In his new book, Evolution of Childhood, Konner addresses a subject on the front burner in many homes. Konner uses three decades of research to unravel the mysteries of growing up and children's behavior. He is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology and associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Emory University and has four grown children.
What's on your nightstand?
I'm reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I didn't like her until a few years ago, and now I find her restful. I know that Jane will always give you a happy ending. I'm also reading a manuscript by my friend Charles McNair, who published Land O'Goshen. This one isn't out yet, but it is called Pickett's Charge. It's about a 114-year-old man who is the last surviving person of the Civil War. He goes up north in 1964 to find the last surviving Yankee. It's the opposite of Jane. It's not calming. It is very intense and jazzy and funny.
What would you encourage parents to read for help in child-rearing?
I think of the tried and true and have to say Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock. I don't agree with everything in it, but one reason I like it is that it says to parents, "You know more than you think you know." The reason parents know more than they think is that we have millions of years of evolution behind us. We've got strong tendencies to take care of the children. I think the limitation of Spock is that it has a cultural bond to mainstream middle-class American culture, too much at times, and it's hard to get beyond that.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer