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

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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

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

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

THE HILARIOUS WORLD OF DEPRESSION

The creator and host of the titular podcast recounts his lifelong struggles with depression.

With the increasing success of his podcast, Moe, a longtime radio personality and author whose books include The Deleted E-Mails of Hillary Clinton: A Parody (2015), was encouraged to open up further about his own battles with depression and delve deeper into characteristics of the disease itself. Moe writes about how he has struggled with depression throughout his life, and he recounts similar experiences from the various people he has interviewed in the past, many of whom are high-profile entertainers and writers—e.g. Dick Cavett and Andy Richter, novelist John Green. The narrative unfolds in a fairly linear fashion, and the author relates his family’s long history with depression and substance abuse. His father was an alcoholic, and one of his brothers was a drug addict. Moe tracks how he came to recognize his own signs of depression while in middle school, as he experienced the travails of OCD and social anxiety. These early chapters alternate with brief thematic “According to THWoD” sections that expand on his experiences, providing relevant anecdotal stories from some of his podcast guests. In this early section of the book, the author sometimes rambles. Though his experiences as an adolescent are accessible, he provides too many long examples, overstating his message, and some of the humor feels forced. What may sound naturally breezy in his podcast interviews doesn’t always strike the same note on the written page. The narrative gains considerable momentum when Moe shifts into his adult years and the challenges of balancing family and career while also confronting the devastating loss of his brother from suicide. As he grieved, he writes, his depression caused him to experience “a salad of regret, anger, confusion, and horror.” Here, the author focuses more attention on the origins and evolution of his series, stories that prove compelling as well.

The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20928-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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