On the Map, by Simon Garfield; Because I Said So!, by Ken Jennings; Consider The Fork, by Bee Wilson

Book Review: On the Map, by Simon Garfield. 3 stars
Book Review: On The Map, by Simon Garfield. 3 stars

On the Map is a book about the organization of the world. Humans use maps to know where they are, to know where they’re going, and to know where there is to go. On the Map is about the history of those activities.

It is very similar in format to Just My Type, but is not quite as interesting—or maybe I’m just not as fascinated by maps as I am by fonts. For one thing, it’s much easier to show typography in a book (it’s impossible to show maps in a small, black-and-white book as impressively as they appear in real life). For me, the book has a very slow start, but gets more interesting as it moves through time to discuss modern maps and their usages, including GPS and Google maps.

Good for: History buffs, people interested in the map and tracking technology of modern life, geography nerds.

Book Review: Because I Said So! The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids, by Ken Jennings. 4 stars

Book Review: Because I Said So! The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids, by Ken Jennings. 4 stars

Because I Said So! is an entertaining look at questionable parental beliefs, and outright old wive’s tales, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading half this book aloud to whomever will listen!

In debunking or confirming various pieces of conventional “wisdom,” Jennings references a lot of studies and articles, but provides no citations. It’s a fun, breezy read, not a research-driven treatise. I found what was true just as surprising as what was not. But the downside is, you may find yourself wanting to know more about a particular study and not knowing where to start.

Good for: Anyone who ever wondered if their face would really get stuck that way.

Book Review: Consider The Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat, by Bee Wilson. 4.5 stars

Consider the Fork is not just a history of the kitchen. It’s an overview of human innovation, of changing cultural mores reflected in kitchen gadgets, and of the global influence of various cooking styles and techniques. With chapters focusing on different aspects of the kitchen, Consider the Fork covers everything from the types of heat used in cooking, to the utensils used to deliver food to our mouths. There are short pieces on interesting kitchen items between full-length chapters.

This book is seriously fascinating, and not just for chefs and gourmands. You’ll be surprised how much a culture can be influenced by the way its members cook and eat, and by how much the way people cook and eat is influenced by other elements of a culture. I learned way more about historic architecture, metallurgy, the science of refrigeration, and changes in human dental structure than I expected when I picked up the book. Skip the boring introduction and go straight to Chapter 1—but be careful! You might feel an increasing need to buy a whole bunch of new, well-made kitchen equipment.

Good for: This book was really good, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in cooking, human development, industry and innovation, kitchen gadgets… the list goes on!

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