Week ending November 18, 2011
The Best American Sports Writing 2011. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. (Best American). 2011. c.384p. ed. by Jane Leavy. ISBN 9780547336961. pap. $14.95. SPORTS
This year’s showcase for notable American sports articles proves that sports can inspire excellent writing. Guest editor Leavy (The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood) has selected 29 uniformly strong pieces from a wide variety of print and web sources, ranging from the expected (ESPN.com, Sports Illustrated) to the unexpected (Wired.com, Rolling Stone). In contrast to last year’s collection, many of these pieces deal with esoteric extreme sports and the athletes who risk their lives for thrills such as BASE jumping, free-diving, surfing, and skateboarding. Mainstream team sports appear as well, but the action occurs outside the field of play, including the tragic tale of a former NFL superstar’s alleged murder attempt, a school for learning hockey fighting skills, and the plight of first responders to a plane crash that killed college football players. Highlights include tales of an organ-donating boxer and the lives he changed, a homeless soccer team, and a transgendered sportswriter.
Verdict Recommended for any reader who appreciates well-written, intelligent, and emotionally charged nonfiction. Being a sports fan is not required.‚ Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
Blossfeldt, Marika. Essential Nourishment: Recipes from My Estonian Farm. Delicious Nutrition. 2011. 304p. illus. index. ISBN 9780615429274. pap. $34.99. COOKING
Blossfeldt, an independent holistic health coach, here compiles wellness wisdom and recipes using whole foods from her Estonian retreat, Polli Talu (Polli’s Farm). Tucked in among beautiful color photographs and artwork are hundreds of recipes, nearly all of which are vegetarian. The book opens with Blossfeldt’s philosophy on mindful living, including sections on nutrition and lifestyle that embody the spirit of Polli Talu. There is advice on topics like reading food labels, choosing different proteins, and eating seasonally appropriate foods. The recipe section includes a handful of vegan options and a small number that call for either chicken or fish. Some individuals who buy this cookbook as their first introduction to healthier eating may find the food too earthy, but others will love the simple, natural dishes that make use of such wholesome ingredients as barley, lentils, root vegetables, and fennel.
Verdict Blossfeldt’s book is an artful synthesis of whole living and mindful eating. It is perfect for vegetarians and omnivores seeking a cookbook rich in natural foods, easy recipes, and rustic Estonian cuisine.‚ Carolyn M. Schwartz, Westfield State Univ. Lib., MA
Burnett, Anne Moore. Step Ahead of Autism: What You Can Do To Ensure the Best Possible Outcome for Your Child. Sunrise River. 2011. c.160p. index. ISBN 9781934716250. pap. $12.95. PSYCH
Burnett’s (founder, Alleviate Autism) book is part memoir and part how-to guide for parents of children with autism. Its main purpose is to teach parents Burnett’s ten steps for maximizing a child’s success and provide tips for getting an early diagnosis and finding the best school or camp placements. She encourages parents to be positive and confident in themselves and their decisions, in addition to lobbying for their children. After introducing each step, Burnett discusses how she used it for her own child, at times lending the text a personal and emotional air. Chapters conclude with written exercises on how to implement each step. Although Burnett’s son, Joey, went on to find great success, she effectively warns that his situation is not typical. She does not promise that her program will make every autistic child high school valedictorian, as Joey became, but rather that it allows each child to reach his or her full potential.
Verdict Recommended for parents and educators of all children with autism, but this book may prove especially useful for those with newly diagnosed children or children very early in the educational system.‚ Terry Lamperski, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh
Chenoweth, Karin & Christina Theokas. Getting It Done: Leading Academic Success in Unexpected Schools. Harvard Education. 2011. c.232p. index. ISBN 9781612501024. $44.95; pap. ISBN 9781612501017. $26.95. ED
In this follow-up to Chenoweth’s How It’s Being Done and It’s Being Done (named as one of the top education books of the decade by Education Next), Chenoweth and Theokas (director of research, Education Trust) not only tell the stories of highly effective principals but detail how their approach to leadership drives achievement. The authors and the profiled principals dispel the widely held belief that racial isolation, heredity, socioeconomic status, and family background form an impenetrable glass ceiling that relegates poor students to a vicious cycle of underperforming. Chenoweth and Theokas contend that strong leadership begets high-achieving teachers and students, and they support this contention through a combination of anecdotal and statistical evidence.
Verdict Leaders in challenging school environments may find inspiration from the stories of their colleagues. Recommended for current and aspiring principals interested in effecting change in high-need, poor-performing schools.‚ Tamela Chambers, Chicago Pub. Schs. Lib.
Ginsberg, Stanley & Norman Berg. Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking. Camino Bks. 2011. 336p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781933822235. $24.95. COOKING
Ever wonder how‚ or why, when, or where‚ challah gets made? Ginsberg and Berg here bring together their ample baking experience (the former, at home; the latter, professionally) to create a reference for baking traditional Jewish breads, bagels, cookies, cakes, and rolls. Techniques and recipes are contextualized within a history of the role of bakeries and baked goods in Eastern European and, later, American Jewish cultural life, engagingly supplemented with a collection of personal anecdotes and family stories. The book begins with necessary background on measurements and ingredients, and recipes are thoroughly and clearly explained, with illustrations throughout. Though the book is accessible to bakers with less experience, the authors’ aim for authenticity and professionalism will likely require some dedication over time.
Verdict Suitable for those at any level of baking skill hungry for the real deal and prepared to exert some effort. At the same time, this is a fascinating historical and cultural narrative of Ashkenazi Jewish life in Europe and America‚ scholarly, deeply personal, and highly readable.‚ Courtney Greene, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington
Hassan, Robert. The Age of Distraction: Reading, Writing, and Politics in a High-Speed Networked Economy. Transaction. Nov. 2011. c.219p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781412843065. $34.95. PSYCH
Until recently, argues Hassan (communications, Univ. of Melbourne, Australia) reading and writing‚ the foundational tools of thinking‚ proceeded at a speed that was comfortable to the human brain. Recent changes in technology, however, have flooded us with so much data that we can neither keep up nor concentrate on one topic long enough to think carefully. While Hassan’s argument may very well be true, he presents no empirical data here to confirm it. Instead, this book sounds like many a modern teacher’s lament that the darned kids won’t stop texting long enough to listen to me talk to them about Shakespeare dressed up with agonizing academic prose.
Verdict Is that this reviewer would sooner look at LOLcats than read sentences such as Notwithstanding this temporal asynchronicity and the cognitive dissonance that flows from it, the glorious neoliberal ICT revolution that brought humanity to this pass continues unrestricted her fault or the author’s? Or maybe, as Hassan proposes, it’s her computer’s fault. Regardless, she’s got to catch the latest viral video.‚ Mary Ann Hughes, Shelton, WA
Hayes, Clay. Gig Posters. Vol. 2. Quirk. 2011. 208p. illus. index. ISBN 9781594745430. pap. $40. GRAPHIC ARTS
Hayes is the creator and proprietor of gigposters.com, a website focused on the sale of posters that promote rock concerts and similar music events. Since the site’s creation in 2001, an enormous quantity of images have been uploaded to the site, making it an online archive of posters and gig flyers representing early rock ‘n’ roll and jazz as well as contemporary rock and pop. This title‚ which continues the work of the 2009 volume Gig Posters: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century‚ is more concentrated than its online source. The artwork in both books is from newer designers and primarily publicizes alternative and metal bands. Both titles also include 101 full-page (11″ x 14″) color posters with perforated edges, so they can be removed and used. Additionally, Hayes includes smaller reproductions and a biographical entry for each artist that features education, influences, and commercial web address.
Verdict This fun and unique book could be a problem for circulating libraries owing to the perforated pages. An optional purchase for fans of rock music and poster art.‚ Eric Linderman, Willoughby-Eastlake P.L., Willowick, OH
Hershorn, Tad. Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice. Univ. of California. 2011. c.488p. photogs. ISBN 9780520267824. $34.95. MUSIC
Anyone who has listened to recorded jazz in the last 50 years is probably familiar with the name Norman Granz. What they may not know, however, is the depth of his influence on jazz as an art form, a profitable business, and a cultural institution. As a producer, promoter, manager, and founder of the highly successful Norgran, Verve, and Pablo record labels, he worked with some of the greatest artists of all time, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Nat King Cole, and Art Tatum. But Granz’s views on and struggles toward racial equality, respect, and financial viability for musicians is perhaps the most engaging element of his life‚ and of this exceptional book. Hershorn (archivist, Inst. for Jazz Studies, Rutgers Univ.) has crafted the first in-depth biography of Granz, and his voluminous research combined with an engaging, journalistic tone makes this a satisfying read.
Verdict A thoroughly enjoyable and informative look at a key player in the history of jazz. Recommended for all libraries.‚ Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA
McEvedy, Allegra. Bought, Borrowed, Stolen: Recipes & Knives from a Travelling Chef. Conran: Octopus, dist. by Hachette. 2011. 224p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781840915778. $24.99. COOKING
Noted British chef McEvedy (Coloring the Seasons: A Cook’s Guide) digs into diaries written during earlier travels as the starting point for this appealing collection of recipes, framing each section, devoted to a different locale, with anecdotes about travel and the knives collected en route. Entertaining as the anecdotes are, the recipes are the true reward. They range from light fare, such as a Filipino Clam and Ginger Broth, to desserts, for example, a South African Rooibos Tea Pudding. The geographic range is impressive and includes less common cuisines such as those of Malawi and Burma (Myanmar). The resultant dishes seem uncomplicated, and the author’s reassuring manner will only encourage attempts at them. Full-color photographs throughout are sure to hook readers all the more.
Verdict A winning combination of recipes, photographs, and engaging writing that should spark great interest and culinary exploration. Highly recommended.‚ Peter Hepburn, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago
OxTravels: Meetings of Remarkable Travel Writers. Profile, dist. by Consortium. 2011. 480p. ed. by Mark Ellingham & others. illus. ISBN 9781846684968. pap. $15.95. TRAV
Encounters with other people enhance our travel experience, as Michael Palin (of Monty Python and numerous BBC travel programs) describes in his introduction to this collection of 36 tales, compiled by Ellingham, Peter Florence, and Barnaby Rogerson. Although the quality varies, the best of these true stories reveal as much about a place as about the character portrayed, such as the rickshaw driver in Colin Thubron’s In Mandalay. Some pieces are eulogies, and others weave in a message about our world, as in Raja Shehadeh’s With Eyes Wide Open. These are not sightings of the rich and famous but portraits of characters, whether they suffer or exemplify a lesson. Expect an emotional range from poignant to amusing and a geographical range from Antarctica to the Amazon. Most of the pieces were written especially for this book by Britain-based writers, who will donate their royalties to Oxfam, an international confederation to end poverty and injustice.
Verdict Readers looking for glimpses of people and places not highlighted in glossy travel magazines will discover them here.‚ Janet Clapp, North Clarendon, VT
Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art 1945‚ 1980. Getty Research. 2011. c.352p. ed. by Rebecca Peabody & others. photogs. index. ISBN 9781606060728. $59.95. FINE ARTS
This sprawling compendium is part of a vast project sponsored by over 60 museums throughout southern California that hosted dozens of exhibitions and performances. Initially an effort to document the disappearing history of L.A.’s art scene between 1945 and 1980, the project has expanded so much that southern California is now awash in celebrations of the region’s art. This monograph documents much of it with piquant essays and innumerable photographs. It is, to date, the most comprehensive effort to document L.A.’s emergence as a major locus of important art creation and presents an irresistibly rich panorama. Readers are treated to the dizzying variety of the city’s postwar art‚ sculpture, installation, painting, photography, the Watts Towers‚ and to elements of the scene comprising this inventive, insouciant time in American art history, such as galleries like Ferus (an epicenter of pop art) and Brockman (where black artists came together after the 1965 Watts riots), or regional iconoclasts like George Herms, Billy Al Bengston, and Judy Chicago.
Verdict Documenting how the art world has tipped westward, this will appeal to students of art history and California.‚ Douglas F. Smith, Berkeley P.L., CA
Roman, James. Chronicles of Old Las Vegas: Exposing Sin City’s High-Stakes History. Museyon Guides. 2011. 240p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780984633418. $18.95. TRAV
Wise guys, atomic bombs, white tigers, the Rat Pack, Elvis, and MIT have all been a part of Las Vegas at one time or another. Roman (Chronicles of Old New York) provides a fascinating look at the history and characters that have made Las Vegas into the city we know today. This concise, nonscholarly read will appeal to individuals interested in the city, its history, and icons, but even readers not particularly attracted to Vegas will find this story compelling. The text is enhanced by maps providing visual historical information of the development of the city, from the segregated Westside district to the brothels to the demolition of iconic casinos. Additionally, numerous photographs of celebrities, gangsters, and other famous faces who helped shape the city are included. Some museum information is provided.
Verdict There are many books on Las Vegas and its past (e.g., Geoff Schumacher’s Sun, Sin & Suburbia and Paul W. Papa’s It Happened in Las Vegas), and this book is a good addition for its brevity and colorful text and photos. Well-researched, enjoyable, and concise‚ a great read for the flight to Vegas.‚ Louise Feldmann, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins
This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement. Berrett-Koehler, dist. by Ingram. (Currents). Nov. 2011. c.96p. ed. by Sarah van Gelder & others. photogs. ISBN 9781609945879. pap. $9.95. POL SCI
Berrett-Koehler commissioned this instant book last month, with all royalties (and 500 copies) to go to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS)/99% movement. Edited by YES! magazine staff, some of whom have attended Occupy Seattle, it is brief, hopeful, and accessible. An introduction on How Occupy Wall Street Changes Everything is followed by a list of the ten ways it has done that (e.g., giving a name to the crisis, combining the local with the global, and being a movement rather than a list of demands). Then there are 16 pieces (mostly three to five pages) within three sections. Occupy Wall Street has contributions on the how and what of the movement’s start, and What Needs To Change has brass-tacks discussions, e.g., on a fair tax system and creating living-wage jobs. The last section, We Have the Power, includes reminders from Ralph Nader, connecting OWS to earlier grassroots movements, and Rebecca Solnit, relating OWS to the Arab Spring and movements such as the capitol occupation in Wisconsin. The final 10 Ways To Support the Occupy Movement, by YES! executive editor van Gelder covers the basics (attend or start an Occupy site, support occupiers with supplies, tell their stories, use social media, be resilient, etc.).
Verdict The OWS story, thus far, is in this book, which serves as a fine record of the OWS autumn, especially for those seeking clarity on its aims. As a primary source it will have long-term value in all libraries. [See LJ's story on the latest from OWS.‚ Ed.]‚ Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal
The Unquiet American: Richard Holbrooke in the World. PublicAffairs: Perseus. 2011. 400p. ed. by Derek Chollet & Samantha Power. photogs. index. ISBN 9781610390781. $29.99. INT AFFAIRS
Richard Holbrooke (To End a War), who died in 2010, served in many world hot spots from 1960s Vietnam to the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s and finally as President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Throughout, he wrote numerous opinion pieces and journal articles. Chollet (coauthor, with Holbrooke, The Road to the Dayton Accords: A Study of American Statecraft) and Power (National Security Council; A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide) have gathered some of Holbrooke’s best writing in this tribute volume, showing among other things Holbrooke’s prescience about long-term effects of the Vietnam conflict. There are also original essays here by those who worked with Holbrooke. They write of his intensity and the mentoring that he provided despite a daunting to do list. Holbrooke could be gruff (if he thought gruff would advance his agenda), which some considered a weakness, but these authors acknowledge it with good humor.
Verdict Effectively the story of the United States in the world over the last 50 years and the demands that global leadership has placed upon U.S. diplomats, this book will be useful to both students of diplomacy and readers who want to know more than they learn from the news on this topic.‚ Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
Winterling, Aloys. Caligula: A Biography. Univ. of California. 2011. c.240p. tr. from German by Deborah Lucas Schneider & others. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520248953. $34.95. BIOG
In popular imagination Caligula (12 C.E.‚ 41 C.E.) is the mad young emperor who acted out of some combination of insanity, cruelty, or lead poisoning. In a revisionist take on the man, Winterling (ancient history, Univ. of Basel; Politics, Society, and Aristocratic Communication in Imperial Rome) argues that Caligula was cruel but that his actions were explicable in the light of the political situation of the time and considering the changing role of the emperor. While Augustus had managed to fit into the old aristocratic structures, Caligula needed to wield monarchical powers to control the senate. His reinvention of the status of the emperor required extraordinary acts to subjugate the aristocracy; likewise, the aristocracy took extraordinary measures to remove Caligula, who remained popular with the common people. In this reading, the more egregious acts attributed to Caligula‚ such as incest and making his horse a consul‚ were inventions of later writers.
Verdict This is an important perspective, but Winterling’s interpretation of Caligula often feels overly exculpatory and one-sided. Accessible to the general reader, but most likely to appeal to serious Roman history readers or students.‚ Margaret Heller, Dominican Univ. Lib., River Forest, IL