We’re going to start this week off with a book that will warm the hearts of everyone, because that’s what we need on these bitterly cold days, isn’t it? Warm words that will fend of a bit of that f*cking chill.
Oh, sorry. We jumped the gun there a bit.
Anyway, Emma Byrne’s delightfully and impeccably researched book on words not meant for polite company is out in paperback. We’ve long advocated that swearing is good for you—we practice it every day, in fact—and now we’ve got research that backs us up. Thanks, Dr. Byrne!
Seriously, though, Byrne isn’t just rolling around, firing off filthy words left and right. She’s made a concerted effort to examine the cultural, neurological, and linguistic underpinnings of why we make bad mouth noises. At the very least, you’ll come away with a better understanding of what is driving you to say silly sh*t all the time.
Who says books aren’t educational?
And while we’re talking about educational opportunities, we should mention John Michael Greer’s A Magical Education, a fascinating book that collects a number of Mr. Greer’s talks and presentations at various pagan and occult conferences during the early part of the new millennium. Greer, as you may recall, used to be the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids here in the United States, and he’s a widely respected voice in contemporary occult studies. He’s also the guy who can liven up any dinner party with a breakdown of just about any conspiracy theory from the last three thousand years. A Magical Education isn’t quite kitchen anecdotal material, but it’s certainly lively and informative.
And while we’re learning stuff, let’s pull out Matthew Miller’s Fishing Through the Apocalypse: An Angler’s Adventures in the 21st Century. During business hours, Miller is the director of science communications for The Nature Conservancy, and during the rest of the time, he’s an avid fisherperson. Miller uses Fishing Through the Apocalypse as an opportunity to tell some great fishing stories, but also to talk about the state of fish conservation in this industrialized age. You can’t fish what isn’t there, after all, and it’s Miller’s view that we need to figure out how to put back more than we take out.
And speaking of growing your own, Artur Cisar-Erlach sets out to explore the impact wood has on our food and drink with The Flavor of Wood. For instance, and we know this from personal experience, Scotch Whisky must be matured in oak casks (typically Quercus alba and Quercus robur, for you tree nerds out there). Naturally, where you get these oaks casks makes a difference because whatever you had in the cask is going to leave its mark on the fresh distillation of that marvelous mash that has been substrated, fermented (only by endogenous enzymes, of course), and yeasted. Mmm. Scotch.
Sorry? Where were we? Oh, yes, Cisar-Erlach’s quest to find out the many, many ways that wood is used in we eat and drink. It’s not just booze, mind you. It’s tea and char and syrup and pizza ovens and wild mountain pine chefs.
Wood. It’s not just for making tree-houses anymore.
And continuing our efforts with self-edification and true stories, we have Ian Frisch’s Magic is Dead: My Journey Into the World’s Most Secretive Society of Magicians. Frisch recently decided he wanted to be a part of a cabal of young magical upstarts who were calling themselves the ’52,’ and so he set off to figure out how to toss rabbits through null-space, weave Möbius strands of handkerchiefs, and turn earwax into gold coins. Along the way, he gets in behind-the-scenes and talks shop and dirt about the modern era of magic as entertainment.
Why, yes, it is entertainment, but that hasn’t stopped us from adoring Justin Willman’s Magic for Humans Netflix series. Whatever. We like a good disappearing marshmallow trick as much as the next person.
And speaking of the next person (no, really, he teaches writing at Centralia College—that’s like, next door), Matt Young’s memoir of life as a Marine in Iraq is now out in paperback. Eat the Apple follows Young during several tours of Iraq where the salty language flows freely and there is no shortage of testosterone. Fortunately, Young knows the best memoirs are those which are self-deprecating (to an extreme, in his case) and earnest about the enduring hopefulness of humanity in the face of constant stupidity.
And speaking of enduring hopefulness, Strathdee’s and Patterson’s The Perfect Predator reads like the latest thriller from Child & Preston or Rollins or Cussler, but is totally a true story. So, once upon a time (and you really can’t start a medical eco-thriller with “once upon a time,” but whatever), Strathdee, an epidemiologist, and Patterson, a psychiatrist, go vacationing in Egypt. Patterson goes off and crawls around in a pyramid (like you do WHEN YOU’RE IN A MICHAEL CRICHTON NOVEL), and ends up with some sort of flu-like thingie. Naturally, it gets worse, and then someone discovers a “football-sized pseudocyst infected with an antibiotic-resistant superbug.”
No, seriously. This is not the top-level summary of the next MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE film. This is all true.
So, after months of trying to come up with a way to cure her husband of this next-generation cyst-inducing superbug, Strathdee stumbles upon a century-old treatment called “phage therapy” and . . .
NO, THIS IS NOT THE PLOT OF A MATTHEW REILLY NOVEL!
Anyway, The Perfect Predator will probably be made into a movie, like, next week.
And finally, let us point you toward Will Ashon’s Chamber Music: Wu-Tang and America (in 36 Pieces). Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Wu-Tang Clan’s classic Chamber Music album, Ashon writes a piece of cultural, political, and historical criticism about each track of the legendary album. It’s a whirlwind tour of politics, music history, avant-everything, and cultural assimilation in contemporary America.