Posts Tagged ‘Anthropology’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Melissa O’s Picks

December 26, 2014

I read a wide variety of books of all different genres. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. Here are five books I stumbled upon this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

The Devil's BonesThe Devil’s Bones by Jefferson Bass
Bill Brockton is a forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. There he and his team study of the science of decomposition. He also finds himself drawn into the danger and drama of the murders they are trying to solve. It starts out simply enough, a woman’s charred body in a burned out car. How did she die? Then he receives a package of strange cremated remains. Suddenly he is fighting for his life and trying to solve a crime so hideous you won’t want to believe it. Another reason to love this book is that the author, Jefferson Bass, is actually a pseudonym for Bill Bass, the real-life famous forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm, and cowriter Jon Jefferson. How cool is that!

Pioneer WomanPioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – a love story by Ree Drummond
I had never read her blog, watched her cooking show, or picked up one of her cookbooks when I stumbled on this autobiography by Ree Drummond. As someone who spent some time feeling lost and unsure about the future, I could relate to her feelings as she struggled with where her next steps should take her. She never thought that future would mean staying in rural Oklahoma. And she certainly didn’t think it would involve a cowboy! I became lost in the words, flowery and syrupy as they sometimes are, as she “accidently” found herself on a cattle ranch and having adventures she never could have pictured in her future. A great read about taking a chance on love and setting out on the path less traveled.

Dangerous PassageDangerous Passage by Lisa Harris
This is a new inspirational series introducing widowed police detective Avery North and medical examiner Jackson Bryant. Harris nicely intertwines a love story into a thrilling murder mystery. Young Asian women are being murdered and the only link between them seems to be a small tattoo of a magnolia blossom. The investigation seems to simply uncover more mysteries and cover ups. Can they solve the case before more women go missing, and will Avery be ready to open her heart to love again?


Stand Up That MountainStand Up That Mountain by Jay Erskine Leutze
If you love the outdoors, this book is for you. If you love gut wrenching legal battles, this book is for you. If you love to root for the little guy, well you get the picture. Jay has escaped his life as an attorney and retreated to the North Carolina Mountains. Living quietly as a naturalist and fisherman, he loves the Appalachian Trail. He learns from a family of “mountain people” that a mining company plans to dynamite Belview Mountain, which sits right beside the Trail. They have evidence of their less than ethical behavior and the fight is on. As an avid mountain hiker and lover of nature, this book captured me, especially since it is in our own backyard! It is hard to believe that we almost lost one of the great treasures of our state. Jay Erskine Leutze recounts his story of the ground breaking legal fight to save this tiny Appalachian community in a book that is as engaging as any fiction tale.

SubmergedSubmerged by Dani Pettrey
The old saying “you can never go home again” seemed to hold true for Bailey Craig. Yet home is exactly where she found herself, for better or worse. She left Yancey, Alaska in disgrace, now can she find forgiveness? Bailey returned to bury her beloved aunt her died in a plane crash. Was it an accident or was it murder? Cole McKenna has put his past with Bailey behind him, until she shows up in town again. Soon she is fighting for her own life. Can Cole accept that Bailey has changed and help her solve the murder before she becomes another victim? Dani Pettrey is a new author and anyone who loves Dee Henderson’s novels should check her out. This new inspirational suspense series is fantastic and I can’t wait to continue the journey with her characters.

The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman

July 9, 2014

The Story of the Human BodyThe history of our bodies in terms of evolution, is a complex and fascinating subject. I have been intrigued since childhood, walking The Hall of Man at any natural history museum worth its salt that I could visit.

Daniel Lieberman is a Harvard professor of human evolutionary biology, as well as a gifted storyteller.  He tells the story of human evolution in a manner that is readable like a biography, and as compelling at times as any thriller. What made humans become bipedal? (Hint: to see over tall grasses!) Why did we move from hunting and gathering our food, to farming it? What aspects of our development contributed (and continue to contribute) to diseases that plague us?

Booklist, in its review, summed it up best as, “Like it or not, we are slightly fat, furless, bipedal primates who crave sugar, salt, fat, and starch.” We have large brains that require a lot of energy, and that drove most of our evolutionary process – the need to feed the brain glucose. Lieberman argues that humans are not meant to be farmers, nor to eat grains as a main sustenance. And that farming may be the worst thing that could have happened in our evolution.

I found the chapters on nutrition to be the most interesting and salient to our present day world. How our bodies have not really changed much since the Stone Age, but the world has become one of abundance and obesogens. Our bodies, which were designed for feast and mostly famine, are now living in a world of fast food. Lieberman addresses this and more.

Lieberman is a talented popular science writer. What could have easily become mired in jargon is explained for the layperson. He unfurls a story of our ancestors that compels the reader to want to explore more.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

October 15, 2010

My curiosity was piqued by this book because it is about the oldest trends in healthy eating, rather than the most recent.  Fallon bases her cookbook/nutrition text on the first-hand observation of Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who traveled the world in the 1930s researching primitive peoples who, despite having no access to dental care, had near-perfect teeth.  Not surprisingly, he also found that these same people had very few of the other disorders that plague modern society.  He isolated diet as the primary causative factor, because in each society the native peoples who abandoned their traditional diet in favor of the “western diet” began to suffer the same ills as modern society, including rampant tooth decay.

Price studied peoples on six continents, and from their very different diets isolated a number of nutritional principles that he laid out in his landmark book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.  Many of these principles directly contradict our cherished notions of a healthy diet.  For example, no civilization that he looked at was thriving on a purely vegetable diet—all made use of animal products, with the native peoples of Alaska as well as certain African tribes enjoying splendid health on a diet of almost exclusively animal products.

Fallon brings Price’s time-tested principles into a practical context by explaining how to apply his findings on a daily basis.  She presents simple ways to locate in our own society many of the “nutritionally dense” foods of these native peoples enjoyed.  She stresses the importance of the source of your food—pasture-fed and drug-free animal products, for example—and also the importance of the preparation.  For example, Price found that every society which ate grain did so in some kind of soured, fermented, or sprouted fashion, such as sourdough bread.  We now know that such preparation breaks down the phytates in whole grains which are difficult to digest and may contribute to grain allergies.

Carnivores and vegetarians alike will learn a lot from the wide variety of information and recipes in this book.  It is a great resource that has an honored place in my kitchen.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

October 12, 2010

If humanity disappeared very suddenly, what would happen to the Earth? What would become of everything left behind? Alan Weisman explores a wide range of areas and subjects in detailing humanity’s final traces, from New York City to Kenya, the Pacific ocean to deep space, from the actions of ancient civilizations to those of imperialist American presidents and modern bronze sculptors. It is both a diligently researched supposition of a post-human world and an environmental warning bell, one more engaging and varied than most.

I began this book expecting something like a research paper for a post-apocalyptic story. This book is far beyond that, dealing in time scales much longer than human lifetimes and delving as much into the past as the future, exploring the impact of humans on this planet since we came out of the trees. The book is neatly organized into areas of examination, such as plant and animal life, technological advancements, structures and art, and of course, where to go from here. What surprised me most about the book was how much it affected me. In particular, the chapter on plastics, entitled “Polymers Are Forever,” was genuinely upsetting with its vivid descriptions of tons of plastic floating forever on the surface of the ocean.

But the book is not completely dour. In every chapter, the author offers alternate perspectives or glimmers of hope, in the persistence and mutability of life or in the nature of humans themselves. This book will fascinate anybody interested in science, anthropology, or the progress of humanity. It is thoughtful, meticulously researched, well-written in an easily readable style, and goes into every corner of the globe to provide a balanced picture of what we will leave behind. The scope of the book was surprising, but delightful.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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