“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge”
“Humanity – the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape”
The short answer; your brain is bigger on books.
The long answer…
Sagan’s ‘Cosmic Connection’ was the first non-fiction book I ever read way back in 1976 – the dusty and dog-eared paperback still sits on my shelves – and it was pretty much the most amazing thing that had happened to my brain up to that point. Comics, TV and novels, in that – much overlapping – order were a regular escape from the religion-infested parochialism of Dublin in the 1970’s (think; anywhere else in the 1950’s) but popular science books were a whole new avenue of learning outside the curriculum of a Christian Brother’s school and a ‘way of thinking‘ they were constitutionally incapable of matching. That sensation of intellectual freedom and expanding mental horizons is very much something I would like to share.
I’ve been reading popular science books and magazines regularly since then though only occasionally getting to proselytize to friends any I found particularly enlightening. The editor of Irish Mensa Press (IMpress) was kind enough to accept my occasional reviews and a couple of years ago, the editor of the British Mensa Magazine was even kinder to allow me to turn my idiosyncratic ramblings into a regular column – ‘The Occasional Book’. This site is an archive of those columns.
All the columns I’ve archived here are as much recommended reading as review since I don’t waste time writing about books I don”t feel are up to scratch. If you are looking for a good popular science book for yourself or a friend, all of these are good choices.
Almost every aspect of the science in ‘Cosmic Connection’ has been superseded in the intervening years but the sense of wonder and way of thinking it fostered has endured. Each of these books, in their own way, do the same. Each, in their own way, a tiny step for the rising ape.
New updates will appear a couple of weeks after magazine publication so do check back occasionally.