Nonfiction on Insect Sculpture, Cetaceans, Paul Robeson, and Samurai | Xpress Reviews

Week ending November 17, 2017

Biss, Levon. Microsculpture: Portraits of Insects. Abrams. Oct. 2017. 144p. photos. ISBN 9781419726958. $40. REF
The notion of bugs as art may cause a moment’s pause, but insects as portrayed by British photographer Biss (New York Times; National Geographic; Sports Illustrated) are breathtaking in color and texture. For each specimen, Biss uses computer processes to combine thousands of images of various aspects of a single insect body, from sculptural eyestalks to jewel-toned wings. Purchase this oversize book, created in collaboration with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, for the jaw-dropping detail and beauty of the visuals, which even bug-averse readers will appreciate.
Verdict Suitable for all libraries.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX

Hoyt, Erich & others. Encyclopedia of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises. Firefly. Sept. 2017. 300p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781770859418. $49.95. REF
Whales, dolphins, and porpoises make up the class of social mammals known as cetaceans. Hoyt (research fellow, Whale and Dolphin Conservation; Creatures of the Deep) draws on more than 40 years of scientific interactions with these intelligent and fascinating creatures. Stunning images from principal photographer Brandon Cole and others, along with depictions by marine mammal illustrator Uko Gorter, enliven the text. Hoyt writes movingly on life cycles, the future for these animals, and how readers can get involved in protecting them.
Verdict For patrons of all ages.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX

starred review starSparrow, Jeff. No Way but This: In Search of Paul Robeson. Scribe. Jan. 2018. 304p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781925321852. pap. $19.95. BIOG
In a chronologically methodical and delightfully insightful approach that might best be described as “bio-tourism,” Australian author, journalist, and broadcaster Sparrow tells the story of preternaturally gifted Paul Robeson (1898–1976), whose protean talents embraced professional football, the legal profession, the Harlem Renaissance, Broadway and the London theater, the Spanish Civil War, Hollywood, civil/political/racial activism, and McCarthyism blacklisting. Is it possible that our memories of arguably the 20th century’s most well-known, talented, and accomplished African American “have faded, so much so that a new generation barely knows his name” as Sparrow contends. In his biblically titled three-part arrangement, Genesis, Exodus and Revelations, Sparrow traverses multiple continents to trace, from birth to death, the chronologically geographical life journey of Robeson. Along the way he interviews and speaks with numerous individuals who both wax poetic and nostalgic on Robeson while also drawing cogent parallels between the inherent racial struggles in Robeson’s life with the civil rights status quo today. Sparrow, too, is keen to make connections between Robeson and the contemporary racial milieu.
Verdict While it is inconceivable to think Robeson and his legacy have dimmed to the extent Sparrow conjectures, his text might be considered an excellent and perhaps timely reboot of Robeson’s singularly incredible life, especially as its trajectory now intersects with contemporary racial issues.—Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX

Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai in 100 Objects. Pen & Sword. Jul. 2017. 201p. photos. ISBN 9781473850385. pap. $24.95. ref
Along with swords, spears, and quivers, Turnbull (Japanese studies, Akita Intl. Univ.; The Samurai Swordsman) explores samurai through objects including war fans, temple gates, and a ceiling stained with blood from a mass suicide ritual in 1600. Items such as a tea bowl, a painted screen, finely crafted statues, and a toy samurai from 2010 highlight the gentler side of the subject. Articles run from one to two pages in length and are accompanied by large color photos.
Verdict Featuring straightforward writing, this visually stimulating volume is a solid choice to broaden or update collections on a topic of enduring interest.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX

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