Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Drunken Botanist

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013).

This book is full of fascinating historical tidbits and explanations of the plants and processes that create all sorts of alcoholic drinks, from wine and beer to flavored vodkas and types of whiskey. Stewart delves into all kinds of alcohol-related terminology and trade regulations that will help you understand the labels on bottles. She goes into so much detail that it is almost an encyclopedia in 355 pages. If you want to know the Latin names for the varieties of mint used in mint juleps, you’ll find it here. She also supplies illustrations of all the plants, warnings about plants that are toxic (either raw or after distilling), and cocktail recipes for even the most obscure drinks. Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware is mentioned several times because of their passion for recreating ancient drinks based on archeological evidence. I can imagine this book on the bookshelf of a bartender at a very expensive hotel, or the owners of a craft brewery, winery or distillery. The author was interviewed on an NPR’s The Splendid Table not long ago.

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The Movement of Stars

This historical novel is based on the life of 19th century astronomer Maria Mitchell, but uses a different character (Hannah Price) and changes some people and events. Since most people are not that familiar with Maria Mitchell’s life, it works on its own. In fact, it works much better than the novel about Ben Franklins’ son, whose father we know too much about. Brill tells a touching romance while describing Quaker life in 1840s Nantucket, the excitement of discovering comets, and the limitations imposed on women and blacks in 19th century America. It will be interesting to see if the author can come up with a unique plot for her next novel without the advantage of borrowing from the life of a real historical figure.

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Filed under Historical fiction

The Introvert Advantage

The Introvert Advantage: Making the most of your inner strengths by Marti Olson Laney (Workman Publishing, 2002)

This is an excellent, insightful book which is very helpful to introverts. The concept of an “advantage” is basically just to sell the book –she never mentions any specific advantages.  Laney makes similar arguments to those made by Susan Cain in Quiet, but her focus is different so the book doesn’t feel redundant. She has a private psychotherapy practice focusing on introverts, so her examples come from her clients. Susan Cain, by contrast, is a former attorney who explores the subject of introversion more like a journalist, interviewing various people about their experiences. They both come to the same conclusion, that introverts really are different, but that they are just as healthy and normal as extroverts. Both books are essential reading for introverts who want to understand themselves better and be more comfortable in their own bodies.

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