Saturday, December 14, 2013

There and Back Again

The Hobbit or There and Back Again
J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the fourth time I’ve read The Hobbit. Or the fifth; I can’t remember. I’m not exaggerating or embellishing—that’s just the truth. For me, The Hobbit was one of those books I grew up with and have no problem reading repeatedly. That book, the one that has been so well loved that the cover is falling off, is probably different for you. This is the book that you fell asleep to, that you could imagine in vivid detail. It might be The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe or The Golden Compass.  It might be about Peter Rabbit, Harry Potter, or Wild Things. 

Even though I can’t remember how many times I’ve gone back, I will never forget the first time I read The Hobbit. Or, rather, when my father first read it to me. Being a theatre and English teacher at the time, he didn’t just read the book, he put on a show. He sang all the songs and did all the voices. I can still hear the tune to the dwarves’ song, which is uncannily similar to the one recently featured in the new film. Curious. So with these vivid childhood memories, I was ready to crack the cover again and see if The Hobbit held as much magic as I remember.

It holds so much more. Just like I couldn’t comprehend the blatant religious undertones in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe upon reading it for the first time, at ten, I had never fully grasped the grandness of the world Tolkien created. Being about ten times shorter than The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit is not nearly as detailed (and by that I mean containing minute descriptions of the specific variety of pipe-weed that is preferred among Hobbits – Old Toby in case you were wondering) even though the journey is quite as spectacular.

The fantastic thing about The Hobbit is that it was specifically constructed with children in mind—indeed Tolkien’s own children—where each chapter is a short adventure story, self-contained and satisfying. You might read about an encounter with three trolls in the moonlight, or a whole army of goblins hidden inside a mountain. Tolkien’s writing is so masterful that it can content both the child listening, the parent narrating, and the twenty-something cracking the cover for the umpteenth time. For the more mature reader, there are larger plot arcs and subtle connections to the sequel, The Fellowship of the Ring, where readers are rewarded for their attention to detail. So upon my latest reading of The Hobbit, I was contented to experience a healthy dose of nostalgia, a rejuvenation of childhood wonder, and a smug sense of “oh, that’s what that means.” 

Enjoyable, there and back again.

-Michelle Hunniford

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We Learn Nothing

Tim Kreider

We Learn Nothing reads like the internal dialogue we all have with ourselves at some point, usually during moments we feel will define not only our lives, but who we are. Kreider finds inspiration in life’s toughest stuff—finding your birth family in midlife, grappling with changing conceptions of our closest friends, feeling helpless as our parents age, and facing our own flaws and self-deceptions—appealing to himself and his readers through humour, candour, and an offbeat, self-effacing assuredness that everything will work itself out in the end.

Like the front cover depicting Kreider jumping off the edge of a cliff, relying only on a pair of makeshift wings, terra firma nowhere in sight, much of Kreider’s charm lies not in his ability as a fellow human to provide us with answers to life’s most persistent dilemmas, but in his comforting us with the knowledge that we are not alone with our fears of life’s many unknowns. Like his title, which dispels the myth that knowledge and certainty accumulate with age, Kreider seems to suggest that it is, in fact, this uncertainty that characterizes much of the human experience. Kreider’s writings provide a remedy not for this uncertainty, but for the discomfort that accompanies it, suggesting that sometimes the very best we can do in our very limited positions as human beings is to close our eyes, take a deep breath, and jump.

- Sarah Walker

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa

It had been a long time since I read a really good mystery book, so I was quite excited when given the opportunity to review this novel. The book starts with Tomomi and Ben in Paris, going about their every day average business. Ben’s life is utterly turned around when he receives a letter from Tomomi: she has killed herself and has an adventure for him. After a long healing period filled with disbelief, Ben decides to take Tomomi up on her offer of adventure. Uncovering the mysteries of Tomomi’s short life, Ben travels throughout France and to the United States of America. 
Benjamin Constable

What stood out to me most about Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa was how well Constable completely grasped the friendship between Tomomi and Ben. When Ben is reflecting on his experiences with his late best friend, it was easy for me to compare his stories of Tomomi to stories with me and my good friends. The strength of writing made the book very difficult to put down, as I wanted to continue to watch the friendship grow as Ben continued to learn more about his friend.

In his travels to solve Tomomi’s mystery, Ben meets several other fun characters and the reader is even introduced to his cat, Cat, whom no one else can see. The book is filled with friendship, trials, attempts to conquer fears, mystery, and there is a little violence thrown in there, as Tomomi’s secrets begin to unravel. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a story that fits like a puzzle; the pieces gradually come together as the story unfolds. Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa is for adults, who enjoy mysteries and stories of friendship and loss. Benjamin Constable has truly written an entertaining book that teaches you about friendship all over the globe.

Wesley Wilson is a zoology student at the University of Guelph and works on campus at a microbiology lab. When Wesley isn’t studying away, she spends most of her time reading. Anna Karenina is her favourite book, but she enjoys reading a variety of different genres.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fingal O'Reilly, Irish Doctor

The eighth installment to Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country series is what I would call, if I were one of his characters from Dublin, Jus what the Doctor feckin ordered. With perfect portrayal of the Irish country folk and the Ulcer and Dublin dialects, along with the purely fulfilled lives of Doctor O’Reilly and the characters adjoined to his journey, it is tough for yet another story from this series to not intrigue readers, raise laughter, and warm the heart.

Fingal O’Reilly, Irish Doctor follows Dr. O’Reilly in the newly remarried chapter of his life (to his long lost sweetheart, “Kitty” O’Reilly née O’Hallorhan in Ballybucklebo) while sharing stints from the Doctor’s earlier days testing the waters as a General Practitioner in the Liberties of Dublin. Throughout Taylor’s novel, we see how the experiences of his youth remain with Fingal, how they shape him as a person, prepare him for further practice as a GP, and teach him that “sometimes difficulties to which he could see no solution happily solved themselves.” Many of the favoured characters of the series like “Kinky” Kincaid, Dr. Barry Laverty, Dr. Jennifer Bradley, and Donald Donnelly, reappear along the way with new happenings in their lives which, of course have the good ol’ Doctor himself involved.

A story you will invest yourself in, a story to which you will share with your children and friends in hopes that, just as you had, they will learn and strive to be better people from the exemplary lives portrayed within the pages; Fingal O’Reilly, Irish Doctor is a classic.

A man of many interests, Joseph Cassidy is; A Star Wars fanatic; Maple Leafs fan to the core; musician; and a lover of literature, just to name a few. Brought up in the country side of Bruce County, Joseph has had the fortune of witnessing and existing in the humbly rich small town communities, the privacy of 100acres and the wonderful nature, landscape and wildlife that surround it. This in addition to his Irish ancestry, could perhaps explain his love and appreciation for Patrick Taylor's Irish Country book series.

Check out Joseph's review of An Irish Country Christmas:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Breast Cancer Alphabet

A Breast Cancer Alphabet
By Madhulika Sikka

I approached the book with mixed feelings. Part of me wanted to put it back on the shelf and move on to the fiction section, but my well-honed left brain couldn’t resist passing by an Alphabet guide to any topic. In this case, I was very familiar with the topic and had actually lived through many of the experiences described in the twenty-six chapters.

Madhulika Sikka and I belong to the same club. We are breast cancer survivors.

As I approach the ten-year survivor mark, I struggle to recall the specifics of my journey and often wish I had kept a journal. Reading through A Breast Cancer Alphabet, I found myself nodding and smiling at Sikka’s lively and slightly outrageous commentary. I would love to have read this book while waiting for biopsy results, dealing with the side-effects of chemo and radiation, or simply resting at home.

Like most women who have been diagnosed in the twenty-first century, I was inundated with literature about mastectomies, chemotherapy and radiation. At times, it was overwhelming and I could feel my eyes glazing while reading through the information. It would have been comforting to read short and breezy chapters with such tantalizing titles as E is for Epiphany, I is for Indignities, and P is for Pillows.

In A Breast Cancer Alphabet, Madhulika Sikka provides “a little pick-me-up...for anyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and needs a companion.”

After retiring from a 31-year teaching career, Joanne Guidoccio launched a second act as a writer. Her articles, book reviews and short stories have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online. Last month, Soul Mate Publishing released her debut novel, Between Land and Sea, as an ebook on Amazon. You can visit her website at

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Smarter Than You Think

Predicting the future is a strange thing. No sooner do new developments in technology (or anything else, for that matter) arise, than they're accompanied by an entourage of talking heads forecasting either a glorious new dawn or total societal collapse, depending on which channel you're tuned to. In Smarter Than You Think, Clive Thompson takes an optimistic view of the digital technologies of the past two decades. By complimenting our uniquely human faculties, he believes that they may offer us solutions to problems that have long troubled us, and expand our capabilities beyond previously assumed limits.

I was initially concerned that STYT would be a light-weight version of the heady and analytical book by Nick Harkaway, The Blind Giant, especially when Thompson declares that despite the book's subtitle of “how technology is changing our minds for the better”, he decides to wilfully exclude any mention of neuroscience or brain imaging. However, my fears were revealed to be unfounded: not only does he competently defend his decision, but in being selective about the domains addressed, he frees up additional space for in-depth analysis of the societal application of these technologies, rather than parroting a list of contextually divorced lab studies. STYT makes a point that I feel many social commentators miss: technologies (whether paper, pens or the information-sifting chimera that is Google) are tools. It is in our application of them in our daily lives that we derive their positive or negative effects.

In defending this thesis, Thompson draws from a wide array of examples. Some of the most interesting include the usage of programming classes to teach children logical thinking, and to demonstrate the underlying principles of mathematics in a more concrete and meaningful way. Here, the children are shown in real-time how the modification of different variables (in the form of a simplified coding language) create different results on-screen. They guide a small turtle around via the functions students input, and as turtle draws a line (much like an etch-a-sketch) behind it, different inputs will create different “flight paths”, resulting in different pictures. I, for one, wish that these innovations had been around when I was in elementary school.

Examples such as this abound, including the Internet's capacity for creating an ambient awareness of global events, allowing for sociopolitical action on a number of different scales at a speed scarcely fathomable before the information age; the proliferation of smartphone cameras forces accountability on normally unwilling police forces and politicians, for fear that Big Brother is being watched with just as much vigilance by his younger siblings. In all honesty, the book's subtitle may be inaccurate, as Thompson's arguments show that rather than changing the way that our minds work, technology is allowing us to make the most of the cognitive resources we already possess. With the staggering array of tools at our fingertips, the challenge now is to develop the skills to know which is the best to use for a given task. Rather than blaming the tech that we currently use, Smarter Than You Think places the responsibility on our shoulders. It’s up to us to pick the right tool for the job, even if our eventual choice is to forgo modern tech for simpler, analog methods. It is for this shift in perspective, as well as the fair-minded discussion of issues surrounding the development and usage of new machinery, that I believe Smarter Than You Think makes a great addition to any bookshelf.

Vincent Smith is a taoist, aspiring writer, and dyed-in-the-wool psychology geek at the University of Guelph. You can find his writing on video games, comics, movies, and all things geek over at The Rogue's Gallery.   

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Curiosity

Stephen P. Kiernan

Stephen P. Kiernan’s debut novel, The Curiosity, about a man who died in 1906 being revived in modern day America, is being sold as a thriller—a “poignant and thoroughly original” one, at that. But this is not really the case; rather, let’s classify The Curiosity as science fiction. No, not far future, off earth science fiction; this is certainly not Star Wars. On the contrary, The Curiosity is a compelling and thoughtful exploration of the scientific, ethical, and human consequences of reanimating the deceased. In other words, we’re talking old school sci-fi here—a story of scientific discovery.

The novel follows three key members of the Lazarus Project who, after successfully reanimating dead plankton and shrimp, are given an opportunity to up the ante when they discover a man frozen in an Arctic iceberg. Despite the possible moral objections, the frozen man is revived. As we soon learn, the man’s name is Jeremiah Rice, and the last thing he remembers is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean over one hundred years ago. What will he make of his second chance at life? What will he make of life in the twenty-first century? And how will he respond when one of the scientists responsible for his reanimation falls in love with him?

Smart, evocatively written, and a joy to read, Kiernan’s The Curiosity shouldn’t be missed.

While a glass cutter by day, by night Z.S. Roe spends his time writing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.  His writings have appeared in various publications, including the Cambridge Times, The Silhouette, and The Toronto Sun, among others.  Most recently, his short story “Peeping Tara” appeared in issue 13 of Dark Moon Digest.  You can visit his blog at

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Empress Dowager Cixi

Empress Dowager Cixi
By Jung Chang

Had a man accomplished just a few of Empress Dowager Cixi’s many farsighted achievements for her immense country, he would have been held up as a hero. Even if he had made more mistakes—Empress Dowager Cixi was inevitably, occasionally mistaken—they would still be passed over silently in the face of the progress, especially in the modernization, and internal reform that she eventually brought about. Jung Chang’s Empress Dowager Cixi is a stunningly good, highly needed revisionist piece of history and historical biography of a figure whose accomplishments in China have been obscured and maligned for over a century, largely because she was simply a woman.

At the root of the adversity Cixi faced was the pivotal fact that she was female. The medieval attitude toward the subjugation of Chinese women rendered them permanently dependent and immobile. There are few societies that had subjected its entire female population to such literally crippling traditions to restrict them to a passive servitude. Just to have lifted the ancient edict in China to bind from birth and thus cripple and permanently atrophy what was left of all women's feet, would have seemed impossible and would not even have occurred to a man had he been in power. But Cixi, after her several returns to power on, or behind, the Imperial Throne, simply outlawed it. As a Manchu amongst the Chinese--the ruling Dynasty was Manchu--she did not have bound feet, but her Buddhist compassion and common sense allowed her to realize the enormous pain it caused. She also removed torture in capital punishment, would that she had been able to end capital punishment altogether, but in China such a thing seems to be truly unthinkable—so far.

Cixi’s story has many villains, most of whom she had the insight and compassion to try to win over with kindness. She seems to have succeeded; some of them became trusted allies. The only antagonist Cixi was never able to get a hold of, who had tried several times to assassinate her, or have her assassinated, she would surely have had executed. Chang amusingly, almost as in a fable, always calls this villain Mad Fox Chang. It is unclear if this is her own invented sobriquet or whether he had already been labelled this way in the histories. He escaped Cixi's clutches, and  joined her worst enemies, the Japanese, with whom he continued to invent calumnies about her that were taken up into the historical account, which this book is trying to correct. The European diplomats heard Mad Fox's lies and reported them back in the courts of Europe where they distorted attitudes there toward the Chinese.

Prior studies of Cixi, like Marina Warner's The Dragon Empress, although sympathetic, were only able to repeat the frequent slanders against her in the accumulated past histories. But, being Chinese, Jung Chan has been able to do her own research and better verify her own sources. It seemed as if we would never get close enough to the facts to understand many puzzling things ascribed to Cixi, but this new account gives a satisfyingly clear picture of its subject and provides enough information to give a convincing idea of what really happened, and the decisions—or worse—the indecisions she faced.

As a very successful author in English, Chang wrote The Wild Swans, which also gives a view of history, in that case of a family negotiating three generations of life in China. She wields a very unique stylish English that bears clear traces of the Chinese mentality informing it and sometimes renders things in a brief bluntness of expression, like playful remnants of pidgin English that seem sometimes to get attitudes across more succinctly, almost pungently, than a more genteel rendering. This applied coarseness is sometimes gently amusing.

It has always been hardest to picture exactly how Cixi, as a woman, was able to bring off her several coups into and back into power, but here we can clearly understand the environment and institutions in place that allowed them. There is wonderful exposé here of the Chinese Imperial system in action, how power was conferred and how it was wielded by the Emperor, all without footnotes or didactic exposition. Chang lets us  understand everything by simply watching it function. There was still a medievally direct, almost fabulous simplicity to the Emperor's authority; Cixi simply acceded to it because there was no one else in that level of the Dynasty who could wield it. Both young 'Emperors' of whom she made herself the proxy were clearly inept, and were in danger of harming the country had they continued in power. This already supposes a very high level of civilized restraint and sophistication amongst the Chinese Court which must have been well aware of the perils and responsibilities of being on the throne, which demanded a life of unstinting service to the demands of the office. Cixi seems to have been the only one there with a true taste for it. She comes now to represent one of the most enlightened despots of history, and her mistakes now only serve to render her more human.

Michael Doleschell keeps mostly to non-fiction, and is deeply devoted to music and culture and never tires of history, and is fascinated by science and the scientific method [as long as they are well explained]. He broadcasts a program of Classical Music for 3 hours every Saturday afternoon from noon till 3 on the U of G's Radio Station: CFRU.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Jillian Cantor

Margot brings to life the sister of Anne Frank and attempts to construct a life for her as if she had not died in Bergen-Belsen during the war, but rather survived and gone to live in America as Margie Franklin, a Gentile. Jillian Cantor revives the pain and fear World War II caused by following the life Margot Frank could have led and looking at how she could have dealt with the repercussions of living in Nazi territory, hiding in the secret annex, and enduring concentration camps while attempting to live a relatively normal American life in the 1950s. Margot displays how anti-semitism still affected Jews in America after the war had ended and the world had learned of the heinous calamity caused by concentration camps and the severe repressions generated by the Nazi government and a portion of its citizens.

I have always loved learning more about World War II and how it still affects the way we live today. Particularly, the stories that are rarely told and commonly forgotten. With a grandmother who was a just a child during the war and has recounted stories of being hunted down by Allies planes, I know there is more than just two sides to this war. As WWII drifts farther away as the memories of those who experienced it perish and our minds become preoccupied by current events, we need to strive harder to remember it and the tragedy caused by it. Not only by how many lives it cost and damaged, but by how it happened and from different perspectives. Rarely is it mandatory for schools to teach how Germans dealt with the war or how rampant fascism and anti-semitism were all around the world even in the post-war era. It was astonishing to read about how anti-semitic acts occurred in Europe and North America even after the world learned of how the Jewish people were treated during the war. Margot evokes the war in a fresh, but emotional way and looks at how Jews in America, both those who were born there and those who immigrated there after the war, dealt with the war and its aftermath.

Not much is know about Margot Frank except for what Anne provides in her diary, but that does not supply us with the feelings and emotions Margot had about the war and her experience living through it. I feel that it is a terrible misfortune that Margot is constantly overlooked in favour of her sister. A sorrow caused only by the fact that Margot’s diary was never found. A diary that I would have quite liked to read since I identify more with the quiet, sensible Margot than I ever have with Anne. Through reading a fictitious account of her memories in the annex and how she dealt with keeping her identity a secret in the post war world, I felt I got a sense of her character. I also found that though the main plot appears to be how Margot deals with her past life and the effects of the war, it is not the whole focus of the book. What she dealt with and experienced didn’t define her, but became a part of her life. Thus, I read a story about how Margot dealt with her experiences and present day life not about how Anne’s sister lived her live with the war and all of its tribulations hanging over her head. 

After dropping out of university, Madeleine Krucker has decided to spend the year figuring out what she wants to do with her life. Still no where near finding an answer, she keeps coming back to the same conclusion, that reading and writing is her passion. Madeleine thanks the Bookshelf for giving her the opportunity to combine the two things she loves most.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Waking Dark

Robin Wasserman

It's got to be tough being a horror writer these days. Between prolific writers such as Stephen King and the army of companies looking to capitalize on the recent obsession with supernatural creatures, it must be difficult to find an idea that isn't predictable, boring, or re-treaded ad nauseam. While Robin Wasserman doesn't entirely avoid these particular pitfalls, the visceral quality of her prose and rich cast of characters she creates serve to reduce any complaints I have about Waking Dark to minor quibbles when compared to the depth of enjoyment I got from reading it.

Set in the town of Oleander, Kansas, the catalyst for the story of Waking Dark is The Killing Day: a horrific event where five individuals inexplicably took the lives of twelve people before attempting to commit suicide themselves. I say attempt, but only one of the killers survived: Cass Porter has no memory of what occurred the night she smothered baby Owen in his crib, nor any idea why she did it.

Jumping forward a year, she and the soon-to-be ensemble cast of the book are still reeling from the events. Daniel Ghent witnessed a shop full of people gunned down by the normally amiable store owner; then there's Jule, outsider niece to the meth baron of the Southwest (one whose last name isn't White); Ellie is a God-fearing Christian who fears the Devil is at work in Oleander. They are joined by Jeremiah, a high-school football star who watched his boyfriend be fatally mangled, and who now wars with the guilt from keeping the secrecy of their relationship, as well as with own identity. Something violent and hungry is rising within the town, and the five survivors must find out what it is before this primeval force rips Oleander asunder from the inside.

Without spoiling anything, I will say right off the bat that Waking Dark's big reveal is more of a “Yup. Seems about right.”, than a, “OH WHAT? NO WAY.” The plot device is strongly hinted at in the first act, and is given everything but it's own neon-lit runway to point the reader towards the answer. I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed that Wasserman opted for the conventional, rather than the epic swerve I hoped she was setting up. That being said, the world she has created in the town of Oleander is so well-realized that the letdown became largely inconsequential.

I am of the opinion that horror is exponentially more effective when characters are more than bags of meat and blood waiting for a plot device with a machete to come along. To this end, Waking Dark crawls with a sense of dread not in small part because these characters are incredibly well-realized. We get to know their dreams, their insecurities, their neuroses, the impacts that life's events have had upon their view of the world, and how the characteristics that they bring to those events further direct both their own development (as well as the plot). The expression of these traits (or in some cases, the choice to repress expression) is further enriched by the other characters' perception of them. Those secondary viewers, and their reaction to the complimentary or conflicting traits of their fellow cast members create a vast and complex network of genuine human relationship; one that is all the more poignant due to the pointed questions Wasserman asks about the truth underlying human nature.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the chillingly graphic depictions of violence that the author manages to construct. Waking Dark is the literary equivalent of a David Cronenberg (director of The Thing and The Fly) movie: depicting something you've seen a thousand times, but this time, making it bother you on a deep, spine-chilling level. Wasserman's description of the murders on the Killing Day made me flashback to Toby Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, invoking a dirty, vicious style that feels like having one's mind chained to the back of a rusted pick-up and dragged screaming down fifty miles of bad road. The way that Waking Dark marries unrelenting, Hobbesian violence with a genuine core of humanity makes it an incredibly absorbing read. 

Vincent Smith is a taoist, aspiring writer, and dyed-in-the-wool psychology geek at the University of Guelph. You can find his writing on video games, comics, movies, and all things geek over at The Rogue's Gallery.   

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Born to Run

Christopher McDougall

Born to Run is a wonderful non-fiction book written by journalist and avid runner Christopher McDougall. In it, he documents his journey to track down the elusive Tarahumara tribe in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, in an attempt to understand why his foot hurts and why they can run so very far. Along the way, he meets a host of colourful characters and details the equally colourful history of a number of ultramarathon events. McDougall has a real gift for their description, and his writing is entertaining and highly readable throughout.

In between the events of his narrative, McDougall lays out a well-researched argument that human beings are built for long distance running and that running barefoot is likely to reduce a lot of injuries typically faced by runners, including his own aching foot. His case for the former is more compelling than the latter. It’s unclear how much of his argument for barefoot running is actually supported by scientific evidence, and I wouldn’t recommend tossing your new running shoes in the nearest dumpster just yet, but the argument he makes is an interesting and passionate one.

I am not much of a runner and never have been. Having suffered knee and back injuries in recent years, the thought of ditching my shoes and jogging off down the sidewalk in bare feet gives me nightmares. It’s a testament to McDougall’s motivational and storytelling skill that after completing Born to Run, I was inspired to give it a go.

- Tom Hall

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Politics of the Pantry

Michael Mikulak

Grab your mug of fair trade coffee and a slice of home-baked sourdough bread and dig into this fantastically edifying book. Hamilton’s Michael Mikulak presents the politics of the pantry in a sophisticated and well-rounded way, encouraging readers to think critically about the source of their food and the manner in which it arrives at the table.

Mikulak doesn’t preach about his morals or try to convert the world into locavore vegans. He simply presents a compilation of his and others’ experiences in a factual and thought-provoking manner. I particularly enjoyed reading about his transition from vegetarian to omnivore and his realization that one lifestyle may not be morally superior to the another; there are benefits and detriments to all gastronomic choices. Throughout the book he provides a compelling argument for slow food while exposing capitalist motives and the promotion of “natural” and “organic” food through pastoral images. He highlights that these images rarely, if ever, match the realities of the situations.

Upon reading this book, readers will be compelled to examine their own lifestyles and make smarter choices at the market or grocery store. I certainly noticed a heightened awareness while shopping, which manifested itself in an increase in local vegetables and a total lack of processed items in my basket.  Mikulak recognizes that the luxury of buying local and spending more time and money on food may not be plausible for everyone. But he insists that even one small change is helpful if we hope to save the world we’ve been exploiting with our capitalist mode of agriculture.

I can’t stop talking about this book, both from a political standpoint and an agricultural one. This is a must read for consumers seeking insight into the politics behind their culinary choices. Bon appétit!

Laura Martin's lifelong addiction to fiction took a back seat when she went to the University of Guelph for Molecular Biology and Genetics. She became fascinated with neurological conditions like Alzheimer's Disease and dementia, and is hoping to attend Dalhousie University in the spring for a Masters in Neuroscience.