Tuesday, 21 October 2008

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover
The Mark of a Murderer
by Susanna Gregory

Narrated by Andrew Wincott
On St Scholastica's Day in February 1355, Oxford explodes in one of the most serious riots of its turbulent history. Fearing for their lives, the scholars flee the city, and some choose the University at Cambridge as their temporary refuge. Within hours of their arrival, the first of their number dies, followed quickly by a second. When Matthew Bartholomew and Brother Michael begin to investigate the deaths, they uncover evidence that the Oxford riot was not a case of random violence, but part of a carefully orchestrated plot."
Compared with other historical thriller books, this places the characters in the 14th century but doesn't really set the scene there - they could be walking round a dirty version of a modern town. For all that, it's pretty good. Apparently it's one of a series featuring the same characters, but the other books aren't available from Audible.

Image of the book cover
The Omnivore's Dilemma
by Michael Pollan

"What shall we have for dinner? Such a simple question has grown to have a very complicated answer. We can eat almost anything nature has to offer, but deciding what we should eat stirs anxiety. Should be choose the organic apple of the conventional? If organic, local or imported? Wild fish or farmed? Low-carb or low-cal? As the American culture of fast food and unlimited choice invades the world, Pollan follows his next meal from land to table, tracing the origin of everything consumed and the implications for ourselves and our planet."
This was interesting - it is a very well-known book in the foodie literature canon. The trouble is, I'm now on my way to being quite a well-read academic in the area of food and nutrition, and it spoils the enjoyment a bit. Every now and then he pulls a statistic or factoid out of the hat, and I am brought up short because I know something, however little, about the subject. For example, the idea that fish oil makes children cleverer (either in the womb or in infancy or childhood). The data just isn't conclusive, but there's enough on each side of the argument to make it easy for an author or journalist to say "Evidence shows..." and make a case for whichever he wants. So I've read the book, and it's interesting and a good read, but now I'm going to get rid of it. If anyone wants me to post it to them, let me know! UK or overseas - Bloggy Giveaway!


Ian said...

Lola, what a coincidence. This second book is on my short list of “Books to Read in the Near Future.” I’ve only recently become concerned about the moral and environmental issues surrounding the origin of our food so this book should be quite useful. If I could summarize everything I’ve learned about food so far it is that more than half of what we eat is a byproduct of corn. For years I’ve mostly avoided corn (thinking it mostly to be a filler and little else) and now I’m even more determined to do so. Hell, I won’t even feed my dogs any dog food that has corn in it. Hmmm, whee was I going with this? Something about corn and then the dogs and their dietary habits and…oh yeah, I remember. Thanks for suggesting the book!

Lola said...

Ian - do you want me to send you the book? It might not be a quick journey because (depending on postage cost) I might send it surface mail. Let me know - email your address if you want it.