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Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe

Lisa Randall. Ecco, $29.99 (406p) ISBN 978-0-06-232847-2

Using accessible writing and vivid examples, Randall (Higgs Discovery), a theoretical particle physicist and cosmologist at Harvard University, examines the indirect role dark matter may have played in the extinction of the dinosaurs, as just one example of the unlikely connections to be found in the universe. She builds her argument methodically, moving from discussions of the big bang and galaxy formation, through prehistoric extinction events, and into the way dark matter interacts with other forces and particles. Scientists detect dark matter indirectly, Randall says. In space, a massive object bends light as it zips past, so that object’s mass can then be determined by measuring the bend. Its gravity can also perturb the motion of other bodies passing through the area. Randall proposes the existence of a dense disk of dark matter inside the galactic disk of the Milky Way. As stars—including our sun—rotate around a galactic center, they and their planets cross the dark disk. On Earth’s pass-through, the dark disk’s gravity could have perturbed an icy rock in the Oort Cloud, sending it on a collision course with Earth. Randall covers a lot of ground, but does so smoothly even when addressing some of science’s most abstruse subjects. Hers is a fascinating, tantalizing theory, linking life on Earth—or the extinction thereof—with the very origins of our universe. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Oh, Baby! True Stories About Conception, Adoption, Surrogacy, Pregnancy, Labor, and Love

Edited by Lee Gutkind and Alice Bradley. . In Fact (PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (294p) ISBN 978-1-937163-21-1

In her introduction, Lisa Belkin (Life’s Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom) reflects on the shift from the time when she was a new parent (“parenting was still a silo”) to now, when multiple venues exist for discussion of every conceivable parenting-related topic. This book’s contribution to the genre is a thoughtful, often funny set of 23 essays. Adoptions are the subject of some of the most poignant entries, including Mary A. Scherf’s “Becoming His Mother,” about spending several days in a women’s prison in Guatemala on kidnapping charges, and Nancy McCabe’s “The Baby Room,” about accompanying her teenage daughter on a visit to the Korean orphanage where the latter was raised. There, the babies “lie listless and unblinking in the airless room” and “no one launches a full-voiced, full-bellied cry.” Crying, however, figures as a very real horror in other essays, such as Amy Penne’s appropriately titled “Apocalypse Now.” Most contributors are women, but a few fathers also list their woes. In “Four Early Lessons in Parenting,” Steven Church laments his shortcomings in living up to the “potential superhero” his son thinks he is: “My shoulder is wrecked. I’m lactose intolerant.” This collection’s wide range of topics should resonate with an equally wide range of parents. Agent: Joy Tutela, David Black Literary Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Please Don’t Bite the Baby: Keeping Your Kids and Your Dogs Safe and Happy Together

Lisa Edwards. Seal (PGW, dist.), $16 ISBN 978-1-58005-577-2

Parents who consider their dogs part of the family will love how therapy and service-dog trainer Edwards (A Dog Named Boo) documents her management of the relationship between her infant son, Indy, and her three sometimes challenging dogs. She shows how the behavioral guidance required for pet and child is often similar, whimsically referring to Indy’s Ferber-style sleep guidance as “crate training.” More seriously, she emphasizes that even good dogs can make horrible mistakes in sudden moments of stress or fear, injuring children and possibly leading beloved pets to be euthanized. Edwards stresses the importance of recognizing that a new baby represents a huge change in a dog’s environment, one requiring careful training and desensitization. She encourages readers to heed her safety maxim: “When in doubt, get the dog out.” Each chapter is divided in half, with the first part consisting of personal stories, and the second part filled with practical training tips, such as using commands, handling visitors, and watching for dogs’ social cues. Edwards’s understanding of canine psychology will give new parents the confidence to maintain a canine-filled household, with strong pointers on avoiding mishaps and tragedy. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Love Style Life

Garance Doré. Random/Spiegel & Grau, $30 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9637-1

This charming book by fashion blogger Doré is part memoir and part style guide, gathered together in a chic, Gallic-inflected package. Born in Corsica, Doré made a name for herself in the fashion blogosphere for touting the French style and sensibility. She and a string of her compatriots (whose photos appear throughout the book) remind readers of this claim to a natural, national élan and authority. “The French woman is nonchalant and will apply herself to carrying that stance in every aspect of her life,” Doré writes, adding that “in France, we’re not supposed to stand out too much. Wanting to show off is suspect.” The book is organized like a style guide with sections devoted to style, beauty, and elegance, with intermittent chapters on wardrobe basics, how to look good in pictures, and the importance of thank-you notes. The book is more enjoyably voyeuristic than it is reliably practical. Most readers can’t pull off the elusive je ne sais quoi that is so beautifully captured within these stylish pages. Nonetheless, it’s fun to watch someone else do it with such panache. Illus. Agents: Claudia Ballard and Tracy Fisher, William Morris Endeavor. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Kinfolk Home: Interiors for Slow Living

Nathan Williams. Artisan, $35 (268p) ISBN 978-1-57965-665-2

The latest Kinfolk lifestyle book from Williams (The Kinfolk Table) is ostensibly about interior design, but it primarily profiles the owners of 35 homes around the world whose living spaces all fall under the nebulously defined theme of “slow living.” Williams defines this as an aesthetic shaped by the “dwellers’ definitions of what brings joy and meaning to their homes.” The book is divided into three categories: “homes for communities,” “homes for simplicity” and “homes for slow living.” But the homes themselves are hard to differentiate, despite the author’s insistence that the selection does not subscribe to a particular aesthetic. All of the homes adhere to a distinctly modern minimalism; many have white walls accented by earth-tone textiles, and hardwood floors and furniture; subway tile is also frequently used. The homes themselves are impressive and skillfully decorated, but the book lacks insight into their design. Instead, the essays and interviews with the homeowners, who are nearly all creative professionals with young children, provide notes on living better: get up early, use light to signal circadian rhythms, welcome children’s chaos. These are whimsies, fantastical goals that belie a more quotidian reality and give little practical advice on designing a home. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Forest Garden Greenhouse: How to Design and Manage an Indoor Permaculture Oasis

Jerome Osentowski. Chelsea Green, $34.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-60358- 426-5

Osentowski shows how building and maintaining a Mediterranean or tropical greenhouse full of figs, lemons, papayas, and bananas can be both affordable and practical. Drawing on his 30 years of experimentation and teaching in the harsh, dry mountain environment of his Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, he offers lush descriptions of his five greenhouses and in-depth, layered advice on designing and constructing a balmy winter retreat. His method uses a “climate battery” consisting of tubes buried underground to collect and hold warm air from the greenhouse, which then recirculate it when the temperature cools, backed up in the coldest days with a pellet or wood stove that can simultaneously heat an attached sauna. Osentowski admits that he prefers a hands-on method of teaching, and his written tours through greenhouses are sometimes hard to follow. Novices may be intimidated by the lack of step-by-step, formulaic instruction. But more experienced gardeners, builders, and tinkerers, and even intrepid beginners willing to carefully observe, compute, and ponder, will find this readable guide jam-packed with enough information and inspiration to help them attempt their own indoor paradises. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening: The Secrets to Growing the Biggest and Best Prizewinning Produce

Jodi Torpey. Storey, $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-61212-394-3

Torpey (The Colorado Gardener’s Companion) writes giddily about vegetable gardening, going so far as to use the animated film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit as a point of reference, and she will even entertain non-gardeners with this delightful book. Dedicated gardeners will be impressed as she seriously coaches the sport of competitive vegetable growing. Torpey offers expert advice for every skill level, and most ages, on growing “the biggest and best prize-winning produce.” The book covers the history of vegetable competitions, from small-town harvest festivals to large county fairs, and the basics—seeds, soil, seasons—of entering and winning the coveted blue ribbon. Torpey profiles champion gardeners and farmers throughout. The bulk of the book details growing 10 competitive veggies, including beans and tomatoes. For each, Torpey covers planning and preparing, harvesting and transporting; she includes a checklist on what and how to pick, what to dismiss, and how to prepare for judging. The gem-like vegetables, including outlandish 1,000-pound pumpkins, display well in photographs, most taken at the Iowa State Fair. Color photos. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The New Christmas Tree: 24 Dazzling Trees and Over 100 Handcrafted Projects for an Inspired Holiday

Carrie Brown. Artisan, $29.95 (296p) ISBN 978-1-57965-591-4

There’s a lot to like about Brown’s first book, based on the Christmas trees she’s famous for decorating every year at Jimstown, her Sonoma County, California, store. The book’s full-color photos and elegantly designed matte pages showcase 24 dolled-up trees. Brown offers a treasure trove of ideas for those looking to add a creative twist to their holiday cheer. Highlights include the paper white tree, inspired by the cut-paper banners in Mexico; the pin tree, which turns pincushions into ornaments; and the copper and cork tree, wrapped in wine-cork garlands. Brown includes directions on what to collect (such as the lights) and what to make; the latter includes everything from simple marshmallow garlands for a Hansel and Gretel tree to quilled paper birds on the birdland tree. There’s no shortage of clever ideas, especially for those who’d like to produce ornaments without much fuss. Brown is at her best in suggesting simple crafts that will make an impressive statement. Color photos. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Good Decisions... Most of the Time: Because Life Is Too Short Not to Eat Chocolate

Danielle Brooks. Aviva (avivapubs.com), $27.59 (404p) ISBN 978-1-938686-63-4

Readers looking to lose weight—or just eat more healthily—will enjoy this well-organized and educational approach to making better nutritional choices. Nutritional therapist Brooks uses the image of “the hallway of life,” which we can use to walk toward either illness or health. According to her, by incorporating the “nutritional foundations” described here, everything else will fall into place. Brooks provides information about simple carbohydrates and outlines the no-sugar challenge, the book’s first nutritional foundation. Other sections feature complex carbs such as legumes (regarding vegetables, Brooks said, “Eat as many as you like”), healthy fats and oils, and water and electrolytes. Brooks also covers recipes such as vanilla rum-soaked pineapple, roasted garbanzo bean snacks, and an herbal brain booster. Each section has a simple homework assignment and lesson about the psychology of food. Those lessons cover awareness of choices, heeding your inner voice, and even meditating your way out of eating French fries. Brooks bolsters her insights with “nutritional nuggets” (fish oil might help achy legs; seafood eaters should add dandelions to their diets). Even with all the information imparted, the book’s most appealing aspect is Brooks’s patient, authoritative voice—no preaching, no cheerleading, just an informed guide sharing useful advice. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Don’t Eat This If You’re Taking That: The Hidden Risks of Mixing Food and Medicine

Madelyn Hirsch Fernstrom and John Fernstrom. Skyhorse, $24.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-63220-452-3

Neuroscientists Madelyn Hirsch Fernstrom (The Runner’s Diet) and John Fernstrom bring their expertise with nutrition and pharmacology to this discussion of foods and supplements that can inhibit common medications. The authors divide the book into sections focused on different categories of drugs, such as analgesic, cholesterol-lowering, and anti-reflux medications, and they include several lists of foods to limit or abstain from altogether. Some common culprits are obvious; alcohol is almost always to be avoided, though grapefruit appears on the prohibited lists almost as frequently. Readers are warned of the potential for life-threatening serotonin syndrome if they combine the herbal supplement St. John’s Wort with antidepressants, and they will learn that combining antacids with certain nerve pain medications can reduce the latter’s effects. Other lesser-known dangers covered in the book are the inhibiting effects of Vitamin K on anticoagulants, and of orange juice on the beta blocker atenolol. Additional topics include the way in which pain relievers function and the different ways beta blockers and calcium channel blockers lower blood pressure. This is an excellent resource for anyone taking prescription medication, collecting a wealth of vital information into one accessible volume. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/04/2015 | Details & Permalink

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