Journey into the Heart
What Tom Wolfe did for astronauts in The Right Stuff, Monagan, a medical journalist, and Williams, a top cardiologist at Brown/Rhode Island Hospital, do for heart surgeons in this gory but riveting history of cardiovascular medicine. Fascinating characters pepper a journey from the days, barely a century ago, when physicians feared touching a living human heart, to the development of the balloon angioplasty (a breakthrough in minimally invasive surgery) in the 1980s.
The No Time to Lose Diet: The Busy Person’s Guide to Permanent Weight Loss
Americans’ hectic, fast-food-grabbing lifestyles are often blamed for our increasing girth, but Jampolis, FIT TV’s diet doctor, doesn’t tolerate the usual excuses for flab (business travel, small children, and crazy schedules). Her prescription includes smart strategies for restaurant eating, no-cook dinners, and exercise on the fly.
Don’t Throw This Away: The Civil Engineering Life
This civil engineer’s surprisingly pithy meditations on suburban sprawl, bridge aesthetics, Dilbert, and the chocolate-obsessed town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, will delight even those who don’t consider a trip to Scotland’s Forth Rail Bridge the ideal vacation.
All That Matters: Memoir from the Wellness Community of Greater Boston
The Paper Journey Press
Participants in the novelist Peggy Rambach’s memoir-writing class at the Wellness Community of Greater Boston, all grappling with cancer, were not allowed the luxury of free-form scribbling. Rambach, who described her class as “the boot camp of support center writing workshops,” drummed into her students the discipline essential to crafting tight, engaging prose. The result is a collection that eschews the comforts of chronology—another Rambach directive—in favor of illuminating moments. One writer’s living room furniture seems to change shape as she prepares to share her diagnosis with her children, while another’s suspense during an ultrasound is transmuted into a desperate desire to connect with the technician. Other contributions, such as the warmly recalled account of a large Irish family’s seasonal get-togethers, celebrate life in all its transitory beauty.
The New Capitalists: How Citizen Investors Are Reshaping the Corporate Agenda
Harvard Business School Press
Corporate ownership, once concentrated among a few wealthy families and state agencies, is falling into the hands of a more diverse group, thanks to the rise of mutual funds and retirement plans. The new “activist investors” are the neighborhood watch of the corporate world. Grassroots owners, like the group of nuns who successfully pressured GM to change its environmental policies, are compelling an ethos of accountability and ushering in a new “civil economy.”
5 Minutes with…
Steve Ettlinger, A71Hudson Street Press
From rumors that they’re baked only once a year to tales of their nuclear indestructibility, Twinkies are as mythical as ambrosia. So when Steve Ettlinger’s daughter asked him, “Daddy, what’s polysorbate 60?” he jumped at the chance to explore the world of artificial ingredients through the prism of the ultimate processed-food icon. Sidestepping the preachiness of the usual anti-junk-food screed in favor of curiosity and wit, Twinkie, Deconstructed is a narrative about the modern food industry with key Twinkie ingredients such as cellulose gum, FD&C Yellow 5, and, yes, polysorbate 60, as its main characters.
“The Twinkie has its own set of emotional triggers. In my office, I have a collection of Yoo-hoo drinks and other snack foods that I considered writing about, but none had the range of ingredients that would allow me to explore all the major artificial ingredients—in the right number of chapters—that I wanted to. So many processed foods are made from raw ingredients that come from all over the world, in particular Chinese petroleum. The most fun surprise I discovered is that we eat lots of rocks—the ore for baking powder and baking soda, and calcium sulfate are the two most important ones. The ferrous sulfate used to enrich flour comes from crude oil and steel mills. I thought more of these things would be derived from plants—not steel plants, but actual plants. I was also pretty surprised to see that carbon monoxide and chlorine gas, two of the more toxic substances, are used in a variety of chemical reactions to produce food. It made me appreciate even more the wild blueberries I pick and eat myself.
So many processed foods are made from raw ingredients that come from all over the world, in particular Chinese petroleum. The most fun surprise I discovered is that we eat lots of rocks—the ore for baking powder and baking soda, and calcium sulfate are the two most important ones. The ferrous sulfate used to enrich flour comes from crude oil and steel mills. I thought more of these things would be derived from plants—not steel plants, but actual plants. I was also pretty surprised to see that carbon monoxide and chlorine gas, two of the more toxic substances, are used in a variety of chemical reactions to produce food. It made me appreciate even more the wild blueberries I pick and eat myself.
I traveled as much as I could for the book. Some people might enjoy climbing the Himalayas or exploring the back streets of Paris. But I got to go to Blair, Nebraska, to visit a high-fructose corn syrup plant. I rode in a $250,000 combine harvester in Illinois. Sitting in the cab was like being in the cockpit of a 747. I was awed by tens of thousands of highly polished stainless steel pipes crisscrossing each other in a dairy whey plant in Wisconsin. I saw huge corn processing plants next to urban auto junkyards. I got to go down into a mine 1,600 feet under the plains of Wyoming where the ore for baking powder and baking soda comes from. It was so big that once I got down there, I got into a jeep and drove for 20 minutes. The all-time most fun thing to see was a machine that breaks 7 million eggs a day. They call it the biggest “egg plant” in the country!
People forget that all cooking is chemistry; it just happens to be chemistry that tastes good. All cooking deals with the chemical transformation of food on a molecular level. To boil water is to manipulate molecules—transforming a liquid into a gas—and boiling water isn’t bad for you, unless you pour it on your head. When you brown meat, or brown flour to make a sauce, you’re changing things chemically.
The point of a good diet is to choose carefully, exercise moderation, and get enough variety. The problem isn’t that people eat Twinkies. It’s that they think they can eat highly processed foods all the time without any health consequences because of the way our culture promotes them."
The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient NationRandom House (February 2007)
Homeland security expert Stephen Flynn’s forthcoming book challenges the prevailing orthodoxy that we can actually prevent acts of terror. A senior fellow with the National Security Studies Program at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the bestselling America the Vulnerable (HarperCollins), Flynn argues that the best measure of national preparedness is resiliency. A neglected public health system and crumbling infrastructure are the chief enemies we need to target, whether we seek to protect ourselves from terrorism or hurricanes. In this excerpt (used by permission of Random House), he draws a parallel between effective counterterrorism and the medical community’s containment of the AIDS virus.
The medical field offers a compelling analogy for recalibrating the war on terrorism.
Consider how doctors currently deal with patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the retrovirus responsible for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). While every physician would welcome a cure for AIDS, the medical community has not been wagering everything on developing a vaccine that could clear the body of an HIV infection. It recognizes that the virus is incredibly complex and highly mutable.
Realizing that a vaccine is likely to remain out of reach for some time to come, researchers and doctors have had to devise other strategies to deal with those who have been infected with HIV. Since the mid-1990s, physicians have been prescribing a combination of medications known as antiretrovirals to keep HIV within acceptable limits so that the patient’s immune system continues to function. The logic behind pursuing this course is straightforward: HIV becomes fatal only when it succeeds in destroying the immune system so the body no longer has the ability to ward off diseases such as pneumonia or tuberculosis that become the real killers. Since modern medications can help assist the body to keep its natural defense system intact, HIV has become a chronic illness. In other words, though new infections cannot be wholly prevented and there is still no cure, AIDS is now a treatable disease.
The radical jihadist threat has proven itself to be like a complicated and elusive virus. In confronting that threat, I believe, we should adjust our strategy in two ways that are analogous to how doctors are treating HIV infections. The first is to place far greater emphasis on the kinds of counterterrorism efforts we could be pursuing here within the United States, as opposed to expending so much of our blood and treasure on trying to win campaigns overseas. The second is to focus on ensuring that our national “immune system”—that is, our civil society and the economic and political foundations that support it—is in top form. Living with a chronic illness may not be ideal, but if it is treatable, a person can adjust to it and continue to have a fulfilling life.
Counterterrorism initiatives—strengthening local police efforts, shoring up “soft targets,” and developing a capacity to respond nimbly when protective measures fail—are much like antiretroviral drugs in the treatment of HIV. But unlike the HIV-therapy “cocktails,” pursuing these initiatives will have few damaging side effects. Community policing efforts will help combat crime as well as improve our ability to detect and intercept terrorist organizations. The kinds of things we need to do to make critical infrastructure more durable so as to reduce its appeal as a terrorist target can simultaneously bolster its capacity to ride out both daily trials and natural disasters. Finally, none of these defensive measures will provide fodder to fuel the jihadist’s claim that the United States is at war with Islam.
In short, just as we have accustomed ourselves to living with the chronic risk of natural disasters, so too must we learn to live with the threat of terrorism. Rather than myopically and futilely trying to cleanse the global system of this threat, Americans need to take a deep breath and recognize that terrorists cannot destroy us. However, if cooler heads do not prevail, what terrorism can do is lead us to attack our own immune system. We must not fall into a trap where, in a frantic effort to make ourselves “secure,” we end up inflicting injuries on our civil society, the economy at large, and our constitutional system of checks and balances. Then we ourselves will be responsible for destroying what Abraham Lincoln famously called “the last best hope on Earth.”
Also of Note