Public enemy. Crucial macronutrient. Health risk. Punchline. Moneymaker. Epidemic. Sexual fetish. Moral failing. Necessary bodily organ. Conveyor of flavor. Freak-show spectacle. Never mind the stereotype, fat is never sedentary: its definitions, identities, and meanings are manifold and in constant motion. In a culture in which fat is demonized in medicine and public policy, adored by chefs and nutritional faddists (and let’s face it, most of us who eat), simultaneously desired and abhorred when it comes to sex, and continually courted by a multi-billion-dollar fitness and weight-loss industry, it’s ironic that for so many people, “fat” is nothing more than an insult or a wail of despair. In Hanne Blank’s book we find fat as state, as possession, as metaphor, as symptom, as object of desire, intellectual and carnal. Here, “feeling fat” and literal fat merge, blurring the boundaries and infusing one another with richer, fattier meanings.
The electric candle and plastic flower, faux fur, artificial sweeteners and meat analogues, Elvis impersonators, prosthetics. Imitation this, false that. Humans have been replacing and improving upon genuine articles for millennia—from the wooden and cartonnage toes of the pharaohs to the celebrity impressions of Jay Pharoah. So why do people have such disdain for so-called “fakes”? Katherine Stevens’s Fake describes the history, the economics, and the psychology of imitations, as well as our relationships to them—particularly today. After all, fakes aren’t going anywhere; they seem to be going everywhere.
A 3-year-old asks her physician father about his job, and his inability to relay a succinct and accurate answer inspires a critical look at the profession of modern medicine. In sorting through how patients, insurance companies, advertising agencies, filmmakers, and comedians misconstrue a doctor’s role, Andrew Bomback, M.D. realizes that even doctors struggle to define their profession. As the author struggles to unravel how much of doctoring is role-playing, artifice, and bluffing, he examines the career of his father, a legendary pediatrician on the verge of retirement, and the health of his infant son, who is suffering from a vague assortment of gastrointestinal symptoms. At turns serious, comedic, analytical, and confessional, Doctor offers an unflinching look at what it means to be a physician today.
Bicycles promise safe, low-cost, environmentally-friendly transportation for billions of people. But the bicycle can only be understood in relation to transit infrastructure and spatial planning. Jonathan Maskit looks at bicycles as environmental, urban, and everyday objects. The bicycle, a seemingly simple machine, quickly becomes complicated when it collides with public safety, politics, and the shape of cities.
“You are what you eat.” Never is this truer than when we take medications-from beta blockers and aspirin to Viagra and epidurals-especially psychotropic pills that transform our minds as well as our bodies. Meditating on how modern medicine increasingly measures out human identity not in T. S. Eliot’s proverbial coffee spoons but in 1mg-, 5mg-, or 300mg-doses, Pill traces the uncanny presence of psychiatric pills through science, medicine, autobiography, television, cinema, literature, and popular music. Ultimately, it argues that modern psychopharmacology reveals a brave new world in which human identities-thoughts, emotions, personalities, and selves themselves-are increasingly determined by the extraordinary powers of seemingly ordinary pills.
Baked potatoes, Bombay potatoes, pommes frites . . . everyone eats potatoes, but what do they mean? To the United Nations they mean global food security (potatoes are the world’s fourth most important food crop). To 18th-century philosophers they promised happiness. Nutritionists warn that too many increase your risk of hypertension. For the poet Seamus Heaney they conjured up both his mother and the 19th-century Irish famine. What stories lie behind the ordinary potato? The potato is entangled with the birth of the liberal state and the idea that individuals, rather than communities, should form the building blocks of society. Potatoes also speak about family, and our quest for communion with the universe. Thinking about potatoes turns out to be a good way of thinking about some of the important tensions in our world.