LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Science & Technology Reviews, May 15, 2012

Hoffman, John & Judith A. Salerno, M.D., with Alexandra Moss. The Weight of the Nation: Surprising Lessons About Diets, Food, and Fat from the Extraordinary Series from HBO Documentary Films. St. Martin’s. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9781250014733. $25.99. HEALTH

A companion to the HBO documentary of the same title, this comprehensive book looks at all the reasons the United States struggles with the problem of obesity and what the nation can do about it. There’s no hysterical hype here‚ just plain facts presented clearly and honestly. Hoffman (executive producer, The Weight of the Nation) and Salerno (Leonard D. Schaeffer Executive Officer, Inst. of Medicine, National Acad. of Sciences) argue that there’s no secret to weight loss: eat less and exercise more. They also admit it’s more complicated than that: humans evolved in an environment marked by occasional starvation, not in one where there’s an unhealthy snack waiting around every corner. They examine how many communities have no access to full-service supermarkets that sell fresh foods and, as the food people eat is more and more processed, how few know exactly what they consume. VERDICT Not just for dieters, this book is an essential title for anyone interested in health. Highly recommended.‚ Susan B. Hagloch, formerly with Tuscarawas Cty. P. L., New Philadelphia, OH

McNamee, Thomas. The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat: Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance. Free Pr: S. & S. May 2012. c.352p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781439191507. $27. COOKING

Craig Claiborne became the food editor of the New York Times in 1957. When his first major article criticized the state of New York City restaurants, the readership was stunned; at that time, articles about food and restaurants were always polite. But Claiborne was determined to teach America about good eating, and he went on to become one of the most influential voices on American food. McNamee (Alice Waters and Chez Panisse) provides an intimate look at Claiborne’s life, from his childhood in Mississippi through his distinguished career. Despite his glamorous profession, Claiborne’s private life was often troubled: his strained relationship with his mother haunted him for years; he ate and drank in excess and to the detriment of his health; he had trouble handling his finances; and in his later years, his erratic personality distanced him from many of his friends. VERDICT Fans of culinary biographies will appreciate McNamee’s extensive research and the intimate level of detail, as well as the inside scoop on the New York City food scene.‚ Melissa Stoeger, Deerfield P.L., IL

Rutkow, Eric. American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation. Scribner. 2012. c.416p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781439193549. $29. NAT HIST

Environmental lawyer and American history doctoral student Rutkow embarks on a journey spanning 400 years to reintroduce Americans to the importance of trees and end the too-common practice of taking trees for granted. In this thoroughly researched book, he demonstrates that the foundation, exploration, and expansion of the United States were not based solely on the deeds of humans. Rutkow argues, instead, that the endeavors of early Americans could not have been successful without this particular natural resource. Far from a dry read, this book’s prose and tone will immediately draw readers into the story of the remarkable aid trees gave not only to past Colonists and settlers but also to present-day industries. <VERDICT Rutkow tells stories both poignant (e.g., the destruction of the world’s oldest tree) and inspiring (e.g., the formation of national parks to protect forested areas) and presents the facts of this history in an easy-to-absorb and clear manner. An excellent book for both academics and general readers, this is highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 10/21/11.]‚ Kyrille Goldbeck-DeBose, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg

The following titles are reviewed in the May 15 print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.


Bloch-Dano, Evelyne. Vegetables: A Biography. Univ. of Chicago. 2012. c.128p. tr. from French by Teresa Lavender Fagan. bibliog. ISBN 9780226059945. $20. AGRI

Health & Medicine

Hoffman, John & Judith A. Salerno, M.D., with Alexandra Moss. The Weight of the Nation: Surprising Lessons About Diets, Food, and Fat from the Extraordinary Series from HBO Documentary Films. St. Martin‘s. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9781250014733. $25.99. HEALTH

Roenneberg, Till. Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired. Harvard Univ.2012. c.276p. illus. index. ISBN 9780674065857. $26.95. HEALTH

Home Economics

Kurlansky, Mark. Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man. Doubleday. May 2012. c.272p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780385527057. $25.95. COOKING

Prescott, John. Taste Matters: Why We Like the Foods We Do. Reaktion, dist. by Univ. of Chicago. May 2012. c.208p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781861899149. $30. COOKING


Krause, Bernie. The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places. Little, Brown. 2012. c.288p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780316086875. $26.99. SCI

McGuire, Bill. Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes. Oxford Univ. 2012. c.320p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199592265. $29.95. SCI