Monday, September 20, 2010

New Titles

1) Ayala, Francisco J.. Am I A Monkey? Six Big Questions about Evolution. 2010. Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 85 pages. Price: $12.95 U.S.

SUMMARY: Despite the ongoing cultural controversy in America, evolution remains a cornerstone of science. In this book, Francisco J. Ayala -- an evolutionary biologist, member of the National Academy of Sciences, and winner of the National Medal of Science and the Templeton Prize -- cuts to the chase in a daring attempt to address, in nontechnical language, six perennial questions about evolution:

• Am I a Monkey?
• Why Is Evolution a Theory?
• What Is DNA?
• Do All Scientists Accept Evolution?
• How Did Life Begin?
• Can One Believe in Evolution and God?

This to-the-point book answers each of these questions with force. Ayala's occasionally biting essays refuse to lend credence to disingenuous ideas and arguments. He lays out the basic science that underlies evolutionary theory, explains how the process works, and soundly makes the case for why evolution is not a threat to religion.
     Brief, incisive, topical, authoritative, Am I a Monkey? will take you a day to read and a lifetime to ponder.
RECOMMENDATION: A very good introduction on the subject.

2)Drisdelle, Rosemary. Parasites: Tales of Humanity's Most Unwelcome Guests. 2010. University of California Press. Hardbound: 258 pages. Price: $27.50 U.S.

SUMMARY: Hidden away within living tissues, parasites are all around us—and inside us. Yet, despite their unsavory characteristics, as we find in this compulsively readable book, parasites have played an enormous role in civilizations through time and around the globe.
     Parasites: Tales of Humanity’s Most Unwelcome Guests puts amoebae, roundworms, tapeworms, mites, and others at the center of the action as human cultures have evolved and declined. It shows their role in exploration, war, and even terrorist plots, often through an unpredictable ripple effect. It reveals them as invisible threats in our food, water, and luggage; as invaders that have shaped behaviors and taboos; and as unexpected partners in such venues as crime scene investigations.
     Parasites also describes their evolution and life histories and considers their significant benefits. Deftly blending the sociological with the scientific, this natural and social history of parasites looks closely at a fascinating, often disgusting group of organisms and discovers that they are in fact an integral thread in the web of life.
RECOMMENDATION: An interesting guide to what's eating you, literally! Not for the squeamish!

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