Editor: Erin McKean
Fun Fact: Dictionaries didn’t used to be objective and included information beyond definitions. For example, Webster’s 1806 edition stated that the earth was created in 4004BC.
Review Summary: This collection included some really funny essays and some that are only going to be enjoyable if you love collecting obscure words.
Verbatim: The Language Quarterly is a periodical that accepts reader submitted essays on all things related to the English language. The book is a collection of some of editor Erin McKean’s favorite essays from her time as editor of the periodical. Topics range from word origins to grammar to pop culture jargon. Authors also express a variety of opinions, from a willingness to embrace changes to the English language to essays lambasting particular developments the author hates. Continue reading
Title: The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher
Author: Lewis Thomas
Review Summary: This collection of short but thought-provoking essays is sometimes humorous, sometimes inspiring, and always an insightful, approachable look at some of the wonders of biology.
Although written in the 1970’s, these essays by Lewis Thomas cover subjects that are still some of the most interesting questions in biology today. From the awe-inspiring complexity of a single cell to our approach to curing diseases, from how our interactions compare to those of social insects to the health care system, the essays in this book will give you a new appreciation for biology and a unique, thoughtful perspective on these fascinating topics. Every time I finished an essay, I was struck by the thought that surely no one really just sits down and writes essays like this any more. More than anything else, the author reminded me of a naturalist, someone from the early twentieth century simply observing, wondering at, and trying to learn from nature. Continue reading
Farmer-philosopher Frederick Kirschenmann’s Cultivating an Ecological Conscience is a collection of thoughtful essays about the “ethical and practical principles” of developing a sustainable agricultural system. Drawing on his experiences as a theologian and a farmer, he delivers a series of measured arguments that a shift to more sustainable agriculture is a necessary change. As I mentioned in my Monday Musing, this was a welcome break from the rhetoric some other authors depend on. It is clear that the author is a product of a true liberal arts education, with a gift for elocution (I would love to hear him speak!) and a deep knowledge of the classics. I was at times astounded by the variety of sources he drew on to support his economic and agricultural theories – everything from Adam Smith to Machiavelli. I think the fact that he has read such different works and thought about their connection to agriculture is truly indicative of his passion for the topic. Continue reading