An articulate yet debatable and uneven survey of the endlessly beguiling female form.

CURVOLOGY

THE ORIGINS AND POWER OF FEMALE BODY SHAPE

The biology, culture, and vanities perennially orbiting the female body.

Motivated by specific behavioral and cultural observations, British zoologist and veterinary surgeon Bainbridge (Clinical Veterinary Anatomy/Cambridge Univ.; Middle Age: A Natural History, 2012) shares insightful musings on the nature and genesis of female physical dissatisfaction. He divides his exploration into three sections (The Body, The Mind, The World), each supporting different aspects of an argument stating that while the female body is unique, important, and precious, it is also guided and goaded by influential cultural and societal scrutiny. Flush with fascinating statistical data, the book’s introductory chapters spotlight the author’s animal biology background. In mapping human anatomy, Bainbridge examines the sexual dimorphisms of male and female torsos and the anthropological origins and evolutionary heritage of a woman’s curvaceous adipose tissue. Men emerge as key figures in determining what constitutes superficial attractiveness in the opposite sex, and they often contribute to an unmanageable fixation on body image for many women. Less effective and redundant is a section explaining the nature of appetite and size between the sexes and of the historic female “control systems” that make dieting willpower so elusive. Bainbridge focuses too heavily on the evolutionary theories of eating disorders and the “cult of thinness” rather than validating contemporary beliefs related to the complex mechanics of the human brain or to modern society and culture, which, to him, seem “disturbing.” Ultimately, the author concedes that regardless of clinical and social attempts to counter the trend and where exactly blame should be placed for perpetuating pathological female self-surveillance, women’s obsessions with their bodies will endure, even as they are “continually told that it is becoming too large, too small, too exploited.”

An articulate yet debatable and uneven survey of the endlessly beguiling female form.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4683-1202-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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