(Jane Lindskold • Tor • hardcover • $24.99)
Yes, summer has finally, unequivocally arrived. And yes, the bestseller lists are replete with tomes like Capital in the Twenty-First Century (whose blurb describes it as an analytical exploration of “the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and”—yawn—that’s where I stopped reading). But please remember: We read for pleasure. We read because we like it. And sometimes on a 94-degree day we just want a beach read, damnit. Is that so much to ask?
No, it is not. Because here is Artemis Awakening by New Mexico author Jane Lindskold. It’s a mix of sci-fi and fantasy that’s light and appealing and fun: Guy from advanced civilization crashes on a technology-free vacation planet forgotten by his people for centuries. He meets a hot huntress who’s psychically linked to a panther. Guy fears he might be stuck on backwater hick planet full of sexy genetically engineered freaks and nanobots. Meets local sage, gets sent on a quest with hot huntress and romantic rival to find the one really old guy who might be able to help. Then, complications.
If you idolize the dense bricklike nature of Game of Thrones, avoid this novel. But if you’re in the mood for a zippy read with likeable (if not exactly complex) characters, Artemis Awakening will be right up your alley. The first in a new series, it’s an enjoyable dip into a world both rustic and alien, one that’ll appeal to animal empaths and technofetishists alike. Lindskold comes to Page One Books (5850 Eubank NE) on Sunday, June 15, at 3pm.
Precious Cargo: How Foods From the Americas Changed the World
(Dave DeWitt • Counterpoint • hardcover • $28)
Precious Cargo: How Foods From the Americas Changed the World expands on author Dave DeWitt’s well-documented love of chile peppers (which includes more than 30 books on the topic) to tell a gastronomic tale that spans almost all of planet Earth. Now-ubiquitous foods from around the world—including corn (maize), turkey, peanuts, tomatoes, potatoes, chocolate and, of course, chiles—actually represent a revolution in food. Conquerors, explorers, hobbyists, botanists and rulers have shaped their expansion from the Americas to the rest of the world across centuries.
Neither a cookbook (though it contains plenty of recipes) nor a social history (though the lives of ordinary people factor large in its pages), Precious Cargo delves into subjects as varied as agriculture, globalization, economics, archaeology, nutrition, adaptation and acculturation. Sprawling, ambitious and fairly geeky, the compendium sows hard numbers broadcast. It grapples simultaneously with micro- and macro-history. If it has a tendency to meander on occasion, to offhandedly zigzag into the parameters of the author’s keyword searches in Google Books or spend two long paragraphs on 17th-century tulip mania by way of introducing the pineapple, the quirk is forgivable; DeWitt’s convivial, unpretentious approach and clear enjoyment of his topic make this assemblage a treasure to dip into again and again.
DeWitt’s likely to have plenty of stories to share when he visits Bookworks (4022 Rio Grande NW) on Sunday, June 15, at 3pm.