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Bookworms Have Better Brains in Old Age

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For some, being lost in a book is better than watching a movie. And although it might seem that bookworms let the world pass them by while their noses are stuck in a book, their love of reading will serve them well: According to a new study from the July issue of Neurology, readers and other mentally active folks have boosted brainpower in old age.    

"Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as [reading, writing, and playing with puzzles] across a person's lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age," says study co-author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, senior neuropsychologist at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center.

For six years prior to their deaths, 294 people took cognitive tests, which examined their memory and clear thinking. The subjects also recounted how frequently they exercised their brains by reading a newspaper or book (or favorite blog, ah hem); writing a letter; playing a thinking game like chess or Sudoku; or visiting a museum or theater. All the subjects, part of the Rush Memory and Aging Process, donated their brains to science so that the researchers could examine them after death. (Currently, the only way to definitively determine if someone suffers from Alzheimer's is to look at the brain post-mortem for tangles, lesions, and plaques, hallmarks of the disease.)

Subjects who read, wrote, and played puzzles experienced fewer cognitive problems; what's even more interesting is that mental activities stave off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Even if their brains displayed plaques, tangles, and lesions, people who exercised their brains did not exhibit behaviors of Alzheimer's.

“Based on this, we shouldn't underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves, and our parents or grandparents," Wilson says. 

Not a big reader? Never fear—it’s not too late to start. The study finds that people who challenged themselves later in life lowered cognitive deficits by 32 percent. The bad news: People who didn’t engage in mental acrobatics experienced cognitive decline 48 percent faster.

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Hamilton Broadway
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A Hamilton-Themed Cookbook is Coming
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Hamilton Broadway

Fans of Broadway hit Hamilton will soon be able to dine like the Founding Fathers: As Eater reports, a new Alexander Hamilton-inspired cookbook is slated for release in fall 2017.

Cover art for Laura Kumin's forthcoming cookbook
Amazon

Called The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World, the recipe collection by author Laura Kumin “takes you into Hamilton’s home and to his table, with historical information, recipes, and tips on how you can prepare food and serve the food that our founding fathers enjoyed in their day,” according to the Amazon description. It also recounts Hamilton’s favorite dishes, how he enjoyed them, and which ingredients were used.

Recipes included are cauliflower florets two ways, fried sausages and apples, gingerbread cake, and apple pie. (Cue the "young, scrappy, and hungry" references.) The cookbook’s official release is on November 21—but until then, you can stave off your appetite for all things Hamilton-related by downloading the musical’s new app.

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New Tolkien-Themed Botany Book Describes the Plants of Middle-Earth
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While reading The Lord of the Rings saga, it's hard not to notice J.R.R. Tolkien’s clear love of nature. The books are replete with descriptions of lush foliage, rolling prairies, and coniferous forests. A new botany book builds on that knowledge: Entertainment Weekly reports that Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium provides fantasy-loving naturalists with a round-up of plants that grow in Middle-earth.

Cover art for botanist Walter Judd's book
Oxford University Press

Written by University of Florida botanist Walter Judd, the book explores the ecology, etymology, and importance of over 160 plants. Many are either real—coffee, barley, wheat, etc.—or based on real-life species. (For example, pipe-weed may be tobacco, and mallorns are large trees similar to beech trees.)

Using his botany background, Judd explores why Tolkien may have felt compelled to include each in his fantasy world. His analyses are paired with woodcut-style drawings by artist Graham Judd, which depict Middle-earth's flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and shrubs in their "natural" environments.

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]

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