An idiosyncratic and often engaging look at how meat isn’t cutting it.



Data scientist Sekar imagines a meatless future in this debut work on food technology.

When most people think of technology, they probably don’t think of animals. However, like the wheel, the plow, or the sail, the cultivation of animals for their valuable resources has been one of humankind’s key technological advances. Today, domesticated animals provide people with food, various materials, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals—though not without a cost, and animals happen to be incredibly inefficient tech that doesn’t offer progress: “All indications suggest that the future of food will ultimately be tastier, healthier, cheaper, kinder, and better for the environment,” the author says. “This will happen because we won’t use animal products.” Rather than making an argument based primarily on ethical or health concerns, Sekar walks readers through all the ways that raising animals on an industrial scale is technologically outdated. Advances in biochemical technology, he notes, mean that people can make anything that animals can by using organic compounds found in plants, fungi, and microbes. What’s more, he adds, it can be done in a way that helps to alleviate global problems, such as water and food insecurity, poverty, and climate change. Along the way, Sekar locates this coming “alternative food revolution” within the larger sweep of history, from humanity’s evolution as a species to the beginnings of agricultural society, industrialization, and the current climate crisis. In addition to predicting the many ways that humans will phase out meat in the near future, he offers advice for readers who are looking to become meat-free right now.

Sekar’s book is not a traditional treatise on the evils of meat. His writing style is arrestingly matter-of-fact, as in this passage, in which he asserts how his own views are quite different from those of some other anti-meat thinkers: “Vegans and vegetarians are…more likely to buy something only if it’s organic or all-natural. I dislike this. I’m unfairly lumped in with these groups when I wholly disagree with many of these ideas,” which he then discusses in detail. The author has a background in biochemical engineering and systems biology, and his prose can be fairly technical, though not so much that the layperson won’t be able to follow along. He’s certainly done his research; the endnotes take up 70 pages alone. However, Sekar takes the book in unexpected directions, devoting entire chapters to such ideas as morality and the very nature of knowledge. This is sometimes to the detriment of his overall message, as when he ends with an extended digression on the concept of the multiverse. Even so, the book’s left-brained approach to its subject means that even longtime meat skeptics will learn something new to bolster their argument. The book’s greatest strength is that it places meat consumption not only in an economic and nutritional context, but also in the larger context of human life, presenting a no-meat future as just the latest in a long line of tech upgrades.

An idiosyncratic and often engaging look at how meat isn’t cutting it.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-97737-9

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.


The chef, rapper, and TV host serves up a blustery memoir with lashings of self-help.

“I’ve always had a sick confidence,” writes Bronson, ne Ariyan Arslani. The confidence, he adds, comes from numerous sources: being a New Yorker, and more specifically a New Yorker from Queens; being “short and fucking husky” and still game for a standoff on the basketball court; having strength, stamina, and seemingly no fear. All these things serve him well in the rough-and-tumble youth he describes, all stickball and steroids. Yet another confidence-builder: In the big city, you’ve got to sink or swim. “No one is just accepted—you have to fucking show that you’re able to roll,” he writes. In a narrative steeped in language that would make Lenny Bruce blush, Bronson recounts his sentimental education, schooled by immigrant Italian and Albanian family members and the mean streets, building habits good and bad. The virtue of those habits will depend on your take on modern mores. Bronson writes, for example, of “getting my dick pierced” down in the West Village, then grabbing a pizza and smoking weed. “I always smoke weed freely, always have and always will,” he writes. “I’ll just light a blunt anywhere.” Though he’s gone through the classic experiences of the latter-day stoner, flunking out and getting arrested numerous times, Bronson is a hard charger who’s not afraid to face nearly any challenge—especially, given his physique and genes, the necessity of losing weight: “If you’re husky, you’re always dieting in your mind,” he writes. Though vulgar and boastful, Bronson serves up a model that has plenty of good points, including his growing interest in nature, creativity, and the desire to “leave a legacy for everybody.”

The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4478-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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