NON-FICTION

Review: E-books and audiobooks - Bill Cosby, and a paean to the chicken

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 February, 2015, 11:12pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 February, 2015, 11:12pm

Of Ice and Men
by McKenzie Funk
Deca Stories
(e-book)

Deca, a journalists’ collective, goes from strength to strength with this indepth report of the disaster that was the Kulluk, a drill barge taken out of a decade-long hibernation and used in 2012 by Royal Dutch Shell in a bid to find extreme oil off Alaska. McKenzie Funk shows that the company, keen to reverse its precipitous stock fall after having overstated its “proven reserves”, had placed its Arctic dreams squarely on the exploration rig and when it was cut loose during a winter storm to prevent fatalities, it was the end of the “biggest piece in the biggest oil play by the world’s biggest company”. How major a setback it was for the company should be seen in terms of the possibility the Arctic is home to a quarter of the world’s untapped oil and gas reserves. Funk details the rescue of the 18 men on board the rig during the storm and how the rig ended up as junk washed ashore after two tugboats tried without success to tow it to safety. The US$6 billion gamble, played in one of the world’s wildest settings, gives context to the 21st century’s high-stakes quest for oil.

 

The Case Against Cosby
by The Washington Post
Diversion Books
(e-book)

It's a "he says, she says" story. More than that, in the fall of a man who once stood for family values and everything wholesome, the allegations of sexual misconduct against American comedian and actor Bill Cosby have been a cliché. Having placed himself on a moral pedestal, the only way he can go, it seems, is down. For even if proved false, the claims of the 38 women who have accused the comedian of everything from groping to rape have revealed infidelity, a child born out of wedlock, and a lifestyle more Hugh Hefner than Dr Huxtable. In this book, by The Washington Post, five of the women who have accused Cosby of assault are interviewed. Also given a voice are Phylicia Rashad (Huxtable's wife in television sitcom The Cosby Show), who defends him and repeats a claim that "someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV, and it's worked", and Cosby himself. Readers will find interesting the descriptions of a "sexually unrestrained '60s" and the changing understanding of date rape.

 

Why did the Chicken Cross the World?
by Andrew Lawler
(read by Dennis Holland)
Audible Studios
(audiobook)

You might wonder whether chicken nuggets will be enough to sustain this book, which documents ways in which the bird has left its mark on civilisation. But Andrew Lawler, through the friendly voice of Dennis Holland, takes readers on a rollicking road trip, with windows on history, science and culture to show how the chicken has overtaken beef as the meat of choice in the United States, 50 years after a contest there to create a hi-tech, meatier bird more akin to turkey. The march of industrial chicken, we are told, is unstoppable, and that will give readers pause, especially when told how modern chickens live, often squashed in tiny cages. Until the 1950s, most American flocks were no bigger than 200 chickens; now, the figure can top 100,000 birds, raised and killed in six weeks. Among other facts, Lawler also shows their importance in medicine (a single dose of flu vaccine requires three eggs). Interestingly, we learn chickens were probably domesticated not to provide food but, in Asia, for religious ceremonies and cockfighting.