LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Nonfiction: Dog Care, von Furstenberg, Tom Brady, HBO, Hitler at Home, S-4 Disaster | Xpress Reviews

Week ending July 31, 2015

Berkelhammer, Robert M. Pet Care Givers and Families: Getting the Most from Dog Playgroups, Walkers, and Pet Sitters. Rowman & Littlefield. Sept. 2015. 252p. ISBN 9781442248151. $38; ebk. ISBN 9781442248168. PETS
Berkelhammer, a pet-care professional, advises pet owners how to assess caretaking services and pet professionals on how to achieve high levels of care. He explains the differences between services provided by individual petsitters and by pet-care companies including responsibilities that an owner or petsitter should consider. From professional experience, he describes the dynamics of dog behavior modification playgroups, which are recommended for pets with behavior issues. A chapter on dog walking includes counsel on leashes and harnesses accompanied by the author’s own “pet vignettes,” focusing mostly on dogs.
Verdict While well intended, writing for both pet-care professionals and pet owners in one guide doesn’t serve either audience very well because it is unlikely most pet owners would read a book on pet services. For those interested in learning how to start a petsitting/dog walking business, Cathy Vaughan’s succinct, how-to format in How To Start a Home Based Pet-Sitting & Dog-Walking Business is more useful than Berkelhammer’s conversational approach.—Eva Lautemann, formerly with Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston

Diliberto, Gioia. Diane von Furstenberg: A Life Unwrapped. Dey Street: HarperCollins. Jul. 2015. 320p. notes. index. ISBN 9780062041227. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062041234. DEC ARTS
Diane von Furstenberg, the ambitious princess who conquered fashion with a simple dress that made women feel powerful, liberated, and sexy, has such a compelling story that it’s surprising Diliberto is the first to publish her biography. DVF, as she is known, has herself written two memoirs: A Signature Life (1998) and The Woman I Wanted To Be (2014). Diliberto’s research into archives, articles, and interviews is evident as she hews closely to DVF’s accounts but narrates the designer’s exuberant impulses leading her astray both personally and professionally. In biographies and novels, Diliberto has chronicled the lives of other strong, unconventional women, notably Jane Addams (A Useful Woman), Hadley Richardson (Paris Without End), and Coco Chanel (The Collection). This history of the ups and downs of DVF’s fortunes sometimes feels repetitive in its praise of the wrap dress as revolutionary and DVF as an unrelentingly independent, glamorous woman who believes in herself. But the book, like its subject, comes out a winner.
Verdict A roller coaster of a life full of love and work, told as a juicy tale, will be of interest to DVF fans, fashion historians, and aspiring designers alike. [See Prepub Alert, 1/12/15.]—Lindsay King, Yale Univ. Libs, New Haven, CT

King, Richard J. Meeting Tom Brady: One Man’s Quest for Truth, Enlightenment, and a Simple Game of Catch with the Patriots Quarterback. ForeEdge. Sept. 2015. 264p. illus. ISBN 9781611688047. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781611688443. SPORTS
The obvious parallel to this quirky book is Frederick Exley’s 1968 so-called fictional memoir A Fan’s Notes, which was about Exley’s pathetic obsession with football star Frank Gifford. If anything, Tom Brady has an even bigger media presence than Gifford did and is an apt target for an exploration of fan adulation. King’s (The Devil’s Cormorant) approach is much lighter than Exley’s, which tended to be dark and creepy. Here, the author projects self-awareness of the somewhat silly aspect of his mission to meet Brady and writes with engaging wit about it, in addition to illustrating the text with charmingly simple cartoon depictions of his experiences. Ultimately, the book is a short rumination on hero worship and teases the notion of what “common folk” might want to ask someone famous they encounter. King never actually meets Brady but does talk with some interesting individuals around the edges of the quarterback’s life as well as fellow fans.
Verdict Clearly a niche publication, but will be of interest in New England and to pop culture watchers.—John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ. Lib., Camden, NJ

Mesce, Bill. Inside the Rise of HBO: A Personal History of the Company That Transformed Television. McFarland. 2015. 277p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786497867. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781476622255. COMM
HBO gets lot of ink—and awards—for its original series, such as Game of Thrones, Sex and the City, and The Sopranos. Mesce, a former employee of HBO (his exact job title is not stated) has produced a very readable history of the network and the television landscape that created it. Cable TV originated to reach viewers who lived in places unreachable by broadcast signals, and HBO launched in 1972 to provide programming to cable subscribers. Mesce does an excellent job of describing the origins of the networks and the cable industry as well as explaining HBO’s programming strategies with sports, comedy specials, and original series. His firsthand stories of dealing with subscriber complaints—that the movies shown are lousy and shown too often—are often amusing.
Verdict There are few books chronicling the network, most recently Dean J. DeFino’s The HBO Effect Paperback, so this personal account fills a need, but it could have used some distance from the material; there is unexplained jargon and the corporate backstory and company finances are not explained. This is more about business rather than television, more for readers of Fortune than Entertainment Weekly.—Michael O. Eshleman, Bloomington, IN

Signal: 04; A Journal of International Political Graphics & Culture. PM Pr. 2015. 160p. ed. by Alec Dunn & Josh MacPhee. illus. ISBN 9781629631066. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781629631325. FINE ARTS
Signal is a serial publication from PM Press that showcases vivid and expressive works of graphic design from international activist movements and liberation struggles, some historical, some current. The latest issue includes creations from Palestine, Mexico, New Zealand, Germany, the United States, and Canada. Interviews with designers discuss their desire to create as not simply an adjunct to politics but rather an eloquent and energetic force equal to other forms of activism. The affordable pocketbook format perfectly complements the subject. Editors Dunn (illustrator, printer, nurse, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative) and MacPhee (Interference Archive, Celebrate People’s History Poster Series) make the most of that layout: the reproductions of posters, flyers, murals, and magazine and book covers are clean and clear, with attractive spreads and color reproductions.
Verdict Offering these graphics to generations far beyond their original audiences, this title is recommended for designers, activists, archivists, and scholars studying protest movements.—Michael Dashkin, New York

Stratigakos, Despina. Hitler at Home. Yale Univ. Sept. 2015. 384p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300183818. $40. HIST
hitlerathome073115In Stratigakos’s (architecture, SUNY Buffalo; A Woman’s Berlin) latest work, readers gain new insights into Hitler’s rise to power and his subsequent personal and professional demise through a detailed, well-written analysis of the architecture and material culture created for him during his lifetime. Using extensive archival research, the author describes the various buildings Hitler inhabited. She also explores the interiors and home furnishings of Hitler’s personal sphere, providing perspective into the Hitler, the man. During these explorations, Stratigakos uses newly found archival evidence of Gerdy Troost, Hitler’s favorite interior designer. Further, she delves into the impact of Hitler’s architectural and material preferences on public opinion and the extent to which Hitler’s personal spaces were used to manipulate his image for audiences within Germany and abroad.
Verdict The author has turned a complicated time line and detailed account of her research into a page-turner. Readers with an interest in Hitler’s personal life and in the effects of propaganda on international public sentiment will find this book fascinating. Readers who enjoyed Heike Görtemaker’s Eva Braun: Life with Hitler will find this book enlightening.—Felicia J. Williamson, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

Williams, Joseph A. Seventeen Fathoms Deep: The Saga of the Submarine S-4 Disaster. Chicago Review. Sept. 2015. 304p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781613731383. $26.95. HIST
Williams (Greenwich P.L.; Four Years Before the Mast) uses his second book to explore the wreck of the U.S. Navy submarine USS S-4 in 1927. To do this, he works with official papers and photographs of the incident and memoirs from several of the men in charge of the rescue and salvage operation. The S-4 was conducting submarine standardization trials off the coast of Provincetown, MA, on December 17, 1927, when it was suddenly rammed by the U.S. Coast Guard’s USS Paulding. The submarine immediately sank, with 40 men aboard, while the Paulding managed to make it to shore. The salvage ship Falcon arrived on the scene, along with many of the navy’s best deep-sea divers, including Thomas Eadie. There are moments of great stress, such as when diver Fred Michels became trapped on the structure of the S-4. It is an ultimately tragic tale, but Williams manages to find the good throughout the disaster in the heroic deeds of the salvage crew and the resulting safety measures taken for submarines.
Verdict A worthwhile purchase for fans of such recent best sellers as Erik Larson’s Dead Wake and Hampton Sides’s In the Kingdom of Ice.—Jason L. Steagall, Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI

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