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 on Buenos Aires, Latinos in America, Philadelphia, Climate Change, Shelley | Xpress Reviews

Week ending October 16, 2015

Gardner, James. Buenos Aires: The Biography of a City. St. Martin’s. Dec. 2015. 272p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781137279880. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466879034. ARCH
Arts and culture critic Gardner has written a love story for the second largest city in South America, and his account should be required reading for city planners, architecture students, or those who are interested in how a city goes from humble beginnings to the “Paris of the South” and then experiences unfortunate financial and political upheavals. Through all the political changes, Gardner takes the reader on a tour of the street layouts, barrios, and innumerable architectural styles that make up Buenos Aires. He further offers a history of the region, the conquerors, and the inhabitants—immigrants from all over—who play an important role in the city’s creation.
Verdict An excellent suggestion for patrons steeped in city planning or architecture.—Lucy Roehrig, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

Gordon, Diana R. Village of Immigrants: Latinos in an Emerging America. Rutgers Univ. Nov. 2015. 256p. notes. index. ISBN 9780813575902. $27.95. SOC SCI
Immigration has been an impactful part of U.S. culture and history since the first settlers encountered native populations. Gordon (political science, criminal justice, City Univ. of New York; Transformation and Trouble) discusses this history and the issues surrounding immigrant populations through a small-town lens, focusing on Greenport, NY. Following an in-depth examination of immigration history in Greenport, from early whaling communities to the impact of Italian immigrant brick workers and beyond, Gordon investigates large-concept issues such as challenges facing immigrant children in the educational system, restrictions and inequalities in immigrant housing, labor rights for immigrant workers, and more. Most chapters are accompanied by a multipage profile, documenting real-life stories of individuals who have been affected by the issues discussed.
Verdict Although the primary focus of Gordon’s work is Latino immigrants in one New York town, some reference is given to national immigration issues and non-Latino populations. Concise and accessible, this work is recommended for readers interested in immigrant concerns and their impact on American history, economy, and culture.—Jennifer Harris, Southern New Hampshire Univ. Lib., Manchester

Kephart, Beth. Love: A Philadelphia Affair. Temple Univ. 2015. 140p. photos. ISBN 9781439913154. $24.50. TRAV
philadelphia101615The tourism promotion motto of the Philadelphia region is “the place that loves you back.” This aptly named collection based on Philadelphia Inquirer columns is a resident’s love song to the city and its suburbs. Kephart has written on the region before in Flow, her wonderful book on Philadelphia’s iconic Schuykill River. Here she waxes poetic about some of the city’s famous landmarks, such as Reading Terminal Market and 30th Street Station. The author also conjures up the less-well-known Woodlands Cemetery and the suburb of Glenside. She particularizes places on specific dates with specific sunlight. This isn’t a tourist’s book in the sense that a visitor is going to find practical information about where to go. Rather it is an evocation of what Philadelphia is like through the pen of a gifted writer. So the native will find memories stirred and the tourist will be stimulated to visit. It is also somewhat autobiographical. For example, the author writes about Locust Walk at the heart of the University of Pennsylvania based on her college years.
Verdict Kephart has written in many genres, from young adult fiction to poetry; here she adds another excellent nonfiction book for the general reader. Recommended.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia

Morton, Oliver. The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World. Princeton Univ. Nov. 2015. 440p. illus. notes. ISBN 9780691148250. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781400874453. SCI/TECH
Global climate change is a complex topic, and it’s challenging to envision possible solutions. The most popular ideas revolve around limiting emissions, but total emissions will rise even if per capita emissions remain constant, and the consequences of this approach would make it unpalatable for most people. This work takes a different path: that of altering the stratosphere by thickening the ozone layer in an effort to curtail (or even reverse) a changing climate. Introducing readers to an unfamiliar concept requires background information, yet the discussion provided here tends to be so excessive that some may lose interest before the new solutions are even introduced. Grammar and clarity are also issues. In some instances one sentence spans a half dozen lines and may require rereading more than once before it’s fully understood. From a scientific perspective, however, deliberately changing the environment to diminish global warming is an idea both compelling and well reasoned.
Verdict Despite the extraneous background and sometimes poor presentation, this title is recommended for its novel solution to a global issue.—Muhammed Hassanali, Shaker Heights, OH

Mulhallen, Jacqueline. Percy Bysshe Shelley: Poet and Revolutionary. Pluto. (Revolutionary Lives). 2015. 176p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780745334622. $80; pap. ISBN 9780745334615. $20. LIT
In this latest book in the “Revolutionary Lives” series, which describes itself as “sympathetic but not sycophantic” to those chronicled, Mulhallen (The Theatre of Shelley) presents a focused look at the political and ideological leanings of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822). Even those familiar with 19th-century literature are more likely to recognize Shelley as a prominent Romantic poet than as a social reformer. This compact but informative account brings a unique perspective to Shelley scholarship. The narrative is less successful when it devolves into heated and too-lengthy defenses of Shelley from often inconsequential claims made over the last 200 years that the author disagrees with, such as whether he played girlish games with his sisters. When Mulhallen strays into these sometimes specious arguments, she veers uncomfortably close to the sycophancy declaimed in the series’ description. However, the author makes a compelling—if concise—case for Shelley’s international influence on political revolutions and his continued relevance today.
Verdict Despite its biases, Mulhallen’s study is a useful addition to any large academic library.—Megan Hodge, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. Libs., Richmond

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Comments

  1. Hello, I would like to write to James Gardner. His book is very interesting! Can you give me his email.I live in Buenos Aires.
    Thank you!