An intelligent rallying cry for anyone seeking a safe and healthy food supply, and all that entails.

A BONE TO PICK

THE GOOD AND BAD NEWS ABOUT FOOD, ALONG WITH WISDOM AND ADVICE ON DIETS, FOOD SAFETY, GMOS, FARMING, AND MORE

When a book begins with an essay titled “A Food Manifesto for the Future,” you know the author is on a mission.

Food writer Bittman’s (How to Cook Everything Fast, 2014, etc.) collection of previously published New York Times articles deftly deconstructs how America’s reliance on fossil fuels, the cruel mass production of animals, and an overuse of hyperprocessed junk foods have created a food system in tatters and left many Americans sick. Regular readers of the Times will know Bittman’s work. However, by gathering the articles into a complete narrative, the compilation provides an all-inclusive look at the author’s findings across a range of topics. For those readers unfamiliar with Bittman’s knowledge of the issues, it makes grasping a multifaceted subject less daunting. Moreover, if at times the author repeats some points, it matters little compared to the importance of the information. Written between 2008 and 2014, the articles are arranged topically rather than chronologically. This structure allows readers to grasp the evolution of issues such as the sustainability (or not) of big agriculture; the issues surrounding the production and consumption of meat; what constitutes real food; dieting; the various ways America’s food chain fails its citizens; and how legislation and labeling affect what we eat. Bittman bolsters his conclusions with the voices of numerous scientists, and he calls out big pharma and industrialized agriculture for the use of antibiotics in meat. He also scolds the food industry for its workers’ low wages. The author’s keen analysis of the weakness of the Food and Drug Administration and its failures regarding food safety proves especially informative and enraging. Bittman successfully links a sound food system not just to the tastes of foodies (a word the author dislikes), but also to larger public health issues.

An intelligent rallying cry for anyone seeking a safe and healthy food supply, and all that entails.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8041-8654-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pam Krauss Books

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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SECRET SEX LIVES

A YEAR ON THE FRINGES OF AMERICAN SEXUALITY

Investigative journalist Spencer expands her own sexual boundaries through the exploration of others’.

“Worn out from all the tragedy” of a decade penning true crime books, Spencer (Wages of Sin, 2010) engagingly steers readers through the wonderful world of contemporary sexuality. The pensive, unmarried Texan considers herself sexually ignorant, doesn’t particularly like to be touched (never has), and comes from a religious family who shunned the idea of crafting a memoir exploring the sex lives of random Americans. Surprisingly, the project transformed her from lonely, sexually timid 50-something into a woman budding with intimate possibilities. Posting a succession of inquisitive online personal ads probing responders’ bedroom activities, Spencer unleashes a battalion of sexed-up soldiers eager to interact and share prurient and often tabooed sex-drenched adventures. Among her profiles are a few hypersexual females, a flirtatious adulterer half her age, horny swingers looking for “more on the side,” a parade of randy bisexuals, phone-sex enthusiasts and a cross-dressing father of two. As Spencer exposes the flesh behind the fantasy, she incrementally reveals aspects of her own personal life, which frequently saves the text from dissolving into a blur of America’s hot and bothered. Eventually, the book becomes a psychological science project, as the author experimented, challenged her beliefs, and arrived at epiphanies far different from her opening declaration that “it’s a lot safer to laugh about sex than have sex.” Both a celebration of sexuality and, for the author, an embracive awakening to it. 

 

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-425-21936-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory.

PSYCHOCONDUCTION

A sweeping new theory that puts forward a way to rejuvenate a damaged brain without using surgical or pharmacological methods. 

Clinical psychologist Litvin (Litvin’s Code, 2011) proposes what he calls a bold “new neuropsychological discovery” about ways in which a chronically underperforming brain may be improved with carefully managed mental exercises. According to the author, the brain processes information via an internal mapping system, in which received data is directed to a “book of addresses.” When the brain malfunctions, he says, it’s largely the result of damaged complex brain cells receiving “incomplete or distorted requests,” which results in the improper distribution of information. However, he asserts that the brain has a kind of organic plasticity that allows it to respond to willfully enacted repairs. Litvin argues that simple cells in the body can be stimulated in a way that either rejuvenates or replace damaged complex cells; this stimulation can overcome what he calls “neuropsychological barriers” and result in the release of a newly “balanced amount of brain chemicals”—a vague formulation that typifies the author’s overall mode of discussion. This is achieved, he says, by activating the brain’s response to various stimuli in quick succession, including tactile, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and olfactory stimuli. Litvin calls this theory of repair “psychoconduction,” and he includes a detailed series of mental exercises that ask readers to translate simple mathematical equations into various modes of expression; for example, he shows how a visual pattern may be translated into a knocking sound, or a clamping of a hand. Litvin has discussed psychoconduction in a number of other works, but here, he furnishes his most thorough and systematic explanation of it, largely in accessible, nontechnical language. However, this volume also replicates the principal vices of the others: It’s remarkably general, and it doesn’t present any empirical, experimental evidence for its claims. Also, Litvin’s promises regarding the scope of its application are equally unsubstantiated, as well as implausible; he claims, for example, that the exercises can remedy dyslexia, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, anger issues, and even help people who have hallucinations. It’s never clear how it’s all possible, and the author offers no solid proof. 

An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory. 

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4669-1254-0

Page Count: 129

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2019

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