What book should I give to my father-in-law?
October 19, 2010 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Book recommendations for a retired anthropologist?

I'll be visiting my father-in-law in Asia soon and I'd like to give him a book, since he's an avid reader. Thing is, I (and my SO) know nothing about his taste in books! Here are some indications that might help:

-He's a retired anthropologist who researched kinship in China and Japan.
-He loved José Saramago's Blindness.
-He's politically active and progressive.
posted by TheGoodBlood to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
Best answer: Absolutely must get him The Sparrow and Children of God, Mary Doria Russell's two incredible works of first-contact sci-fi. The author herself is a bioanthropologist, and one of the sharpest observers on social structure and human nature that I've ever met. The book deals incredibly well with insanely heavy themes-- the unwitting disaster that is often first contact between different cultures, the idea of family, pre-destination and the concept of a merciful God, all wrapped up in this huge sweeping heart-breaking epic that is told (at least for the first book) in a mostly backward narrative structure. The book opens with the first-contact mission's sole survivor, a Jesuit priest, being returned to the Vatican, completely spiritually, physically and psychologically broken, and you find out what happens from there.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:40 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Eifelheim is the story of an alienship crashing in a 14th century German town. It is very interesting story full of historical detail and amazing narrative. While it is science fiction, his background in kinship anthropology and the claustrophobic/apocalyptic nature of Blindness remind me of Eifelheim. I highly recommend it.
posted by rabbitsnake at 9:16 AM on October 19, 2010

Tattoos of Indochina: Magic, Devotion, & Protection

I haven't read this but it looks really interesting!
posted by Ahab at 9:38 AM on October 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much, people. I'm checking all of these, they seem fascinating! Keep sending more!
posted by TheGoodBlood at 10:44 AM on October 19, 2010

Perhaps Why I Am Not a Scientist: Anthropology and Modern Knowledge, by Jonathan Marks.
posted by wdenton at 11:17 AM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: "What Color is the Sacred" by Michael Taussig -- should really strike a chord with anyone who's plied that trade for any time.
posted by johnnybeggs at 3:50 PM on October 19, 2010

Response by poster: All the answers are great, those are just my two favourite.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 11:09 AM on October 20, 2010

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