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Posted by in: Books

Carl Zimmer. Parasite Rex : Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures

What a strange, disgusting, fascinating book! Zimmer, a science journalist and blogger, writes engagingly about parasites and the bewildering range of adaptive behaviours that allow them to survive in their hosts. According to Zimmer, parasites have been relatively neglected by modern biology, and the lack of focus has impoverished our understanding of the host creatures which many biologists have preferred to study in isolation from the parasites that live in them. In fact, Zimmer argues, once we grasp the mechanisms by which parasites take control of host’s bodies, and the thoroughgoing changes they can force on them, we can begin to see that entire ecosystems look completely different than they otherwise would because of parasites. Great fun!

Alison Bechdel. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Thanks to Upyernoz for recommending this. Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel looks back at her father’s life, their relationship, his death, and her coming out. Totally engrossing. From start to finish, I could hardly put it down.

Jeff Warren. The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness

I’ve always thought of “consciousness” as referring to a waking state, but Warren clearly has something broader in mind – awareness or thought of any kind, I think. At any rate, his investigation takes him from the hypnagogic (the quasi-dream state we enter as we fall to sleep), different sorts of dreams, states of consciousness achieved in meditation and hypnosis, and more. Each of these subjects comes in for an interesting and articulate review of the recent scientific literature on the subject, along with some autobiographical musings and experiments of the author’s own. The author is quite funny at times, and at others he’s more than a little loopy. But he’s clearly a smart fellow who has done his homework. Philosophers and neuroscientists might groan over the odd passage, but this is a funny, intelligent book, and I’m glad to have read it.