Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Us

Ruth Kassinger. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-544-43293-2
Gardening and botany writer Kassinger (A Garden of Marvels) mingles ecology and 3.7 billion years of Earth’s history to explain the importance and ubiquity of algae, from the cyanobacteria, which first released oxygen into the atmosphere, to the invasive azolla, cherished by organic rice farmers. In chirpy prose chock-full of homespun metaphors—“With pyrenoids, microalgae were cooking on a professional range instead of a hot plate”—Kassinger turns an obscure subject into delightful reading. Some readers’ tongues may twist on the likes of coccolithophores, but concise explanations make the going easy. As the book explains, algae were possibly what helped fuel early hominin brains and prompted humans to first migrate from Asia into North America along an algae-rich “kelp highway.” Kassinger describes the possibility of replacing fossil fuels with algae-based fuels, the ecological threat posed by toxic algal blooms at sea, and the various locales to which her research took her, including an algae oil farm in Brazil, a seaweed research center in South Korea, and a test kitchen (from which she shares recipes, such as dulse and cheddar scones and Irish moss blancmange) in San Francisco. Even readers who never expected to enjoy a book about slime will find this an informative and charming primer to “the world’s most powerful engines.” (June)
Reviewed on : 02/22/2019
Release date: 06/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-544-43315-1
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