Goodyear’s exploration of this engrossing and morally complex topic provides a solid footing for hearty conversations.

READ REVIEW

ANYTHING THAT MOVES

RENEGADE CHEFS, FEARLESS EATERS, AND THE MAKING OF A NEW AMERICAN FOOD CULTURE

Venturing deep into the underground foodie culture, New Yorker contributor Goodyear (The Oracle of Hollywood Boulevard: Poems, 2013, etc.) plunges into the world of dedicated individuals who routinely skirt the boundaries imposed by common culinary practices and tastes.

The author is no stranger to ingesting foods many would forego. During a stint in China, she ate chicken feet and consumed a seven-course meal of dog meat. When Goodyear began hanging out with extreme foodies, the type of characters who consider insects, frog fallopian tubes and horsemeat as fair game for dinner, her food boundaries expanded. A dish composed of “slippery jellyfish in sesame-oil vinaigrette, and a raw oyster, poached quail egg, and crab guts, meant to be slurped together in one viscous spoonful” provided the author with an example of the “quiver on quiver on quiver” characterizing the “convergence of the disgusting and the sublime typical of so much foodie food.” Goodyear skillfully stitches together the philosophical, psychological and legal underpinnings of this emerging movement with the stories of those consumers who seek out the sometimes-bizarre foods. She explores bits of culinary history, how culture plays a role in what’s acceptable to eat and the ethical lines some individuals won’t cross when it comes to exotic eating. The author visited underground pop-up restaurants, which combine “the raucous dinner with random tablemates, and the self-conscious staging of an elevated social interaction,” and she spent time with the chefs who routinely traverse the outer limits of America’s new food landscape. One chef, irate at the amount of waste in the meat industry, believes meat eating mustn’t be easy but should force people to confront their food choices. Chris Cosentino, a well-known chef among adventurous eaters, “started serving the parts Americans no longer wanted to eat: spleens and blood and sperm; lungs, lips and livers.”

Goodyear’s exploration of this engrossing and morally complex topic provides a solid footing for hearty conversations.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59448-837-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Ackerman writes with a light but assured touch, her prose rich in fact but economical in delivering it. Fans of birds in all...

THE GENIUS OF BIRDS

Science writer Ackerman (Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold, 2010, etc.) looks at the new science surrounding avian intelligence.

The takeaway: calling someone a birdbrain is a compliment. And in any event, as Ackerman observes early on, “intelligence is a slippery concept, even in our own species, tricky to define and tricky to measure.” Is a bird that uses a rock to break open a clamshell the mental equivalent of a tool-using primate? Perhaps that’s the wrong question, for birds are so unlike humans that “it’s difficult for us to fully appreciate their mental capabilities,” given that they’re really just small, feathered dinosaurs who inhabit a wholly different world from our once-arboreal and now terrestrial one. Crows and other corvids have gotten all the good publicity related to bird intelligence in recent years, but Ackerman, who does allow that some birds are brighter than others, points favorably to the much-despised pigeon as an animal that “can remember hundreds of different objects for long periods of time, discriminate between different painting styles, and figure out where it’s going, even when displaced from familiar territory by hundreds of miles.” Not bad for a critter best known for bespattering statues in public parks. Ackerman travels far afield to places such as Barbados and New Caledonia to study such matters as memory, communication, and decision-making, the last largely based on visual cues—though, as she notes, birds also draw ably on other senses, including smell, which in turn opens up insight onto “a weird evolutionary paradox that scientists have puzzled over for more than a decade”—a matter of the geometry of, yes, the bird brain.

Ackerman writes with a light but assured touch, her prose rich in fact but economical in delivering it. Fans of birds in all their diversity will want to read this one.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59420-521-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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