Pollan, Michael. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Apr. 2013. 480p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594204210. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101605462. COOKERY
New York Times best-selling author Pollan (The Botany of Desire; The Omnivore’s Dilemma) delivers a thoughtful meditation on cooking that is both difficult to categorize and uniquely, inimitably his. Framing a consideration of food preparation using the classical elements—fire, air, water, earth—this title chronicles the author’s own investigations into barbecue, braising, bread making, and fermentation. Encompassing the wonder of alchemy, the scientific precision of chemistry, the inevitabilities of biology, and the complexities of parsing social and cultural meaning, this work weaves history and science with Pollan’s personal journey in attempting and, in some cases, mastering the techniques. In the introduction he calls the title “a ‘how-to’ book, but of a very particular kind.” It’s more of a “why-to” book about cooking, if there can be such a thing, including a few recipes (more like patterns) and an excellent, thorough list of additional reading. VERDICT Intensely focused yet wide ranging, beautifully written, thought provoking, and, yes, fun, Pollan’s latest is not to be missed by those interested in how, why, or what we cook and eat.—Courtney Greene, Indiana Univ. Lib., Bloomington
Aldrin, Buzz & Leonard David. Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration. National Geographic. May 2013. 320p. index. ISBN 9781426210174. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781426210181. SCI
As the world watched in awe on July 20, 1969, Aldrin (Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon) was the second Apollo astronaut to set foot on the moon. The last survivor of that team, Aldrin, now 83, has published a book with space journalist David that is part memoir and part manifesto. He details his past accomplishments—his life before NASA, his years as an astronaut—and his current passions for further space exploration to Mars and beyond. Of particular interest, Aldrin talks about his trouble adjusting to life after his moon landing. In recent years he has been a strong advocate for a robust space program, as is evident here. VERDICT The author’s human side is revealed as he movingly notes the death of Neil Armstrong with great grief. Readers can only imagine the uniqueness of their shared experiences. Recommended for NASA buffs and anyone interested in the future of space travel.—Judith A. Matthews, Michigan State Univ. Lib., East Lansing
Hoffman, Brian B. Adrenaline. Harvard Univ. Apr. 2013. 294p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780674050884. $24.95.MEDICINE
Hoffman (medicine, Harvard Medical Sch.) has written a study of adrenaline for nonscientists. In doing so he addresses the evolution of medical experimentation and biomedical ethics as well as the history of medicine and science as a whole. The chemical commonly known for its “fight or flight” effects was the first hormone to be identified. The story of its discovery, identification, and purification is intriguing, involving scientific rivalry and questions of the roles of academia and private enterprise in medical breakthroughs. Owing to these political machinations, the Nobel Prize for the discovery of adrenaline was awarded to the wrong person. Hoffman includes a chapter on the adrenaline-mimicking autonomic nervous system and neurotransmitters, and a final chapter on adrenaline in popular culture, where it is often used as “a metaphor of a force that can bring anything back to life.” VERDICT Although the book targets lay readers, it is best suited for those with previous knowledge of human biology or physiology. It will be of definite interest to students of biology, chemistry, and the health sciences, or anyone interested in the history of medicine and medical research.—Rachel Owens, Daytona State Coll. Lib., FL
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The following titles are reviewed in the March 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
Hare, Brian & Vanessa Woods. The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think. Dutton. 2013. 384p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780525953197. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101609637. PETS
HEALTH & MEDICINE
Larsen, Jen. Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head. Seal Pr. Mar. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781580054461. pap. $16. HEALTH
Pfeiffer, Eric. Winning Strategies for Successful Aging. Yale Univ. 2013. 336p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300184020. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780300185416. HEALTH
Rosenberg, Martha. Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health.Prometheus. Apr. 2012. 300p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781616145934. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781616145941. HEALTH
Anthes, Emily. Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts. Scientific American. Mar. 2013. 256p. index. ISBN 9780374158590. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781429949521. SCI
Trimble, Michael. Why Humans Like To Cry: The Evolutionary Origins of Tragedy. Oxford Univ. 2012. 256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199693184. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780191644429. SCI