Synopses & Reviews
“It turns out that plastic is not only an ongoing environmental peril, but a compulsively interesting story. Buy it (with cash).”—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth, founder of 350.org
“Susan Freinkels book exponentially increased my desirous love and my hate for plastic. What a great read—rigorous, smart, inspiring, and as seductive as plastic itself.”—Karim Rashid, Designer
Plastic built the modern world. Where would we be without pacemakers, polyester, computers, cell phones, sneakers, or chewing gum? (Plastic in gum? Yes!)
But a century into our love affair with plastic, the romance is starting to fray. Plastics draw on dwindling fossil fuels, leach harmful chemicals, litter landscapes, and destroy marine life. And yet each year we use and consume more; weve produced as much plastic in the past decade as we did in the entire twentieth century. Were trapped in an unhealthy dependence—a toxic relationship.
In this engaging and eye-opening book, journalist Susan Freinkel shows that we have reached a crisis point. She treks through history, science, and the global economy to assess the real impact of plastic on our lives.
Freinkel tells her story through eight familiar plastic objects: comb, chair, Frisbee, IV bag, disposable lighter, grocery bag, soda bottle, and credit card. Each one illuminates a different facet of our synthetic world, and together they give us a new way of thinking about a substance that has become the defining medium—and metaphor—of our age.
Her conclusion? We cannot stay on our plastic-paved path. And we dont have to. Plastic points the way toward a new creative partnership with the material we love to hate but cant seem to live without.
"What is plastic really? Where does it come from? How did my life become so permeated by synthetics without my even trying?" Surrounded by plastic and depressed by the political environmental and medical consequences of our dependence on it Freinkel (The American Chestnut) chronicles our history with plastic "from enraptured embrace to deep disenchantment" through eight household items including the comb credit card and soda bottle (celluloid one of the first synthetics transformed the comb from a luxury item to an affordable commodity and was once heralded for relieving the pressure on elephants and tortoises for their ivory and shells). She takes readers to factories in China where women toil 60 hour weeks for a month to make Frisbees; to preemie wards where the lifesaving vinyl tubes that deliver food and oxygen to premature babies may cause altered thyroid function allergies and liver problems later in life. Freinkel's smart well written analysis of this love hate relationship is likely to make plastic lovers take pause plastic haters reluctantly realize its value and all of us understand the importance of individual action political will and technological innovation in weaning us off our addiction to synthetics. (Apr.) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
"It turns out that plastic is not only an ongoing environmental peril, but a compulsively interesting story. This well-reported and lively history helps us see the last decades in a different light. Buy it (with cash)." Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth, founder 350.org
"Susan Freinkel’s book exponentially increased my desirous love and my hate for plastic. What a great read — rigorous, smart, inspiring, and as seductive as plastic itself." Karim Rashid, Designer
"In a world glutted and fouled with fake plastic crap we never missed during nearly our entire history, Susan Freinkel's timely book on the subject is the real thing. No animals or children were harmed by its writing, I'm sure, but — thanks to her diligence — a whole lot of them just might be saved." Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us
"Plastic is everywhere, and Susan Freinkel explains why. Plastic: A Toxic Love Story is gracefully written and deeply informative." Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe
Plastic built the modern world. Where would we be without bike helmets, baggies, toothbrushes, and pacemakers? But a century into our love affair with plastic, we're starting to realize it's not such a healthy relationship. Plastics draw on dwindling fossil fuels, leach harmful chemicals, litter landscapes, and destroy marine life. As journalist Susan Freinkel points out in this engaging and eye-opening book, we're nearing a crisis point. We've produced as much plastic in the past decade as we did in the entire twentieth century. We're drowning in the stuff, and we need to start making some hard choices.
Freinkel gives us the tools we need with a blend of lively anecdotes and analysis. She combs through scientific studies and economic data, reporting from China and across the United States to assess the real impact of plastic on our lives. She tells her story through eight familiar plastic objects: comb, chair, Frisbee, IV bag, disposable lighter, grocery bag, soda bottle, and credit card. Her conclusion: we cannot stay on our plastic-paved path. And we don't have to. Plastic points the way toward a new creative partnership with the material we love to hate but can't seem to live without.
The surprising story of plastic and its effects on design, business, our health and environment, politics, and the broader culture — all through the lens of eight iconic items.
Praise for Plastic:
“In a world glutted and fouled with fake plastic crap we never missed during nearly our entire history, Susan Freinkel’s timely book on the subject is the real thing. No animals or children were harmed by its writing, I’m sure—but thanks to her diligence, a whole lot of them just might be saved.”—Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us
“Plastic is everywhere, and Susan Freinkel explains why. Plastic: A Toxic Love Story is gracefully written and deeply informative.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe
“The first step to creating change is understanding, and the first step to understanding anything to do with plastic is reading Susan Freinkel’s compelling, much-needed, and truly brilliant book.”—David de Rothschild, leader of the Plastiki Expedition
“Who’d have thought that combs, Frisbees, and lighters could have such secret histories and such disturbing futures? Susan Freinkel’s page-turner brings together history, science, and culture to help us understand the plastic world that we have wrought and that has become part of us. Although we should all worry that plastics will persist for centuries, Plastic deserves to endure for years to come.”—Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing
“A must-read, and a fun-read, for anyone who wonders how our society became so plastics-saturated and who wants to do something about it.”—Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff
What in American society has changed so dramatically that nearly 60 percent of us are now overweight, plunging the nation into what the surgeon general calls an "epidemic of obesity"? Greg Critser engages every aspect of American life - class, politics, culture, and economics - to show how we have made ourselves the second fattest people on the planet (after South Sea Islanders).
Fat Land highlights the groundbreaking research that implicates cheap fats and sugars as the alarming new metabolic factor making our calories stick and shows how and why children are too often the chief metabolic victims of such foods. No one else writing on fat America takes as hard a line as Critser on the institutionalized lies we've been telling ourselves about how much we can eat and how little we can exercise. His expose of the Los Angeles schools' opening of the nutritional floodgates in the lunchroom and his examination of the political and cultural forces that have set the bar on American fitness low and then lower, are both discerning reporting and impassioned wake-up calls.
Disarmingly funny, Fat Land leaves no diet book - including Dr. Atkins's - unturned. Fashions, both leisure and street, and American-style religion are subject to Critser's gimlet eye as well. Memorably, Fat Land takes on baby-boomer parenting shibboleths - that young children won't eat past the point of being full and that the dinner table isn't the place to talk about food rules - and gives advice many families will use to lose.
Critser's brilliantly drawn futuristic portrait of a Fat America just around the corner and his all too contemporary foray into the diabetes ward of a major children's hospital make Fat Land a chilling but brilliantly rendered portrait of the cost in human lives - many of them very young lives - of America's obesity epidemic.
In this astonishing expose, journalist Greg Critser looks beyond the sensational headlines to reveal why nearly 60 percent of Americans are now overweight. Critser's sharp-eyed reportage and sharp-tongued analysis make for a disarmingly funny and truly alarming book. Critser investigates the many factors of American life -- from supersize to Super Mario, from high-fructose corn syrup to the high cost of physical education in schools -- that have converged and conspired to make us some of the fattest people on the planet. He also explains why pediatricians are treating conditions rarely before noticed in children, why Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, and how agribusiness has unwittingly altered the American diet.
Are we what we eat?
To a degree both engrossing and alarming, the story of fast food is the story of postwar Amerca. Though created by a handful of mavericks, the fast food industry has triggered the homogenization of our society. Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled the juggernaut of American cultural imperialism abroad. That's a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning.
Schlosser's myth-shattering survey stretches from the California subdivisions where the business was born to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike where many of fast food's flavors are concocted. He hangs out with the teenagers who make the restaurants run and communes with those unlucky enough to hold America's most dangerous job -- meatpacker. He travels to Las Vegas for a giddily surreal franchisers' convention where Mikhail Gorbachev delivers the keynote address. He even ventures to England and Germany to clock the rate at which those countries are becoming fast food nations.
Along the way, Schlosser unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths -- from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, and even real estate. He also uncovers the fast food chains' efforts to reel in the youngest, most susceptible consumers even while they hone their institutionalized exploitation of teenagers and minorities. Schlosser then turns a critical eye toward the hot topic of globalization -- a phenomenon launched by fast food.
FAST FOOD NATION is a groundbreaking work of investigation and cultural history that may change the way America thinks about the way it eats.
About the Author
Susan Freinkel has written for the New York Times, Discover, Smithsonian, and Health, among other publications. She is the author of The American Chestnut, which Mary Roach called "a perfect book" and Richard Preston described as "a beautifully written account" filled with "top-notch" writing and reporting.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Plasticville 1
- Improving on Nature 12
- A Throne for the Common Man 28
- Flitting Through Plasticville 52
- “Humans Are Just a Little Plastic Now” 81
- Matter Out of Place 115
- Battle of the Bag 140
- Closing the Loop 171
- The Meaning of Green 203
Epilogue: A Bridge 233
Cast of Characters 236
Selected Bibliography 299