Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Carl Zimmer, A Planet of Viruses

Carl Zimmer, A Planet of Viruses. I expected a bit more from this primer on viruses.

Geraldine Brooks, March

Geraldine Brooks, March. So, this book is about Mr. March (you remember his four daughters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy?) while he was with the union army. It ends with the reunion with his wife and daughters after his grave illness. It was fine, I suppose. It must be hard to superimpose a story onto one that is so indelible. Made me want to read a book about the actual Alcotts. Are there any good books about Fruitlands? Perhaps Transcendental Wild Oats? I will see if I can find it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The story of Henrietta Lacks, her family, and her cells. A riveting glimpse of history.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Theodore Gray, The Elements

Theodore Gray, The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe. Unexpectedly delightful. I bought the book for the pictures and ended up reading it cover to cover. A hilarious, opinionated, and above all fascinating window into the world of the elements. Who knew Boron could be so interesting?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Teresa Marrone, Abundantly Wild

Teresa Marrone, Abundantly Wild: Collecting and Cooking Wild Edibles in the Upper Midwest. This book had me eating all the weeds in my garden immediately. I was excited to find out that violet leaves as well as the flowers are delicious in salads, since this year violets are half of my lawn (not to mention my lettuce patch). I also tried burdock root, which tasted like a watery Jerusalem artichoke - definitely not worth the effort of digging two feet deep in clay. Pig's ear and plantain (the low broad-leaf weed, not the banana relative) are two more weeds I won't bother to pick out of the spinach patch. I also recognized quite a few wild berries or fruits that I will try later this season. (Don't fear for the health of my family, they won't even try wild raspberries, so all risk of accidental ingestion and poison ivy contact is mine alone). Recipes are included, but I generally just ate my experiments raw. As a guide this could be very useful, with pictures of leaves, fruits and flowers, detailed descriptions of dangerous lookalikes, and information about season and habitat. I wouldn't be comfortable eating a plant I wasn't already able to identify, though, so the information on which plants are edible is more useful than the identification guide. More than for its utility, I enjoyed this guide for the chatty tone and the author's infatuation with all things growing. She often exhorts to take just one leaf(!) from a plant, or describes the odd places that she has found specimens. This book perfectly fulfills the function of a wildlife guide in that it opens your eyes to the world around you and leaves you itching to get outside.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

David Liss, A Conspiracy of Paper

David Liss, A Conspiracy of Paper. A fun thriller set in the exciting world of stock-jobbery, corporate intrigue, organized crime, and thief-taking in eighteenth century London.