Gordon-Reed richly deserves the academic and popular acclaim she has achieved. As an audiobook, it drags sometimes. Gordon-Reed's careful analyses do not always make for a sense of forward-driving plot, yet they ultimately reward with insights that a less thorough scholar would have overlooked.
Taubes makes interesting and useful points in this book. However, he has the zeal of a believer, and this makes me suspicious. For example, not all of the studies he cites seem to be of the same caliber. And his criticism of the medical establishment seems suspect without a more sophisticated explanation as to the reasons why public health officials might have supported the low-fat diet.
Most importantly, his casual dismissal of the importance of exercise and leafy green vegetables is rather bizarre. To lay out the evidence, as Taubes did in a recent New York Times essay, for the claim that sugar and refined carbohydrates are toxic is an important public service. However, to suggest that we all should give up all carbohydrates is bizarre. Such massive restrictions are essential for some epileptics, and perhaps some others who suffer from certain genetic predispositions yet to be studied; it is certainly not appropriate for us all. Giving up sugar and refined carbohydrates is more than enough for most people, if followed with reasonable strictness.
Finally, Taubes claims that he cares about society, not about making moral judgements against individuals. Yet he fails to address three essential points: 1) our society is not set up for us--particularly the poor and the busy--to avoid carbohydrates, and so Taubes ends up championing a model of will-power not that different from the low-calorie diets he critiques.
2) Taubes, it seems, could not care less about the social and environmental consequences of a high meat diet, and seems entirely uninterested in suggesting versions of a high-protein diet for vegetarians.
3) It is not at all clear that hunter-gatherer societies in the 20th century eat/ate in the same ways as societies in earlier times. The blatant and suspect primitivist logic of the Paleo and other such diets makes them culturally rebarbative.
Fagles' is an excellent translation, and the reader is outstanding. One of the best contemporary translations. However, despite the "unabridged" label, this version appears to be subtly edited or cut down.
I'm a long-time fan of Bujold, and in this story she doesn't disappoint, delivering her characteristic wit and adventure, with many of your favorite characters but none of the darkness of her earliest work.
Homophobia is a great way to spoil a decent book. Dagoberto Gilb doesn't seem to have gotten the memo: masculinity is not constituted by rejecting and/or beating up gay men. That tired scene is so five minutes ago. I don't care if Gilb supposedly is a great fan of John Rechy. If so, he clearly didn't learn the lesson Rechy's books have to offer.
Octavia Butler's insights into power, slavery, intimacy, and the role of sexuality in unequal relationships are unparalleled. And her insights are matched only by the narrative and erotic power of her writing. There's a reason that she's beloved by SciFi nerds, academics, and black power folks alike: she's the real deal.
The reader is also excellent--she does accents differently yet subtly.
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