The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

Steven Pinker

I’ve neglected this spot on my page lately – for several months now, in fact. That is in large part due to the fact that I’ve done a lot of book reviewing in the last year, for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, and others. I still read plenty of books for my own pleasure, though, as well as quite a few in relation to other types of non-reviewing work.
Having done a lot of driving back and forth from New York City to Virginia in the year since I’ve relocated to the States, I’ve renewed my acquaintance with another kind of book enjoyment: the audio book. One thing I’ve always enjoyed about long flights, train and bus rides (or even the 1/2 hour daily subway commute each way when I lived in Tokyo) was opportunity for deep reading. I’ve found that with a little patience, the audio book achieves much the same for me and I now count myself as a convert, if only for the purposes of long road trips.
My choices have centered on books that I somehow figure I would have little time or inclination to read in their traditional form. This says nothing of their worthiness as literature, only that they lose out in the mix of things I need or want to read in book form. Today, during a 5 1/2 hour drive, I listened to the Iliad, which has languished on my bookshelves for an eternity, occasionally producing feelings of guilt, as unread books often do in me. It was a delicious experience, and I’m looking forward already to my next trip south in order to complete it.
The book tagged for mention here, though, is Steven Pinker’s title, which I found learned, predictably enough, quirky and highly entertaining, covering everything – vividly – from the subject of generative metaphors to the uses of the word “fuck.”
Highly recommended.

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