The Diner's Dictionary -- Word Origins of Food & Drink, Second Edition, by John Ayto, Oxford UP '12, $24.95, 405 pages, ASIN #0199640246. No index, bibliography or notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
A drawback the reader immediately notes in this entertaining and informative book is that the type size approximates the smallest type in a phone book. Aside from a 2-page introduction, the entire narrative is alphabetical. Prepare to encounter words you've never heard of, but you can have a good time thumbing through the book when you're not looking up a mystery word in a recipe. A sampling:
"Gobstopper -- This hard globular sweet -- large enough to inhibit conversation until sucked to manageable proportions -- was a great favourite amongs British schoolboys between the wars, but since the 1950s seems to have gone into something of a decline. The first reference to it in print comes in Walter de la Mare's anthology of verse for children, Come Hither (1928)."
"Penne -- Pasta in the form of short wide tubes, its name (first recorded in Italian in 1875) comes from the plural of Italian penna 'quill' (the tubes are cut obliquely, like the business end of a quill pen.)"
Author John Ayto is a lexicographer and writer on language, who has written books on modern slang, rhyming slang, word origins, and 20th century words.
Building Coalitions, Making Policy -- The Politics of the Clinton, Bush & Obama Presidencies, edited by Martin A. Levin, Daniel Disalvo & Martin M. Shapiro, Johns Hopkins UP '12 paperback, 405 pages, ASIN #1421405091. Index contributors, chapter endnotes, sparsely illustrated with b&w images.
The editors have gathered more than a dozen essays from scholars in political science, education, education, law, and other fields. The back cover features a brief description of the content:
"In an age when partisan politics has reached a deafening -- and arguably impotent -- pitch, how does the real work of politics get done? This book opens the door on backroom politics and gives readers an insider's perspective on the efforts of policymakers from three presidential administrations to get past the naysayers and effect real and lasting policy changes.
"The editors take a comparative approach, offering a thorough overview of policymaking during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, with further discussion of President Obama's successful and failed attempts to build coalitions and get past no. The contributors, a national network of prominent political scientists, reveal the sausage-making of politics and policy. Readers can almost see the political players in the proverbial smoke-filled room, shirtsleeves rolled up and BlackBerrys in hand, developing the strategies and hammering out the compromises designed to hold the party base while winning over independent voters.
"Combining an insider's perspective with actual case studies, the volume examines the policymaking behind such programs as no child left behind, tax cuts, Social Security privatization, Medicare prescription drug reform, education and immigration reform, environmental policy, judicial politics, and national security.
Martin A. Levin teaches politics at Brandeis University. Daniel Disalvo teaches political science at the City College of New York. Martin M. Shapiro teaches law at the University of California/Berkeley.
The Genius & the Goddess -- A Novel by Aldous Huxley, First HarperPerennial Modern Classics paperback edition published in 2009. $13.99, 168 pages, ASIN #0061724904.
From the rear cover:
"Thirty years ago, ecstacy and torment took hold of John Rivers, shocking him out of 'half-baked imbecility into something more nearly resembling the human form." He had an affair with the wife of his mentor, Henry Maartens -- a pathbreaking physicist, winner of the Novel Prize, and a figure of blinding brilliance -- bringing the couple to run.
"Now on Christmas Eve, while a small grandson sleeps upstairs, John Rivers is moved to set the record straight about the great man and the radiant, elemental creature he married, who viewed the renowned genius through undazzled eyes."
Aldous Huxley (1994-1963 is the author of the classic novels Brave New World, Eyeless in Gaza, and Island, as well as such critically-acclaimed nonfiction works as The Devils of Loudun, The Perennial Philosophy, and The Doors of Perception.