Science and Jewish History, Everything To Know About Making Bread, Evolutionary Biology, & More | Science & Technology Reviews

redstarEfron, Noah J. A Chosen Calling: Jews in Science in the Twentieth Century. Johns Hopkins. 2014. 168p. notes. ISBN 9781421413815. $26.95. SCI

A Chosen CallingEfron (history, philosophy, Bar-Ilan Univ., Israel) discusses the profound influence of Jews on 20th-century science. Engaging, lucidly written, and well-­researched, this book explores some of the factors (history, geography, culture and religion) that have inspired members of the Jewish community in Russia, Israel, and the United States to pursue careers in science, resulting in remarkable accomplishments. The author focuses on the relationship between science and social standing, describing how many indi­viduals pursued scientific careers in order to escape persecution and refashion social norms. He contends that science-related fields were pursued in all three countries as a means to transcend socioeconomic barriers—in the sense that everyone is equal since the emphasis is on results—and create “patriotic pride.” Efron packs much fascinating information into this relatively thin volume, including superb annotated footnotes. ­VERDICT An excellent book recommended for most libraries, especially those with strong holdings in science and Jewish history.—Donald ­Altschiller, Boston Univ. Lib.

redstarFromartz, Samuel. In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey. Viking. Sept. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780670025619. $26.95. COOKING

theperfectloaf072414Fromartz (Organic, Inc.) might push the boundaries of what it means to be an amateur baker. The author was, after all, asked by chef Alice Waters to bake the bread for a charity dinner she gave in Washington, DC, after winning a local contest against professional bakers. He’s a bread obsessive, and his exhaustive knowledge of the craft, history, and culture of bread making is on display here. This impressive work falls somewhere between a cookbook, an exploration of bread-baking techniques, and a history of bread. It’s thoroughly researched and engagingly written, and his dedication is inspiring. He uses careful description to impart to the reader something of a craft that can truly only be learned through practice. In addition to writing about his own experience, Fromartz has interviewed (and baked with) some of the biggest names in the bread business, including Chad Robertson of Tartine and bread historian Steven Kaplan. Even those who think they know bread will find something to gain here. VERDICT Highly recommended for those interested in food history, the evolution of artisan baking, and learning to make the perfect loaf at home.—Laura Krier, Sonoma State Univ., Rohnert Park, CA

Taylor, Paul D. & Aaron O’Dea. A History of Life in 100 Fossils. Smithsonian. Oct. 2014. 224p. photos. ISBN 9781588344823. pap. $34.95. NAT HIST

History of Life in 100 FossilsAs intriguing remnants of the geologic past, every fossil tells a story about the evolution of life on Earth. Paleontologist Taylor (Natural History Museum, London) and paleobiologist O’Dea (Smithsonian Tropical Research Inst., Panama) have assembled information on 100 fossils that showcases the enormous diversity of life forms that have come and gone since life began in the seas 3.5 billion years ago. For each fossil there is a photograph accompanied by a lively single-page essay describing the organism’s anatomical features, diet, lifestyle, taxonomic classification, and evolutionary significance. With only ten fossil plants included, the collection is heavily weighted toward animal species. Although the photographs are of high quality, labeling of each fossil’s prominent features would have been helpful for understanding the configuration of less familiar species; a scale of measurement would have been handy as well. VERDICT From single-celled foraminifera to gigantic steppe mammoths, this volume presents a sweeping panorama of ancient life and is recommended for nonspecialists interested in paleontology or evolutionary biology. A solid companion to Donald Prothero’s Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters.—­Cynthia Lee Knight, formerly with Hunterdon Cty. Lib., Flemington, NJ

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Nelson, Mark. The Wastewater Gardener: Preserving the Planet One Flush at a Time. Synergetic. 2014. 232p. illus. index. ISBN 9780907791522. $34.95; pap. ISBN 9780907791515. $23.95. GARDENING

Health & Medicine

Cushman, Anne. Moving into Meditation: A 12-Week Mindfulness Program for Yoga Practitioners. Shambhala. Jul. 2014. 240p. illus. index. ISBN 9781611800982. $19.95. HEALTH

Ford, Gina with Charlotte Chaliha. The Contented Pregnancy: Essential Advice from Conception to Birth. Vermillion. 2014. 344p. index. ISBN 9780091947767. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781448118472. HEALTH

Swanson, Kara W. Banking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk, and Sperm in Modern America. Harvard Univ. 2014. 334p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780674281431. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780674369498. MED

Home Economics

Kurlansky, Mark & Talia Kurlansky. International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World. Bloomsbury. Aug. 2014. 400p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781620400272. $29; ebk. ISBN 9781620400555. COOKING

Lipp, Kathi. I Need Some Help Here! Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. Revell. 2014. 176p. notes. ISBN 9780800720780. pap. $12.99. Child Rearing

Matthews, Dona & Joanne Foster. Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids. Anansi. Aug. 2014. 304p. notes. index. ISBN 9781770894778. pap. $19.95. CHILD REARING


Bamberger, Michelle & Robert Oswald. The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food. Beacon. Aug. 2014. 256p. notes. ISBN 9780807084939. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780807084946. SCI

Casarett, David. Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead. Current. Aug. 2014. 304p. notes. ISBN 9781591846710. $27.95. SCI

Eig, Jonathan. The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution. Norton. Oct. 2014. 416p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780393073720. $27.95. SCI

Floridi, Luciano. The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere Is Reshaping Human Reality. Oxford Univ. Sept. 2014. 256p. illus. ISBN 9780199606726. $27.95. SCI

Largo, Michael. The Big, Bad Book of Botany: The World’s Most Fascinating Flora. HarperCollins. Aug. 2014. 416p. illus. ISBN 9780062282750. pap. $18.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062282767. SCI

Reimer, David. Count Like an Egyptian: A Hands-on Introduction to Ancient Mathematics. Princeton Univ. 2014. 272p. illus. ISBN 9780691160122. $29.95. MATH

Shaw, Scott Richard. Planet of the Bugs: Evolution and the Rise of Insects. Univ. of Chicago. Sept. 2014. 256p. photos. ISBN 9780226163611. $27.50; ebk. ISBN 9780226163758. SCI

Smith, Gary. StandardDeviations: Flawed Assumptions, Tortured Data, and Other Ways To Lie with Statistics. Overlook. Jul. 2014. 336p. illus. index. ISBN 9781468309201. $28.95. MATH

Wagner, Andreas. Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution’s Greatest Puzzle. Current. Oct. 2014. 304p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781591846468. $27.95. SCI

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