Who we are and how we got here

If you are, at all, interestd in human pre-history, then you should read this book. David Reich, Who we are and how we got here.

(Full disclosure, David is a friend of mine and I did a sabbatical in his lab a few years ago, but I am not just recommending it because of that — or because I’m mentioned in it, which I am :) — no, it really is amazingly good).

If you are worried about catching racism from reading it, don’t be. The only racism you can read into what David writes is stuff you bring yourself. He is very careful about distinguishing between classical racism and what we in genetics could call ancestry. He has a whole chapter on it. And he writes, and I agree completely:

“The right way to deal with the inevitable discovery of substantial differences across populations is to realize that their existence should not affect the way we conduct ourselves. As a society we should commit to according everyone equal rights despite the differences that exist among individuals”

No, no racism in this text — and if you know David you would know that. What is in there is a very exciting description of what ancient DNA has told us over the last decade about human prehistory. So you should read it. Really. Now.

(If you are still in doubt, check some highlights I made while reading it here).

Writing Tools

I finished reading Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark yesterday. It is a pretty decent book on how to write and how to construct effective text. For the kind of writing I do, it isn’t terribly relevant; a lot of the tricks are more relevant for fiction writers or journalists, but there are some good tricks in there for how to construct impact-full sentences and paragraphs. There wasn’t so much I haven’t read before, but it was still an enjoyable read.

Among orangutans

amongorang.jpgThis morning I am reading Among Orangutans, a book recommended on the orangutan genome project mailing list. It is not a genetics or bioinformatics book by any stretch, but I got to bed too late yesterday so I am feeling a bit tired and stupid in the morning, and this seemed like some light reading while I had my morning coffee.

It is a good book (judging from the first few chapters) and for someone like me, who thinks of animals as DNA sequences to be analysed, it gives an interesting other view on  these fascinating creatures.