I've started reading A Farewell to Alms, a book about the economic history and macrosociology of the last two thousand years. It received an enthusiastic write-up in the New York Times (here), and I think its publication date might have been accelerated as a result.
The moral and political implications of the book's argument, either if it is true or if it comes to be regarded as true, are so breathtaking as to be hard to understate, especially in a hastily written blog post by someone who is moving.
The argument, most briefly, is that part of what led to the Industrial Revolution was a more longstanding improvement of the species over the preceding several hundred years, and, although the book is coy about saying this improvement could be either "cultural" or "genetic," it's clear that author's inclination is "genetic." The seemingly obvious implication if that were true--although I am uncertain from the 30-odd pages I've read so far whether the author will actually connect the dots he draws right there on the page--is genetic variation among people with ancestry from different parts of the world on traits pertinent to socioeconomic attainment. Good to have ancestry from the regions of the world that were the leaders of the Industrial Revolution or otherwise socially close to it, and bad to be from regions that were not close. In this respect, the argument could be interpreted as providing the historical backstory for The Bell Curve. So, it's important, especially given that it is by an economist and all the recent hoopla for economics as the enterprise that has the apparatus to uncover hidden insights into social affairs and the independent-mindedness to speak unpopular "truths."
As I said, I haven't read enough of the book to be able to begin to evaluate its evidence, and moving isn't exactly allowing great focused cognitive space for reading. I'm approaching the book with a lot more skepticism than the author of the NYT article. I know I post perhaps surprisingly little about the substance of social science on this blog, but it doesn't get more substantive than the history of human organization and the causes of social inequalities, so I'm putting y'all on alert about this book if you haven't heard about it.