What We’re Reading #4 | Sapiens, Slavery, Paradoxes, and Fossils

The AoC team is a well-read bunch. Each month, I’ll share what I’ve been perusing and try to get the others to put their books down long enough to do the same. If you’ve got any suggestions for books you think we should be reading (or comments about what we’ve already read), drop us a line at our respective Twitter feeds!

Jordan Harbinger (@theartofcharm)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah HarariJordan decided to finally tackle Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Sapiens looks at different theories of man’s evolution and why things have turned out the way they have in all sorts of interesting areas. Because it zooms out very far on humanity’s timeline you are given a lot of perspective. Given all the applied research that goes on here at AoC, whether at our residential programs, our social capital course, or our free 30-Day Challenge, this book is an excellent store of background information.

It’s a very long read and Jordan started it ages ago and only recently got back to it after getting ahead on his work reading.

“Don’t read at the gym,” he notes.

Producer Jason (@jpdef)

Paradox Bound: A Novel by Peter ClinesJason writes: “My latest book is Paradox Bound by Peter Clines. I first was introduced to Peter Clines from his book “14” about an interdimensional apartment building and the apocalypse. From there I thoroughly enjoyed his Ex-Hero series and his one-off novel The Fold. Now we get a new novel about time travel and American history filled with historical characters and some seriously frightening time police.

“This is one of the most original books I’ve read and my favorite science fiction, on-the-road adventure book I’ve read this year. Highly recommended!”

Robert Fogarty (@fogarty)

Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History by Stephen Jay GouldAssociate Producer Bob is making his first foray into the prolific work of science historian Stephen Jay Gould with Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History. This collection of essays first published in Natural History magazine examines the way humans have observed the natural world over time — from Victorian aquariums to Leonardo da Vinci’s notes on fossils.

“Gould was great at finding the subtext beneath what we thought we already knew about these observations,” Bob says. “For instance, da Vinci’s conclusions about the presence of marine fossils on mountaintops seem almost contemporary from a 20th century standpoint, but Gould points out that da Vinci was really trying to explain a very medieval idea: that the earth is a living organism supported by systems corresponding to the four elements of fire, earth, air, and water. His notes signify that he’d worked out all but water, which confounded him to his deathbed.

“This is a great read for anyone curious about the way perspectives we now take for granted have changed over time.”

Stephen Heiner (@stephenheiner)

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan HaidtI, like Jordan, finally got to a book I’ve been meaning to get to for some time. It’s called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. I thought that in the year of Brexit and the Trump election and all the acrimony I saw regarding politics that a scientific approach to these challenges might be worthwhile. I can say that, indeed, Professor Jonathan Haidt’s book is very much worthwhile, and will demonstrate via studies and deduction, that the way we come to our notion of morality and how that is to be enforced is not at all what we might have expected.

Going beyond current science to learn about current events, I’ve also recently read Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington. It was written in 1901 and hence has fairly modern language to describe conditions that seem part of America’s long-away past: slavery. In the midst of controversies about what lives matter and what postures people should take during a Francis Scott Key piece, Mr. Washington’s thoughtful and reasoned autobiography will inspire you and remind you that the time of reasonable and principled leadership was not that long ago.

While I will never be able to catch up on Producer Jason’s voluminous sci-fi reading, I did go “back to basics” this month by reading H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. There’s a reason it’s a classic, and in our time, when all we seem to do is reboot, repeat, and sequel out the same old stories, The War of the Worlds is one of those genuine originals that will keep you turning page after page. And don’t worry, there won’t be a sequel — unless, of course, Disney decides to do something with it.

Stephen Heiner - author of 36 posts on The Art of Charm

Stephen Heiner was born in Singapore and moved to America just before his ninth birthday. He's stepped foot on every continent except Antarctica, served in the US Marine Corps, and is living the charmed life of a writer in Paris. He has a passion for running small businesses and storytelling. More than anything he enjoys getting people to think differently about the things they take for granted. Here at The Art of Charm, Stephen matches his life experience to our content to extract key points in written form for our students and clients to ruminate and act upon.


in What We're Reading