Library Journal’s Best 10 List for 2011

November 18, 2011

Library Journal yesterday published its own list of the Best Books 2011: the Top Ten.  I have read a few of these and will enjoy catching up on the others.

One title here I would like to plug specifically is Angels of Our Better Nature by Steven Pinker.  If asked what author I’d most like to sit down to dinner with, I’d be hard pressed to choose between Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. Fortunately, as it turns out they’re married so that’s probably the same dinner table, at least occasionally.

Cover image

Angels struck me as an overwhelmingly well-documented and persuasive case that society the world round has generally gotten less violent, less oppressive,  and more tolerant in recent history. The trend started with constitutional government and democratization in the 1700’s, then continued with industrialization and expanding education in ensuing centuries.  Since then, our moral sensibilities continue to be ever more refined in spite of obvious frustrating injustices, major wars, and other unfinished business.  Did you know you would be more than 30 times more likely to be a victim of murder in the Middle Ages than today?  How have we gone from torturing suspected witches to debating whether children should ever be spanked? These are just a couple intriguing facts and questions Pinker addresses.  If you’re reeling from that last middle finger salute on the highway and think people are just getting worse and worse, you have to read Angels for some comforting perspective. 

Posted by Darren

 

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