Recent reading

The Art of Suppression: Pleasure, Panic, and Prohibition Since 1800, Christopher Snowdon — Snowdon’s Velvet Glove, Iron Fist is one of my favorite books on tobacco policy, so my expectations for his history of modern Prohibition were high going in. Its chapters cover alcohol, opium, snus, and contemporary drug panics, the last of which is particularly prescient given the recent hysteria over bath salt zombies. A very good book on the Prohibitionist mindset and how enthusiasm for restrictive laws gets promoted.

Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why it Matters, Gordon M. Shepherd — This is more technical than the average popular science book but still interesting. Shepherd focuses on the importance of retronasal smell in our perception of food and drink, the evolution and neuroscience of smell, and how our sense of smell resembles our sense of sight.

Reasonable Atheism: A Moral Case for Respectful Disbelief, Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse — I’ve ignored most of the recent books about atheism but this one, co-auhtored by one of former philosophy professors, was worth picking up. Perhaps it helps to hear the arguments in Talisse’s voice, which I couldn’t help doing while reading. The book offers challenged to atheists and the faithful alike while remaining respectful throughout.

The Social Conquest of Earth, Edward O. Wilson — Completely fascinating, especially regarding the comparison of altruism in insect and primate evolution. But read also Dawkins’ critique of Wilson’s controversial advocacy of group selection.