#BookReview: When Did Sin Begin by Loren Haarsma

Intriguing Academic Examination. Let’s make this very clear up front: This is a book for academic types. This is FAR from casual reading. And yet, its premise is interesting enough that many may want to slog through it anyway – as I did. 😀 Just know up front that this *is* a very dense, very logically-detailed examination of its subject. That noted, this text does a phenomenal job of showing what the historical and current academic thinking is on its dual subjects of human evolution and Original Sin, and it does a similarly superb job of explaining in detail, in many cases point by point, exactly how the two might be reconciled. Indeed, particularly for the casual reader that Just. Wants. An. Answer!!!!!… this book probably won’t be what you’re looking for. It never really proffers one, instead acknowledging that there is still more research and thinking to do in both arenas before a definitive conclusion can truly be reached. Still, for what it actually is and for how it is actually written, this is truly a strong work of scholarship and contemplation, and within the space it is meant to occupy it could indeed be quite a standout. Very much recommended.

This review of When Did Sin Begin by Loren Haarsma was originally written on July 23, 2021.

#BookReview: Jungle by Patrick Roberts

Intriguing Premise. Fascinating Start. Back Half Marred By Politics And Questionable Scholarship. This book had an utterly fascinating premise, one I’ve read a couple of other books over the last year in the same arena – the history of wood and palm oil in those prior books. And y’all, the front half of this book, mostly concerned with prehistory, was *awesome*. Roberts tracks how the development of what we now call in English “jungle” began in the earliest geological eras of plant life, through the time of the dinosaurs, and into the evolution of humanity from our earliest barely-more-than-ape forebears to modern Homo Sapien Sapien.

But then we get into the first millennium ish AD and Roberts turns his focus to the native populations of the Americas – and blaming Columbus specifically and Europe generally for every ill to come since. Even while noting cases where conquest would not have been possible except that certain elements of the native populations betrayed other elements for their own personal power. Ok. Still has some solid points about the interrelationship between humans and jungle here, but even here the politics is quite heavy handed – though admittedly typical for elitist academics and perfectly in line with that level of thought.

Coming into much more recent times – within my lifetime ish, since the 1980s – Roberts goes deeper into the politics, even openly praising Greta Thunberg (a bit ironic, given Roberts’ own actual academic pedigree vs Thunberg’s lack of one). But worse than that, he actively gets a bit lax with his scholarship through this point, noting the spread of Ebola into the US during the 2014-2016 West Africa outbreak… without acknowledging that it was (mostly) active – and *safe* (as safe as anything *can* be with Ebola) – efforts by the US government to bring US nationals back to within the US for treatments. Instead, the implication from the author is that this was more direct results of lackadaisical regulations and rampant environmental destruction. He also (accurately) notes the 3,000 people killed by Hurricane Maria in 2017… without noting that Hurricane Irma had come through many of the same regions as an even stronger storm just two weeks prior, causing quite a bit of damage that ultimately led to a larger loss of life than normal when a second major hurricane (Maria) came through so soon after. (Disclaimer here: I moved to northern Florida in August 2017, barely a month before Irma and barely 6 weeks before Maria. I had a planned cruise in November 2017 to San Juan and St Maarten, among others, moved to Aruba and Curacao due to the combined effects of the two storms.)

Finally, in perhaps the most glaring questionable fact in the entire text, Roberts points to COVID-19 case counts “as of the end of July 2021”. Except that I’m writing this review on July 15, 2021, almost exactly halfway into the month down to the minute, and I’ve had this book in ARC form since May 12, 2021. (And I should note that this book appeared to be mostly completely print ready at that time, though the publisher and author may claim that there were indeed a few more edits since that point.) Even if one assumes that this particular line was placed in the book by say May 10, at the very latest stages before making it available on NetGalley (where I got it), and even if one assumes that the actual number at hand is accurate (I have no real reason to doubt it, though I personally stopped paying attention to these particular numbers over a year ago), wouldn’t it have been better scholarship to note that the case count was “as of the end of May 2021”? Or was the author projecting and hoping this either wasn’t noticed, that he would be proven correct prior to publication (still almost exactly two months away, as this book is currently shown to publish on September 14, 2021 at the time of writing this review), or that this particular fact could be updated prior to publication with the actual number? None of those three options point to the same level of scholarship of the beginning of the book, and indeed the fact of their existence brings into doubt all prior points and presumed merits. Thus, including that particular fact ultimately does more harm to the entire text than even the most blatant of political biases displayed earlier in the text.

Still, ultimately this was a very approachable text that even when taking into account its standard academic biases generally presents an intriguing look into the history and development of humanity, and it actually has a respectable bibliography, clocking in at around 26% of the text. Thus the book is still ultimately recommended for that alone. Just… make sure you read other competing books in the same area in addition to this one.

Post Script: While looking for the author’s website for the blog version of this review, I found out that the author is indeed a seeming expert *in prehistoric jungles*, having published several articles in peer reviewed journals over the last decade. But nearly every single article listed on his website deals with the prehistoric era, which perhaps explains the difference in how excellent this particular book was when it was discussing this particular era vs the problems that began mostly when he left it. Which is leaving me, for one, *very* interested in a follow up book expanding on the first half of this one with even more details, perhaps, of the environments, fauna, and flora of these prehistoric eras the author seems to know so well.

This review of Jungle by Patrick Roberts was originally written on July 15, 2021.

#BookReview: Ten Patterns That Explain The Universe by Brian Clegg

Fascinating And Short. To be such a compact tale – 220 pages or so – this volume puts in a fairly dense amount of information at a very high level (for its extremely advanced concepts anyway, some of which deal with literally the smallest entities known to mankind), which is even more remarkable when one considers the volume of space dedicated to the often stunning imagery included in even this months-prior-to-publication advanced reader copy. (For those unfamiliar with ARC work, actually getting to see most imagery referenced in a book is a rarity. :D) As to showing these ten patterns and roughly how they can all be seen to link up to explain the universe. Clegg definitely shows – again at a very high level – that links are there, often in ways not everyone would think to look. As to whether these fully explain the universe… that, is a much larger question that Clegg never really dives into too deeply, seemingly satisfied that they seem to explain the universe *as we currently understand it*. Which is a major concession, particularly in light of just how recent most of the developments Clegg details are in human history. (Quite a few within the last 150 years or so, vs the few thousand years of even recorded history.) Overall truly an interesting book and a quick ish read to boot, that doesn’t *completely* require a science related degree to understand (though having some degree of familiarity with STEM subjects will certainly help any reader here), and thus very much recommended.

This review of Ten Patterns That Explain The Universe by Brian Clegg was originally written on May 11, 2021.

#BookReview: Members Club by Piet Hoebeke

Factual Overview Of The Penis. This book, written by a Belgian urologist, has a bit of everything when it comes to factual information about the penis. We’ve got history. We’ve got biomechanics. We’ve got anatomy. We’ve got medical recommendations for a wide range of topics related to the penis from basic hygiene to STDs and when to seek further consultation. If you’ve ever wanted to know really most anything about the penis, this is the book you should probably look to if you don’t already have some degree of academic knowledge of it. Seemingly comprehensive, though the version I read (nearly 5 months before actual publication) didn’t have much of a bibliography at all – just about 5% of this text, vs closer to 25% of an average nonfiction text. Still, Dr. Hoebeke mostly relies on his own decades of experience and appears generally authoritative – at least in a general sense – even without the extensive bibliography (which may yet be added between the date I write this review in early July 2020 and the date of publication in early November 2020). Very much recommended.

This review of Members Club by Piet Hoebeke was originally written on July 8, 2020.

#BookReview: The Next Great Migration by Sonia Shah

Interesting and Applicable. This is a truly remarkable work that traces the sociological and biological impetuses for and restrictions on migration at levels from the individual through the species. Shah does a superb job of combining history and science to make her case, and even impeaches at least a few organizations currently in the headlines along the way – even while clearly having no way of knowing that she was doing so, as the book was written before they became so prominent more recently. Spanning from the guy that developed the modern taxonomic system through late breaking issues with the Trump Presidency, Shah shows a true depth to her research and builds a largely compelling case. Very much recommended.

This review of The Next Great Migration by Sonia Shah was originally written on April 10, 2020.

#BookReview Evolution by Kelly Carrero

Kelly Carrero has done something fairly rare in my experience – written something that is fairly unique. The closest thing I can think of to what she has pulled off here is the movie Jumper, and even that lacked the execution of Ms. Carrero.

You can get the overall synopsis from the Amazon blurb, but what it doesn’t tell you is that the ending sequence is fairly shocking… and makes you want to get the second book immediately. For those who came to Ms. Carrero before the followup was published a month ago, this had to be somewhat….. tormenting. 😉 I know waiting on the third book is!

Do yourself a favor and pick up this book. I got it while it was free, and honestly I would have gladly paid the current price or even more had I known it was going to be this good. (Side note to Ms. Carrero: Smart marketing move doing the free/ $0.99 move on the first book. Honestly doubt I would have picked it up at $2.99, just because I had never heard of you – and I would have missed out on a GREAT book.)

This review of Evolution by Kelly Carrero was originally published on November 23, 2012.