Steven Pinker is a Massachusetts-based scientist and author.
The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language; How the Mind Works; The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
2003, 1999, 1994 William James Book Prize, 1997 Los Angeles Times Science Book Prize (How the Mind Works), 2003 and 1998 Pulitzer Prize Finalist (The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, The Stuff of Thought)
Which one or two American books or plays would you yourself recommend to the foreign leaders?
Anything by John Mueller, particularly Retreat from Doomsday—an analysis of how, contrary to popular opinion, nations are moving away from war. And David Courtwright, Violent Land—a history of America with special reference to its patterns of violence, combining history with biology.
Who in your childhood—for example, parent or teacher—encouraged you to read books, and which one or two books do you remember most fondly?
My mother was an avid reader and book buyer, and she provided me with two books whose impact has been lasting. One was George Gamow's One, Two, Three....Infinity, a delightful children's introduction to number theory, geometry, relativity theory and other areas of math and physics. The other was a Time-Life series of books on science, with volumes on different topics mailed to our house monthly—The Planets, Electricity and Magnetism, Evolution, Mathematics and, most importantly, The Mind. I was gripped by the idea that the mind could be studied as a topic in science.
Which books by writers of the other G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom) have been most important to you as a writer?
The British tradition of fine writing in evolutionary biology, from Darwin through J. B. S. Haldane to John Maynard Smith, Richard Dawkins and Matt Ridley, has shown me how deep scientific principles can be explained in lively and witty prose.