Collection of essays from Tyson's column in Natural History magazine, about physics, astronomy, and the history of science. There's a lot of repetitio...moreCollection of essays from Tyson's column in Natural History magazine, about physics, astronomy, and the history of science. There's a lot of repetition among the essays. The essays vary in the level of knowledge needed to follow them, but most are fairly basic. I learned some stuff though. Toward the end of the book Tyson wanders off into commentary about religion, culture, and politics. I was quite amused by his ranting about the scientific inaccuracies of movies, but I found his comments on religion vs. science were sadly simplistic, even though I share many of his opinions on the subject.
I would have given this book three stars, but I added a star because Dion Graham's narration added tremendously to my enjoyment of the material. It's really impressive to hear a science book being narrated with a wide range of emotion. I read a number of reviews on another site that complained about the narration, but learning about science is exciting for me, and I like it when the narration complements that.(less)
Twelve journalistic essays, all originally published in The New Yorker and its ilk. My favorites are "The Chameleon," about serial imposter Frédéric B...moreTwelve journalistic essays, all originally published in The New Yorker and its ilk. My favorites are "The Chameleon," about serial imposter Frédéric Bourdin, and "City of Water," about the construction of a giant water tunnel under New York City. "Trial by Fire," about a man apparently wrongly executed for arson, was meticulously researched and very disturbing. Other stories feature quirky criminals, obsessed people, psychopaths, and organized crime. (less)
Groopman describes various cases from his practice and those of other doctors, as well as a case in which he was a patient seeking diagnosis and treat...moreGroopman describes various cases from his practice and those of other doctors, as well as a case in which he was a patient seeking diagnosis and treatment. He uses these cases to discuss the thinking errors that cause diagnostic mistakes and oversights, and the ways that the medical system perpetuates diagnostic mistakes once they are made. He is honest and so are the other doctors he interviews. He writes very clearly and some of the stories are really compelling.
I have a lot of experience with doctors that mirrors Groopman's experience. I was especially interested in his discussion of seeking treatment for his chronically painful wrist. I recently sought treatment for a chronic painful knee, and we both found that specialists wanted to treat the problem in a way consistent with their speciality and wanted to diagnose it via surgery rather than less invasive methods.
As another reviewer points out, Groopman doesn't get very deeply into medical bias. He mentions that doctors treat patients they don't like differently, but he doesn't show a lot of insight into the societal reasons (sexism, racism, classism) behind such bias. He suggests that patients should help steer doctors toward broader thinking by asking certain questions ("what else could it be?"), but doesn't mention that many doctors won't listen to certain types of patients.(less)
This collection of essays doesn't hang together as well as Uncommon Carriers. Nelson Runger's narration is too perky.
However, three of the seven essa...moreThis collection of essays doesn't hang together as well as Uncommon Carriers. Nelson Runger's narration is too perky.
However, three of the seven essays are really interesting: "The Gravel Page," about geological forensics; "Burden of Care," about the disposal and recycling of used tires; and "Irons in the Fire," about brand inspectors and cattle rustling.(less)
I have increasing mobility problems and what I particularly got out of this book was an understanding that I am not alone in struggling over whether t...moreI have increasing mobility problems and what I particularly got out of this book was an understanding that I am not alone in struggling over whether to consider myself "disabled" and feeling puzzled about what kinds of accommodations would be best for me.
The author is a doctor who has multiple sclerosis and uses a power wheelchair. The book is thoroughly researched and draws upon many interviews with people from all walks of life who have mobility problems of various kinds. I was especially impressed at how the author balanced hard data with anecdotes to write a book that successfully addresses a wide audience.
The book covers epidemiology (who has mobility problems and why), treatments, treatment programs, social programs, health insurance, various kinds of mobility aids. Iezzoni discusses in depth the systemic failures of the health industry and government and private health insurance in accommodating the needs of people with disabilities and chronic progressive conditions, and how these limitations affect people's lives.
Four stars instead of five because it was published in 2003 and the resource section is somewhat out of date.(less)
Alan Sklar's narration is a little heavy, but adequate.
The first part of this book examines the process of scientific advance through the lens of an 1...moreAlan Sklar's narration is a little heavy, but adequate.
The first part of this book examines the process of scientific advance through the lens of an 1854 cholera outbreak in London. Johnson's research seems thorough and complete, and he does a good job of explaining relevant concepts and facts. From time to time he stirs in a narrative-style story of the outbreak and the two men who were studying it.
He uses this whole to discuss how science advances in fits and starts as new theories compete with old, established ones. I thought this part of the book was fascinating because I see the same process going on today. Johnson also does a good job of describing the role of chance in the story of the outbreak and its solution. (E.g., the solution would not have been found without the intervention both of a medical man trained in anesthesiology and of a clergyman who understood the neighborhood that was affected.)
Another of Johnson's themes is the nature of urban living and urban planning. He describes the patchwork of services, individual laborers, technological advances, and economic realities that made up London's inadequate refuse disposal solution, and explained how understanding the transmission of cholera led to the development of modern sewer systems.
The final third of the book is Johnson's ode to modern cities and human progress. It's not grounded in research the way the historical narrative was. I wasn't very impressed with it and didn't finish it.
In the part I did listen to, there is a lot of "gee whiz" about how the Internet will let you look up your nearest coffee shop and how dense urban living is good for the environment and for population control and for human interaction and progress. I have heard those ideas before and mostly agree with them, and he doesn't present anything new from my point of view, nor does he do a careful job of providing supporting evidence for his arguments.
He also goes on about how squatter cities are really where things are happening these days (apparently drawing on Robert Neuwirth's Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, a New Urban World). I don't know much about this but it seems he glosses over the infrastructure problems (and concomitant pollution problems) such cities have in order to talk about how they are cool because they have multi-story buildings and nightclubs and lots of (*ahem*) economic opportunities.(less)
The "traditional" Japan of the title is the era of the shoguns, and Dunn describes the living conditions and daily life of people in a variety of role...moreThe "traditional" Japan of the title is the era of the shoguns, and Dunn describes the living conditions and daily life of people in a variety of roles, from samurai to monks to merchants to farmers.
I watch a lot of Japanese historical movies, and I had picked up a lot of what this book discusses, but it's nice to have some extra detail and context.
There are illustrations. In this edition, the illustrations are pretty small and it's hard to see detail, but I have seen a larger format edition of this book, which might have better illustrations. The illustrations were created by someone with a European-sounding name and rendered in a "Japanese" style. Some aspects of the illustrations depict stereotypes and thus might feel offensive to some.
This book was written in the 1960s and is aimed at an audience of Westerners who don't know much about Japan. Some of the attitudes are outdated. (less)
Series of short essays about modern methods of food production, manufacture, and distribution, with forays into the science and history of same.
Hartel...moreSeries of short essays about modern methods of food production, manufacture, and distribution, with forays into the science and history of same.
Hartel is a bit more enthusiastic about the safety and benefits of high-volume food processing/production than might be warranted. In one essay he makes what seem to me to be excessive claims about how our food is safer than it ever has been in the past.
He avoids discussing butchering or meat processing and mainly sticks to discussions about the production of candies and snacks, methods for preserving freshness, and so on.
I learned some interesting information, but for me it was only barely worth slogging through the cutesy writing style. (less)
This biography argues that Carême, a French chef in the first half of the 19th century, invented modern haute cuisine. It describes in great detail so...moreThis biography argues that Carême, a French chef in the first half of the 19th century, invented modern haute cuisine. It describes in great detail some of the aristocratic feasts he prepared. Carême kept detailed records and wrote several books; many of his recipes are featured throughout the book. If you want to try them, it will take some translation, since the units of measure he uses are different from modern ones. Also, make sure you have access to a food processor! There are some drawings of his sculptural desserts (he began his career as a patissier), over-the-top buffets, and some of the kitchens he worked in. The book has lots of fascinating details about the conditions in which chefs and cooks worked in that era. (Carême is thought to have died from cumulative exposure to coal fumes.) There's some history scattered through the book because Carême worked for a lot of historical figures of the period, including Talleyrand and Napoleon, but it's not a good source for piecing together a timeline of what went on.(less)
I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author, but it doesn't seem to have an ISBN.
I read this as part of my quest to understand how everything...moreI listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author, but it doesn't seem to have an ISBN.
I read this as part of my quest to understand how everything is connected to everything else, and how it is economically feasible to create very inexpensive products by shipping materials all over the world. It's a set of essays mostly about shipping modalities, but each essay goes at the subject from a different angle (or several angles).
The book doesn't really answer the "how can things be so cheap?" question but it gets me a step closer to the "how everything is connected" part.
My favorite chapters were: "A Fleet of One" and "A Fleet of One - II" about a guy who owns a chemical tanker. "Tight-Assed River" about small boats that push strings of barges ("longer than the Titanic") up and down the Illinois River "Out in the Sort" about the travels of live lobsters sold by a Nova Scotia company, Clearwater Seafoods (which may make you not want to eat lobster at Asian buffets any more) and the sorting facility at the UPS Worldport facility in Louisville, KY "Coal Train" about 19,000 ton coal-laden trains more than a mile long and the Union Pacific engineers, conductors, and dispatchers who get them where they're going (the dispatchers sometimes quit the job and go into air traffic controlling, because it is easier).
There are also chapters about a ship-handling course that uses scale models, and a canoe trip; those are good too but they didn't fascinate me.(less)
I like books about the restaurant business and I'm interested in the sea and the history of commerce and commodities, and I like sushi, so that's why...moreI like books about the restaurant business and I'm interested in the sea and the history of commerce and commodities, and I like sushi, so that's why I grabbed the book off the library's new book shelves. I finished it in two days because it's pretty well written.
It takes you on a meandering tour of the sushi world, focusing on bluefin tuna, from the point of view of restauranteurs, auction houses, fishmongers, tuna ranchers (I certainly didn't know there was any such thing) and more. Each chapter introduces a specific person and describes what that person does in the global market.
I will keep the little Seafood Watch card in my wallet (which says I should avoid bluefin tuna anyway - which is fine because apparently it never comes near my local sushi joints, nor could I afford it if it did). But I will never imagine again that I can know where any fish came from.(less)