A few weeks ago I mentioned Zita Podany's new book, Vanport, but just yesterday I got my copy (I pre-ordered it) and I couldn't put it down! Everyone in the area has heard about the floods of the Columbia River, and some of us know about shipbuilding in the area, but Vanport tells the whole story of how the most diverse workforce in Oregon's history came together in the second largest city in Oregon, built in just a year by the private sector to give Rosie the Riveter and thousands like her a place to live while they worked three shifts to build ships faster than the Japanese and Germans could sink them. Zita makes the point that we won the war partly because of Vanport and the people who lived there. It was also a great social experiment. What would be the character of workers who were given everything they needed, from a job, housing and food? The answer might surprise you, and it's in this book. Congratulations Zita, great job, and a fantastic read!
Would you buy a used copy of The Great American Bathroom Book? You must know that it's been read in a bathroom sometime in the past. There is a hilarious episode of Seinfeld where George is browsing at a bookstore, but needs to relieve himself, so takes a book on French Impressionist Art off the shelf and sneaks it into the bathroom. When he's done, he gets caught by the store owner and is forced to buy the book which is quite costly. From then on he decides to try to sell it to recoup his money, but no one will buy the book because they somehow sense it's been in a bathroom. While this book is pretty cheap, only a buck, it's darn certain to have been treated to informal bouts of "fumigation" if you will. Buyer beware, no refunds!
I came across this book at a recent visit to Barnes and Noble and almost bought it, then checked the library and sure enough they had hidden a copy at the Cascade Park branch. I put a Hold on it, and got it delivered to the Vancouver Community Library and dug in with gusto. What I found is a fantastic book that covers everything, and I mean everything having to do with evolution, genetics, history, institutions and of course race. Even among the braver souls of science, the Evolutionary Psychology (EvoPsych) folks like Pinker, Cosmides, Tooby, et al who do admit that human behavior is subject to evolutionary pressures, they still refuse to admit that human groups might have drifted apart genetically over the last 10,000 years, as though there is one race for all eternity. Had Darwin believed this, he would have never noticed the variety among the Galapagos Finches. Nicholas Wade, writer for Science and the New York Times explains that just because all we can find of our ancestors is bones, and bone structure evolves slowly (but not imperceptibly) we cannot overlook the fact that it can take as few as 5 generations to change the aggressiveness of animals using artificial selection. Natural Selection works the same way, which explains why we no longer burn witches, instead we self-domesticated our race and now we give them treats every October 31st. I have read a lot of books in this genre over my lifetime, but this is the very best book on the topic so far. Don't waste your time with The Bell Curve, this book goes so far beyond every other book on the topic that after reading it, you will have a thorough understanding of so many topics that your understanding of the human race will crystalize into the immutable truth of us all. We all share the same genes, but tiny, almost imperceptible differences give the world the Diversity we live in today.
Volunteers crazy about books.