explains how the expansion of the human species around the globe and our interaction with our environment explains much about why humans differ from one region of the world to another, not only biologically, but culturally.

What effects have other species had on the distribution of humans around the world, and we, in turn, on their distribution? And how have human populations affected each other’s geography, even existence? For the first time in a single book, Alexander Harcourt brings these topics together to help us understand why we are, what we are, where we are. It turns out that when one looks at humanity's expansion around the world, and in the biological explanations for our geographic diversity, we humans are often just another primate. Humanity's distribution around the world and the type of organism we are today has been shaped by the same biogeographical forces that shape other species.
Learn more about Humankind at the publisher's website.

Writers Read: Alexander H. Harcourt.

--Marshal Zeringue