Toensmeier, Eric with Jonathan Bates. Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City. Chelsea Green. 2013. 240p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781603583992. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603584005. GARDENING
Part handbook, part memoir, this book details the evolution of a permaculture garden on an urban lot in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Having spent years describing permaculture gardens in a theoretical manner, Toensmeier (Perennial Vegetables) and his friend Bates (owner, Food Forest Farm Permaculture Nursery) put these theories into practice when they bought and moved into a duplex situated on a 1/10 acre rundown lot. Nearly a decade later, the lot is unrecognizable—a tropical paradise in the front and a wealth of more than 200 edible plants in the back. Toensmeier clearly explains the processes—needless to say, nothing changed overnight—that achieved this near-miracle. VERDICT The authors’ prose pulls the reader into their lives, sparking a desire to see the result and try this kind of gardening. The appendixes are filled with useful information for readers who may be intrigued enough to create their own paradise. All readers interested in urban renewal or environmental issues will welcome this book.—Keri Youngstrand, Dickinson State Univ. Lib., ND
de Waal, Frans. The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates. Norton. 2013. 304p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393073775. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393089196. SCI
De Waal (psychology, Emory Univ.; director, Living Links Ctr., Yerkes Primate Ctr.; The Age of Empathy) is known for his work on moral behavior in chimpanzees and bonobos. Here he explains that unlike their aggressive cousins, chimpanzees, bonobos avoid aggression when possible, employing mutual grooming and sex play instead to ease social tension. Both chimps and bonobos help others, even without hope of gain. This is evidence, de Waal argues, that morality isn’t rooted in top-down reasoning or rules but in bottom-up “gut” behavior. From these observations, de Waal segues to an intriguing but less convincing argument against dogmatic atheism (e.g., as defined by Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchins). That atheism, de Waal argues, leaves us nothing to hold on to, but we need something. VERDICT This intriguing book is a hybrid: half science, half personal speculation. Given the persistent view that all animals, even human ones, are motivated solely by self-interest (what de Waal calls “veneer theory,” i.e., moral outside, amoral inside), this is a book worth reading. It’s also exceptionally well written. It should appeal to the lay reader who enjoys keeping up with today’s scientific discussions.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Moss, Michael. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Random House. 2013. 446p. bibliog. index. 9781400069804. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780679604778. HEALTH
Reporter Moss, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times investigation of the dangers of contaminated meat, offers a thorough account of the processed-food industry’s extensive efforts to dominate the American diet and increase consumption of its products, despite health concerns. He explains that in the 1940s, convenience foods were a novel idea, but their quick success led to an ongoing race among companies to outsell their competitors. Moss traces the development of some of the most famous products and the companies that developed them, including General Foods, Kellogg, Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Nestle. The text states that since its inception, the food industry has spent millions of dollars researching brain chemistry, “bliss points,” and marketing techniques. Focusing on sugar, fat, and salt, the three pillars of processed foods, Moss illustrates how these ingredients have been calculated and engineered to create foods that consumers crave. VERDICT Through exhaustive research and insider information, Moss achieves his goal of shining a light on the insidious tactics of the food industry. Readers of food lit and exposés will not want to miss this one.—Melissa Stoeger, Deerfield P.L., IL
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The following titles are reviewed in the April 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
Adams, Denise Wiles & Laura L.S. Burchfield. American Home Landscapes: A Design Guide to Creating Period Garden Styles. Timber. May 2013. 304p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781604690408. $39.95. GARDENING
Maguire, Kay. Grow Your Own in Pots: With 30 Step-By-Step Projects Using Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs.Mitchell Beazley: Octopus, dist. by Hachette. 2013. 176p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781845337179. pap. $14.99. Gardening
Sitwell, William. A History of Food in 100 Recipes. Little, Brown. Jun. 2013. 360p. ISBN 9780316229975. $35; pap.ISBN 9780316255707. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316255707. COOKING
HEALTH & MEDICINE
Benson, Robert. Moving Miss Peggy: A Story of Dementia, Courage and Consolation. Abingdon. May 2013. 161p. ISBN 9781426749575. pap. $15.99. HEALTH
Brown, Richard P. & Patricia L. Gerbarg. The Healing Power of the Breath: Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enhance Concentration, and Balance Your Emotions. Shambhala. 2012. 240p. index. ISBN 9781590309025. pap. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9780834827912. HEALTH
Carney, Colleen E. & Rachel Manber. Goodnight Mind: Turn Off Your Noisy Thoughts and Get a Good Night’s Sleep. New Harbinger. Jun. 2013. 192p. ISBN 9781608826186. pap. $16.95. HEALTH
O’Hara, Jen. Determined To Matter. Scarletta. Jun. 2013. 336p. photogs. ISBN 9781938063220. $24.95; ISBN 9781938063206. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781938063213. HEALTH
Aldersey-Williams, Hugh. Anatomies: A Cultural History of the Human Body. Norton. Jun. 2013. 320p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393239881. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393240474. SCI
Berlinski, David. The King of Infinite Space: Euclid and His Elements. Basic Bks: Perseus. 2013. 176p. illus. index. ISBN 9780465014811. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780465033461. MATH
Burke, Janine. Nest: The Art of Birds. Allen & Unwin. Jun. 2013. 184p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781742378299. NAT HIST
Fagan, Brian. The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels. Bloomsbury: dist. by Macmillan. Jun. 2013. 320p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781608196920. $30. SCI
The New York Times Book of Mathematics: More Than 100 Years of Writing by the Numbers. Sterling. Apr. 2013. 496p. ed. by Gina Kolata. illus. index. ISBN 9781402793226. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781402793288.MATH
Scerri, Eric. A Tale of Seven Elements. Oxford Univ. Jun. 2013. 304p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780195391312. $19.95. SCI