The week in books

October 9, 2008

Darwin's Angel: An Angelic Riposte to The God Delusion by John Cornwell, affiliated research scholar in the department of history and philosophy of science, University of Cambridge. Profile Books, £6.99, ISBN 9781846680656

"Rich in sly digs - 'your book is as innocent of heavy scholarship as it is of false modesty. I note that the author most often quoted ... is yourself' - this response from a Cambridge scientist to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion is not so much a rebuttal as 'a few marginal glosses' ... All but the most steely of atheists will find themselves agreeing with much in this rational, charming and far-more-readable riposte."

Christopher Hirst, The Independent

The Seven Words You Can't Say on Television by Steven Pinker, Harvard College professor and Johnstone Family professor in the department of psychology, Harvard University. Penguin, £3.99, ISBN 9780141038728

"One has to salute the Machiavellian genius of whoever it was at Penguin who had the idea of taking a chapter out of a book and reissuing it on its own. Whether more people will buy this than bought The Stuff of Thought, whence it originates, one cannot foresee; but I for one, having once run head-on into some very challenging sentences in his previous work ... am now a bit scared of him, however well he means and however clever he is. I gather that he has become more readable lately, but pulling out a chapter on rude words, giving it a striking and witty cover, may well be a shrewd move."

Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics: Entrepreneurship and the State by Yasheng Huang, associate professor of international management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cambridge University Press, £15.99, ISBN 9780521898102

"Original research on China is rare, largely because statistics, though plentiful, are notoriously unreliable. Mr Huang has gone far beyond the superficial data on gross domestic product and foreign direct investment that satisfy most researchers. Instead, he has unearthed thousands of long-forgotten pages of memoranda and policy documents issued by bank chairmen, businessmen and state officials. In the process he has discovered two Chinas: one, from not so long ago, vibrant, entrepreneurial and rural; the other, today's China, urban and controlled by the state."

The Economist

Jews and Shoes edited by Edna Nahshon, associate professor of Hebrew, The Jewish Theological Seminary. Berg, £17.99, ISBN 9781847880505

"I supposed that a book called Jews and Shoes was going to be either a bumper book of Jewish jokes about schlepping and cobbling, or a severe cultural analysis of the nature and symbolic value of footwear in Jewish society through the ages ... Jews and Shoes turns out indeed to be largely about schlepping and cobbling, but is entirely devoid of jokes. This is academic cultural studies at its most anxious, wanting to make much out of little but worrying about not being taken seriously ... But I can't think of any Jewish shoe jokes, so maybe the contributors to this collection of essays had their hands tied."

Jenny Diski, London Review of Books.

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