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Moral Tribes; Ann Patchett on Her Memoir; Mao Changed China; Ben Franklin's Sister

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Neuroscientist Joshua Green explains how human brains have evolved to deal with the conditions of our modern societies. Ann Patchett discusses writing and relationships in her new memoir, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. We’ll look at the rise of Mao Zedong and his attempts to transform the Chinese into “The New People” at whatever cost. Historian Jill Lepore introduces us to Benjamin Franklin’s sister Jane, who was a gifted writer and a shrewd political commentator.

Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them

Neuroscientist Joshua Greene argues that our brains were designed for tribal life, for getting along with a select group of others (Us) and for fighting off everyone else (Them). But modern times have forced the world’s tribes into a shared space, resulting in epic clashes. Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them combines neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy to reveal the underlying causes of modern conflict. Dr. Greene is an award-winning teacher and scientist, and he directs Harvard University’s Moral Cognition Lab, which uses neuroscience and cognitive techniques to understand how people really make moral decisions.

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Ann Patchett's This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Ann Patchett examines her deepest commitments—to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband. She creates a portrait of a life in This is the Story of a Happy Marriagethat begins with her childhood, covers disastrous early marriage, a later happy one, and examines her relationships with family and friends and the joy of writing.

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The Chinese Revolution 1945-1957

Frank Dikötter chronicles Mao Zedong’s ascension and his campaign to transform the Chinese into what the party called New People. Due to the secrecy surrounding the country’s records, little has been known before now about the eight years preceding the massive famine and Great Leap Forward. In The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957, Dikötter draws on hundreds of previously classified documents, secret police reports, unexpurgated versions of leadership speeches, eyewitness accounts of those who survived to reveal the horrific policies they implemented in the name of progress.

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The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

Benjamin Franklin, who wrote more letters to his sister than he wrote to anyone else, was the original American self-made man; his sister spent her life caring for her 12 children. Historian Jill Lepore shows that Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister was, like her brother, a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin brings Jane Franklin to life in a way that illuminates not only one woman but an entire world.

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