Homo Sapiens and Sci-fi epics @ Talking Terrace Book Club in October 2015 (Part 3)


Priya Iyer, a biologist, had come down to this session of the Talking Terrace Book Club. (Read Parts 1 and 2)

Priya and I both got talking about Homo Sapiens for some reason. I was reading(and am still reading) a book called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Hariri. This book is essential reading if you are a Homo Sapien; Sapiens haven’t been very nice to their fellow species. Probably genocide resulted in the extinction of other species like the Neanderthals. The history of the human race has been the history of extinction of a large number of species-plants and animals. Hariri takes us on a fascinating journey and his breadth of knowledge and ability to connect the dots makes the reader hungry for more.



Priya talked about several books.

A Short History of Progress  was one, based on a series of talks by Ronald Wright. This book tells the tale of human hubris from the time of the Neanderthals right up to US foreign policy. Wright is in a provocative mood and wants to burst the bubble of the human 10,000 year old  human experiment. He calls the idea of progress a myth.

Priya found India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha to be an impressive read  as it tells the tale of how India was constructed post independence and how idealism ruled that period and created a different brand India.

Being a biologist herself, Priya found the book Beautiful Minds: The Parallel lives of Great Apes and Dolphins by Maddelina Biarzi riveting. Which is why book clubs like these are exciting. You get to hear about books you would have otherwise not imagined to have been written. Primates and Cetaceans have had no common ancestor in a hundred million years and yet there are remarkable similarities in the way they interact with others of their own species.

Her eclectic reading tastes covered the exciting Kim by Kipling, the strangeness of Murakami and Amruta Patil’s graphic novel. The icing on the cake, however, was when she began to talk about a new version of the epic Ramayana, this one written by Joan Roughgarden.  Ram-2050: A Ramayan Epic for the Future is a sci-fi version of the epic. The best part is that I had read it as part of a book review opportunity and so the usual coincidences that occur in a book club or BYOB party recurred again as though to prove my point. It’s a book big on ideas and Priya expected nothing less from her PhD guide, Roughgarden, who has also authored the book. The story is about a genetically engineered Ram and what drove Roughgarden to write it was how this epic was probably the only one she could find where animals and humans cooperate in such close quarters. It’s a rendition that makes you think.

What have you been reading?

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