Steven Pinker is an academic, to be sure, but he doesn’t write like one. The Harvard psychology professor—a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—has engulfed readers before with books “The Language Instinct” and “The Blank State, ” and now returns with “The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature,” a thick, investigative bible of how we use words, and how words affect thoughts, and how those thoughts affect actions. The sometimes-dense material is livened up by Pinker’s sense of humor and knack for penning articulate examples that support his conclusions, and for anyone who’s fascinated by words and language—and, congruently, human nature—this epic is for you. Everyone, though, should read chapter seven, “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television,” about, of course, swear words. (Tom Lynch)
Steven Pinker reads from “The Stuff of Thought” October 3 at the International House, 1414 East 59th, (773)753-2270, at 6pm. Free.