Christmas reading

By Razib Khan | December 17, 2011 9:53 pm

With some leisure, I plan to read a bit. Here is my tentative “stack”:

- The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

- Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850

- Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding

- Mirroring the Past: The Writing And Use of History in Imperial China

- Meditations

- Consolation of Philosophy

I also plan on browsing more of Brian and Deborah Charlesworth’s magisterial Elements of Evolutionary Genetics , and my friend Joel Grus’ Thinking Spreadsheet. I’m skeptical that I would prioritize fiction, but if I manage to read some, I’ll try and finish The Sacred Band, the last in David Anthony Durham’s Acacia trilogy.

What are you reading for the holidays? (and if you aren’t reading for the holidays, why are you spending your marginal time reading this blog!)

  • Michelle

    I plan on re-reading The Rules of Attraction because it’s been a few years, and Bret Easton Ellis always makes more sense to me after sitting on it a while and coming back to it later. I might also tackle that new Stephen King.

  • Selphin

    Razib, how much time do you spend reading academic articles vis your heavy book schedule?

    I really want to read more ‘grand narrative’ non-fiction. It’s more pleasurable but difficult to do if you’re trying to stay up to date with or master existing knowledge in one or more field, and I find myself doing nothing but reading journal articles (and this blog apparently)!

  • Razib Khan

    #2, barely read a book in 3 months :-( mostly journal articles. i’ve been very busy with other stuff in my life.

  • Metacodger

    Byzantium by John Julius Norwich, Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel, and Brain Cuttings by Carl Zimmer. I heard good things about Game of Thrones, but found it unreadable, it’s just not for me. I hope Larry Niven is well and writing more Ringworld fiction!

  • Razib Khan

    #4, norwich is a good read, but you should check out warren treadgold is byzantium is your thing.

  • B.B.
  • Åse

    I have entertained myself with books this fall, apart from blogs and articles, and exams and student papers and all that. Among those sticking out: Trivers Folly of Fools (interesting, but a bit depressing). Pennebakers “secret life of pronouns”. Cowen’s “create your own economy”. DS Wilson’s community project book. Changizi’s Harnessed, And Grosecose’s Left Turn. Right now I’m working on Gazzanigas Who’s in charge, Singerlands “what science can give to humanities, Barret “beyond the brain”. And I do want to slog through Sporns Brain book, and Boyd and Richerson, and whatshisface the economist at Santa Fe “a cooperative species”. I hope to go thru Pinkers book also. And Mothers and Others which I bought like a year ago and haven’t gotten to. And, some books I’m awaiting in the mail right now. So, lots of them. No idea if I will actually read them, but I notice I have not been too shabby in the reading department this fall.

  • Charles Nydorf

    I picked David Bloor’s “Enigma of the Aerofoil” off the shelf and was immediately captivated by its presentation of hydrodynamics. Its a great narrative about early controversies as to what keeps planes in the air.

  • Phil

    Plan on finishing Roberto Bolano’s _2666_, David Foster Wallace’s _A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again_, and Simon Armitage’s _Seeing Stars_.

  • US

    My last three months have been more or less like Razib’s (comment #3), I guess. It’s sure felt that way, even if it hasn’t been quite that bad.

    Anyway, I was planning on having a go at ‘The Selected Illustrated Works of Charles Dickens: The Christmas Books, Ghost Stories & Other Tales.’ + maybe a christmas present. Maybe I’ll finish ‘A History of Chinese Civilization’ by Jacques Gernet instead of Dickens; I usually take some different stuff with me when I’m visiting the parents this time of year.

    I usually read quite a bit over christmas, but this year there’s an exam coming up January 2nd. Technically that stuff is reading too, but…

  • observer

    I’m fairly amazed at the size of your list. I can scarcely imagine how long it would take me, in fact, to get through such a stack, even going at it full time. It seems that reading too many technical papers has ruined me for life as a general reader; I’ve become paranoid that I’m not getting something important if I read with any speed (and, in sorry fact, my experience seems to back this up.)

  • Grey

    I remember the Boethius having quite an effect when i read it. He steps out of the pages.

  • TGGP

    Recently finished Geoffrey Miller’s “Spent”, picked up Herbert Gans’ “Deciding the News”. I try to vary things so about half are social science/history and the other half are real science (or popularizations of it).

  • Kiwiguy

    Hitch 22 (wife got this out from the library a few days before Hitchens passed away).

    David Mamet’s ‘The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture”.

  • Antonio

    I’ve just bought Jacques Pepin’s The Origins of AIDS.

  • Norman

    I would be more interested in your recommendations out of what you have read, rather than what you plan to read. The best books I have read in a very long time are Peter Turchin, “Historical Dynamics,” and Turchin & Nefedov, “Secular Cycles,” which I know you have recommended on this blog. Turchin’s inspiration, “Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World” by Jack A. Goldstone, is also excellent. I will read Turchin, “War And Peace And War,” though not over the holidays as I don’t have it in my hands yet. I also plan to read some of the Cliodynamics journal.

    Apart from that, I have the following lined up: Eric Jones, “The European Miracle,” Nicholas Ostler, “Empires of the Word” and David Anthony, “The Horse, the Wheel and Language.” Can’t vouch for any of them though, as I haven’t started them yet.

  • Razib Khan

    anthony’s book i give 5 out of 5 stars. ostler’s 3.5 out of 5 stars.

  • Norman

    I just noticed that Anthony’s book is in your “must read” list. (I usually ignore the sidebar.) I will pick up Albion’s Seed as well.

  • Wulf Kurtoglu

    I see my novel hasn’t made it to your Christmas reading list (unsurprising given the competition!). Maybe I could take the liberty of giving it a plug, as readers of your blog might be interested in the human genetics aspect (why did the Neanderthals die out?) and/or the politics (Partition of India writ large, in the near future).

    I like to think it’s a character-driven story, nevertheless, and has adventure and romance, and – comic-book-like – heroism without irony. My friends say it’s a page-turner.

    It’s called *Broken Fences*, by Wulf Kurtoglu, and is available from (preferable if buying hard copy, as more money comes to the author) and Amazon, including Kindle.

    For those who like a linguistic challenge, the Lowland Scots version, *Braken Fences* has the extra texture of a contrast between Standard English and Scots, and between different varieties of Scots.

  • Charles Iliya Krempeaux

    What I’m reading right now is:

    - The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence

    - On Intelligence

    and, as soon as it arrives (since I had to order a physical paper book for this one)…

    - Computational Maps in the Visual Cortex

  • ackbark

    Got tired of bragging about how I was the only person on Earth who’d read the Hobbit twice and never Lord of the Rings, so that’s what I get for Christmas.

  • Chad

    - Finishing up Foucault’s Pendulum
    - Till We Have Faces
    - A Marginal Jew, vol. 4 – Law and Love
    - Midnight’s Children (hopefully. It’s been staring at me from the shelf for a few months now)

  • Justin Loe
  • omar

    About to finish Jerusalem Jerusalem by James Carrol ( There is a fair amount of psychobabble, but its still a good quick journey through a lot of history. He tries really hard to be balanced and fair. Worth a quick read.
    I have finally requested Albion’s Seed at our local library…got to qualify as a regular reader of this blog.

  • Scott

    Putting in a preemptive request for at least a mini-review of the Hrdy book.

    Just fininished Midnight’s Children and the Moral Landscape and enjoyed both quite a bit.

    Reading Solar by Ian McEwan now. Have a bunch that are on deck, but am leaning toward 1493 right now (I try to alternate between fiction and nonfiction, since I like both).


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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