Week ending December 23, 2011
American Christmas Cards: 1900‚ 1950. Yale Univ. 2011. c.320p. ed. by Kenneth L. Ames. illus. ISBN 9780300176872. pap. $40. FINE ARTS
A handsome catalog published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center’s Focus Gallery, this collection of Christmas cards from the first half of the 20th century will peak the interest of any admirer of popular design. Editor Ames’s (material culture, Bard Graduate Ctr.) impetus for the project was a class. While he formulated the idea, his graduate students worked on the procurement, selection, and categorization of Christmas cards. They aim to focus solely on the cards’ imagery, somewhat morbidly comparing their choice not to analyze words (whether handwritten or printed) to looking at gravestone imagery but ignoring the texts cut into the stone. Thankfully the majority of the book is in merrier spirits. Organized into themes like Travel by Coach, Medieval Revels, and Cute, the images range from spare, Art Deco‚ inspired designs to lush, foiled, naturalistic scenes.
Verdict More than just a presentation of the beautiful, this book highlights trends that speak to the broader American experience. (Empty red chairs by blazing hearths materialize during the Depression‚ perhaps as signs of absence or illusory abundance.) A charming collection of images sure to get anyone in the Christmas spirit.‚ Molly McArdle, Library Journal
Caddick-Adams, Peter. Monty and Rommel: Parallel Lives. Overlook, dist. by Penguin Group (USA). Feb. 2012. c.640p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781590207253. $35. HIST
Of the World War II leaders who have been examined over the years, few have had careers that so closely mirror each other as British general Bernard Montgomery and German general Erwin Rommel. Caddick-Adams (lecturer, Cranfield Military Academy, UK) chronicles Monty’s and Rommel’s lives from birth until death, occasionally in alternating chapters but more often woven seamlessly within one narrative. Both men served in World War I; both were ambitious; both needed to adjust their modes of communicating and reacting in order to be successful leaders, but each paid a price, Rommel all the more. Fans of dual World War II biographies such as Alan Bullock’s Hitler and Stalin and Jon Meacham’s Franklin and Winston will enjoy the juxtaposition of the generals’ careers, which parallel each other in both great and minor ways. Caddick-Adams uses his own professional expertise in detailing and analyzing each man’s leadership strategies in wartime.
Verdict Behind-the-scenes descriptions that place the reader directly in the action of World War II, the character analysis, and the biographical context are sure to satisfy all curious readers in military biography or World War II history.‚ Melanie Mitzman, Triumph Learning, New York
Carns, Fiona. High Protein, Low GI, Bold Flavor: Recipes To Boost Health and Promote Weight Loss. The Experiment, dist. by Workman. Jan. 2012. c.176p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781615190379. pap. $18.95. COOKING
Carns (Low Carbohydrate, High Flavor), an attorney-turned-caterer in Australia, has written a cookbook inspired by her positive experience with a high-protein/low-glycemic diet. The book shows that high-protein diets have changed from advocating Atkins-style juicy steaks and fatty hamburgers. Like others before her, Carns has modified that regimen considerably, focusing on lean proteins (poultry, beans, fish, low-fat red meat) and adding limited amounts of whole grains (bulgur, quinoa) as well as fruits and vegetables. The fairly simple recipes are geared toward the everyday cook and use very few exotic ingredients (e.g., amaranth puffs). Dishes ranging from Eggplant, Spinach, and Ricotta Lasagna to Moroccan Lamb with Chickpeas and Spinach make the book a highly attractive choice for those looking beyond Atkins.
Verdict Highly recommended for public and special libraries.‚ Ginny Wolter, Toledo-Lucas Cty. P.L.
Dobak, William A. Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862‚ 1867. Ctr. of Military History. (Army Historical Series). 2011. c.553p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780160866968. $69.95. HIST
The title of this book comes from the Latin inscription on a medal struck for black Union soldiers: Ferro iis libertas perveniet (Freedom will be theirs by the sword). Dobak (retired, U.S. Army Ctr. of Military History; Fort Riley and Its Neighbors) argues that rather than being passive recipients of freedom attained for them by Northern white soldiers, African Americans fought for their own freedom and did so effectively. In spite of severe prejudice in the North and frequently poor leadership from their own all-white officers, the U.S. Colored Troops served with distinction. Dobak examines his subject by geographic area and time period rather than in strict narrative form. This approach makes it harder for readers to see the big picture of black accomplishments in the war but effectively shows how‚ contrary to common opinion‚ black soldiers did not merely garrison forts and serve as laborers for white fighting troops. As indicated by his title, Dobak covers the first months of Reconstruction as well as the war itself.
Verdict Written for serious students and specialists, this thoroughly documented book is an excellent contribution to the field and will be appreciated by those interested in the African American experience during the Civil War. A fine addition to serious Civil War collections.‚ Michael Farrell, Reformed Theological Seminary Lib., Oviedo, FL
Dowling, Mike with Damien Lewis. Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog. Atria: S. & S. Dec. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9781451635966. $26. PETS
Military K9 units, teams of trained dogs and their handlers, have rarely been used since the Vietnam War. Recently, the escalating toll of lost lives among U.S. troops has fostered new growth in K9 units in the armed forces, which use the extraordinary bomb detection skills of these dogs. This heart-pounding account of marine Dowling’s 2004 work on the front lines in Iraq’s Triangle of Death, a region south of Baghdad that saw intense combat and sectarian violence, with his courageous German Shepherd, Rex, describes their daily routine of searing heat, constant noise, and choking dust, while training and working under brutal conditions and an exhausting level of ever-present fear. With an incredible degree of trust and loyalty, Dowling and Rex must rely on each other while patrolling streets and buildings for hidden weapons caches and improvised explosive devices. Semper fi, indeed!
Verdict A page-turning true adventure for military enthusiasts as well as dog lovers. This book would also be great for older teen boys.‚ Susan Riley, Mamaroneck P.L., NY
Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. New York Univ. 2011. c.232p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780814727881. pap. $23. PROFESSIONAL MEDIA
Fitzpatrick (media studies, Pomona Coll.; The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television) is well qualified to discuss alternate forms of publishing and unexpected futures for the academy. Among her many projects, she is founding editor of MediaCommons, a digital scholarly network, and was involved in the groundbreaking online peer review of an issue of Shakespeare Quarterly. Both of those experiences are discussed in this thoughtful (while necessarily dense) work that bravely recommends that academics abandon their desperation to prove online scholarship as rigorous as print work. Instead, Fitzpatrick states, it is time to embrace new ways of knowing and expression, reminding readers that the confidence today’s academics ascribe to print works comes from conventions brought into being alongside, not through, print technologies. Chapters titled Peer Review, Authorship, Texts, Preservation, and The University methodically dismantle arguments for the status quo, with sections debating accepted beliefs and practices such as the anonymous basis of peer review; recognizable, individual authorship; for-profit university presses; and the rejection of open access as a tenable scholarly publishing model.
Verdict Academics who have participated in recent murmurings about the crisis in scholarly publishing will find their protests bolstered by this thorough examination. Libraries in tenure-granting institutions as well as those serving media programs will do well to stock Fitzpatrick’s call to arms.‚ Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Library Journal
Freeman, Philip. Oh My Gods: A Modern Retelling of Greek and Roman Myths. S. & S. Jan. 2012. c.368p. index. ISBN 9781451609974. $30. FOLKLORE
Freeman (classics, Luther Coll.; St. Patrick of Ireland) presents his retelling of classical Greek and Roman myths using modern language intelligible to general readers. He successfully does this without glossing over the raw power and chaos of the original tales‚ each story is written eloquently and with sincere enthusiasm for the narration of these myths. Organized within accessible categories such as Creation, Gods, Goddesses, Heroes, Lovers, and Rome and with narrative notes at the back explaining his sources, he focuses on both the large mythos and events like the battle of Troy, while also paying special attention to less-well-known or less-understood myths such as the story of the Roman hero Horatius or the goddess Hestia. Genealogies of the various Gods, heroes, and their descendants and a glossary, along with notes and suggestions for further reading, supplement this already informative text.
Verdict Highly accessible, this book will be a welcome choice for general readers and those newer to the subject of classical myths.‚ Jennifer Harris, Mercyhurst Coll. Lib., Erie, PA
Holzer, Harold. Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory. Harvard Univ. Feb. 2012. c.200p. illus. index. ISBN 9780674064409. $24.95. HIST
In this readable and revealing book, renowned Lincoln scholar Holzer (senior vice president for external affairs, Metropolitan Museum of Art) investigates the process whereby Lincoln drafted, vetted, and presented the Emancipation Proclamation and also the ways people have come to understand and use the proclamation for myriad purposes. Especially important is Holzer’s demonstration that Lincoln wrapped the proclamation’s revolutionary promise in leaden legal language to ensure its Constitutionality and its palatability to loyal slaveholders, Northerners, and others still uneasy with the prospect of ending slavery. Also instructive is Holzer’s examination of the Lincoln image as the Great Emancipator and the kneeling slave motif in picture, sculpture, and imagination, which images have contrasted with the more contested ones of Lincoln in print.
Verdict The result is a book that through close textual analysis and attention to historical context gives the Emancipation Proclamation its due and shows Lincoln as a deft politician and prose master who understood how to fit the language to the moment and thereby realize a promise for all time. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to learn about how freedom came to be.‚ Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph’s Univ., Philadelphia
Keene, Meg. A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration. Da Capo Lifelong. Jan. 2012. c.240p. index. ISBN 9780738215150. pap. $16. HOME ECON
Keene’s wedding planning guide is a fresh, sane voice in a field of guides pushing big budget weddings. Keene, feeling frustrated with societal expectations of what weddings should be, started her blog of the same name while planning her 2008 nuptials. Since its inception, apracticalwedding.com has become a popular site for (mostly) brides of all backgrounds, ethnicities, faiths, and sexual orientations. Her book is structured like most wedding books, with advice on the guest list, budgets, venues, vendors, creating a ceremony, and day-of planning, each chapter ending with a summary of key points. Keene’s book stands out as she empowers brides to find the elements of wedding planning that are meaningful to them and to let go of the rest without regrets or apology. DIY is treated to a more in-depth coverage than other titles. Keene devotes a chapter to the Hard Stuff: the emotional challenges of planning a wedding. The history of American weddings is briefly reviewed. Keene deconstructs what is actual tradition (e.g., small weddings followed by cake and punch at home) and what is new (e.g., unity candles). On Keene’s website readers will find online wedding resources, vendor and venue directories, downloadable speadsheets, how-to’s, real wedding posts from Team Practical (her readers), and posts on navigating married life.
Verdict Recommended and required reading for all newly engaged couples. Public libraries would be wise to include this practical guide in their collections.‚ Maura Deedy, Weymouth P.L., MA
Maher, Bill. The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody but Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). 2011. c.368p. photogs. ISBN 9780399158414. $26.99. TV
With tongue firmly planted in both cheeks, political-satirist wunderkind Maher updates his 2005 New Rules best seller. Comedians who decried the loss of shooting-fish-in-a-barrel material when George Dubya left office in 2008 quickly learned there was an abundance of political chum in the pundit water and, as Maher demonstrates weekly on his hit cable show Real Time with Bill Maher, the feeding frenzy continues in hilarious, if sad, perpetuity. As with the previous book, this Rules redux is an alphabetically arranged collection of predominantly short and pungent observations. Maher’s hit list is catholic in its scope and aim and includes shots at costuming dogs on Halloween, steering wheel desks, waiters in Asian restaurants, zaftig weather ladies, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Crocs plastic shoes, March Madness bracketology, Netflix, and…wait for it…Lindsay Lohan (that one is a little too (sl)easy). The political pieces, mainly documenting previously recorded rants, are throughout the text and distinguished by gray paper and the date the piece was recorded.
Verdict Maher continues to give thumbs down to both our bread-and-circus world and political coliseum‚Ä¶and the crowd roars.‚ Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX
The Medical Library Association’s Master Guide to Authoritative Information Resources in the Health Sciences. Neal-Schuman. (Medical Library Assn. Guides). 2011. ed. by Laurie L. Thompson. ISBN 9781555707194. $295. PROFESSIONAL MEDIA
This wide-ranging volume is intended as an update of, and replacement for, the now defunct Brandon/Hill Selected List of Print Books and Journals for the Small Medical Library, published most recently in 2003 in the Journal of the Medical Library Association. Whereas that guide recommended only books and journals covering medicine, this work also covers general science and describes Internet and database material. The 2,011 substantive annotations gathered by Thompson (Univ. of Texas Southwestern libraries), Mori Lou Higa (UT Southwestern Medical Center), Esther Carrigan (Texas A&M Univ. Medical Sciences Lib.), and Rajia Tobia (UT Health Science Ctr. libraries) are mainly written by librarians, some of whom also have medical or other scientific qualifications. Entries include a header providing bibliographic information and a listing of the type(s) of library the material will work best in, and the annotations compare the work to previous editions, if any. The subject coverage is impressive, with material arranged in 34 categories‚ Health Services Administration, Nursing, Optometry‚ and within those addressing subspecialties as unusual as aerospace medicine. The closing section offers a list of grant sources, an invaluable resource for many scientists; there are separate indexes for monographs, journals, and databases and other electronic resources.
Verdict Medical resources are some of the most expensive materials a library must buy, and this work provides enough guidance to more than pay for itself. Medical libraries are a natural customer, but the book will also work very well in the many community colleges and for-profit institutions that offer allied medical science courses.‚ Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Library Journal
Moltz, James Clay. Asia’s Space Race: National Motivations, Regional Rivalries, and International Risks. Columbia Univ. (Contemporary Asia in the World). Dec. 2011. c.304p. index. ISBN 9780231527576. $35. INT AFFAIRS
Motivated in large part by the desire for recognition and prestige, can Asia’s space program, fraught with tension already, actually develop into an arms race? Moltz (Space Systems Academic Group, Naval Postgraduate Sch.; The Politics of Space Security) argues that the continent’s long-standing geopolitical rivalries‚ namely among China, India, Pakistan, North and South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam‚ set a daunting task for future regional and global policy decision-making. Unlike Europe where nations collaborate in the European Space Agency (ESA), the Asian space race among 14 leading space programs (others include Bangladesh, Israel, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore) is an inheritance from a colonialist mentality stemming from a lack of regional cooperation over security and relatively loose arms control, ultimately paving the way for political mistrust and increasing military tensions. Although Moltz points out that a positive development of space competition is technological advancement, he advances insights into resolving the impending space race with tangible policies for detente.
Verdict Offering readers unfamiliar with international space politics an alarming picture of the hidden but turbulent developments in Asia, this book is recommended for serious readers in international relations and policymaking.‚ Allan Cho, Univ. of British Columbia Lib.
Murray, Michael. Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind. Frederic C. Bell. 2011. c.352p. index. ISBN 9781929490417. $26.95. BIOG
Jacques Barzun (b. 1907) has been a major intellectual presence since 1937 when his Race: A Study in Modern Superstition appeared. Over 60 years later came his magnum opus, the best-selling From Dawn to Decadence, on our culture’s decline. In between, Barzun wrote on Hector Berlioz, William James, detective fiction, and the state of the American university and modern education, among other topics, while on the faculty of Columbia University. Murray (Ohio State Univ. Libs.; A Jacques Barzun Reader) has written a judicious biography of a man he has known for many years. It does have flaws: Murray quotes too much‚ some chapters seem almost patchworks of quotations. More serious is his reluctance to confront Barzun, although this is by no means a hagiography. When Barzun opines, there hasn’t been a new idea in Western culture since the first decade of the 20th century, he sounds out-of-date or crabby, as, too, when he dismisses all modern music. But Murray does not question these views.
Verdict This is the first serious biography‚ solid, substantial‚ of an important and popular American intellectual. It should attract both scholars and lay readers.‚ David Keymer. Modesto, CA
Norell, Mark & Denise Patry Leidy with Laura Ross. Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World. Sterling. (American Museum of Natural History). 2011. c.260p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781402781377. $40. HIST
The Silk Road! What does that name conjure? Exotic lands, spices, camels, oases, deserts, riches, or Marco Polo? Based on the 2009‚ 10 exhibit of the same name at the American Museum of Natural History, this book takes readers on a colorful, entertaining, and fun journey along the Silk Road. After offering a brief history of this series of east-west trade routes, both on land and sea, that stretched from China through Central Asia to the Middle East, the book focuses on the ancient cities of Xian, Turfan, Samarkand, Baghdad, and Istanbul from over 2000 years ago, through the Middle Ages, and up toward the present. Along the way, Norell (division of paleontology, American Museum of Natural History) and Leidy (Asian art, Metropolitan Museum of Art) inform lay readers about explorers, merchants, scholars, monks, religions, books, silk, and porcelain, among other Silk Road trading goods.
Verdict A wonderful general overview of the cultures, people, and artifacts of the Silk Road, colorfully illustrated and with foldout maps. This will be most appealing to general readers and younger students who wish to travel to the past through this major trade route.‚ Melissa Aho, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis
Panek, Leroy Lad. Before Sherlock Holmes: How Magazines and Newspapers Invented the Detective Story. McFarland. 2011. c.227p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786467877. pap. $40. LIT
Panek (English, McDaniel Coll.; The American Police Novel: A History) chronicles how detective stories increased in popularity and developed through the 19th century, covering both the familiar American and British writers (Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins) as well as pioneers who are more obscure but are usually covered in studies like this, e.g. Anna Katherine Green (The Leavenworth Case). What sets this book apart is Panek’s focus on police and mystery stories and serialized novels that proliferated in popular magazines and newspapers of the time, many coming again to the fore owing to the digitization of newspapers and magazines. Panek’s emphasis is on the improved and expanded role of the detective (both private and on the police force) and how the increased interest in police methods and circumstantial evidence paved the way for the deluge of crime fiction during the golden age of the genre. He also discusses copyright violations and outright plagiarism seen in popular 19th-century British and American periodicals.
Verdict Devotees of classic mystery stories will be familiar with some of the insights and history here, but the new highlighting of the role of early popular media in promulgating the genre will be of interest to fans of vintage detective fiction and its history.‚ Morris Hounion, New York City Technical Coll. Lib., Brooklyn
Peeters, Beno√Æt. Hergé, Son of Tintin. Johns Hopkins. Dec. 2011. c.424p. tr. from French by Tina A. Kover. illus. bibliog. ISBN 0810119250. $29.95. LIT
The beloved comic book character Tintin has come a long way since he first appeared in 1929 in the Belgian newspaper Le XXe Siècle. His series became one of the most popular in Europe, and he has just burst onto the big screen in Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin. This reviewer first heard of the boy hero in grad school when a French girlfriend dubbed him Tintin. Peeters (Derrida), who has written extensively about Tintin, here presents an exhaustive account of the life of his creator, Hergé, born in Belgium as Georges Remi (1907‚ 83). In a book first published in France, the author details the life of his protagonist, including Hergé’s attempt in the 1940s to interest Walt Disney in his work (no dice). Along the way, readers enjoy the added benefit of a history of modern Belgium.
Verdict Carefully researched (there are extensive endnotes) and well written and translated, this fine study is most appropriate for sophisticated readers or dedicated Tintin fans. Neophytes or those desiring to get a fuller view of Hergé’s art could consult Philippe Goddin’s The Art of Hergé: Inventor of Tintin. (Illustrations and index not seen.)‚ Edward Cone, New York
Pellegrini, Georgia. Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time. Da Capo Lifelong. Dec. 2011. c.256p. ISBN 9780738214665. $24. COOKING
This game cookbook is roughly two-thirds hunting stories and philosophical exploration of hunting as an inborn human trait and one-third recipes for cleaning, storing, and cooking wild game. Pellegrini (Food Heroes: 16 Culinary Artisans Preserving Tradition), who went from Manhattan prep-school student to Wall Street office worker to hunter/chef, unapologetically embraces the harvesting of pheasant, elk, duck, deer, wild hog, and other game. She takes readers through meadows, to deer stands, and on early-dawn and late-night adventures as she tracks and shoots with experienced hunters, when the air smells like burnt sugar and breakfast is accompanied by a chorus of jams. Chapters end with reminiscences from Pellegrini and her outdoor teachers about their day, as well as recipes.
Verdict The relatively small number of recipes (about 100, including stocks, rubs, marinades, and sauces) and lack of photographs may limit this title’s appeal as a cookbook. Readers interested in the hunting lifestyle and those seeking gourmet dishes incorporating game such as squirrel, coot, deer, and javelina are the ideal audience.‚ Margaret Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch. Lib., Fort Worth, TX
Scott-Heron, Gil. The Last Holiday: A Memoir. Grove. Jan. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780802129017. $25. MUSIC
Scott-Heron, a prolific, poet, novelist and musician, stays true to his reputation in this poetic treatment of his journey from humble origins to pop culture icon, interspersed with selected poems. Scott-Heron’s cool is apparent, and the candor with which he writes about his experiences performing with some of the music industry’s biggest names (Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson) makes the accounts amusing at times. In addition, the book delivers the social commentary on some of the pivotal events in this country’s history his fans have grown to expect and respect. However, despite the accessible writing found here, readers will be left with no more knowledge of the writer than can be acquired from his other books and recordings‚ perhaps the title is intended to be a collection of liner notes documenting his 50-year career since the answers to Who Was Gil Scott-Heron? can only be revealed through the clues hidden in the many albums and books he leaves as his legacy.
Verdict Long-standing fans and those curious about the man widely regarded as the Godfather of Hip-Hop are unlikely to find in this memoir the answers to questions about his descent into addiction, or a life interrupted by the ravages of HIV. Recommended only for poetry, music, and Scott-Heron’s fans and those with a curiosity about the famous figure.‚ Tamela Chambers, Chicago Pub. Schs.
Taylor, Ben. Apocalypse on the Set: Nine Disastrous Film Productions. Overlook, dist. by Penguin Group (USA). Feb. 2012. c.272p. index. ISBN 9781590201886. $21.95. FILM
Since a failed endeavor makes more entertaining reading than one that sails smoothly along, Taylor has collected nine cautionary tales of filmmaking gone awry that range from the horrible accident during The Twilight Zone: The Movie to the surreal Pulgasari, a Godzilla knock-off that North Korean ruler Kim-Jong-il produced with a director he kidnapped. The stories are certainly interesting, but each could have been explored in greater depth, as when Taylor states that the deaths on The Twilight Zone: The Movie left an indelible mark on [director John Landis's] life and career but provides no further evidence. Some chapters begin with an unrelated story to which a film is then compared, but when Taylor measures the flop of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate to the ravaging of Romania by Nicolae Ceau≈üescu, it feels inexcusable. While both men may have been megalomaniacal, economic pillaging of a country and its people is not comparable to the collapse of a film studio.
Verdict Overall, this well-written though cursory look at production nightmares is fit for any film buff. Recommended for large libraries.‚ Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA
Weiss, Avrum Geurin. Change Happens: When To Try Harder and When To Stop Trying So Hard. Rowman & Littlefield. 2011. c.144p. index. ISBN 9781442211490. $29.95. SELF-HELP
Presenting a novel twist in the wide field of self-help books, practicing psychotherapist Weiss (coauthor, Experiential Psychotherapy: A Symphony of Selves) encourages people who seek self-improvement to be realistic and to set only achievable goals. Drawing heavily from the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, this work still does what good self-help books should do: it reassures readers that they can change their life for the better. While Weiss provides nothing new of substance here, but the book’s real value is that of a compendium of the author’s wisdom, a collection of observations acquired from his lifelong work as a therapist. Weiss has produced a pleasant read, partly because he sprinkled the text with wonderful quotes from famous people as well as his own personal experiences and vignettes.
Verdict Not a great addition to the self-improvement landscape, this title will only be picked up by the most devoted readers of self-help.‚ Fran Mentch, Cleveland State Univ. Lib.
White, Betty. Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo. Putnam. 2011. c.304p. photogs. ISBN 9780399157547. $26.95. PETS
While best known from TV sitcoms like The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland, White’s lifetime passion is her love of animals. A self-described zoophile, she believes in the importance of zoos and is a longtime trustee, benefactor, and volunteer at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens. Here, she introduces some of her favorite friends at the Los Angeles Zoo, like Gita, an Asian elephant who, like many elephants, likes to have her tongue slapped; Bruno, the orangutan; Lina, the gorilla; Jacob, the boa constrictor who loves a good hug; and Beethoven, the Beluga whale, from the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. The book includes numerous color images from the collection of Tad Motoyama, the L.A. Zoo’s official photographer. Readers who want a complete recounting of White’s life should read her recent If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t).
Verdict While personal and heartfelt, this title is not a necessary purchase. Best suited for large public libraries or readers with a particular interest in White.‚ Eva Lautemann, Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston
Wolcott, James. Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York. Doubleday. 2011. c.258p. ISBN 9780385527781. $25.95. MEMOIR
They haven’t invented a word yet to express that rarified, soul-stilling nostalgia for 1970s New York City‚ even in those who never lived it‚ but Vanity Fair columnist and blogger Wolcott conjures it like voodoo in this memoir of growing up, eyes aglow, concrete underfoot. Born in Maryland, Wolcott dropped out of college at 19 to chase his dreams of writing in the Rotten Apple. Arriving just a few years into the Me Decade, his only armor against the decay a letter of recommendation from Norman Mailer, preternatural solemnity, and, oh, yeah, stone-cold luck. Grunt work in the circulation department of The Village Voice led to a convivial mentorship with legendary New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael and a front-row seat at CBGBs for the birth of punk rock. It’s a testament to Wolcott’s chops that this doesn’t come off like a crass, in-your-face grocery list of encounters with the era’s famous (you name ‘em; they’re here, from Lester Bangs to Gore Vidal). His aim isn’t to reenact, √† la porn, the highs and lows of a remarkable tutelage but to remember what drew him to broke-as-sin Manhattan: the electricity of its denizens, straight and gay, carving out a life less ordinary, sometimes to tragic ends.
Verdict Aspiring writers and aesthetes of all schools would do well to take a break from their microbrand flossing and soak up Wolcott’s understated though confident soul. His lesson: in this age of social omnipresence, the most direct route to meaningful creation is to be present, wherever you are.‚ Heather McCormack, Library Journal
Wynn, Thomas & Frederick L. Coolidge. How To Think Like a Neandertal. Oxford Univ. 2011. c.240p. ISBN 9780199742820. $24.95. SCI
In their clearly and concisely written book, Wynn (anthropology) and Coolidge (psychology; both Univ. of Colorado, Colorado Springs) present both an informative and a provocative look at the enigmatic Neandertal people. The short, muscular, cold-adapted Neandertals of Ice Age Europe lived in small groups and used stone-tipped spears to hunt mammoths, rhinoceros, and reindeer within restricted hostile territories. Through thought experiments, the authors speculate on the mental life of the Neandertals, arguing that their intellect was different from ours. The Neandertals probably had spoken language and a long-term memory but, unlike the Cro-Magnons, they were neither technologically inventive nor artistically creative. Furthermore, the authors maintain that Neandertal social life had been intimate but repetitive, exogamous, and male philopatric. They also hold that Neandertal life had no rich symbolic culture, e.g., it lacked cave paintings, long-burning fires, and grave burials with complex rituals. With a smaller memory capacity than the Cro-Magnons or modern humans, Neandertal thinking was, claim the authors, limited in scope and inflexible in use.
Verdict An engaging overview of the Neandertals that will enlighten students, scholars, and interested readers.‚ H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo