Mathematics Appreciation, Antibiotics & Human Health, A Call for Global Ecological Change, & More | Science & Technology Reviews

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

Grapes of MathMuch 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.—­Harold D. Shane, ­Professor of Mathematics Emeritus, Baruch Coll., CUNY

redstarBlaser, 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

Missing MicrobesConsidering 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.]—Marianne Stowell Bracke, Purdue Univ. Lib., West Lafayette, IN

redstarMittal, Vidhu (text) & Sanjay Ramchandran (photos). Pure & Special: Gourmet Indian Vegetarian Cuisine. Interlink. 2014. 224p. index. ISBN 9781566569590. $30. COOKING

Pure & SpecialMittal (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.—Rukshana Singh, San Mateo P.L., CA

redstarShugart, 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

foundationsoftheearth060514In 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.—Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL

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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

redstarStobbe, 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

Home Economics

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

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