A few picks on my current reading list may be slightly influenced by our current sociopolitical environment. 😉 By the way, you can read The Principles of Psychology free online here
1. Guns, Germs, and Steel: Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion –as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war –and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.
2. The Principles of Psychology (Volume 1): Based on his classroom lessons and first published in 1890, James has gathered together what he feels to be the most interesting and most accessible information for the beginning student. Psychology, according to James, deals with thoughts and feelings as its facts and does not attempt to determine where such things come from. This would be the realm of metaphysics, and he is careful to avoid crossing over from science into philosophy. This first volume contains discussions of the brain, methods for analyzing behavior, thought, consciousness, attention, association, time, and memory. Anyone wanting a thorough introduction to psychology will find this work useful and engaging. American psychologist and philosopher WILLIAM JAMES (1842-1910), brother of novelist Henry James, was a groundbreaking researcher at Harvard University and one of the most popular thinkers of the 19th century. Among his many works are Human Immortality (1898) and The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (1902).
3. Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems
that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions. Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives—and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.
4. The New Jim Crow: A civil-rights lawyer’s disturbing view of why young black men make up the majority of the more than two million people now in America’s prisons.<br />
In this explosive debut, Alexander (Law/Moritz College of Law and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity) argues that the imprisonment of unusually large numbers of young blacks and Latinos—most harshly sentenced for possession or sale of illegal drugs, mainly marijuana—constitutes “a stunningly comprehensive and well-designed system of racialized social control.” The “warehousing” of inner-city youths, she writes, is a new form of Jim Crow under which drug offenders—in jail or prison, on probation or parole—are denied employment, housing, education and public benefits; face a lifetime of shame; and rarely successfully integrate into mainstream society. The author blames the situation mainly on the War on Drugs, begun by Ronald Reagan in 1982, which grew out of demands for “law and order” that were actually a racially coded backlash to the civil-rights movement. The situation continues because of racial indifference, not racial bias, she writes. Many will dismiss the author’s assertions; others will find her observations persuasive enough to give pause. Most people who use or sell illegal drugs are white, but in many states 90 percent of those admitted to prison for drug offenses are black or Latino. Police departments, given financial incentives—cash grants and the right to keep confiscated cash and assets from drug raids—to focus on drug enforcement, find it easier to send SWAT teams into poor neighborhoods, where they will face less political backlash, than into gated communities and college frat houses. Also, most people do not care what happens to drug criminals, feeling that “they get what they deserve.” So what’s to be done? Alexander writes that civil-rights leaders, reluctant to advocate for criminals, remain quiet on the issue; President Obama, an admitted former user of illegal drugs, is not in a position to offer leadership; and policymakers offer only piecemeal reforms. She hopes a new grassroots movement will foster frank discussion about race, cultivate an ethic of compassion for all and end the drug war and mass incarceration. Alarming, provocative and convincing.