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Pagan KennedyThis is one of those books, in the vein of Mary Roach's Stiff (about human cadavers), that tackle a big topic by taking readers on a chapter-by-chapter tour of eccentric characters and unlikely locations…In her most absorbing passages, I felt as if I were back in the children's library, scrutinizing a volume of the World Book Encyclopedia, where the entry on "pachyderm" sat near the disquisition on "pachysandra," a kind of ground cover. Johnson's book carries the same kind of associative magic. Rather than taking us on a brisk, orderly march, she lets us ride on the swaying back of an elephant, glimpsing treasures glimmering through the fronds of pachysandra.
—The New York Times