Steven Pinker
Book Recommendations

  • Enemies

    Enemies

    Enemies

    Isaac Bashevis Singer
    3.96 (2,857)

    Almost before he knows it, herman broder, refugee and survivor of world war ii, has three wives; yadwiga, the polish peasant who hid him from the nazis; masha , his beautiful and neurotic true love; and tamara, his first wife, miraculously returned from the dead. astonished by each new complication, and yet resigned to a life of evasion, herman navigates a crowded, yiddish new york with a sense of perpetually impending doom.

    Steven Pinker

    Perhaps my favorite contemporary novel by someone I'm not married to.

     — Source

  • The Blind Watchmaker

    The Blind Watchmaker

    The Blind Watchmaker

    Richard Dawkins
    4.07 (37,125)

    Acclaimed as the most influential work on evolution written in the last hundred years, the blind watchmaker offers an inspiring and accessible introduction to one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time. a brilliant and controversial book which demonstrates that evolution by natural selection - the unconscious, automatic, blind yet essentially non-random process discovered by darwin - is the only answer to the biggest question of all: why do we exist?

    Steven Pinker

    Perhaps the best display of expository scientific prose of the twentieth century. It gave me the idea to try my hand at the genre ...and had a strong influence on my own writing.

     — Source

  • The Nurture Assumption

    The Nurture Assumption

    The Nurture Assumption

    Judith Rich Harris
    Psychology
    4.12 (1,608)

    How much credit do parents deserve when their children turn out well? how much blame when they turn out badly? judith rich harris has a message that will change parents' lives: the "nurture assumption"-- the belief that what makes children turn out the way they do, aside from their genes, is the way their parents raise them--is nothing more than a cultural myth. this electrifying book explodes some of our unquestioned beliefs about children and parents and gives us a radically new view of childhood.harris examines with a fresh eye

    Steven Pinker

    A major influence on my own book The Blank Slate.

     — Source

  • Whole Earth Discipline

    Whole Earth Discipline

    Whole Earth Discipline

    Stewart Brand
    Business & Economics
    4.13 (1,172)

    According to stewart brand, a lifelong environmentalist who sees everything in terms of solvable design problems, three profound transformations are underway on earth right now. climate change is real and is pushing us toward managing the planet as a whole. urbanization--half the world's population now lives in cities, and eighty percent will by midcentury--is altering humanity's land impact and wealth. and biotechnology is becoming the world's dominant engineering tool. in light of these changes, brand suggests that environmentalists are going to have to reverse some longheld opinions and embrace tools

    Steven Pinker

    Children of the 1970s will appreciate the title, an allusion to Brand’s groundbreaking “Whole Earth Catalog,” which merged technology with the counterculture and encouraged global consciousness with the breathtaking earthrise photograph on the cover.

     — Source

  • The Internationalists

    The Internationalists

    The Internationalists

    Oona A. Hathaway,Scott J. Shapiro
    4.31 (421)

    A bold and provocative history of the men who fought to outlaw war and how an often overlooked treaty signed in 1928 was among the most transformative events in modern history.on a hot summer afternoon in 1928, the leaders of the world assembled in paris to outlaw war. within the year, the treaty signed that day, known as the peace pact, had been ratified by nearly every state in the world. war, for the first time in history, had become illegal the world over. but the promise of that summer

    Steven Pinker

    an imperfectly enforced rule of law is better than no law at all.

     — Source

  • Clear and Simple as the Truth

    Clear and Simple as the Truth

    Clear and Simple as the Truth

    Francis-Noël Thomas,Mark Turner
    4.1 (364)

    Everyone talks about style, but no one explains it. the authors of this book do; and in doing so, they provoke the reader to consider style, not as an elegant accessory of effective prose, but as its very heart.at a time when writing skills have virtually disappeared, what can be done? if only people learned the principles of verbal correctness, the essential rules, wouldn't good prose simply fall into place? thomas and turner say no. attending to rules of grammar, sense, and sentence structure will no more lead to effective

    Steven Pinker

    Perhaps the best analysis of writing style, and a major inspiration for my own The Sense of Style.

     — Source

  • Violent Land

    Violent Land

    Violent Land

    David T. Courtwright
    3.67 (24)

    This book offers an explosive look at violence in america--why it is so prevalent, and what and who are responsible. david courtwright takes the long view of his subject, developing the historical pattern of violence and disorder in this country. where there is violent and disorderly behavior, he shows, there are plenty of men, largely young and single. what began in the mining camp and bunkhouse has simply continued in the urban world of today, where many young, armed, intoxicated, honor-conscious bachelors have reverted to frontier conditions.violent land combines social

    Steven Pinker

    Why is America so much more violent than other democracies? He argues that large parts of America were settled by young men living in anarchy.

     — Source

  • The Mental Life of Modernism

    The Mental Life of Modernism

    The Mental Life of Modernism

    Samuel Jay Keyser
    Science
    4 (12)

    At the beginning of the twentieth century, poetry, music, and painting all underwent a sea change. poetry abandoned rhyme and meter; music ceased to be tonally centered; and painting no longer aimed at faithful representation. these artistic developments have been attributed to cultural factors ranging from the industrial revolution and the technical innovation of photography to freudian psychoanalysis. in this book, samuel jay keyser argues that the stylistic innovations of western modernism reflect not a cultural shift but a cognitive one. behind modernism is the same cognitive phenomenon that led

    Steven Pinker

    Fascinating, important new book by friend & former colleague Samuel Jay Keyser: The Mental Life of Modernism

    Feb 28, 2020 — Source

  • The Remnants of War

    The Remnants of War

    The Remnants of War

    John Mueller
    3.6 (48)

    War... is merely an idea, an institution, like dueling or slavery, that has been grafted onto human existence. it is not a trick of fate, a thunderbolt from hell, a natural calamity, or a desperate plot contrivance dreamed up by some sadistic puppeteer on high. and it seems to me that the institution is in pronounced decline, abandoned as attitudes toward it have changed, roughly following the pattern by which the ancient and formidable institution of slavery became discredited and then mostly obsolete.--from the introductionwar is one of the great

    Steven Pinker

    Not only is Mueller unfailingly insightful as a political analyst, but he is a stylish writer with a sardonic wit.

     — Source

  • The Great Big Book of Horrible Things

    The Great Big Book of Horrible Things

    The Great Big Book of Horrible Things

    Matthew White
    4.14 (937)

    Evangelists of human progress meet their opposite in matthew white's epic examination of history's one hundred most violent events, or, in white's piquant phrasing, "the numbers that people want to argue about." reaching back to 480 bce's second persian war, white moves chronologically through history to this century's war in the congo and devotes chapters to each event, where he surrounds hard facts (time and place) and succinct takeaways (who usually gets the blame?) with lively military, social, and political histories. with the eye of a seasoned statistician, white assigns

    Steven Pinker

    is a good way to settle bets (who was worse, Genghis Khan or Hitler?), brush up your history, and marvel at the cruelty and stupidity of our species.

     — Source

  • Evil

    Evil

    Evil

    Roy F. Baumeister
    4.11 (514)

    Why is there evil, and what can scientific research tell us about the origins and persistence of evil behavior? considering evil from the unusual perspective of the perpetrator, baumeister asks, how do ordinary people find themselves beating their wives? murdering rival gang members? torturing political prisoners? betraying their colleagues to the secret police? why do cycles of revenge so often escalate?baumeister casts new light on these issues as he examines the gap between the victim's viewpoint and that of the perpetrator, and also the roots of evil behavior, from egotism

    Steven Pinker

    The widespread belief that evil acts come from evil minds is itself an interesting psychological phenomenon.

     — Source

  • The Evolution of Human Sexuality

    The Evolution of Human Sexuality

    The Evolution of Human Sexuality

    Donald Symons
    Psychology
    4.19 (74)

    Nature versus nurture - nowhere is the debate more heated than in the areas of sex and sex differences. the evolution of human sexuality adds fuel to the fire. symons's thesis is that some of the typical differences between men and women in sexual behaviors, attitudes and feelings are innate: identical rearing of males and females will not result in identical sexualities.anthropology, sexual studies, psychology, sociology, gender and cultural studies

    Steven Pinker

    The founding document of evolutionary psychology, filled with insights about sex and the sexes, and more relevant than ever with #metoo.

     — Source

  • One, Two, Three...Infinity

    One, Two, Three...Infinity

    One, Two, Three...Infinity

    George Gamow
    4.2 (3,465)

    ". . . full of intellectual treats and tricks, of whimsy and deep scientific philosophy. it is highbrow entertainment at its best, a teasing challenge to all who aspire to think about the universe." — new york herald tribuneone of the world's foremost nuclear physicists (celebrated for his theory of radioactive decay, among other accomplishments), george gamow possessed the unique ability of making the world of science accessible to the general reader.he brings that ability to bear in this delightful expedition through the problems, pleasures, and puzzles of modern science.

    Steven Pinker

    I read it as a young adult, but its informative for old adults too.

     — Source