Mackenzie, Colin & others. The Chinese Art Book. Phaidon. 2013. 350p. illus. index. ISBN 9780714865751. $59.95. FINE ARTS
This is a book of superlatives. Chinese art curator Mackenzie’s (Nelson-Akins Museum of Art) introductory essay provides a concise historical context, and coauthors Keith Pratt (emeritus, East Asian Studies, Univ. of Durham), Jeffrey Moser (East Asian art history, McGill Univ.), and Katie Hill (director, Office of Contemporary Chinese Art) discuss 300 of the finest artworks from the past 5,000 years of Chinese culture. One artwork per page is displayed in color, in large format, and accompanied by a description of the work, its context, and its significance. All media are included—from traditional ceramics, calligraphy, jade, bronze, and ink painting to contemporary photography, oil painting, performance art, and installations. The book also contains a glossary, a time line featuring thumbnails of the 300 works, and a list of museums and collections whose works are illustrated in the book. Its content and accessibility to various levels of readers makes this title an essential purchase for any library with an interest in Chinese art. For a chronologically arranged alternative, see Andrew Sullivan’s The Arts of China, a standard text that covers the entire range of Chinese art. VERDICT For anyone who loves Chinese art and wants to know more about it.
Bloom, Patience. Romance Is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last. Dutton. Feb. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780525954385. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698148567. LIT
The beautiful irony of the title says it all—erudite romance editor by day, lonely girl by night. Bloom (editor, Harlequin) offers the American, real, and highly relatable version of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones. A lovably quirky narrator and an abundance of self-deprecating humor give this book the appeal of a good New York–girl–in–publishing chick lit title that’s bound to be consumed in great gulps. That said, this is a very well-packaged and well-written memoir, containing a great deal of substance. Bloom doesn’t gloss over the seriousness that underpins her experience, but she folds it into a larger tale to tell a phenomenal story—not of a fabulously flawless twentysomething but rather the warts-and-all saga of a woman approaching middle age who’s been fruitlessly searching for love as long as she can remember and whose story has (how could it not?) a happy ending. VERDICT Readers who are appalled at the demise of Fielding’s Mark Darcy, snap this up. It will ease your pain. Highly recommended for romantics of all stripes.
Bierds, Linda. Roget’s Illusion. Marian Wood: Putnam. Mar. 2014. 112p. ISBN 9780399165467. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101624036. POETRY
In language both delicious and precise, poems by MacArthur Fellow Bierds (Flight: New and Selected Poems) inhabit the realm of illusion and the human need for clarity. Here, she begins with Peter Mark Roget, known not just for his essential book of synonyms but for his essay examining an optical illusion in which a wheel moving forward appears (on film) to be moving backward or not at all, to explore truisms within history, language, and art: “Not symmetry. Not grace./ Just flint and form and a resin torch:/ to venerate the living world/ and keep the ghosts at bay.” While she offers no definitive answers to Roget’s riddle, Bierds presents myriad possibilities, from Faraday’s consideration of candle and flame to walking dolls and tractors to cave paintings. Often using the form pantoum, a quatrain that repeats and spirals like a DNA’s double helix, and the moth as symbol, Bierds shows readers that language and illusion can be transformative and revelatory: “Lamp. Matter. Symmetry. Why try to capture/ the world? Light as compass, wind as hinge?/ All the dust-shaped moths on their word-shaped/ pins.” VERDICT An important new book for readers interested in the intersections between science and art. [See “Ten Essential Poetry Titles for Winter,” Prepub Alert, 9/30/13.]
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Arts & Crafts of the Islamic Lands: Principles, Materials, Practice. Thames & Hudson. 2013. 288p. ed. by Khaled Azzam. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500517024. $60. DEC ARTS
Bell, Victoria Ballard & Patrick Rand. Materials for Design 2. Princeton Architectural. 2014. 272p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781616891909. pap. $50. ARCH
Hollis, Edward. The Memory Palace: A Book of Lost Interiors. Counterpoint. 2014. 320p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781619022485. $28. ARCH
Rewald, Sabine. Balthus: Cats and Girls. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2013. 176p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300197013. $35. FINE ARTS
Rubin, James H. How To Read Impressionism: Ways of Looking. Abrams. 2013. 400p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781419709968. pap. $39.95. FINE ARTS
White, Michael. Generation Dada: The Berlin Avant-Garde and the First World War. Yale Univ. 2013. 382p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300169034. $55. FINE ARTS
Witham, Larry. Piero’s Light: In Search of Piero Della Francesca; A Renaissance Painter and the Revolution in Art, Science, and Religion. Pegasus. 2014. 367p. illus. maps. notes. index. ISBN 9781605984940. $28.95. FINE ARTS
Wolf, Norbert. Art Deco. Prestel. 2013. 288p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9783791347646. $85. DEC ARTS
Cline, Sally. Dashiell Hammett: Man of Mystery. Skyhorse. 2014. 168p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781611457841. $19.95. LIT
Prochnik, George. The Impossible Exile. Other. May 2014. 400p. photos. notes. ISBN 9781590516126. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781590516133. LIT
Shillinglaw, Susan. On Reading The Grapes of Wrath. Penguin. Apr. 2014. 224p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780143125501. pap. $14; ebk. ISBN 9780698146099. LIT
Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists. Bloomsbury Academic. Feb. 2014. 272p. ed. by Michael Lackey. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781623567415. $120; pap. ISBN 9781623568252. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781623566159. LIT
White, Edward. The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America. Farrar. Feb. 2014. 384p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780374201579. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780374708818. LIT
Zacharias, Lee. The Only Sounds We Make. Hub City. May 2014. 215p. notes. ISBN 9781938235009. pap. $16. LIT
Brown, Donald. Bob Dylan: American Troubadour. Rowman & Littlefield. (Tempo). 2014. 254p. discog. notes. ISBN 9780810884205. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780810884212. MUSIC
Deluxe, Jean-Emmanuel. Yé-Yé Girls of ’60s French Pop. Feral House. 2013. 256p. photos. discog. ISBN 9781936239719. pap. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781936239726. MUSIC
Gordon, Robert. Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. Bloomsbury. 2013. 480p. photos. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781596915770. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781608194179. MUSIC
Havers, Richard. Verve: The Sound of America. Thames & Hudson. 2013. 399p. illus. index. ISBN 9780500517147. $75. MUSIC
International Women Stage Directors. Univ. of Illinois. 2013. 344p. ed. by Anne Fliotsos & Wendy Vierow. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780252037818. $48. THEATER
Kidjo, Angélique & Rachel Wenrick. Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music. Harper Design. 2014. 256p. photos. ISBN 9780062071798. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062288479. MUSIC
Morrissey. Autobiography. Putnam. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9780399171543. $30. MUSIC
Quinn, Carolyn. Mama Rose’s Turn: The True Story of America’s Most Notorious Stage Mother. Univ. Pr. of Mississippi. 2013. 368p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781617038532. $35. THEATER
Salsa World: A Global Dance in Local Contexts. Temple. (Studies in Latin American & Caribbean Music). 2013. 236p. ed. by Sydney Hutchinson. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781439910061. $89.50. DANCE
Geuss, Raymond. A World Without Why. Princeton Univ. Mar. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780691155883. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9781400848485. PHIL
Goldstein, Rebecca. Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away. Pantheon. Mar. 2014. 464p. bibliog. ISBN 9780307378194. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307908872. PHIL
Kierkegaard, Søren. The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin. Liveright: Norton. Mar. 2014. 288p. tr. from Danish by Alastair Hannay. notes. ISBN 9780871407191. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780871407719. PHIL
McLane, Maureen N. This Blue. Farrar. Apr. 2014. 112p. ISBN 9780374275938. $24. POETRY
Smith, Charlie. Jump Soul: New and Selected Poems. Norton. Mar. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780393240221. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393242973. POETRY
Young, Kevin. Book of Hours: Poems. Knopf. Mar. 2014. 208p. ISBN 9780307272249. $26.95. POETRY
Spirituality & Religion
Cornwell, John. The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession. Basic Bks: Perseus. Mar. 2014. 304p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780465039951. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780465080496. REL
Plate, S. Brent. A History of Religion in 5½ Objects: Bringing the Spiritual to Its Senses. Beacon. Mar. 2014. 272p. notes. index. ISBN 9780807033111. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780807033128. REL
Stephens, Mitchell. Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World. Palgrave Macmillan. Feb. 2014. 336p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781137002600. $30. REL
Wright, N.T. Paul and the Faithfulness of God. Fortress. 2013. 1700p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780800626839. pap. $89; ebk. ISBN 9781451452341. REL
Sports & Recreation
Kaplan, Ben. Feet Don’t Fail Me Now: The Rogue’s Guide to Running the Marathon. Greystone. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781771000734. pap. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9781771000741. SPORTS
Bremer, Krista. My Accidental Jihad. Algonquin. Apr. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781616200688. $23.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616203979. LIT
Bremer (associate publisher, The Sun) focuses her memoir on the contrast between the cultures of a man and a woman who meet on a running trail, fall in love, and decide to marry and raise a family together. A selfish, materialistic American woman who formerly worked as a pregnancy counselor finds herself on the other side of a pink test strip and marries the older, overbearing, irrational Libyan-born Muslim who is the father of her child. Ismail grew up in Africa with an illiterate father who was a shopkeeper but earned very little money. As a middle-class teenager in the United States, Bremer worked in an ice cream store to be able to afford more designer clothing. The couple’s experience of Christmas and Ramadan show the stark difference between their customs. While Bremer is frantically shopping, wrapping, and decorating, Ismail can only ask her: “Why?” Meanwhile, Ismail, who is regimented by the monthlong Ramadan fast, has no patience for his wife’s overindulgence, causing Bremer to wonder with annoyance if, when, and how her husband will find his Christmas spirit. VERDICT Bremer won a Pushcart Prize for her essay on which this book is based; her writing appears in numerous magazines (O: The Oprah Magazine; More). Readers of memoir will welcome this love story about patience and kindness and learning the importance of putting culture first.
Cleage, Pearl. Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons, and Love Affairs. Atria. Apr. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781451664690. $23.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451664713. LIT
Writing is what Cleage, an acclaimed poet (We Don’t Need No Music), essayist (Deals with the Devil: And Other Reasons To Riot), novelist (What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day), and award-winning playwright (Flyin’ West) does. Here, her journals are the source of a revealing, intimate memoir. With over 50 years of notebooks stashed in cardboard boxes and a steamer trunk, Cleage contemplates their value. Her daughter suggests burning the journals, but Cleage resists; this historical record allows her to remember details and understand how she survived and succeeded. She shares entries from 1970 to 1988 in this volume describing her “mad flight toward financial independence, sexual liberation, creative fulfillment and free womanhood.” VERDICT Cleage’s observations explode with joy, anxiety, anger, and, of course, honesty; her style is breezy and casual but the content is complex. Her fans will embrace this work, and all readers interested in women’s memoirs, especially those focused on the struggle against racism and sexism, will be moved by this title. [See Prepub Alert, 10/28/13.]
Nunez, Elizabeth. Not for Everyday Use: A Memoir. Akashic. Apr. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781617752346. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781617752339. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617752780. LIT
For Nunez (writing, Hunter Coll., CUNY; Boundaries; Anna In-Between), growing up on a Caribbean island was not easy. Her parents had high expectations for her and her eight siblings. Here, she focuses on the four days after her mother’s death when the family gathers in Trinidad. As she goes about comforting her 90-year-old father, interacting with her siblings, and preparing for the funeral, she recalls growing up under colonialism, being sent to the United States for college, and eventually becoming a professor. Repeatedly, she marvels at her parents’ long and loving 65-year marriage, especially in light of their offspring’s divorces and annulments. Besides being a time to mourn her mother, the visit provided Nunez the opportunity to reflect on and forgive her parents for not showing their love for her as she would have wished. VERDICT Through her thoughtful and articulate writing, Nunez offers a valuable perspective on the racism that she experienced, even in America, and the damage the Catholic Church does to women who follow the “no artificial birth control” rule. Recommended for memoir enthusiasts and readers interested in Caribbean literature.