Will appeal to neophyte beer drinkers and foodies generally.




Informative overview of the economic and cultural transformations surrounding the world of beer.

Craft Beer and Brewing magazine senior editor Holl (The American Craft Beer Cookbook, 2013, etc.) is a passionate advocate for beer as both libation and lifestyle. He feels fortunate to have built a career as a beer judge and critic, and he argues that beer remains misunderstood despite its acknowledged popularity. The author shows how this popularity developed over the last few decades thanks to iconoclasts like New Albion Brewing’s Jack McAuliffe, who resurrected knowledge lost during Prohibition. As he writes, “a brewing culture exists in America today that not only creates and supports local drinking communities but has launched a global phenomenon.” Holl first captures this as narrative: During the 1980s and ’90s, the “microbrew” and “craft” categories blossomed despite push back from corporate-controlled brewers like Budweiser and initially skeptical food-scene chroniclers. Such controversies have persisted. “It’s easy,” writes the author, “to criticize the ‘big guys’ and the ‘traitors’ that are no longer ‘craft’ or ‘independent.’" Still, it’s undeniable that the breadth and quality of American brewing today constitutes a renaissance. Holl writes enthusiastically about such facets of beer appreciation as the science behind the sensory experience of beer and its core ingredients (yeast, water, malt, and hops) and the varied methodologies employed by brewers to resurrect neglected forms and try radical new taste combinations. He writes perceptively about current trends, noting that such marketplace competitiveness has an unsettling side: “Chemical flavoring is having a big impact in beer these days.” He also addresses the social aspects of enjoying beer, including the benefits of pub culture versus drinking at home, and some persistent issues regarding diversity and retrograde imagery in marketing; he notes his own editorial pleas for inclusiveness resulted in abuse from thin-skinned trolls online. The book is clearly written and only occasionally pedantic; this is leavened by good observations and nuggets of obscure brewing information.

Will appeal to neophyte beer drinkers and foodies generally.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-465-09551-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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...


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...


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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