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.