Religion today often seems caught between the literalism of fundamentalists and the atheism of materialists. Arguing against both sides of this all-or-nothing debate, Karen Armstrong, the great scholar and historian of religion, looks back to the roots of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other traditions to make The Case For God (Knopf, $27.95). Originally, belief rested in symbol, myth, and mystery. Not orthodox propositions, but behavior specifically delineated as outside everyday concerns was the hallmark of spirituality, and religious practices were designed to reinforce community bonds, teach compassion, and help contain potentially overwhelming emotions like fear, grief, or guilt. The emphasis was on what was unknown and probably unknowable about a deity, and this is in sharp contrast to today’s dogmas and truth claims. Where modern religions have gone wrong, Armstrong argues, is in treating religion like science and expecting the same sorts of certainty from a sacred text that we would from a scientific textbook.

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$18.95
ISBN: 9780307389800
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor - September 7th, 2010

A bee-eater consumes some 200 bees a day to survive. The tailorbird uses its beak and spider webs to sew leaves together for its nest. In owls, one ear is higher and bigger than the other to sharpen hearing. Collectively, a bird’s feathers weigh more than all its bones. And in the next few decades, one of every nine species of bird may go extinct. These are just some of the facts Colin Tudge has gathered in his capacious, enthusiastic study, The Bird (Crown, $30). He shows how birds nest and mate and he explains the difference between calls and songs. He includes lessons in taxonomy and surveys the 31 orders into which the world’s 10,500 species of birds are organized. He explains what little we understand about migration, and describes scientific debates over the relationship between birds and dinosaurs and how birds think. He lays out the arguments for seeing birds in a spirit of Darwinian competitiveness as opposed to one of mutually beneficial cooperation. As he did in The Tree, Tudge assembles a huge amount of information into a compelling narrative.

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$18.00
ISBN: 9780307342058
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Broadway Books - September 7th, 2010

Ten years in the making, Asterios Polyp (Pantheon, $29.95) has everything literary fiction has: compelling plot, complex characters, ideas, social critique, symbolism, allusions—plus great images.  David Mazzucchelli’s colors are brilliant and, with his versatile lines, styles, and fonts, signal a scene’s emotional frequency, flesh out character, heighten drama, distinguish dream from reality, and deepen all kinds of resonances. As for the plot, it’s a late-coming-of-age tale, a love story, an odyssey. Asterios is of the anti-hero tradition, yet he’s oddly affecting despite being arrogant, pedantic, and so inflexible that his dialogue balloons are always sharp rectangles. When he loses everything—wife, career, possessions—and hops a bus for wherever, he starts to put the pieces back together. Many of these pieces come from classical myths (Castor and Pollux, Polyphemus, Orpheus), offering yet more interpretive fun.

Asterios Polyp (Pantheon Graphic Library) Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780307377326
Availability: Backordered
Published: Pantheon - July 7th, 2009

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