The Week in Books

March 27, 2008

Creationism and its Critics in Antiquity by David Sedley, Laurence professor of ancient philosophy and a fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge. University of California Press, £17.95, ISBN 9780520253643

"The pivotal figure in Sedley's story is Socrates. It seems an odd choice. The issue is the origin of the world, about which Socrates had little to say because he thought science was a waste of time. For him, knowledge came from debating questions such as 'what is good?' Yet Sedley credits him with one of the most potent arguments in the history of cosmology: the argument from design."

Armand Leroi, Nature

A Portrait of the Brain by Adam Zeman, professor of cognitive and behavioural neurology, Peninsula Medical School. Yale University Press, £18.99, ISBN 9780300114164

"Adam Zeman's book combines science with the case-history approach that has proved so successful for Oliver Sacks ... Zeman covers a lot of ground in an easy-paced way, but it doesn't grip. I found myself impatiently waiting for the next case and reluctant to read the intervening neuroscience. But ... Professor Zeman comes across as the kind of man one would be glad to consult if anything went wrong inside one's skull."

Nigel Hawkes, The Sunday Times

Archipelagic English: Literature, History, and Politics 1603-1707 by John F. Kerrigan, professor of English, University of Cambridge. Oxford University Press, £25.00, ISBN 9780198183846

"(Kerrigan) believes that history has some lessons for us. 'From both Catholic and Protestant pulpits, the people of Northern Ireland should be reminded that, in 1689, the Pope supported King Billy.' Although this book will be too learned for some, it is an important one. Kerrigan has performed one of the most useful functions of a responsible critic: he has complicated matters."

Nicholas Murray, The Independent

Wrestling with Angels: Conversations in Modern Theology by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and chancellor, Canterbury Christ Church University, and edited by Mike Higton, senior lecturer in theology, University of Exeter. SCM Press, £21.99, ISBN 9780334040758

"It is ... only a portrait of Rowan Williams the theologian, but it is enough to mark him out as a thinker of great stature. It is, moreover, proof that there is far more to this man than a beard - however luxuriant it may be."

David Bentley Hart, Times Literary Supplement

Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al-Qaida Strategist Abu Musab al-Suri by Brynjar Lia, research professor, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment. Hurst, £.50, ISBN 9781850658566

"Lia ... is more circumspect about al-Suri's importance than his title suggests. In calling his subject an 'architect' he means that al-Suri 'has brilliant ideas, but his job is done when the designs, sketches and maps have been handed over'.

Adam Shatz, London Review of Books.

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