Bellos, Alex. The Grapes of Math: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life. S. & S. Jun. 2014. 336p. illus. ISBN 9781451640090. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451640120. MATH
Much to the detriment of most students, school mathematics courses are mainly devoted to drilling the necessary arithmetic and algebraic skills needed in later coursework and in scientific and economic applications. As a result, many compelling and occasionally astonishing mathematical results are simply not seen and nonmathematicians cannot understand the fascination of the subject. In this well-written and entertaining book, Guardian math blogger Bellos tries to fill that void by exposing the reader to a selection of such topics. A solid example is seen in the sections on the properties of geometric figures. About 60 years ago, analytic geometry was subsumed into standard calculus courses and much of the material in chapters three, four, five, and eight largely disappeared from the standard curriculum. As later chapters get into trigonometry, exponentials, and the polar representation of complex numbers, some of the material can be tough sledding. On the other hand, the final section on the “game of life” and related topics requires no mathematical tools other than a willingness to think. VERDICT An excellent book on what could be called “mathematics appreciation.” Particularly recommended to curious adults and to any student starting out in secondary school mathematics.
Blaser, Martin J. Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues. Holt. 2014. 288p. notes. ISBN 9780805098105. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780805098112. MED
Considering our current obsession with antibacterial hand sanitizers and other cleanliness rituals, most people probably do not realize—or, frankly, want to know—that 90 percent of a human’s cells are actually bacteria. That fact poses questions that challenge basic assumptions: Does that mean we are coexisting with these microbes? But aren’t bacteria the enemy? Infectious disease specialist Blaser, who directs the Human Microbiome Program at New York University and founded the Bellevue Literary Review, has spent a lifetime studying bacteria and antibiotics and drawn some mind-bending conclusions—namely, that antibiotics may be increasing chronic health problems such as obesity, asthma, autism, and cancer. He takes the reader through the discovery of antibiotics, which have indeed saved millions of lives, and describes the unforeseen consequences of their overuse. He also describes a parallel line of scientific research delving into “good” bacteria and the complicated relationship between these life-forms and human health. VERDICT Blaser explains even the most complicated scientific and medical concepts with straightforward clarity. Most important, he makes a case for why readers, whatever their background, absolutely need to care about society’s overuse and misuse of antibiotics. [See Prepub Alert, 10/21/13.]
Mittal, Vidhu (text) & Sanjay Ramchandran (photos). Pure & Special: Gourmet Indian Vegetarian Cuisine. Interlink. 2014. 224p. index. ISBN 9781566569590. $30. COOKING
Mittal (Pure & Simple: Homemade Indian Vegetarian Cuisine) successfully follows up her first cookbook with this title. Most recipes feature a flavor profile from her home state of Uttar Pradesh, but Mittal gives a nod to other regional cuisines by including Punjabi, Gujarati, and South Indian dishes as well. She takes a healthy approach by utilizing whole and fresh ingredients including vegetables, such as broccoli, that are not widely used in Indian cooking. Main dishes are built around koftas (dumplings), paneer (fresh curd cheese), dal (lentils), potatoes, or hearty produce such as cauliflower and jackfruit. While many of the dishes are more complex than what most cooks would want to attempt on a weeknight, some will be simple to prepare, and inspiration abounds. The book includes a helpful glossary and visual guide for spices, vegetables, and legumes. VERDICT The minimalist aesthetic and photographs will appeal to a wide audience, and readers familiar with Indian cuisine will appreciate the diversity of dishes represented. Mittal’s helpful visual instructions, chapter devoted to cooking techniques, and tips will have home cooks making paneer and spice blends with confidence.
Shugart, H.H. Foundations of the Earth: Global Ecological Change and the Book of Job. Columbia Univ. Jul. 2014. 384p. illus. notes. ISBN 9780231169080. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780231537698. SCI
In the biblical Book of Job, God confronts Job from a whirlwind with a host of questions about the nature of creation and its incomprehensible mysteries. God’s purpose is to put Job in his place: Who is Job to question God? But in this engaging and illuminating primer on environmental science, world ecosystems scholar Shugart (environmental sciences, Univ. of Virginia; How the Earthquake Bird Got Its Name and Other Tales of an Unbalanced Nature) demonstrates that science knows quite a lot about the questions God asked Job—questions pertaining to the birth of the universe, the taming of wild beasts, the course of the stars and heavenly bodies, the bounds of the seas, the powers of the winds, the dynamics of seasons and weather, and more. Using Job 38 as a framing device, Shugart brings readers face-to-face with the environmental consequences of human interference in nature and lightly touches on prospects for mitigating the damage we have caused. VERDICT Drawing from astronomy, botany, zoology, meteorology, and ecology, the author deftly introduces general readers to the present state of knowledge while making a case for informed scientific and ethical engagement with a changing climate.
Days of Detox
Cook, Michelle Schoffro. Weekend Wonder Detox: Quick Cleanses To Strengthen Your Body and Enhance Your Beauty. Da Capo: Perseus. 2014. 256p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780738217369. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738217376. HEALTH
Cook, who has written a number of other health and wellness titles, here presents six detoxification programs, each aimed at a particular organ (e.g., kidneys, liver, colon), to rid the body of toxins from unhealthy food and drink. As with so many other contemporary plans, this one emphasizes fresh, unprocessed foods, and also whole grains and excludes anything that has been genetically modified. Each plan contains particular foods, supplements, exercises, and acupressure techniques to facilitate the cleansing process. With the exception of the colon cleanse, none of them seem likely to be uncomfortable, or to keep the user at home for the duration. Overall, the advice is sound, though some of the author’s documentation is shaky. In addition to sources such as the National Library of Medicine, she cites articles in popular women’s magazines, which may or may not be reliable. The programs are fairly complicated and will not appeal to the average reader of weight-loss titles. VERDICT Worthwhile, but only for a relatively small group of readers. This will appeal to the really dedicated self-help crowd.
Costello, Melissa. The Clean in 14 Detox: The 2-Week Plan To Melt Fat, Kick Cravings, and Increase Your Natural Energy. Health Communications. 2014. 288p. illus. ISBN 9780757317842. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9780757317859. HEALTH
Costello (Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook) outlines a diet program designed to “break years of bad habits” and teach the reader to eat for health. The first half of the book consists of a two-week food plan combined with reflective exercises and journaling. The best feature of the book is the recipe section, which comprises the second half; most are easily prepared, and each is accompanied by a mouth-watering photo of the finished product. The focus of the book is food; there is very little discussion of physical exercise other than a recommendation in the second chapter to do it. The diet itself is vegan and could be difficult to follow for those in areas where fresh fruits and vegetables are not readily available. The reader is expected to give up coffee, alcohol, soda, artificial sweeteners, white sugar, and processed foods within the week prior to beginning the diet. Costello acts as a cheerleader throughout (“You’re so cool!” “Put yourself in the game 110 percent!”) and uses pop psychology as motivation. VERDICT Of interest to those who need a structured jump-start for healthy eating habits and those who are looking for simple vegan recipes.
Mottl, Pooja. The 3-Day Reset: Restore Your Cravings for Healthy Foods in Three Easy, Empowering Days. Seal: Perseus. 2014. 256p. illus. ISBN 9781580055277. pap. $22; ebk. ISBN 9781580055284. HEALTH
Natural foods chef and Huffington Post blogger Mottl addresses the challenge of making significant changes to your dietary regime by providing targeted chapters for reeducating your body regarding ten key foods and meals: sugar, salt, wheat, chocolate, yogurt, chicken, beverages, breakfast, salad, and takeout. Mottl uses the three-day reset technique as a concentrated time for the reader to become educated about the extent of ingredients such as sugar, salt, and wheat used and the many processed forms they may take in common foods. Recipes are included with each chapter to help the reader use the three days of reset to rediscover or be introduced to new, delicious natural foods that are high in nutrition. Shopping lists also ease the transformation of the “reset” kitchen. VERDICT While only one of a number of books that aims to inform the public about the unhealthy aspects of processed food (consider also Dana Meachen Rau’s Going Organic or Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution), this title may appeal to those who are looking for an introduction to clean eating.
Erlbaum, Jean. Sit with Less Pain: Gentle Yoga for Meditators and Everyone Else. Wisdom. Jun. 2014. 200p. illus. ISBN 9780861716791. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780861716845. HEALTH
Sometimes sitting for a protracted time or even short periods on the floor in the lotus position while meditating can cause some serious pain. This title is a focused resource of yoga poses and stretches that specifically address the areas where sitting pain occurs, such as the upper body, back, legs, and knees. Useful explanations for why you hurt are followed by exercise descriptions and simple but easy-to-interpret drawings of the poses. Additionally, author and senior dharma teacher Erlbaum interprets the mat poses for those who would like to or need to do the stretches from a chair. The book ends with some targeted sequences for specific body pain zones for both mat and chair practice. The only criticism of this thoughtful book is that the drawings are all in black and white, making it less than exciting visually. VERDICT Meditators and yoga enthusiasts are the target audience, but now that sitting is the new smoking, anyone who sits for the better part of their day would find this a helpful read.
Grabau, Melissa. The Yoga of Food: Wellness from the Inside Out. Llewellyn. Jun. 2014. 264p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780738740157. pap. $16.99. HEALTH
Psychologist Grabau has been a yoga practitioner for over ten years. This book is a labor of love, as the author hopes to help women by using her professional education, the knowledge from employing mind-body techniques with her own personal experience of an eating disorder, and clear explanations of pertinent yoga philosophy and principles. Grabau explains that the “yoga of food means uniting the purpose of eating, nourishing the body and soul, with the practice of eating” and that yoga principles will help “to facilitate changes in your patterns of eating and self-care.” The volume also details how mindfulness practice will help the individual cultivate a healthy commitment to nutritional balance and learn to make conscious choices rather than living within years-old habit. There is no expectation of previous yoga knowledge as all sections, including “Clear Seeing,” “Your Physical Body,” “Your Energetic Body,” “Workings of Your Mind,” and “Your Wisdom Body,” are explained in clear language. This is an extremely detailed book, with practical suggestions (e.g., keeping a food journal). VERDICT A welcome addition to any self-help collection, especially one that focuses on mind-body medicine, including mindfulness, yoga, and meditation. In addition, there is a recommended resources section and glossary.
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Hobgood-Oster, Laura. A Dog’s History of the World: Canines and the Domestication of Humans. Baylor Univ. 2014. 200p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781481300193 $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781481302135. PETS
Jabbour, Niki. Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden. Storey. 2014. 272p. illus. index. ISBN 9781612120614. pap. $19.95. GARDENING
McGowan, Alice & Brian McGowan. Saving Container Plants: Overwintering Techniques for Keeping Tender Plants Alive Year After Year. Storey. (Basics). Jul. 2014. 128p. illus. ISBN 9781612123615. pap. $9.95; ebk. ISBN 9781612123622. GARDENING
White, Courtney. Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country. Chelsea Green. Jun. 2014. 272p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781603585453. pap. $19.95. ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
Health & Medicine
Kelly, Abby. The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story. Bettie Youngs. 2014. 196p. ISBN 9781940784175. pap. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9781940784182. HEALTH
Stobbe, Mike. Surgeon General’s Warning: How Politics Crippled the Nation’s Doctor. Univ. of California. Jun. 2014. 376p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780520272293. $34.95; ebk. ISBN 9780520958395. MED
Boswell, Christopher with Elena Goldblatt (text) & Annie Schlechter (photos). Verdure: Vegetable Recipes from the American Academy in Rome; Rome Sustainable Food Project. Little Bookroom. 2014. 256p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781936941032. $22. COOKING
DeWitt, Dave. Precious Cargo: How Foods from the Americas Changed the World. Counterpoint. Jun. 2014. 400p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781619023093. $28. COOKING
Rolls, Jans Ondaatje. The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love, and Art. Thames & Hudson. 2014. 384p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500517307. COOKING
Bray, Hiawatha. You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves. Basic: Perseus. 2014. 304p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780465032853. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780465080984. TECH
Burrows, William E. The Asteroid Threat: Defending Our Planet from Deadly Near-Earth Objects. Prometheus. Jun. 2014. 275p. notes. index. ISBN 9781616149130. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616149147. SCI
Helfman, Gene & George H. Burgess. Sharks: The Animal Answer Guide. Johns Hopkins. 2014. 400p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781421413082. $50; pap. ISBN 9781421413099. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781421413105. NAT HIST
Scherer, Gerhard (text) & Bernard Durin (photos). Beetles and Other Insects. Schirmer/Mosel. 2013. 140p. illus. ISBN 9783829606325. $59.95. NAT HIST
Wade, Nicholas. A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History. Penguin Pr. 2014. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9781594204463. $27.95. SCI