Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan

2006. NY Times Book Review One of the 10 Best Books of the Year.

We eat every day of our lives but we don’t often give much thought to what we put in  our bodies. If we are what we eat, then when it comes to meat, we are what the animal eats; and when it comes to produce, we are what the plant’s grown in.

There’s a food chain that extends around the world and throughout evolutionary history from the beginning of man to the present. Michael Pollan takes us on a tour of that chain and in the process gives any thinking, eating, person a new, often disturbing, view of what he/she consumes.

Organized in three sections to illuminate industrial food (corn), pastoral food (grass), and personal food (the forest), Pollan’s narrative builds toward meals made as nearly as possible with ingredients and methods from each of these categories.

I double-dog-dare anyone to read this book and walk through a modern supermarket without viewing  each item of food differently.  And if you’re like me, take your glasses, because the real information about what we buy and eat is in the small print, written in code, to disguise as much as possible what we truly consume.

The central area of the supermarket is processed food. Good luck figuring that out. (When you can’t determine the identity of fifteen out of eighteen ingredients on that package of processed whatever – chances are high what you’re reading – and eating – are corn derivatives.)

Around the walls, where we find the produce, meat, and fish, it would seem that the information describing the food would be more straight-forward. Good luck figuring that out, too. (Chances are every formerly living item was nourished or fertilized with corn or corn derivatives.)

Unless you plan to follow a steer or a chicken through its life cycle to see how the animal lives, and dies, and becomes the food on your plate, you have to rely on someone like Pollan to take that trip for you, document his findings, and present it as he does here.

I’ve read about food my entire life and tried to keep up on healthy eating without succumbing to fads.  I’ve never encountered such an intelligent, entertaining, and practical guide to the state of food in America today as The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Read it and eat.

Advertisements

The Watchman (Joe Pike #1), by Robert Crais

2007. Robert Crais is a master craftsman who delivers on his promise.

There are alot of variations on the LA private eye story. And lots of good practitioners of the genre. Crais is among the best. His two characters Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, in my book, belong among the best LA literary sleuths.

This is Joe Pike’s novel, but Elvis Cole is his buddy and of course he makes more than a cameo. Pike relies on Cole to provide key backup.

Pike is a damaged soul from childhood, but he’s a tough survivor who has beaten back his demons in a way that makes him stronger than anyone else. He lives by a code that prizes loyalty above all else. He protects and serves whether as a member of LAPD or as an independent. He hates bullies in any shape, and he never walks out on a friend.

You can read elsewhere for plot summary. I’m only going to tell you that Pike and his buddy Cole are worth spending time with. Their relationship lifts this story above the standard gumshoe narrative, as do the relationships these men develop with other key people they meet over the course of their cases. The bonds of family and friendship are tested through secondary characters that provide further depth.

Crais knows his police procedural stuff, his ballistics, his forensics, his terrain, and police groupthink. But he knows his characters even better, and that’s why I’ll keep coming back for more.


FREE Day on Kindle. Sunday, April 15. What You Got to Lose?

Former Number One at Kindle Action and Adventure.

Facing the Son, A Novel of Africa

Free all day Sunday. Load up a great summer read.

The Best Choice in 2012, March 15, 2012 By Cat mom (LI NY) – This book is different from my usual Kindle choices…. It was absolutely outstanding. I found the African setting interesting. The father’s search for his son drove the exciting plot. The novel was worth many stars.*

I loved this book, March 12, 2012 By Jim Brumm – I can’t believe that this wonderful book is as inexpensive as it is. It is a great read of a father’s quest to find his son in Africa to deliver a letter from the boy’s dying mother. But it’s so much more than that. It is a saga of cultures clashing, of regret, redemption, and adventure, all told with great writing. There aren’t enough good books that are set in Africa. This is one of the best. I would have been happy to pay $10 for this book.

Captivating! March 5, 2012 By BookAddict (FL) – I was engrossed in this story from beginning to end. The plot is multi-layered, with mystery, suspense, drama and adventure. The characters are unique and have many dimensions. They made me care and I wanted to crawl inside the story with them. The dialogue is realistic. The ease of the descriptions immersed me in African countries and cultures. I did not simply read this story. I experienced it.


The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next, by Lee Smolin

2006.  Whoa. Not for the faint of heart. You gotta love your fermions and your gluons. And you need to appreciate a good brane.

It took me two months to work my way through this book. Pecking away. I’m not a scientist, by far, and I plodded through determined to see what I could learn. I’m glad I did.

It was good to read that the world of physics is just as screwy as any other corporate grouping.  Suffering from groupthink, careerists, and ladder-climbers, just like everywhere I ever worked. Apparently, just because you’re a math genius or a theoretical visionary doesn’t mean you get ahead, get grants, or get jobs at institutions of higher learning. White men hire other white men that remind them of younger versions of themselves. No big surprise there.

But before you get to those juicy assertions about the world of physics, you have to read through the history of String Theory and a weighty defense of all that hasn’t happened since that theory took precedence within the physics community. That’s the difficult part of the book and the most rewarding. Not that I can explain what I just read, but I know it was important and I must have learned something that will some day come in handy.

I also know now that when I see a NOVA Special on String Theory that it’s just a bunch of dumbed down drivel. String Theory isn’t the next big thing. It’s just generally accepted by the physics establishment.

Smolin attacks the underlying assumptions of String Theory and, lo and behold, he shows that these assumptions have never been proven. Just assumed. Oh, well. Back to the white board.

Worthy read. Important book. Enjoy it slowly.