The Six-Point Inspection

Better Biology, Better People, Better Jobs

In The Six-Point Inspection, Zócalo takes a quick look at new books that are changing the way we see our world.

Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech by Sally Smith Hughes

The nutshell: UC Berkeley science historian Hughes describes the quick, remarkable rise of biotech company Genentech, a pioneer in emerging genetic-engineering technologies in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Literary lovechild of: The Double Helix by James Watson and iWoz by Steve Wozniak.

You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You’re out of high school and can still explain the difference between RNA and DNA.

Cocktail party fodder: Genentech held Friday afternoon gatherings called “Ho-hos” (name not explained) in which employees were required to drink at least one beer.

For optimal benefit: Read before you invest in more biotech stock to find out how this business actually works.

Snap judgment: Hughes offers a solid, if not always riveting, case study of the marriage between academic labs and big business.


The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

The nutshell: Harvard psychologist Pinker argues that we live in a world less violent than ever before, and he’s got the graphs and figures, neuroscience, history, pop culture, and philosophy to prove it.

Literary lovechild of: Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene.

You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You’re generally curious, and you’re certain you’ll get to all 700 pages at some point.

Cocktail party fodder: Most terrorist groups fail-and all of them die. On average, a terrorist group lasts between five and nine years.

For optimal benefit: Read-and then watch the news with new, happier eyes. Wars, shmars

Snap judgment: Pinker’s book is not only compelling as an argument but also fascinating as a survey of the world our ancestors occupied and of how our minds work.



The Coming Jobs War: What Every Leader Must Know About the Future of Job Creation by Jim Clifton

The nutshell: According to Gallup chairman and CEO Clifton, polls show that the most important global issue of our times will be jobs: there aren’t enough of them to go around. He accompanies his diagnosis with remedies for areas ranging from education and healthcare to cities and entrepreneurship.

Literary lovechild of: John Zogby’s The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream and Robert Reich’s Aftershock: The Next Economy & America’s Future.

You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: Your pesky sense of optimism was threatening to return.

Cocktail party fodder: According to Gallup, there are 1.2 billion full-time, formal jobs in the world-and 3 billion people who want those jobs.

For optimal benefit: Do not give this book to a recent college graduate.

Snap judgment: Clifton is clear and assertive, and you can’t argue with the raw numbers-even if his interpretations and solutions seem a bit overconfident.