An entertaining and informative discussion of both the scientific and cultural impact of caffeine and alcohol.

BUZZ

THE SCIENCE AND LORE OF ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE

Not many users of the world's two most popular drugs know the details of their chemical or biological effects; here's a good introduction.

Braun, a science writer and television producer, begins with alcohol, which was known to ancient Sumerians 5,500 years ago. Ethanol (the drinkable form of alcohol) is a waste product of the metabolism of sugar by yeast; it is poison to the yeast that produces it and (in sufficient quantities) to the human beings who drink it. So the body has developed complex ways of defending itself. Braun describes the progress of a shot of whiskey through the body, from the taste buds to the digestive tract, with amusing commentary on the journey. The alcohol's ultimate destination is the brain; scientists believe that it releases endorphins there, as do ether, valium, and morphine. Further chapters discuss alcohol's effects on sexual desire and performance, positive health benefits of moderate drinking, hangover cures, and current theories on the causes of alcoholism. Then caffeine gets a similar treatment, from its introduction into the Western world to its current popularity in forms ranging from espresso to soft drinks. Braun explains the decaffeination process (most of the caffeine removed from coffee is sold to soft-drink manufacturers) and explores such questions as whether caffeine aids mental processes (and which ones), to what extent caffeine is addictive, and how caffeine and alcohol interact (as in Irish coffee). Here, as in the chapters on alcohol, bits of interesting lore—women's protests against 18th-century coffeehouses, Theodore Roosevelt's impromptu endorsement of Maxwell House, the formation of the first Caffeine Anonymous group—add the human dimension to the scientific discussion. In the end, the author admits that caffeine was an indispensable aid to his writing of this book, but he has since moderated his use of both caffeine and alcohol.

An entertaining and informative discussion of both the scientific and cultural impact of caffeine and alcohol.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-19-509289-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more