Friday, March 23, 2012
1) Harden, Blaine. A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia. 2012. W.W. Norton. Paperback: 286 pages. Price: $15.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: After two decades, Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden returned to his small-town birthplace in the Pacific Northwest to follow the rise and fall of the West's most thoroughly conquered river. To explore the Columbia River and befriend those who collaborated in its destruction, he traveled on a monstrous freight barge sailing west from Idaho to the Grand Coulee Dam, the site of the river's harnessing for the sake of jobs, electricity, and irrigation. A River Lost is a searing personal narrative of rediscovery joined with a narrative of exploitation: of Native Americans, of endangered salmon, of nuclear waste, and of a once-wild river. Updated throughout, this edition features a new foreword and afterword.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the history of the Pacific Northwest.
2) Stringer, Chris. Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth. 2012. Times Books. Hardbound: 336 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: In this groundbreaking and engaging work of science, world-renowned paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer sets out a new theory of humanity's origin, challenging both the multiregionalists (who hold that modern humans developed from ancient ancestors in different parts of the world) and his own "out of Africa" theory, which maintains that humans emerged rapidly in one small part of Africa and then spread to replace all other humans within and outside the continent. Stringer's new theory, based on archeological and genetic evidence, holds that distinct humans coexisted and competed across the African continent—exchanging genes, tools, and behavioral strategies.
Stringer draws on analyses of old and new fossils from around the world, DNA studies of Neanderthals (using the full genome map) and other species, and recent archeological digs to unveil his new theory. He shows how the most sensational recent fossil findings fit with his model, and he questions previous concepts (including his own) of modernity and how it evolved.
Lone Survivors will be the definitive account of who and what we were, and will change perceptions about our origins and about what it means to be human.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in Human evolution.