Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Twinkie, Deconstructed: my journey to discover how the ingredients found in processed foods are grown, mined (yes, mined), and manipulated into what America eats

by Steve Ettlinger

I'm behind on my reading -- again. Luckily I've just cracked Twinkie, Deconstructed, which is nonfiction but reads really fast. It's all about the origins of the ingredients of Twinkies, including a lot of stuff you probably never thought of as "food." Although not as disgusting as Fast Food Nation, it'll still make you think twice before snacking. Also a good recommendation if you enjoyed Garbage Land.

Only thing I'm going to add here is that the author isn't the greatest writer (not a lot of flair), but in a book such as this that isn't a bad thing. The writing is solid, organized, and easily understandable without sacrificing interesting details.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How Language Works: how babies babble, words change meaning, and languages live or die

by David Crystal

This is what happens when one doesn't write one's reviews right away: of course I remember what the book is about, but my initial reaction is lost and I'm having trouble organizing my thoughts about it. So, this'll be kind of a short one.

I wound up having to skim parts of this book, especially at the end. I'm really interested in cognitive linguistics, neurophysiology, semiotics... so the creation of language, learning of language, the biology and psychology of language are all subjects I'm jazzed about. Heck, I already knew about Noam Chomsky's universal grammar theory. How Language Works covers a lot of ground, including some stuff I found rather boring, but the parts I liked were super.

It's hard to find nonfiction that strikes the right tone between professional/academic and popular/readable. This particular book was a tad to "approachable" for me, in part because I'm already acquainted with some of the material. Overall, I'd say this book is an OK introduction to a broad range of subjects loosely gathered under the banner of Linguistics, but it's too broad and loose to satisfy more than a passing fancy.