Recent reading

I must remember to do these posts more often. Amazon referrals are my drinkin’ money. (Not really. If they were I’d still be saving up for my first case of PBR. But every little bit helps!). On to the books…

The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence, Paul Davies — My interest in aliens goes way back, but Davies’ arguments are fascinating regardless of that. In answer to the question of why we haven’t found signs of extraterrestrial life, Davies encourages us to question our deep biases about what other lifeforms might be like, suggesting that we might even renew our search for a second genesis right here on Earth.

The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives, Stephen T. Ziliak and Deirdre N. McCloskey — I don’t have either the mathematics or economics background to take all of this in, but it has changed for the better the way I read uncritical reports of new studies finding some correlation between X and Y. “Does an effect exist?” ask many social scientists and reporters. “How big is the effect?” ask Ziliak and McCloskey. Responsible science reporting requires answers to both questions.

The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights, David E. Gumpert — If you read only one book about the battles over raw milk, this should be it — though it doesn’t exactly have a lot of competition. Gumpert comes down clearly on the side of raw milk activists, but he does turn a skeptical eye when their claims strain credulity. And if there are a few too many quotes from emails and blog posts, the book at least gets points for being thorough. If you’re interested in the topic it really is a must read. (Side note: This is a niche book, but while reading it in a restaurant my server enthusiastically told me that she was reading it too. Such a Portland moment!)

Food and Wine Cocktails 2010 — As it does every year, this book provides a wide-ranging look at what top bartenders are doing around the country. This year vodka has been kicked aside to share a chapter with genever and aquavit, making what’s usually the most boring spirit chapter of the book more interesting. The drink recipes keep getting more complex, making a lot of them impractical for trying out on the spur of the moment. If you’re looking for inspiration, however, this guide is always a good place to turn.

The Book of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskeys, Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan — This is a reprint of the Regans’ 1995 book. Some parts of it seem a little dated now, but the 60+ page chapter on the history of American whiskey and the whiskey primer are great resources. The Regans’ writing is enjoyable as always, as are the many photographs and illustrations throughout.