Saturday, November 14, 2015

Super Genes by Chopra & Tanzi

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Super Genes
by Deepak Chopra, M.D.,
Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.

ISBN-13: 9780804140133
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Harmony
Released: November 10, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
For decades medical science has believed that genes determined our biological destiny. Now the new genetics has changed that assumption forever. You will always have the genes you were born with, but gene expression is dynamic. When you make lifestyle choices that optimize how your genes behave, you can reach for a state of health and fulfillment undreamed of even a decade ago.

My Review:
Super Genes is a self-help book. The underlying belief system is that evolution is certain and that Vedic and Ayurveda traditions are correct. The authors interpreted various studies and experiences in a way that conformed to their belief system. This is a natural thing to do, but much of Part 1 and Part 3 was speculative. If you don't share their base assumptions, these sections may hold little interest for you.

Part 1. Scientists have gathered a lot of data on epigenetics, but epigenetics is so complex that they're only beginning to understand how it might work. Basically, having a 'breast cancer' gene doesn't necessarily mean you will get that disease. Factors like nutrition, exercise, and stress can determine whether a gene is "switched on" or "switched off."

The rest was confusing, but apparently adaptation can happen through epigenetic markers on our DNA which can be rapidly changed as outside stressors change. These markers can be passed on to offspring but also changed back by those offspring. I suspect most of this section will become outdated as we learn more. They also discussed the microbiome and how the bacteria living in our gut and elsewhere affect our bodies through the compounds they produce.

In Part 2, they discussed some basic changes you can make relating to diet, stress, exercise, meditation, sleep, happiness and fulfillment which will improve your health. I've heard much of this advice before. The authors understood that people resist change, so they gave advice on how to make lasting changes. They also presented their proposed changes in terms of small, easy steps. You make one easy change each week.

In Part 3, the authors proposed a new mechanism for evolution that isn't based on random chance but on "mindful evolution." They made it clear they don't believe in Intelligent Design (which suggests an outside intelligence source), but rather the organism helps to guide its own evolution. They don't explain how adaptation based on epigenetic markers somehow resulted in useful, new DNA (especially considering how complex DNA expression is turning out to be). But their main point seems to be a hope that someday we'll be able to purposefully direct our own evolution.

Frankly, I think the book would have been better as two separate books: one on their speculative ideas from Part 1 & 3 and one with their practical advice from Part 2.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Armstrong Girl by Cathy Le Feuvre

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The Armstrong Girl
by Cathy Le Feuvre

ISBN-13: 9780745956992
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Lion Books
Released: July 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In November, 1885, Victorian England was scandalized by a court case which lifted the veil on prostitution and the sex trade. In the Old Bailey dock was the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, which had recently published a series of articles on the sex trade; a reformed brothel keeper; and the second-in-command of The Salvation Army, Bramwell Booth. The group was accused of abducting a 13 year old girl, Eliza Armstrong.

They had, in fact, set up the scheme to expose the trade in young women. The resulting scandal triggered the raising of the Age of Consent in Britain from age 13 to 16. Many MPs and other men in positions of power were furious, and the campaigners were indicted under the 1861 Abduction Act. William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, would later be acquitted, but others went to prison, martyrs for justice. The Armstrong Girl is the story of that scandal, and of those who fought for this essential change in the law.

My Review:
The Armstrong Girl tells how the practice of buying young girls for prostitution was exposed in 1885 in Britain. The author explained how a series of newspaper articles exposed this human trafficking, how this helped push through legislation that raised the age of consent from 13 to 16, and the resulting court case. There's also some background on the major players. The author quoted from the newspaper articles, the transcripts from the court cases, and from personal letters.

William Stead wanted to expose a topic that was considered too obscene to talk about and not something that women and child should ever hear about. To do this, he felt he had to prove that a 13-year-old could be bought. He got a reformed former brothel-keeper to help him buy such a girl. They did everything that would have happened to someone bought for the sex trade, only she wasn't violated.

Stead's resulting newspaper articles launched a public outcry that brought about a change in the age of consent, but a lot of people weren't happy about it. Some of them convinced the girl's parents to take legal action against William Stead, his helpers, and some members of the Salvation Army who had taken care of the girl after she had been bought. William Stead had, technically, abducted the girl under the current laws. The transcripts from the court cases show just how one went about obtaining a girl and why those involved went to this extreme.

The book was interesting, easy to follow, and should appeal to a general audience. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in the topic.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Buffalo Bill, Boozers, Brothels, and Bare-Knuckle Brawlers by Kellen Cutsforth

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Buffalo Bill, Boozers, Brothels, and Bare-Knuckle Brawlers:
An Englishman's Journal of Adventure in America
by Kellen Cutsforth

ISBN-13: 9781442246591
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Two Dot Books
Released: Nov. 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
The travel journal of the wealthy young Englishman, Evelyn Booth, weaves a factual, enthralling, and entertaining narrative that follows his escapades throughout the United States of the late nineteenth century.

Transcribed and edited (with relevant commentary for contemporary audiences) by Kellen Cutsforth, Booth’s journal reveals his career as a young care-free “frat boy” with unlimited funds, gives first-hand accounts that involve drunken nights, fist fights, illicit sex with prostitutes, sporting events, and full-blown adventures with the most well-known celebrities of the day, including encounters with famous scout and showman William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody and the Wild West Cowboys; bare knuckled world champions John L. Sullivan and Jack “Nonpareil” Dempsey; Fred Archer, the most famous horse jockey of the day, and prostitutes, gamblers, and infamous houses.

My Review:
Buffalo Bill, Boozers, Brothels, and Bare-Knuckle Brawlers is a journal by wealthy, young Englishmen recording their travels in America from Oct. 1884 to April 1885. They traveled to New York City, then to Niagara Falls, Chicago, Arkansas, Texas, New Orleans, and Florida. Much of the trip was spent hunting and fishing, so much of the journal is a record of what game they killed and their living conditions while thus occupied. When in town, much of their time was spent drunk while gambling, getting into fights, or with prostitutes. They got arrested a number of times. The fact that even a lowly baggage checker could call for their arrest bothered Evelyn more than any consequences of being arrested.

They also described Central Park (mainly the animals seen there) and Niagara Falls in winter. They viewed several boxing matches and commented on the boxing style of several famous boxers. They also commented on the food and drink, the travel conditions and costs, horse racing, and baseball. They mentioned various people they encountered, which included some famous people like Buffalo Bill Cody. The author included end notes that explained the slang and gave more information on the people encountered and places mentioned. There were some black and white pictures of people, places, and events mentioned.

I was curious what a traveler would think of America and my home state of Arkansas. We do get their impressions, but that isn't the journal's focus. I'd recommend this book to those who enjoy historical journals, especially people interested in hunting.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fashion Victims by Alison Matthews David

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Fashion Victims:
The Dangers of Dress Past and Present
by Alison Matthews David

ISBN-13: 9781845204495
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Released: Sept. 24, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Clothing is designed to protect, shield and comfort us, yet lurking amongst seemingly innocuous garments we find hats laced with mercury, frocks laden with arsenic and literally 'drop-dead gorgeous' gowns.

Fashion Victims takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the lethal history of women's, men's and children's dress. Drawing upon surviving fashion objects and numerous visual and textual sources, encompassing louse-ridden military uniforms, accounts of the fiery deaths of Oscar Wilde's half-sisters and dancer Isadora Duncan's accidental strangulation by entangled scarf; the book explores how garments have tormented those who made and wore them, and harmed animals and the environment in the process.

Fashion Victims is lavishly illustrated with over 125 images and is a remarkable resource for everyone from scholars and students to fashion enthusiasts.

My Review:
Fashion Victims is a fashion history about some health dangers associated with clothing. It mainly focused on the 1800's to early 1900's, but it also talked about some older and some current dangers. The book was full of interesting photographs of the clothing under discussion. It also had drawings from the time showing the work conditions of those making the items and illustrating the dangers to the wearer.

The author discussed how clothing could pass diseases between people, the toxic process of making men's rabbit-fur felt hats, deadly chemical dyes like arsenic green used in dresses and hair wreaths or shoe blacking that could kill, and long silk scarves that strangled and hobble skirts that tripped wearers. Some fabrics were especially prone to catching fire like tulle in tutus, cotton muslin, and flanette cotton. She also talked about how crinolines increased danger of the wearer catching fire or getting entangled in machinery. She described the efforts to come up with an acceptable fire retardant, the use of highly flammable celluloid in combs and other accessories, and various dangers from artificial silks. She also briefly discussed modern dangers from things like chemical dyes, sand-basting denim, strangulation, flame retardants, and chemicals used in screen-printed garments.

I found the book to be easy to follow and very interesting (though a little depressing). I'd recommend this book to those who are interested in the details of fashion dangers of the last 200 years.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Tears of Re by Gene Kritsky

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The Tears of Re:
Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt
by Gene Kritsky

ISBN-13: 9780199361380
Hardcover: 114 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Released: Nov. 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
According to Egyptian mythology, when the ancient Egyptian sun god Re cried, his tears turned into honey bees upon touching the ground. For this reason, the honey bee was sacrosanct in ancient Egyptian culture. From the art depicting bees on temple walls to the usage of beeswax as a healing ointment, the honey bee was a pervasive cultural motif in ancient Egypt because of its connection to the sun god Re.

Gene Kritsky delivers the first book to examine the relationship between the honey bee and ancient Egyptian culture, through the lenses of linguistics, archeology, religion, health, and economics. Kritsky delves into ancient Egypt's multifaceted society, and traces the importance of the honey bee in everything from death rituals to trade. In doing so, Kritsky brings new evidence to light of how advanced and fascinating the ancient Egyptians were.

This richly illustrated work appeals to a broad range of interests. For archeology lovers, Kritsky delves into the archeological evidence of Egyptian beekeeping and discusses newly discovered tombs, as well as evidence of manmade hives. Linguists will be fascinated by Kritsky's discussion of the first documented written evidence of the honeybee hieroglyph. And anyone interested in ancient Egypt or ancient cultures in general will be intrigued by Kritsky's treatment of the first documented beekeepers.

My Review:
The Tears of Re described the currently available information about bees, honey, and beekeeping in ancient Egypt. Apparently, we know very little about ancient beekeeping practices, though we know they did it and they even had an administrative structure based around it. The author gave detailed descriptions of the existing visual evidence in tombs and temples related to bees, honey, and beekeeping. He described what can still be seen, what parts have been destroyed, and the different theories about what, exactly, the scenes depict.

He also included what ancient written sources say about beekeeping, the worth of honey, how honey was used in food and medicine, how beeswax was used, and the various myths about the origin and purpose of bees. He provided several translations of various texts that he quoted so we could get a good feel for what was meant. He also talked about beekeeping practices that were used in Egypt until recently which look very similar to the ancient visual record.

It's a short book, but it did a nice job of presenting the available information about beekeeping practices and bee products used in ancient Egypt. I'd recommend it to those seriously interested in the topic.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.