Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Boys Club: New Releases from Chef Dan Barber, Television's Father and Son Bill and Willie Geist, Theologian Marcus Borg, Surgeon Turned Political Commentator Ben Carson, Plus Daniel Schulman on the Koch Brothers.

If your Amazon account says the new Koch Brothers book takes three weeks to ship, you know there's a conspiracy going on. But if you're willing to think outside your one-click button, you will want to know about and purchase Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America's Most Powerful and Private Dynasty (Grand Central), by Daniel Schulman. Longtime journalist Schulman (curently at Mother Jones--I don't really need to tell you how the wind will blow in this book) reaches back to their father's John Birch Society origins to the four sons' legacy, most notably Charles and David, who have built their company into one of the largest private corporations in the world (with their most notable Wisconsin operations being Georgia Pacific paper, which bought out Wisconsin Stalwart Fort Howard), and control a political machine that, per the publisher, has become the center of gravity of the Republican Party. Bill runs a separate energy company, while Frederick is an arts patron. This is said to be the first major biography on the family, and I'm sure it's filled with fascinating details.

More info in this Huffington Post piece.

Chef Dan Barber, James Beard award winner, whose writings have appeared in The New York Times, Food and Wine, and the oft-missed Gourmet, has produced The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food (Penguin Press), a treatise on no less than the future of food. Per the publisher, Americans have traditionally dined on the “first plate,” a classic meal centered on meat with few vegetables. Thanks to the burgeoning farm-to-table movement, many people have begun eating from the “second plate,” the new ideal of organic, grass-fed meats and local vegetables. But neither model, Barber shows, supports the long-term productivity of the land. Instead, he calls for a “third plate,” a new pattern of eating rooted in cooking with and celebrating the whole farm—an integrated system of vegetable, grain, and livestock production.

Advance praise has come in from Al Gore, Eric Schlosser, Ruth Reichl, Malcolm Gladwell, Elizabeth Kolbert, Andrew Solomon, Bill McKibben and more. To quote just Reichl: "In this compelling read Dan Barber asks questions that nobody else has raised about what it means to be a chef, the nature of taste, and what 'sustainable' really means. He challenges everything you think you know about food; it will change the way you eat. If I could give every cook just one book, this would be the one.”

And here's the Kirkus Review, from an anonymous source who may not have even been a guest at Barber's restaurant: "In this bold and impassioned analysis, Barber insists that chefs have the power to transform American cuisine to achieve a sustainable and nutritious future."

Marcus Borg's new Convictions: Passing on What's Most Important (HarperOne) seems like it would have been good for graduation tables, but alas, is being released two days after our largerst college's graduation, so apparently that wasn't a target market for this one. Borg is a prominent progressive Christian Biblical scholar who writes on the beliefs that have grounded him in his life.

Caleb Miller writes in the journal Clarion: "Convictions is one of those rare books that has the unique advantage of being simply written, deep enough to inspire serious thought, and yet empty of heady, theological language that keeps most from picking up many a theological book. It is a concise, theological biography and manifesto of emergent Christianity all in one easy-to-be-read volume."

For those of you who think this new-release post is getting a little too left leaning for your comfort (or to discomfort those of you who were cheered by it), I offer Ben Carson's One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future (Sentinel) in which the recently retired pediatric neurosurgeon turned Washington Times columnist and Fox News contributor tells us exactly what's wrong with us: deteriorating morals and growing debt. He's also not a big fan of Obama's health care program.

I suppose this is a bit of a Father's Day roundup, isn't it? Well the focus is clearer in Bill and Willie Geist's Good Talk, Dad: The Birds and the Bees...and Other Conversations We Forgot to Have (Grand Central), a father-son narrative from the contributor to CBS Sunday Morning and the Today Show host.  I don't like the elipses in the title. Why do these details drive me crazy?

I never put the two together; I wondered why an adult newscaster who also wasn't a country singer would call himself Willie and I now realize it was to tell them apart. Their frank conversation turns poignant with the acknowledgement that Geist the elder has Parkinson's. I should also note that the publisher hopes this has Big Russ and Me style momentum.

From the opening of Ralph Gardner, Jr.'s profile in The Wall Street Journal: "New York can be a competitive place, especially when it comes to raising children. But I was always able to take some solace that while ours didn't have the highest SAT scores and hadn't sold their startup to Google at 14, at least they possessed respectable senses of humor. I'm not particularly competitive on the subject. But after getting together with Willie Geist, a co-host of both MSNBC's Morning Joe and the third hour of NBC's Today, and his dad, Bill, a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning and a former New York Times columnist, I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that the Geist household may have been funnier."

Oy, that's another one that might show out-of-stock on Amazon. Hey, there are a lot of folks out there selling Good Talk, Dad. Why not spread the love around and order it from someone else?

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