I was first introduced to Mary Roach with Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadaversand I quickly fell in love. Roach has the ability to make nonfiction fun and informative. In Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Roach tackles life in space. This book is chock full of everything you ever wanted to know about the history of space exploration and a bunch of stuff you never thought about and will never forget. Roach spends a big portion of the book dealing with human digestion and how to deal with it in space. Our bodies don’t work quiet the same in zero gravity as they do on Earth. So eating and everything that comes after have to be dealt with in special ways. Roach details everything from different sized condom-type urine collection bags, to fecal popcorning, to space toilets, to recycling waste into food (highly unpalatable). There are also the problems of how to eat in space and how your clothes break down after going unwashed for weeks. I was not aware that underwear would disintegrate after a couple weeks of constant wear/definitely not something I have had to experience! Roach doesn’t just focus on the absurd and the gross, she is truly fascinated by space travel and has a deep appreciation for those who work in the industry.
With the financial world in more turmoil than it’s ever been, this graphic novel economics primer seems especially timely. Michael Goodwin is out to show readers that the economy can be understood, even by non-economists. He goes back in time to show how our current economic structure evolved and the theories it was built upon. While there’s a lot to take in, Goodwin does an excellent job of simplifying the seemingly obtuse mechanisms that make our economy work (or not). We can easily see where our theoretical foundations lie and where they have deviated from what was originally envisioned. We can also see just how inextricably linked money is with our history and future. It’s simultaneously educational and chilling, but ultimately, knowledge is power (though honestly, money is still likely more powerful) and this knowledge is not nearly as inaccessible as the powers that be would have us believe.
Goodwin makes attempts to keep politics out of the picture, but admits that, when it comes to our current economic climate, it is nearly impossible to be apolitical. Fiscal conservatives will likely feel that Goodwin is being too liberal with in his estimation of the these power structures, but I personally felt that this was an excellent introduction to a very hotly debated topic.
From breakfast cereal to frozen pizza to nutrition bars, processed foods are a fundamental part of our diet, accounting for 65% of our nation’s yearly calories. Over the past century, technology has transformed the American meal into a chemical-laden smorgasbord of manipulated food products that bear little resemblence to what our grandparents ate. Despite the growing presence of farmers’ markets and organic offerings, food additives and chemical preservatives are nearly impossible to avoid, and even the most ostensibly healthy foods contain multisyllabic ingredients with nearly untraceable origins. The far-reaching implications of the industrialization of the food supply that privleges cheap, plentiful, and fast food have been well documented. They are dire. But how did we ever reach the point where ‘pink slime’ is an acceptable food product? Is anybody regulating what makes it into our food? What, after all, is actually safe to eat? Former York Times health columnist Melanie Warner combines deep investigatory reporting, culinary history, and cultural analysis, to find out how we got here and what it is we’re really eating. Vividly written and meticulously researched, Pandora’s Lunchbox blows the lid off the largely undocumented world of processed foods and food manipulation. From the vitamin “enrichments” to our fortified cereals and bread, to the soy mixtures that bolster chicken (and often outweigh the actual chicken included), Warner lays bare the dubious nutritional value and misleading labels of chemically-treated foods, as well as the potential price we–and our children–may pay.
How do restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in America? And how do poor working conditions-discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens-affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables? Saru Jayaraman, who launched the national restaurant workers’ organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, sets out to answer these questions by following the lives of restaurant workers in New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Detroit, and New Orleans.
Blending personal narrative and investigative journalism, Jayaraman shows us that the quality of the food that arrives at our restaurant tables depends not only on the sourcing of the ingredients. Our meals benefit from the attention and skill of the people who chop, grill, sautÃ©, and serve. Behind the Kitchen Door is a groundbreaking exploration of the political, economic, and moral implications of dining out. Jayaraman focuses on the stories of individuals, like Daniel, who grew up on a farm in Ecuador and sought to improve the conditions for employees at Del Posto; the treatment of workers behind the scenes belied the high-toned Slow Food ethic on display in the front of the house.
Increasingly, Americans are choosing to dine at restaurants that offer organic, fair-trade, and free-range ingredients for reasons of both health and ethics. Yet few of these diners are aware of the working conditions at the restaurants themselves. But whether you eat haute cuisine or fast food, the well-being of restaurant workers is a pressing concern, affecting our health and safety, local economies, and the life of our communities. Highlighting the roles of the 10 million people, many immigrants, many people of color, who bring their passion, tenacity, and vision to the American dining experience, Jayaraman sets out a bold agenda to raise the living standards of the nation’s second-largest private sector workforce-and ensure that dining out is a positive experience on both sides of the kitchen door.
The author of this book was fortunate to have several friends who own weekend homes in Sonoma and Napa California. While he was there during the week he got to know some of the people and learn about the politics going on with these two touristy spots. I found the politics of Sonoma boring but loved reading about the history of both wine producing spots. The author discovered that Napa is for the super rich who can afford the expensive wines and 5 star restaurants while Sonoma is mostly bohemian organic foodies.
Scientist John Medina presents 12 basic principles on how your brain works. He illustrates how you can apply these principles to improve your life. Medina uses stories to demonstrate how these principle work. Some of the principles include: the best way to exercise your brain is actually physical exercise – not cross-word puzzles or Sudoku, or special computer games, rather aerobic exercise! it improves cognition and cuts the risk of dementia in half; the brain is incapable of multitasking that involves dividing one’s attention; we learn and remember best through pictures not through words – so chuck your old text-based power-point presentations and create new ones filled with graphics and pictures. He also discusses learning from 1 form of sensory input – visual or auditory – versus 2 forms of input – visual AND auditory – and how multi-sensory learning is quite superior to a single mode of input. In connection with his discussion on sleep, he highlights the time period with the highest # of accidents 3-5pm in the afternoon.
I enjoyed learning about the way our brains work, Medina’s writing is clear, engaging and infused with a sense of humor.
Medina knows what holds people’s attention, and knows how helpful narratives are to explaining impersonal research studies.
Now you know why I include so many graphics in my reviews!
I really liked this book! Parkes (of the very useful site http://knittersreview.com/) provides detailed information about the various qualities and classifications of yarn available on the market. I appreciated the fact that she examined so many different varieties of yarn sources (eg vicuna) including hybrid sourced yarn, starting off with a family-tree” of fiber types. She discusses different methods of plying, ways to prepare fiber, as well as the various sources of fiber (animals, plants, manufactured).
I learned a lot. For example I learned about woolen-spun versus worsted-spun yarn – most yarn on the market is woolen spun, where they leave the short fibers in, creating a loftier and warmer yarn and therefore warmer material. The worsted-spun yarn takes only the longer staples of wool, and creates a more tightly plied – and therefore less warm – yarn, that really shows off stitch patterns, and its probably more expensive since they’re using more refined material, going that extra step.
She also provided many side by side comparisons of a given wool in one form versus the same wool but in another form (eg worsted spun versus woolen spun). She provides patterns specific to each yarn type that she examines. Though I liked that she provided brand name examples of the various yarns she discussed, I really wish her lists had been longer with more diversity. For example, for the worsted spun yarn, all her examples were 100% Cotton, cotton has no elasticity and hurts my hands, so none of the examples were helpful to me.
Overall though a really great book, I’m so glad we have it in our collection! I think I need to read all of her other books.
What a wonderful book! This book has Martin Luther King Jr.’s I have a dream speech and tells you what he meant. I love how the speech is broken down and translated for today’s young readers. The translation let’s you know what King was saying and what was going on at the time of the speech. Wonderful introduction to the civil rights movement.
Davidson’s book is about a mismatch of our education system and what people need in order to succeed in today’s world. She argues that the 4th great Information Technology Revolution requires us to change our educational institutions as well as our workplaces. One example she tackles is the use of multi-choice questions on tests, do they really make sense anymore, given the ease with which so much information is available at our finger-tips on the internet.
Our schools and educational system were designed for the last century, reflecting the values and needs of the Industrial Age in which they were created not for a world in which technology has reshaped the way we think and learn. Therefore the emphasis on standardized tests of reading, writing, and arithmetic is a sentimental reaction a longing for the past.
She points to a magnet school in Durham NC, that is on the failing list, everyone is trying really hard, but with 30% of the students being non-native English speakers those standardized tests may flunk a school out of existence.
She makes the point that we ought to see people as differently abled, instead of disabled. For example, there’s this company SonyaLista who trains certain people to check for computer-code mistakes, “Normals” are bad at this task, however, people with Autism-Spectrum, make superb checkers of computer-code mistakes.
One problem I had with her book is that she stretched her evidence to make her points. For example, she points to the fact that computer games can help seniors with visual-spatial field perception. While this is true, the very best thing you can do to help brain functioning at any age, but particularly at older ages, is to perform physical exercise. She fails to mention this fact.
The two volumes of this book are a fascinating and highly enjoyable read for anyone interested in the interactions between various pulp, mystery, adventure, and science fiction characters with real people throughout history. The premise of this book is inspired by SF writer Philip José Farmer’s “Wold Newton” concept which he developed in the 1970s: a “radioactive” meteorite crashed near Wold Newton, England in 1795 and affected several carriages full of people who were passing by. Their descendants became highly intelligent and powerful heroes (or villains) such as Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, Dr. Fu Manchu, Doc Savage, Lord Greystoke (aka Tarzan), and many more. Farmer wrote popular and detailed biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage in which he detailed the family trees of many “Wold Newton Family” characters. Over time, the concept has been expanded and continued by others into the Crossover Universe. Win Scott Eckert has done a fantastic job of compiling references to literary heroes who have met each other (or “crossed over”) and had adventures together, and thus co-exist in the same fictional universe. Volume 1 covers the dawn of time up through 1939, and Volume 2 covers 1940 into the far future. Reading these two books is a fun and highly addictive experience!
Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom–537 pp. A long read.
Fans of Carlos Ruiz Zaf n’s The Shadow of the Wind and Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong will fall in love with Winter in Madrid, the arresting new novel from C. J. Sansom. In September 1940, the Spanish Civil War is over and Madrid lies in ruins while the Germans continue their march through Europe. Britain stands alone as General Franco considers whether to abandon neutrality and enter the war.
Into this uncertain world comes Harry Brett, a privileged young man who was recently traumatized by his experience in Dunkirk and is now a reluctant spy for the British Secret Service. Sent to gain the confidence of Sandy Forsyth, an old school friend turned shadowy Madrid businessman, Brett finds himself involved in a dangerous game and surrounded by memories.
Meanwhile, Sandy’s girlfriend, ex-Red Cross nurse Barbara Clare, is engaged in a secret mission of her own—to find her former lover Bernie Piper, whose passion for the Communist cause led him into the International Brigades and who vanished on the bloody battlefields of the Jarama.
In a vivid and haunting depiction of wartime Spain, Winter in Madrid is an intimate and riveting tale that offers a remarkable sense of history unfolding and the profound impact of impossible choices.
Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere– by Lauren Leto–269 pp
Leto, humor blogger and co-author of “Texts from Last Night,” now offers a fascinating field guide to the hearts and minds of readers everywhere. An unrelentingly witty and delightfully irreverent guide to the intricate world of passionate literary debate, at once skewering and celebrating great writers, from Dostoevsky to Ayn Rand to Jonathan Franzen, and all the people who read them.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed–353 pp
“Tiny Beautiful Things” brings the best of Cheryl Strayed’s published and never-before-published online columns in one place and includes a new introduction by Steve Almond.
Life can be hard, life can be great. For years, the anonymous author of Dear Sugar was the one to turn to for advice. Now, the best of Cheryl Strayed’s online columns are collected in one place for you to enjoy– and learn from.
A book about losing a place, finding a purpose, and immersing in a community. Welch and her husband had always dreamed of owning a bookstore. When the opportunity to run to a struggling Virginia coal mining town presented itself, they took it. And took the plunge into starting their dream as well.
The story of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for several months captured the world’s attention. It was an amazing rescue effort and their story is a fascinating one. Unfortunately, I don’t think this book does their story justice. This is more the story of the rescuers than the miners. We hardly learn anything about the miners and what they went through while they were trapped. We don’t get personal anecdotes or first hand accounts of what life was like for them. It had to be harrowing…they were surviving on a cap full of tuna every three days! Don’t get me wrong; the rescue effort was interesting and impressive. But I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that it is the miners who are the real interest. Aronson did a good job describing the rescue efforts, but he had a tendency to go off on tangents. There were whole sections on the Greek gods and bronze and how the earth was made. I could have cared less. It had nothing to do with the story at hand and seemed really misplaced. I am sure there are other books out there that describe this event and hopefully they are more entertaining and informative.
You probably think you would notice if a Gorilla came onto a basketball court, and beat its chest-center stage right? Actually chances are pretty good that if you were counting bounce passes versus aerial passes, you would miss the gorilla – yep 50% of people don’t notice the gorilla. We think we know how our minds work, but this proves to be an illusion. Know exactly where you were at, and who you talked to on 9/11? We feel pretty certain about our memories for these things, but again, the more certain we are about our memories, the less likely they are to be accurate. Read this book to figure out where your blind spots are!
With tongue in cheek, Literature professor Pierre Bayard offers a pseudo-defense of the “art of nonreading”.
Bayard likes to quote Oscar Wilde’s “ I never read a book I must review; it prejudices you so”. I think there’s some critique of postmodernism/deconstructionism, but I don’t know enough about the topic to be sure. Is it more important to be aware of a given book’s “cultural location” than to actually have read it? If you’re curious, check out this book.
What do you call a physician? a doctor that only treat 1 species. Ha! This joke informs the divide between human doctors and doctors that treat animals aka veterinarians.
Natterson-Horowitz and Bowers suggest we have a lot of scientific/biological information we can learn from the veterinarians. Monkeys also suffer cardiac arrest, octopi and stallions also self-mutilate. If we know how to treat these problems in animals, surely some of this knowledge can be transferred to human patients. It appears that dinosaurs got brain cancer, so knowing that cancer has been around for so long may shed light on what causes and how to treat diseases like cancer.
If you like Temple Grandin, you might like the book Zoobiquity.
There is so much for knitters to know about yarn. And this book is a good place to start – actually I’ve been knitting for about 3-4 years and still learned a lot. Each page presents several swatches of a yarn and how it knits up – including how it knits up in different basic patterns (eg. garter versus stockinette).
Note they do NOT review by yarn manufacturer, only by gauge (or weight).