Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Nonfiction Boswell Best Titles from Timothy Geithner, Stev/phen Levitt/Dubner, Colson Whitehead, Martin Blaser, David Sax.

There's certainly been enough advance word about Timothy Geithner's Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises (Crown) before publication date. In a sense, we've been hearing promos for this book for five years. Here's Michiko Kakutani's review in The New York Times and Edward Luce's review in The Financial Times. And here's the All Things Considered piece. The book, which lands today, came in several dollars higher than it was originally sold. Though the publisher sends us periodic on-sale and price updates, we generally don't update our inventory system, which in turn updates our website, until the book is received. Can you imagine how much person power would be involved in that, since a good deal of the price change info we get is for books we didn't even buy, but who can remember until you look them up?

The newest book from Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner hasn't had quite the thundering entrance, but it still got a full-page ad in The New York Times. Their new book, Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain (Morrrow), is a bit different from their first two. It's more of a how-to title, discussing how assumptions, persuasion, and particularly incentives drive decision making. Nick Summers in Bloomberg Business Week thought the book felt dashed off while the Kirkus Reviews editor called the work "upbeat and optimistic." If you'd like to see the authors, they are doing a ticketed event at the Logan enter for the Arts on May 17. Tickets available here through Seminary Coop.

On to The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes But Fed Up with Fondue (Public Affairs), by David Sax, whom you might have seen when he came to the JCC several years ago for Save the Deli. Sax looks at several food trends, from the aforementioned cupcakes to chia seeds, Greek yogurt, chipotles, cronuts, and why acai berries and pomegranates fell off the map. I beg to differ--those ingredients still seem to be everywhere, but yes, that could also be just sitting on the shelf, a victim of old buzz. My sister made me count Greek versus conventional yogurt in a grocery store last week, as she is in despair about the Greek-style takeover. Kirkus called the book "a solid overview"

Here's a goofy trailer for The Tastemakers.

Colson Whitehead's first full-length nonfiction book is The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death (Doubleday) in which this Grantland writer enters the World Series of Poker. Dwight Garner's review in The New York Times says it doesn't measure up to James McManus's Positively Fifth Street, though it does update that story by indicating how mainstream and big money competitive poker has become. From Nick Romeo in The Boston Globe: "Whitehead writes in a cool but cultured prose, his allusions scavenged everywhere from Dora the Explorer to Scarface. By the end of the book, you understand the perverse psychology that pulls so many to the game: 'Stop. This is insane. Feels great.'"

And finally, it's been on Boswell's Best for about a month, but I am still thinking about that Fresh Air interview I heard for Martin Blaser's Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues (Henry Holt) and when I realized I never wrote it up, I had to rectify the situation. It is Dr. Blaser's contention that the overuse of antibiotics that is contributing to greater incidence of obesity, asthma, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. In The Wall Street Journal, Sam Kean reviewed Missing Microbes along with Nicholas Money's The Amoeba in the Room. From that Fresh Air interview, he says "There's a choreography; there's a normal developmental cycle of the microbiome from birth over the first few years of life, especially the first three years, [that] appear[s] to be the most important. And that's how nature has, how we have, evolved together so that we can maximize health and create a new generation, which is nature's great purpose. And because of modern practices, we have disrupted that."

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