Michael Pollen became my favorite food writer when I read The Omnivore's Dilemma a while back (to be fair, I don't really read many others *grins*). HMichael Pollen became my favorite food writer when I read The Omnivore's Dilemma a while back (to be fair, I don't really read many others *grins*). He's detailed and well-researched, while also being a very compelling writer. He is also very passionate about pointing out the truly disordered relationship that modern Western society has with food: constantly focusing on ingredients instead of the whole experience, constantly looking for a simple "villain" when nutrition has proved, time and time again, to be far more complex.
Food Rules is a fun and fast distillation of his previous book Food Rules. It's broken into 3 sections based on his famously succinct approach to food: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Each section contains a series of rules–really they're more like guidelines than actual rules–based on the best knowledge available. As Pollen himself says, you don't have to follow every rule; you probably won't even agree with every rule. But if you take at least a couple things from each section, you will be on your way toward a healthier relationship with food. I chomped my way through it (owwwwww... sorry for that) in a single afternoon, and it's definitely left me hungry (seriously, somebody stop me) to read In Defense of Food. Check it out!...more
My father has been recommending Ta-Nehisi Coates' work in The Atlantic for years now. After reading Between the World and Me, I can see why.
The book iMy father has been recommending Ta-Nehisi Coates' work in The Atlantic for years now. After reading Between the World and Me, I can see why.
The book is structured as a beautiful and heart-wrenching letter to his teenage son, a focus made all the more poignant amidst heightened cultural awareness of the number of deaths of black teens at the hands of police and/or vigilante citizens. Coates examines America's terribly troubled relationship with race through many lenses: as a black man, as a son and grandson, as a father, as a historian and journalist, and, fundamentally, as a human. He looks at the seeming American need to paint some group as the vilified Other. This group has changed often over our history, and includes both people who are still seen as minorities and people who have ultimately been subsumed under the umbrella of White (Irish, Italian, etc.). But the one constant we can see is that throughout our history, Blackness has always been equated with Otherness.
Coates is brilliantly adept at showing us the self-defensive myopia that can build among people who have for so long been under mental and physical attack, while also stepping back to look at the non-universality of those experiences and world views (his first times in France, the way that he realized that the givens he had learned growing up as a black man in America were worlds away from this place and culture, were particularly touching). Even when comparing his own childhood to his son's, he sees the differences, the breaking of certain cycles of pain and fear. And yet, there are still too many similarities, too many people who will negate a person's essential humanity simply upon seeing their skin.
We are not given an easy message of hope in this book. There are so many centuries of history working against us, so much unexamined violence. It's a tough thing to accept the continuing existence of so much inequality. Freedom from these cycles comes from constant examination, even of the things that we hold most dearly as truths. It is a long and difficult process.
I do believe we've made great progress. But in reading this book, I become keenly aware that the work is far from over....more
This would have been a 3.5 star rating, if that were possible (GOODREADS! WILL YOU NEVER LEARN?). Erik Larson writes a very compelling account of theThis would have been a 3.5 star rating, if that were possible (GOODREADS! WILL YOU NEVER LEARN?). Erik Larson writes a very compelling account of the first year (1933-1934) of William Dodd's tenure as American ambassador to Hitler's Germany. Dodd and his family were at ground zero, watching as Hitler, over the course of the year, went from easily disregarded player on the world stage to a formidable–and extremely dangerous–dictator. Larson clearly researched the book thoroughly, which I always appreciate; any quoted dialog within the book has a primary source to back it up. One of the most terrifying aspects of reading this granular account is realizing how little the world did, even in the face of mounting evidence regarding the brutality of this new state. In particular, this book really highlights the fact that all Western countries at the time had strong anti-Semetic sentiments; until Hitler crossed a clear line with the Final Solution, too many of the people highly placed in other governments were clearly in agreement with his actions. I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in this time period....more
This is a fascinating and incredibly detailed look into the history of salt, an item that people generally don't put much thought into nowadays, but tThis is a fascinating and incredibly detailed look into the history of salt, an item that people generally don't put much thought into nowadays, but that once sparked wars, controlled commerce, and birthed empires. I really appreciated the fact that the author provides information on the use and evolution of salt in civilizations throughout the globe; this is not a euro-centric history (as so many of them are), but instead begins with China, and details use by Egyptians, Native Americans, Celts, Hawaiians, and Indians, in addition to Europeans and Americans. A number of still-famous conflicts, inventions, and industries were sparked or greatly impacted by salt and salt mining. It was very interesting to see how this mineral ties into almost every facet of human history.
The biggest flaw of this book–and the reason that I've rated it a 3–is that it is honestly too detailed. For a book that is clearly trying to market itself to a commercial base, as opposed to an academic one, the author gets frequently too into the weeds when describing various events. The book also does not have a clear through-line beyond "salt has been important throughout history", which can make it very difficult to stick with it. It took me almost a month to get through it, which is fairly unusual for me.
I can certainly recommend this as a very interesting history into a little-examined topic. However, be prepared for it to feel like a bit of a slog at times. I might also recommend having some lighter fare at hand to switch between....more
An absolutely incredible, brutal book on King Leopold II of Belgium and his rapacious acquisition and destruction of the African territory known underAn absolutely incredible, brutal book on King Leopold II of Belgium and his rapacious acquisition and destruction of the African territory known under him as the "Congo Free State." Did you know that historians estimate that around 10 million Africans were killed during Leopold's underhanded takeover of the Congo? Because I sure didn't. A man as ruthless and violent as Hitler, Leopold still to this day has managed to maintain a reputation as a great humanitarian and friend to the native populations of the Congo. And yet, his actions also spurred the first great human rights campaign of the 20th century, bolstered for the first time in human history by advances in technology such as the telegraph and the photograph. It's a mind-blowing look at a brilliant monster and his equally brilliant adversaries. Adam Hochschild has created a well-researched book; his occasional penchant for melodramatic chapter endings can be forgiven, as the book is entirely engrossing. He also makes sure to leave the reader with a realistic view of what was accomplished and what was not. Despite the incredible international efforts to take down Leopold's terrible regime, the peoples of the Congo continued to be exploited well past World War II. Belgium to this day has made a concerted effort to wipe this period of their history out of the history books, to the point where there was a huge backlash against this book when it was published. Even after the territory finally won itself independence from Belgian rule, a number of Western powers conspired to assassinate the first democratically elected leader of the country in favor of a brutal dictator who would be more willing to allow Europe and the U.S. to continue exploiting the economic opportunities within the country. Mobutu finally fell in the early 2000s after 40 years of rule, but left behind a country that has still not been able to pull itself up.
This book shows, with horrible clarity, the destruction and terror caused by colonialism. And while it also shows us the inspiring strength of people willing to fight against those powers, it's clear that there is still far too much work needed to heal the wounds left behind. I can't recommend it highly enough....more
A very interesting review of the Platagenet kings (and, to a MUCH lesser extent, queens) who ruled England for over 200 years and transformed it intoA very interesting review of the Platagenet kings (and, to a MUCH lesser extent, queens) who ruled England for over 200 years and transformed it into a global power and player. My knowledge of English royal dynasties generally begins with the Tudors, so it was fascinating to go further back and see the formation of some of the most enduring institutions–and enduring mythologies–from the British Isles. Occasionally the book veers into florid descriptions of what "must have been" felt or occurring; but largely this is a well-written and accessible history....more
I got this book over 6 years ago after hearing about on NPR, and I'm quite sad that I only just got around to reading it. Cokie Roberts provides an inI got this book over 6 years ago after hearing about on NPR, and I'm quite sad that I only just got around to reading it. Cokie Roberts provides an in-depth and engaging view of the influential women of the early United States: First Wives, philanthropists, business women, abolitionists, and more. The women of the day were letter writers just as prolific as the men, which is a blessing. Roberts makes good use of all of that primary source material to weave together the stories of women from the presidency of John Adams to the election of his son, John Quincy. Going through this definitely rekindled my desire to get my hands on the letters themselves, as they are clearly treasure troves of interesting information. I would highly recommend reading this book....more
I finally finished The Most Human Human, and I could not be prouder to know the author. This book is a beautiful mixture of biography, philosophy, comI finally finished The Most Human Human, and I could not be prouder to know the author. This book is a beautiful mixture of biography, philosophy, computer science, and humor, as Brian tries to tease out how our humanity has been impacted by computers, and how it could potentially be strengthened. I can't recommend it enough....more
I saw the cover and immediately snapped this up from the bargain books section. Filled with fun tidbits about ships and weapons, small biographies ofI saw the cover and immediately snapped this up from the bargain books section. Filled with fun tidbits about ships and weapons, small biographies of historical pirates, and copies of articles of piracy/privateering, this was quite fun to read. A pop-up book for adults!...more
This book... I can't say enough about it. Eloquently written, exquisitely researched, Michael Pollan brings humor and insight to a topic that I have hThis book... I can't say enough about it. Eloquently written, exquisitely researched, Michael Pollan brings humor and insight to a topic that I have honestly never given much thought to before. Living in a first world country, I have been fortunate enough to avoid one of the most primal difficulties of life: the struggle to find food. However, his description of the concept of a "national eating disorder" rings very true to me, having had the experience of almost 30 years in a country full of diet fads and nutritional pyramids and agonizing rates of both obesity and eating disorders squared off against the experience of living in a country that doesn't give a damn about the food pyramid and yet allowed me somehow to lose 10 pounds with no effort. Regardless of whether or not you have ever been interested in the politics and policies behind your food, I would recommend this book....more
Prose and poetry teeter on the edge of one another in this ode to the joys and frailties of life in the wilds of the Dakotas. Though there were momentProse and poetry teeter on the edge of one another in this ode to the joys and frailties of life in the wilds of the Dakotas. Though there were moments when Ms. Norris verged on repetition, the book drew strength from a clarity of purpose and spirit that drew me in. Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, I believe that every reader can find the beauty and the truth in the silence of the plains....more
A book filled with delicious recipes, that simultaneously caters to my deep-seated love of (almost) all things Star Trek? How could I go wrong here?
(AA book filled with delicious recipes, that simultaneously caters to my deep-seated love of (almost) all things Star Trek? How could I go wrong here?
(As a delightfully nerdy aside, for the first birthday I had while we were together, my boyfriend made me a birthday dinner of recipes taken exclusively from this book. Counselor Troi's chocolate raspberry cake was shaped like the eponymous pastry from the game Portal) ...more