Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Science Books Suitable for Gift-Giving

It’s the gifting time o’ year! You’ve got science readers on your list, but you’re not sure what books to get them, right? For those of you who can’t just say heck with it and buy a gift card instead, I’ve got some ideas for ye. Our main focus will be the earth sciences, but I’ve got a variety of other disciplines on tap as well. Settle in with a nice mug or glass o’ something, click your desired category, and see what leaps out at you. If you still can’t decide, go with a gift card and a link to this post.

And feel free to bookmark this page for future reference when the time comes to spend your own gift card. Also feel free to recommend your own favorites for future incarnations of this list.

Image shows a cat resting its chin and paw on a printed page. Caption says, "Multum legendum non multa."

 

Table of Contents

Earth Sciences

Biology, Paleontology and Evolution

Neurology, Physiology and Medicine

Astronomy, Physics, and Chemistry

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Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Atheist Books Suitable for Gift-Giving (Part I)

It’s about that time when we begin contemplating the necessity of buying gifts for the readers in our lives. That is, if you’re one of those who plans ahead. Even if you’re not, you can just bookmark this page and return when the ZOMG-it’s-nearly-Xmas-Eve! panic sets in. Gotta love buying for readers. Books are easy, Amazon and other online retailers are quick, the local bookstore may even be stocked, and you can get someone in your life a gift that will give them more than a moment’s pleasure, all in time for the solstice, even if you leave it for the last possible instant.

You may be a reader whose family gets them a certificate to a bookstore online or off. Huzzah! Your shelves, virtual or real, will soon be groaning under brand-new bookage!

Only problem is, there are lotsa books. Sooo many books!

I’m here to help you pick just the right one. Or ones. Many of these, I’ve read. Some, I’ve only read bits of, but heard much about from other sources and thus feel comfortable recommending. I’ve split things into categories, so you can more quickly make a match between the book recipient’s interests and the right book.

If I’ve reviewed the book, I provide a link to said review. If I haven’t, I’ve provided a brief synopsis to assist you. As always, feel free to add any favorites of your own in the comments – the more, the merrier!

Let’s begin!

Table of Contents:

Religion

Leaving Religion

Atheism

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Talk Comics To Me

I’ve never been a hardcore comics fan, but I’ve admired the medium since my friend Justin very sensibly got me addicted to Sandman. (If you have any literary-snob type friends who sneer at comics but like a well-crafted SF novel, give them Sandman next time they start an anti-comics rant. That’ll shut ‘em up.)

Cover of Sandman: The Dream Hunters

Cover of Sandman: The Dream Hunters

Alas, he became a husband and father and religious man, and I moved away, and thus my entertainment executive was lost. With no one feeding me comics on the regular, I’ve lost touch. That’s true of all fiction, mind – since I became a geoblogger, I haven’t often had time for recreational reading. The things I’ve missed! And I was a DC/Vertigo girl, so I know very little of Marvel. [Read more…]

The Trilogy That Will Wash Fifty Shades of Grey Away

Someday, I’ll tell you the story of how Fifty Shades of Grey murdered my libido in an adult store. I hated that series from the moment I heard of it. No, I didn’t have to read it to judge. It’s Twilight fan fiction that glorifies abusive relationships, people. On top of that, it’s atrociously writ. So fuck that.

And yet, despite the fact it murdered both my libido and my faith in the reading public, I have to be somewhat grateful for its existence. After all, it was in reading critical analyses of it that I learned quite a bit about actual BDSM, which has been liberating. It also taught me more about abusive relationships and how to avoid them. And… there’s the fact that one of the best romances I’ve ever read wouldn’t exist without it.

I generally can’t stand romance. Most of the ones I’d read, back when I bothered trying, were vapid, awful things filled with phrases like “his throbbing member.” The “hot” sex was generally introduced by a virgin getting raped, then spending the rest of the book falling in love with her rapist. When I worked for a bookstore, the assistant manager and I used to pull the returns from the romance section when we were starving but it was too early for lunch. Just reading the titles was guaranteed to kill our appetites for a few hours. I’ve spent the majority of my life thoroughly loathing romance, so it’s a little odd to be thoroughly loving a trilogy based on The Worst Romance of Our Time.

It’s Jenny Trout’s fault. [Read more…]

Why Am I Torturing Myself With Twilight?

Are you going to make it worse?

The reason I ask is because I’d got rather addicted to this Twilight sporking by Das Mervin. All right, so the homophobia and gendered slurs make me wince, and I wish she wasn’t so Catholic that she refrains from giving religious fuckery a good pounding when necessary, but I still couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t stop even though I kept kicking myself over spending time with this when I had other things to do. I couldn’t stop even when I was screaming along with her at the sheer bloody awfulness of these books. I don’t even remember exactly how I got started – something about wanting to know a bit more about Twilight because of Fifty Shades, but not wanting to go through the agony of reading the actual books. I mean, I appreciate good books. Everyone I’ve ever loved and trusted have said these books are horrible, even the people who like them. They’ve told me enough about them for me to know I should never read them. I will end up like Mervin, tearing out my hair, doing other violence to myself, and screaming myself hoarse over the lack of plot, the horrific grammar, the awful storytelling, the abusive relationships, the g-rated rapes, and other awfulness I can glimpse only dimly through the protective glass others have placed between me and these books.

But… [Read more…]

A Rant Against the Dual Nature of Marketing Towards Men and Women

In which our own RQ riffs off my Fifty Shades of Fucking Abuse post. (say something about the gender binary) The floor is hers:

I got to thinking about your post during the day, and on what it means regarding who is reading what, and what kind of reading is marketed to whom. Especially romance and/or sex-related stuff, or, hell, just books that might have sex in them somewhere.

Because all those tired housewives? What’s marketed to them? Insipid romance where the man saves the day (or is horribly abusively ‘romantic,’ right, because what woman doesn’t love a good stalker?), magazines on housewifery and how-to-keep-your-man-interested… What else? Not much – I read a pretty decent science magazine (GEO, not to be confused with NatGeo) that explicitly states in its subscription description that it is geared towards middle-income, successful men. And what is in this magazine? Well, it’s not women in any state of undress – it’s very interesting science and geography articles, with nary a nod towards ‘typical’ male interests (except in advertising, and even that – alcohol, watches, suits…). Why can this kind of stuff not be geared towards women, too? Those bored housewives who are so uninteresting to their husbands – wouldn’t this kind of thing be perfect for them? Educate themselves while gaining a broader perspective on the world (they’ve had some neat articles on transgender children and non-traditional relationships, plus a very feminist one on the role of fathers from a scientific perspective), while acquiring information useful in ordinary, daily conversation with their far more worldly husbands. Sounds great to me, so why not market it as such?

Then there are the women’s magazines, which are… well, cooking, interior design, and, on occasion, nicely dressed and fully clothed men (there was that one comparison of Hugh Jackman on the cover of men’s and women’s magazines a while back). And that’s all fine, until it’s the only thing ‘appropriate’ for married women with children, and the thought of showing a bare-chested man in a housewife magazine (YUMM) is considered racy and borderline non-permissible… Where’s the women’s equivalent to FHM and Playboy? And I don’t mean just erotic shots, I mean the intelligent interviews with the interviewee posing in his underwear as eye-candy. I can think of a few local candidate athletes who would be perfect for this.

But no.

Women, especially women in long-term, childed relationships, don’t have sexuality. Not one worth talking about, at least, except as a ‘haha I bet you never have sex’ joke. This is something that needs to die a very, very painful and quick death (I’d say slow, but I’ve had enough of slow).

And that leaves me to wonder, from whence do women get their ideas about their own sexuality, in a fairly puritanical society that deems them worthy only of having children and being satisfied only under the wing of a man?

And that is what leaves them wide open for books like 50 Shades – because, unfortunately, with all the abusive aspects of it, and the childish language (they can’t even talk dirty enough because it will hurt the sensitivities of women? what?), it does speak plainly and openly about sexual love within the bounds of a relationship. I mean, I read a lot when I was young, and my first awakenings into sexuality came through SF/Fantasy novels (Hel-lo, Lions of Al-Rassan). And then for a while I made sure that all the books I read had at least one sex scene in them, because that shit was awesome! Masturbation material! (Sorry if it’s TMI.) And it was in all kinds of books!

Which leaves me to wonder, are people really so limited in their reading choices (and more specifically, are housewives really so limited in their reading material) that they have to resort to such ridiculous trash as 50 Shades to re-awaken those feelings? To allow them to feel like sexual beings again, to let them know that it’s perfectly normal to want sex and love your body and have someone do wonderful, touchy-feely, hot things to it? Is it just the marketing this time around? Is it a lack of resources to know that, hey, having kids doesn’t automatically turn the pleasure-centres in your vagina and environs off? Because there’s so much literature out there that can get people hot and bothered – if they bothered to look at it that way. But I think I’m slowly discovering that, indeed, there’s a very narrow lane you have to walk when you’re set in a certain role, a very narrow set of interests you’re supposed to cultivate in order to be the right kind of wife/mother/girlfriend. Because the gods forbid you start having fantasies about imaginary characters or unattainable athletes or actors on-screen… Because Hugh Jackman would set a bad precedent by taking his shirt off in a women’s magazine, while being all bare-chested and manily aggressive is perfectly fine for the men to see (because that’s how they should be, too!), but there’s no reciprocating audience to accept him as such, from a sexual point of view (I feel like there’s some underlying homophobia here, too, because sexy pictures of men might be looked at by gay men, and ew, right???).

I suppose this is a rant against the dual nature of marketing towards men and women (and never mind those who aren’t straight and cis, because… well, because, right?), how men are allowed to be sexual, women are too nurturing to understand, and women who want sex for the sake of sex and pleasure are sluts and shouldn’t be treated with respect… Yes, that’s rape culture. But is it really so ingrained that it subtly limits everyone’s reading choices? That it denies such self-examination and acceptance of all of one’s self?

I’m sad to think that the answer is yes – that the only way to awaken women’s ‘lost’ sexuality is through aggressive marketing piggy-backing on the coattails of an already-terrible romance. That there’s so much beautiful, sexy stuff written out there, that would appeal to both men and women without resorting to silly cliches and harmful stereotypes of romance that doesn’t get a single note of attention because… because it doesn’t fall neatly into a box. Because it doesn’t fall under the definition of ‘housewife’ or ‘husband’ or ‘sex after marriage’ (I’m pretty sure there isn’t even a box for that last one). And this is only in the context of plain, vanilla relationships (which can be pretty hot too).

The Lions of Al-Rassan isn’t marketed or ever described as a romance novel – even though, in essence, that’s what it is. No? And it’s not the only book that avoids the ‘romance’ label even though it is chock-full of romance.

Anyway. I’m not sure how to end this in a good way, because it’s saddening and slightly angering that this is what women have to resort to – that this is what is pushed at men as a model – because society is too afraid to acknowledge sex and sexuality as a real, living aspect of all adults, whether single, married, with or without kids, of any orientation or sexual proclivity. Sex is too awesome to be demeaned and swept under the rug like that – why does it happen?

(And yes, I have some idea… I just wish there was a better way to stand against it and make a change.)

*sigh*

Sigh indeed.

Fifty Shades of F**king Abuse

Let me tell you how I got acquainted with some of the worst books on the market:

It was an odd time. I’d just spent over a month intensively critiquing creationist earth science texts, and that triggers depression after so many chapters. One begins to lose all hope for humanity. The end of summer loomed. B and I had a rather serious falling out. So there I was, mopey and miserable and wishing the world could just stop for a while.

I don’t remember what I was reading, but there was a link to Jenny Trout’s blog in the comments. And she had done to the Fifty Shades trilogy what I’m doing to Christianist textbooks. I’d been hearing for years how bloody awful the Fifty Shades of Grey books were, how they glorified abuse, how fake the BDSM was, and how terrible the writing was. I’d heard it from enough people whose opinion I trust that I hadn’t wasted my time attempting to read the bloody things. But now there’s gonna be a movie, and about nine trillion people think this shit’s the cat’s pajamas and ever-so-good for their looove lives, so maybe it would be a good idea to find out a bit more about it. And here was a brilliant, funny, and feminist writer who’d read and reported on them so I didn’t have to. It was like Cliffs Notes, with brutal honesty and snark.

Now, I should’ve been working, but I really couldn’t. And a day off wouldn’t hurt. And I read this: [Read more…]

Finally! The Perfect Book for Geology-Loving Comic Book Fans!

Have you dreamt of a richly-illustrated, geology-themed superhero comic for kids? One that not only gets the science right, but encourages great study habits, turns ordinary encounters into fantastical geologic adventures, models kindness and heart-warming family dynamics, and encourages creativity, all without talking down to kids for an instant? My darlings, your dreams just came true: [Read more…]

Homeschool Sex Machine: The Unreliable (Horny) Narrator Par Excellence

A lot of the stuff I read by homeschool alumni is poignant, rage-inducing, eye-opening, jaw-dropping, and quite often terrifying. These kids were raised in the straitjacket of extreme Christian fundamentalism, subjected to educational malpractice, threatened with hellfire and damnation, raised with an extreme emphasis on gender roles and chastity, indoctrinated for decades. Yet they still managed to emerge with sharp minds, a willingness to question, and the ability to share their journeys. They have my undying respect. They’re amazing people.

But this is the first time one of them has had me nearly peeing myself with laughter in the wee hours of the morning.

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Taking Liberties: A Book We Need Right Now

So you may have noticed lately that the right-wing ratfuckers in state governments are busy trying to roll us back to the Dark Ages. Women aren’t people, they’re “hosts” to those precious babies that will be cherished so long as they’re in the womb; once they’re out, both host and infant will be despised as social parasites if they have the audacity to be unmarried and/or poor. Some jackass is trying to slip prayer into schools by forcing teachers to read congressional prayers. In my former home state of Arizona, the frothing fundies boiled over, and decided to give religious people the right to discriminate against gays, because apparently, refusing to let them patronize your business is an act of worship. Other states have jumped on that horrible bandwagon. And let’s not forget the Russia-envy they’ve got going on. They’ve got a stiffy for totalitarian shitlords who hate on the same groups they do.

Outraged? Good. Here’s a book that will help you channel that rage more productively: [Read more…]