Why Do We Eat Bad Food?

Agriculture, Policies

Why Do We Eat Bad Food?

Mark Bittman writes the way he cooks: The ingredients are wholesome, the preparation elegantly simple, the results nourishing in the best sense of the word. He never strains; there’s no effort to impress, but you come away full, satisfied, invigorated.

From his magnum opus, How to Cook Everything, and its many cookbook companions, to his recipes for The New York Times, to his essays on food policy, Bittman has developed a breeziness that masks the weight of the politics and economics that surround the making and consuming of food. In Animal, Vegetable, Junk, his latest book, he offers us his most thoroughgoing attack on the corporate forces that govern our food, tracking the evolution of cultivation and consumption from primordial to modern times and developing what is arguably his most radical and forthright argument yet about how to address our contemporary food cultures’ many ills. But it still goes down easy; the broccoli tastes good enough that you’ll happily go for seconds.

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Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe

Disease, Threats

Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe

The Emperor Justinian reunified Romes fractured empire by defeating the Goths and Vandals who had separated Italy, Spain, and North Africa from imperial rule. In his capital at Constantinople he built the world’s most beautiful building, married its most powerful empress, and wrote its most enduring legal code, seemingly restoring Rome’s fortunes for the next five hundred years.

Then, in the summer of 542, he encountered a flea. The ensuing outbreak of bubonic plague killed five thousand people a day in Constantinople and nearly killed Justinian himself.

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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Policies, Society

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

A study of the downfall of some of history’s greatest civilizations, written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, includes coverage of such cultures as the Anasazi, the Maya, and the Viking colony on Greenland, tracing patterns of environmental damage, climate change, poor political choices, and other factors that were pivotal to their demise. Reader’s Guide available. Reprint.

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