Book Review: Peppers of the Americas, by Maricel E. Presilla

Peppers of the AmericasWhile not the pepper encyclopedia I was hoping for, I still found Maricel E. Presilla’s Peppers of the Americas to be informative and helpful. For those with the same hopes I had for the book, Presilla explains that this book is “not an encyclopedic catalog, but a highly subjective record of my own garden and kitchen encounters with these remarkable plants” (p.vii). Keep that in mind when considering whether or not to pick this one up.

The first eighty pages or so are full of dense text on history and archaeology related to peppers. There are then about 115 pages of peppers with pictures accompanied by Presilla’s subjective (see above), yet helpful notes—these pages are periodically peppered with pertinent prose on past and present particulars. About twenty-five pages of dried peppers written in similar fashion, seven pages of very general pepper gardening and tending, and 100 pages of working with peppers (vinegars, powders, recipes, etc.) conclude the book’s content.

I really like peppers, especially hot ones, and have grown and sold them in the past; so, I’ll probably find this book a bit more interesting than those who are looking for something more specific and complete. There were a tremendous number of varieties I’d not yet heard of, including a few I’m going to need to track down and try, and I appreciated Presilla sharing her experiences with them (taste, cooking, etc.). I certainly look forward to trying some of the sauces and ground spice mixes, but what I appreciate most are the properties and attributes of the fresh and dried pepper varieties.

 

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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Book Review: The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity, by Tom Nelson

The Economics of Neighborly LoveI expected there to be some overlap of between Tom Nelson’s The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity and the arguments and jargon used by the Institute for Faith, Works, and Economics. What I did not expect was to read a book full of claims, anecdotes, and quotes with very little support for the thesis. Nelson wrote this book to encourage people to use free-market capitalism to love their neighbors with Jesus; it is written, however, in a manner that requires the reader to already understand what he’s talking about and to already agree with it. Written to encourage “human flourishing,” Nelson does not articulate what “human flourishing” means. Rather than use evidence and hard data to support claims made in the book (he does use some Bible passages in and out of context to support a few things), Nelson uses quotes from others to say the same thing, but does not quote the data and reason for what other authors have written.

I certainly do not mean to imply that there is nothing good in this book—there is; but I would not recommend anyone spend money on this. While one may argue certainly argue that we continue to speak, write, and do things despite there being “nothing new under the sun,” I found no reason to read this book over the better reasoned, supported, more concise, readily available, and accessible material that already exists. Instead of writing the book, a blog post of overarching claims and a short bibliography would have been more helpful so that people may actually discover for themselves what it is Nelson desires them to understand. To that end, I would simply suggest perusing the IFWE website and reading the oft quoted When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, which will certainly serve any reader well.

 

*I received a temporary digital copy for review from InterVarsity Press via NetGalley.