A delightful exploration of traditional foods as well as a grim warning that we are farming on borrowed time.

EATING TO EXTINCTION

THE WORLD'S RAREST FOODS AND WHY WE NEED TO SAVE THEM

Fascinating descriptions of Indigenous and mostly disappearing foods, plus an alarming message.

Veteran BBC food journalist Saladino emphasizes that world food production exploded after World War II when scientists produced superproductive grains, plants, and livestock. Though these developments drastically reduced famine, the mechanics involved require enormous inputs of chemicals, fertilizer, and water. Relying on elite, high-yield species eliminated those that didn’t measure up, diminishing their diversity. Today, rice, wheat, and corn provide half of all human calories. Most global pork comes from a single breed of pig, and more than 95% of U.S. dairy cows are a single breed, the Holstein. Limiting food diversity has been enormously profitable for large corporations, but the future consequences make scientists uneasy. “We are living and eating our way through one big unparalleled experiment,” writes the author. Having defined the problem, Saladino chronicles his travels around the world, describing dozens of vanishing edibles and pausing regularly to deliver the history of the major foods and food production. Readers will be intrigued and educated by his interviews with experts who warn of our disastrous dependence on a shrinking number of standardized foods. Commercial barley can’t survive in the cold, infertile islands north of Scotland, but its ancestral variety does fine. Although nearing extinction in the wild, Atlantic salmon is a familiar food item because almost all of them are farm raised. Bred to be faster growing and meatier, they have become a bland domestic food animal no less than the chicken or cow. Though there are more than 1,500 varieties of banana, most markets are dominated by the Cavendish, a cloned fruit grown in immense monocultures visible by satellite. Being genetically identical, they can’t evolve and so can’t develop resistance to disease, which inevitably spreads like wildfire. One specific disease is currently devastating the Cavendish, but scientists are working to edit the plant’s DNA “to find a fix against the disease.”

A delightful exploration of traditional foods as well as a grim warning that we are farming on borrowed time.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60532-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

PLAYING WITH MYSELF

Debut memoir from the popular comedian, actor, and writer.

In his debut memoir, Rainbow (“my very real last name”) shares his memories, beginning with his star turn in a backyard production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on his eighth birthday. Growing up on Long Island with a “showbiz-positive family,” the author depicts a flamboyant childhood influenced by his grandmother and her celebrity fascinations. “My eight-year-old childhood bedroom,” he notes, “looked more like the men’s room at a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen.” Rainbow’s engagement with ballet classes and musical theater provoked relentless schoolyard bullying until a family move to Florida introduced him to the unique strengths to be found in coming out and celebrating his obsession with his “lord and savior,” Barbra Streisand. As his parents’ relationship deteriorated, Manhattan beckoned. In between auditions, Rainbow worked as the “jovial gay boy at the host stand” at Hooters. Honing his stand-up comedy skills, he started a blog, which branched off into a series of comedic video sketches that satirized, among other topics, a fictional relationship with Mel Gibson and a tryout for American Idol. When Rainbow began delving into political parodies, particularly his skewering of the chaotic 2016 presidential campaign, his fame exploded. “For the first few years of Trump,” he writes, “I basically lived inside a giant green screen.” Still, he admits that his career has been a constant hustle and that the isolating cross-country tours “ain’t for sissies.” Rapidly paced comic absurdities fill the remainder of the book, as the author provides anecdotes about his struggles to remain upbeat and social media relevant in the fickle entertainment world despite multiple Emmy nominations. In the concluding chapters, the author openly discusses the public backlash from past controversial comments on Twitter, which he attributes to “sloppy efforts as a young comedian” to be funny. Buoyant and campy throughout, Rainbow’s revelations and lighthearted banter will entertain fans and newbies alike.

A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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