FRAGRANT

THE SECRET LIFE OF SCENT

Evocative, heady and overflowing with history and lore.

The history and mystery of the power of scent.

Respected perfumer Aftel (Scents & Sensibilities: Creating Solid Perfumes for Well-Being, 2005, etc.) will greatly expand the knowledge of what readers think they know about fragrance as she chronicles the medicinal, culinary and spiritual uses of aromatics from antiquity to the present. "Scent, in a sense, is spirit: potent, invisible, omnipresent, elusive, capable of transforming experience of meaning,” she writes. By blending "distinct personalities…textures and shapes,” the author doesn't merely create pleasant aromas; she opens an olfactory portal to the sensual and spiritual appetites that make us feel alive and in the moment, and these scents touch us far deeper than a department-store cologne. Aftel is a skillful storyteller, and the dreamy quality of her writing will transport readers as they come to understand that scent is "one of the most accessible yet irreducible experiences of magic that we have." The author believes that it is important to "familiarize yourself with the nuances of the aromatic materials themselves" to dramatically increase your awareness and appreciation of it. To that end, she devotes sections of her book to the five basic scents on which nearly all other concocted fragrances are made: cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris and jasmine. She considers herself and fellow "artisanal perfumistas" as craftspeople and historians and defines "artisan" as "learned from the manual labor of making something yourself….This knowledge comes not from writing and reading but by making and doing, and it is imprinted as much in the physical routines of the body as in the brain.” Aftel welcomes fledgling explorers of blending scents to experiment with her recipes for solid perfumes and body oils—as well as more fanciful creations like "frankincense shortbread" or “jasmine-ambergris chocolate.”

Evocative, heady and overflowing with history and lore.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59463-141-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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