GIFT IDEAS

Foreword Reviews - - Contents - by Matt Suther­land

TIME’S UP! A Mem­oir of the Amer­i­can Cen­tury Robert Cabot, Mcpher­son & Com­pany (JAN­UARY) Hard­cover $25 (302pp), 978-1-62054-036-7

Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton and Thomas Jef­fer­son owned slaves and slept around. Whether those not-so-small pec­ca­dil­loes take away from their role in form­ing this coun­try is a mat­ter of de­bate. But the larger point is that no one es­capes this life with­out com­mit­ting some sin.

In Time’s Up: A Mem­oir of the Amer­i­can Cen­tury, Robert Cabot be­gins by fes­s­ing up to some egre­gious be­hav­ior from his an­ces­tors. The first Cabot, John, ar­rived in Salem in 1700 and quickly suc­ceeded as a sea­far­ing merchant. His de­scen­dants con­tin­ued the fam­ily trade while branch­ing out “into the very prof­itable busi­nesses of le­gal­ized piracy, the slave trade, the rum trade, the Chi­nese opium trade, and well-cho­sen mar­riages,” he writes, be­tray­ing a sin­cere amount of con­tri­tion for the source of his fam­ily’s wealth.

Well into his nineties, Cabot re­counts his ex­tra­or­di­nary years work­ing in the Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fices of the Tru­man ad­min­is­tra­tions, for the State Depart­ment in the Marshall Plan years, and then in Bangkok man­ag­ing a sprawl­ing US aid pro­gram af­ter re­sign­ing from govern­ment ser­vice of US for­eign poli­cies. His work and sub­se­quent trav­els found him in Kabul, Kun­jerab, Moscow, An­dalu­cia, Pe­shawar, Chaing Mai, Al­giers, L’ile Rousse, Naples, Bas­tia, Be­san­con, Paris, Cam­bo­dia, Laos, and many other lo­cales.

A splen­did feat of po­lit­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal stor­ry­telling, this project will also will be re­mem­bered for Cabot’s lamen­ta­tions about white priv­i­lege, colo­nial­ism, im­pe­ri­al­ism, en­vi­ron­men­tal destruc­tion, and the US’S trou­bling en­thu­si­asm for war.

SAKEPEDIA A Non-tra­di­tional Guide to Ja­pan’s Tra­di­tional Bev­er­age

It is easy to for­get that as re­cently as twenty-five years ago, Amer­ica’s drink­ing habits were any­thing but crafty and ad­ven­tur­ous. We were a Bud coun­try, we liked our cock­tails old-school, and the lit­tle wine we drank was of the Gallo Hearty Bur­gundy or sweet Ger­man Ries­ling va­ri­ety. My, how things have changed.

If you’re an early adopter of the na­tion’s next cool ine­bri­at­ing bev­er­age, you might just find your­self im­bib­ing ul­tra­premium sake made from Mikin­ishiki, an heir­loom rice grown in the Okayama pre­fec­ture of Ja­pan. You’ll note the el­e­gant bal­ance of tart­ness and sweet­ness, sour cherry and cit­rus fla­vors, all sheathed in a de­cep­tively rich, even heavy mouth­feel. You’ll ask for an­other glass.

Stylis­ti­cally, sake ap­peals to both wine and beer drinkers, and the keen ob­servers among us will have al­ready no­ticed an in­creas­ing num­ber of sake bars and trendy wa­ter­ing holes fea­tur­ing a boun­ti­ful se­lec­tion of the fer­mented rice bev­er­age. In­deed, all the parts are in place for a sake ex­plo­sion in the US, in­clud­ing the re­lease of Sakepedia: A Non-tra­di­tional Guide to Ja­pan’s Tra­di­tional Bev­er­age. A cer­ti­fied sake som­me­lier, Jeff Ci­o­letti does jus­tice to sake’s long his­tory in Ja­pan be­fore turn­ing to pro­duc­tion meth­ods, tast­ing notes, and the in­side-base­ball know-how to keep you in the good graces of the ar­ti­sanal sake crowd.

THE HID­DEN HIS­TORY OF ELVES & DWARFS Avatars of In­vis­i­ble Realms

Do they ex­ist? What are they hid­ing from? Did one of those lit­tle suck­ers take my beloved stuffed teddy bear when I was three? These are the burn­ing elf and dwarf ques­tions keep­ing wanna-be­liev­ers up at night, es­pe­cially in parts of north­ern Europe where most of the lit­tle-peo­ple leg­ends orig­i­nate. The Hid­den His­tory of Elves and Dwarfs just might move the ev­i­den­tiary nee­dle a bit fur­ther.

A for­mer pro­fes­sor of me­dieval lit­er­a­ture and civ­i­liza­tion, Claude Le­cou­teux’s deep dive into the ear­li­est folk­lore re­veals that elves and dwarfs were orig­i­nally thought of as the same crea­tures, only to evolve into dif­fer­ent be­ings with unique skills. The sub­se­quent cen­turies and mythol­o­giz­ers brought us gob­lins, brown­ies, sprites, fauns, satyrs, lep­rechauns, duses, and all man­ner of lit­tle mis­chief mak­ers.

That said, Le­cou­teux stresses that in mythol­ogy, “the elves have their place next to the gods, whereas the dwarfs do not.” And as he at­tempts to tie up loose ends in his epi­logue, They Ex­isted Be­cause We Be­lieve, he makes the in­trigu­ing claim that “these crea­tures rep­re­sent a crys­tal­liza­tion of scat­tered be­liefs that all share one point in com­mon: they closely re­late to Dumezil­ian Third Func­tion, to no­tions of fer­til­ity and fe­cun­dity, and there­fore to fig­ures that are al­leged to have the power to be­stow them: the dead. Dwarfs and elves have thus be­come good or evil spir­its.” Won­der­fully writ­ten and rea­soned, this project will re­ward the fer­tile mind.

Jeff Ci­o­letti, Turner Pub­lish­ing (FE­BRU­ARY) Soft­cover $16.99 (208pp), 978-1-68336-773-4 Claude Le­cou­teux, Jon E. Gra­ham (Trans­la­tor) In­ner Tra­di­tions (OC­TO­BER) Hard­cover $24 (240pp) 978-1-62055-715-0

THE WHOLE-BODY MICROBIOME How to Har­ness Mi­crobes—in­side and Out—for Life­long Health

Pro­bi­otics are the miracle cure of our age, if we take the ad­ver­tis­ing world at its word. And yet, the con­clu­sive stud­ies and re­search haven’t nearly caught up with the claims of the mar­keters. It’s still early, folks.

But re­searchers are mak­ing great head­way in dis­cov­er­ing that mi­crobes play an im­por­tant role in a great many of our bod­ily func­tions, and nu­mer­ous dis­eases and ail­ments, even if they don’t yet un­der­stand ex­actly how and why the mi­crobes do what they do.

Still, tan­ta­liz­ing ex­am­ples abound. Did you know the low­est lev­els of Alzheimer’s in the world are found in ru­ral In­dia, and that the most de­vel­oped coun­tries suf­fer the high­est rates? Did you know an­tibi­otic use is linked to de­pres­sion? Can we then as­sume the in­volve­ment of mi­cro­bi­otic bac­te­ria is a key fac­tor in both those dis­eases?

In The Whole-body Microbiome: How to Har­ness Mi­crobes—in­side and Out—for Life­long Health, Brett and Jes­sica Fin­lay (a fa­ther and daugh­ter team) of­fer ex­tra­or­di­nary new in­sight into the sig­nif­i­cance of the microbiome in any num­ber of age-re­lated con­di­tions—from cancer to oral health, Alzheimer’s to heart and lung func­tion. The take­away is that we need to look beyond gut bac­te­ria, and rec­og­nize that there’s very lit­tle about the microbiome that we fully un­der­stand, com­forted by the fact that the Fin­lays and thou­sands of other ex­perts are seek­ing the truth.

THE SILK ROADS An Il­lus­trated New His­tory of the World

To be ten in Amer­ica is to be mys­ti­fied—the world is so com­pli­cated, ten­sion-filled, cal­lous, and dis­tress­ing that the al­lure of a vir­tual life on a screen is nearly im­pos­si­ble to re­sist. What can we do for that child? What tools can we pro­vide to help her find her place, her iden­tity?

Cer­tainly one of the most ef­fec­tive ways to un­der­stand to­day’s world, and even to peek into the fu­ture, is to look back. By study­ing the peo­ple and places of an­cient and not-so-dis­tant times, it is pos­si­ble to make con­nec­tions, so as to bet­ter un­der­stand how ev­ery­thing fits to­gether.

Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads: An Il­lus­trated New His­tory of the World is the beau­ti­fully ren­dered retelling of his master­piece, The Silk Roads, al­beit for chil­dren ten and up. The con­nec­tions he se­cures be­tween re­li­gion, trade, dis­ease, war, sci­ence, and calamity un­der­pin the suc­cess of this project, which is fur­ther en­hanced by his rare sto­ry­telling skills and writ­ing chops.

Not to be out­done, Neil Packer’s splen­did il­lus­tra­tions are of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by help­ful cap­tions, fas­ci­nat­ing lit­tle snip­pets of lore, and in­sights to leaven Frankopan’s text.

The fact that so many peo­ple es­cape child­hood with­out a real pas­sion for his­tory is more a fault of the lack­lus­ter sto­ry­telling skills of contemporary his­to­ri­ans. The team of Frankopan and Packer are the ex­cep­tion ex­traor­di­naire.

B. Brett Fin­lay, Jes­sica M. Fin­lay, The Ex­per­i­ment (JAN­UARY) Hard­cover $24.95 (320pp) 978-1-61519-481-0 Peter Frankopan, Neil Packer (Il­lus­tra­tor) Blooms­bury Chil­dren’s Books (NOVEM­BER) Hard­cover $24.99 (128pp), 978-1-5476-0021-2

Im­age from The Silk Roads: An Il­lus­trated New His­tory of the World by Peter Frankopan; il­lus­trated by Neil Packer. Used with per­mis­sion from Blooms­bury Chil­dren’s Books.

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