Week ending April 18, 2014
Baker, Beth. With a Little Help from Our Friends: Creating Community as We Grow Older. Vanderbilt Univ. Apr. 2014. 264p. notes. index. ISBN 9780826519870. $59.95; pap. ISBN 9780826519887. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780826519894. MED
BioScience features editor Baker exhaustively reviews countless innovative but economic retirement communities for history’s youngest oldsters, the baby boomers. She unveils the pros and cons of a huge variety of often democratically run communities, from suburban cohousing and high-rise cooperative communities to intergenerational “villages.” These communities aim to, among other things, empower oldsters by exchanging their professional expertise for services they need (transportation, computer, plumbing, meals, nursing help, etc.). Some communities grow in place. Programs in Princeton, NJ, grew out of a newsletter by residents who loved the town but felt it didn’t meet aging needs. Ditto Greenbelt, MD, which had a history of innovative co-ops but needed to tweak that to let its satisfied residents stay. Such communities often feature private areas mixed with common spaces and are aimed at using vibrant interconnectedness both to hold down living costs and prop up mental (and physical) health. The takeaway: planning for old age can be life-affirming at any age. The book’s most stunning statistic: in 92 programs, the average participant is 80, with 7.9 medical conditions—half including dementia. Yet 90 percent still live in their own homes.
Verdict The audience for this must-read book is boomers—and everyone else.—Cynthia Fox, Brooklyn
Eskin, Leah. Slices of Life: A Food Writer Cooks Through Many a Conundrum. Running Pr. Apr. 2014. 408p. illus. index. ISBN 9780762452705. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780762453139. COOKING
Eskin collects ten years of columns on food and life written for the Chicago Tribune in this cookbook-cum-memoir. Each of the more than 200 recipes is introduced with a short story in a format that feels like a printed blog. Her essays and recipes strive to balance a conversational tone with poetic candor. Eskin’s topics range from the mundane, such as carpooling, to the devastating, such as cancer, while her recipes sometimes take on paragraph format, rather than rigid steps, which may not suit all readers. None of the recipes have been photographed, so cooks who need a little more visual support will not find any. The book is organized in unrelated chapters that seem to run in chronological order, leaving the index as the only way to find a recipe. The recipes are an eclectic assortment, covering a variety of cuisines, categories, and difficulty levels, with an almond layer cake given in several parts and requiring one of the components to bake for seven hours on one end and a one-sentence mango lassi recipe on the other.
Verdict This title will appeal to a narrow audience of readers who enjoy short, personal, pithy stories and are confident enough in the kitchen not to need much hand-holding.—Rosemarie Lewis, Georgetown Cty. Lib., SC
Harding, Luke. The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man. Vintage. 2014. 352p. index. ISBN 9780804173520. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780804173537. POL SCI
In this engaging title, Harding (Mafia State; coauthor, WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy), a British correspondent for the Guardian, traces the story behind the paper’s publishing of the National Security Agency (NSA) files leaked by Edward Snowden. He begins by examining Snowden’s disillusionment with mass government surveillance as an NSA analyst, which helps to convey the 29-year-old’s views on individual liberty and becoming a whistle-blower. Harding documents Snowden’s attempts to contact Glenn Greenwald (then a Guardian columnist), who would eventually write about the files for the paper. The author’s behind-the-scenes look at the editorial process—Guardian U.S. editor Janine Gibson’s conference calls with U.S. government officials, journalists liaising between the United States, the UK, and Hong Kong, where Greenwald met Snowden, etc.—offers an interesting narrative of not only the leaks but the transatlantic journalism that led to their publication. In his analysis of the documents, Harding manages to convey the staggering scale at which the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters collect data (GCHQ is able to process “the equivalent of sending all the information in the British library 192 times every 24 hours”) without losing the reader in jargon (that amount is “more than 21 petabytes”). However, readers looking for an exclusive with Snowden will be disappointed, as quotes from him are from previous interviews, including the Guardian video in which he identified himself as the source. Latter portions of the book focus on the worldwide implications of the disclosures, and it ends on an open note regarding Snowden’s future and temporary asylum in Russia.
Verdict Harding’s well-researched and compelling book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the backstory and fallout from the NSA revelations. —Amanda Mastrull, Library Journal