Monday April 26th, 2010

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

wisdomA.C. Grayling reviews a new book that charts the philosophical and scientific study of wisdom: “Neuroscience is an exciting and fascinating endeavour which is teaching us a great deal about brains and the way some aspects of mind are instantiated in them, but by definition it cannot (and I don’t for a moment suppose that it claims to) teach us even most of what we would like to know about minds and mental life.” . . . Christine Rosen reviews a new book about one of yoga’s earliest promoters, and about the rise of the spiritual practice in America from the (sometimes criminal) fringe to mainstream smash: “[It’s] a story of scandal, financial shenanigans, bodily discipline, oversize egos and bizarre love triangles, with a few performing elephants thrown in for good measure.” . . . Ari Kelman reviews two books about extinction and biodiversity, and begins with an anecdote about Thomas Jefferson being unable to accept the idea that the mammoth was gone for good. (“His mind shackled by a venerable scientific theory known as the great chain of being—the notion that all life in God’s creation took the form of hierarchical links that could never be sundered—he refused to accept the reality of extinction.”) . . . Dan Falk reviews a book about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence written by Paul Davies, “the earthling most qualified to tackle the subject.” . . . Perhaps we should settle for some terrestrial intelligence: E. D. Hirsch, Jr., reviews Diane Ravitch’s new book about the American school system: “Written with verve, the book takes aim at imposing targets. It won’t be ignored.” . . . Art Winslow says that even though the story is very familiar, Hampton Sides’ telling of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., is “a taut, vibrant account.” . . . Charles Bowden has written a “highly personal, highly stylized book” about the astonishing corruption and violence surrounding the drug war in Mexico. Oscar Villalon says the book’s journalistic passages “supply a badly needed human context,” but that Bowden’s “long, impressionistic monologues of a sort” are less useful.