Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, December 16, 2011

Week ending December 16, 2011

Apps, Jerry (text) with Steve Apps (photogs.) & Ruth Apps (recipes). Garden Wisdom: Lessons Learned from 60 Years of Gardening. Wisconsin Historical Soc. Jan. 2012. c.216p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780870204944. pap. $26.95. GARDENING
Jerry Apps (emeritus, Coll. of Agricultural & Life Sciences, Univ.of Wisconsin-Madison; Every Farm Tells a Story) has gardened for 60 years, both in the country and in town. Here he intertwines his reminiscences of growing up on a Wisconsin farm with practical information on growing vegetables and some fruits. He covers starting a vegetable garden, dealing with pests, growing specific vegetables and fruits, harvesting the produce, and eating and preserving the harvest. The book includes basic, easy-to-follow garden and fruit recipes from his wife, Ruth, and their son Steve’s (chief photographer, Wisconsin State Journal) images. Whether sharing boyhood memories, the times he spent gardening with his children and grandchildren, or his knowledge of growing vegetables and fruits, Apps combines memoir, useful information, and gardening philosophy with warmth and humor.
This is an enjoyable book that will be savored by vegetable gardeners with their own memories. Beginning gardeners in need of the complete basics will be better served by a full guide such as Edward C. Smith’s tenth-anniversary edition of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible.‚ Sue O’ Brien, Downers Grove P.L., IL

Barr, James. A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914‚ 1948. Norton. Jan. 2012. c.352p. photogs. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393070651. $27.95. HIST
In 1915, Britain and France concluded the Sykes-Picot Agreement, a line in the sand that delineated spheres of influence in the Arab lands of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire. This wartime accord was quickly replaced by jockeying for power reflecting the imperial conflicts of the previous century. Diplomatic intrigue and distrust spurred unrest, leading to bloodshed in the region as Arab nationalism in Syria and Palestine and intensified Zionist demands for a Jewish state were sparked by World War II. Barr (Setting the Desert on Fire: T.E. Lawrence and Britain’s Secret War in Arabia, 1916‚ 1918) did extensive archival research to produce a well-crafted overview of the intense Anglo-French rivalry in the Middle East. His detailed narrative highlights the personalities that led the effort to retain an imperial presence in the Middle East even as 19th-century empires were dissolving.
Although some readers will wish for a fuller presentation of the political aspirations of the Arab and Jewish populations, Barr’s demonstration of the futility of the outside powers’ desire to control the political development of their subject populations in the 1940s will resonate with today’s observers of efforts to manage national movements in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recommended for academic and serious general readers interested in the rationales and costs of European efforts to retain their Middle East empires.‚ Elizabeth Hayford, Evanston, IL

Barry, John M. Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty. Viking. Jan. 2012. c.480p. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780670023059. $35. HIST
Historian and prolific author Barry (Rising Tide; The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History) offers a commanding history of the beliefs and events surrounding the rise and persecution of Puritanism in England and the development of Puritan settlements in New England. Throughout, he traces the formation of Roger Williams’s beliefs that brought him to America and caused his banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636 and his founding of a unique experiment in democratic government in Rhode Island. As a champion of individualism, freedom of conscience, separation of church and state, governmental authority stemming from the governed, and compensation for taken Indian land, Williams is defined here by Barry as one of the most remarkable and independent thinkers in history whose courageous disagreements with other key Puritans (particularly, John Winthrop of Massachusetts) resulted in the creation of the American soul. Barry affirms that Williams’s teachings eventually had a revolutionary and enduring impact on England and on the development of American foundational principles regarding liberty and the interconnectivity of religion, government, and individual rights.
This masterly, well-documented inquiry will prove valuable to academics and interested readers of popular history, philosophy, or political science.‚ Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY

Butcher, Pauline. Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa. Plexus, dist. by PGW. 2011. 320p. photogs. ISBN 9780859654791. pap. $19.95. MUSIC
Working as a freelance stenographer/secretary in London in 1967, Butcher was hired to transcribe the lyrics of the Mothers of Invention album Absolutely Free. In doing so, she worked directly with composer‚ guitarist‚ band leader Frank Zappa (1940‚ 93). Butcher moved to the United States and served from 1967 to 1971 as Zappa’s personal assistant, fan club manager, and manager of the GTOs (a group Zappa produced, with Pamela Des Barres as its best-known member). Here, Butcher chronicles her work with Zappa and provides vivid insight on him and the wildly unpredictable lifestyle of pop music’s elite in the Laurel Canyon and Hollywood Hills areas of Los Angeles. She provides a view of the complex relationships among Zappa; his wife, Gail; the various colorful personalities that surrounded the Zappas; and the musicians whom Zappa sometimes embraced and sometimes cursed.
Despite some minor confusions that occur in the chronology, Butcher’s first book is simply an essential read for any fan of Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, or any reader interested in an inside view of the late Sixties musical scene in Los Angeles.‚ James E. Perone, Univ. of Mount Union, Alliance, OH

Davis, Deborah. The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American Legacy. Abrams. 2011. 240p. photogs. ISBN 9781419700590. $50. TV
Davis (Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X) captures the essence of the Oprah Winfrey Show in this larger-than-life chronicle. This coffee-table book sets itself apart with over 150 color photographs. Davis documents 25 years of Oprah by highlighting the well-known, incredible, and worst moments from the show and includes some of Winfrey’s journal entries, going back to her first episode. Readers will also find letters written to Winfrey by some of her most famous guests, including Julia Roberts, Maya Angelou, and Mehmet Oz. Much like the show, the book will at times make readers want to cry and swell with pride. It documents how much Winfrey has contributed to fostering acceptance and exposing injustice.
Fans of Oprah and readers who enjoy pictorial biographies and memoirs will appreciate this book.‚ Kimberley Bugg, Villanova Univ. Lib., PA

Donenfeld, Jill & Josetth Gordon. Party Like a Culinista: Fresh Recipes, Bold Flavors, Good Friends. Lake Isle, dist. by National Bk. Network. 2011. 272p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781891105500. pap. $21.95. COOKING
Donenfeld and Gordon are a playful and imaginative pair of caterers who have compiled a book that is both simple and sophisticated. Most recipes call for easy-to-find seasonal ingredients, and many are either vegan or vegan-flexible. After the introduction, the authors present lists of essential ingredients and tools and five menus, from a party for two to a blowout. Menus offer wine pairings, cooking order, and even when to change into party clothes after preparing the food. A listing of recipes by course is included for those looking, e.g., for only appetizers or desserts. There is also a how-to section on blanching, butterflying, deglazing a pan, and many other common tasks. The ingredients are whole grain over refined, organic over conventionally farmed, and humanely and sustainably raised. Large color photos of many dishes as well as step-by-step photos of more complex recipes add to the book’s usefulness and appeal.
This is a fun, carefree cookbook. Not strictly vegan or vegetarian, it emphasizes plant-based nutrition but includes poultry, fish, and meat. Each recipe tested was a winner.‚ Ann Weber, Bellarmine Coll. Preparatory Lib., San José, CA

French Culinary Inst. (text) & Matthew Septimus (photogs.). The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. 2011. 352p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781584799344. $65. COOKING
This hefty tome from the French Culinary Institute is a comprehensive guide to classic bread baking. It’s an incredibly thorough reference, with detailed instructions and insights into the science of baking. The book, aimed at the professional or serious amateur, is structured as a mirror to the institute’s 12-week bread-baking course. While the authors provide information about adapting techniques for the home kitchen, the recipes often yield multiple loaves of bread, and the techniques detailed require precision and careful timing, which is sometimes difficult for the home baker to achieve. The book is well organized, beginning with basic terms and ideas, moving on to ingredients and technique, and ending with recipes (or formulas) for a wide array of breads. The recipes are divided into four sections: French breads, Italian breads, German and Middle European breads, and gluten-free breads.
More formal and professional than books aimed at home bakers, e.g., Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, this is a great reference for serious bakers. Readers new to bread baking should look elsewhere.‚ Laura Krier, California Digital Lib., Oakland

Helferich, Gerard. Stone of Kings: In Search of the Lost Jade of the Maya. Lyons: Globe Pequot. Dec. 2011. c.304p. photogs. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780762763511. $24.95. HIST
The Olmec and Maya civilizations of Mesoamerica both prized jade and created exquisite jade objects that have been discovered in numerous archaeological sites throughout southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Where, however, did these pre-Columbian people obtain their jade? The source has been a mystery since shortly after the Spanish Conquest. Helferich (Humboldt’s Cosmos) has crafted a fast-paced true tale of the search for the elusive location of the prehistoric Mesoamerican jade mines. He examines the history of the archaeological discoveries of jade in Mesoamerica and recounts the varied speculations as to its source. He continues by detailing the past and current explorations of a number of searchers, including archaeologists, geologists, and businessmen, the latter eager to profit from creating jade items for the tourist market. The hunt for the Mesoamerican jade mines eventually focuses on the Motagua River valley in Guatemala. There is no doubt that jade outcroppings occur there, but many questions linger concerning whether this location was actually the source of the jade that was so beautifully crafted by the Olmecs and later by the Mayas. Helferich has used his thorough research and his flowing narrative style to create a nonfiction adventure story complete with intrigue, romance, and conflicting personalities and theories. All, however, are unified through one single goal: the source of the stone of kings‚ Mesoamerican jade.
For all interested readers, whether in archaeology, Mesoamerican history, historical mysteries, or true adventure; a fascinating and enjoyable book probing the depths of an enduring mystery.‚ Elizabeth Salt, Otterbein Univ. Lib., Westerville, OH

Hiott, Andrea. Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle. Ballantine. Jan. 2012. c.512p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780345521422. $26. HIST/TECH
The Volkswagen beetle, designed by Austrian auto engineer Ferdinand Porsche and promoted by Adolph Hitler as his people’s car, first available to Germans in 1938, appeared on America’s shores in 1949. Author Hiott (editor in chief, Pulse) writes a social history of the iconic car, tracing its origins from Hitler’s idea, inspired by Henry Ford and his Model T, of a car for the average worker. Ford’s autobiography was Hitler’s favorite book during his 1924‚ 25 imprisonment. He chose Porsche to design the car, to be built in a new factory town, The Town of the Strength Through Joy Car. After the war, the project morphed from Hitler’s pet to a car produced in a factory run by the Allies under German leadership with Italian and German workers. It was the task of ad man Bill Bernbach, founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), to market the ugly little car to the American public, despite the bitter postwar feelings of consumers. He succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations.
This book may be heavy going for the casual VW hobbyist, but it’s fascinating for readers interested in how the people’s car evolved physically and culturally, from Nazi Germany to the symbol of love and peace in America.‚ Susan Belsky, Oshkosh P.L., WI

Johnson, David Alan. Decided on the Battlefield: Grant, Sherman, Lincoln and the Election of 1864. Prometheus. Jan. 2012. c.340p. illus. index. ISBN 9781616145095. $27. HIST
Popular historian Johnson (Betrayal: The True Story of J. Edgar Hoover and the Nazi Saboteurs Captured During WWII) is persuasive in demonstrating that if George B. McClellan, the Union general whom Lincoln relieved of battlefield command in 1864 only to see him go on to be the Democratic presidential candidate against Lincoln that year, had bested his old commander-in-chief in that election, the course of American history would have been different. The Peace Democrats could have ceased hostilities immediately, granted the Confederacy its independence, and permitted the continuation of slavery where it existed. But as 1864 progressed, Lincoln’s political salvation came with Grant’s war of attrition against Lee’s army. Equally important for this study was Sherman’s dramatic push through Georgia with modest Confederate resistance. Johnson correctly notes that these Federal advances compelled the Confederate replacement of the dithering Gen. Joseph E. Johnston with the more reckless Gen. John Bell Hood. Sherman benefited from Hood’s mistakes and took Atlanta in September 1864. The author concludes that this iconic victory, in turn, buoyed Northern confidence in Lincoln’s prosecution of the war and insured his return to office. Johnson’s wry epilog is a masterpiece of alternative history predicated on Lincoln’s defeat for reelection.
An engaging narrative, solid research, and command of detail all do great credit to the significance of this topic in Civil War historiography. Highly recommended to all devotees of Civil War history.‚ John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland

Karvonen, Andrew. Politics of Urban Runoff: Nature, Technology, and the Sustainable City. MIT. 2011. 302p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780262516341. pap. $23. SCI
Karvonen (research fellow, Univ. of Manchester) begins by describing humanity’s attempts at harnessing urban runoff by employing what Maria Kaika’s called modernity’s Promethean project in her City of Flows: Modernity, Nature, and the City, in which people use different tactics to control nature, many of these techniques reliant on feats of engineering. He then presents case studies of how two cities‚ Austin, TX and Seattle‚ have managed urban runoff. With the bulk of the book focusing on these two case studies, Karvonen brings his narrative together with two concluding chapters that discuss the different political strategies that have been used so far to address runoff and suggest methods for how better to address this multifaceted issue. While rational and populist politics have previously shaped policies, he argues that civic politics‚ wherein a government would consider an issue’s definition and solution‚ is the most deliberative and thorough means for handling the problems of urban runoff. He concludes by describing the components of civic politics.
This treatise should be of interest to activists and policymakers alike.‚ Diana Hartle, Univ. of Georgia Science Lib., Athens

Katz, David. Jimmy Cliff: An Unauthorized Biography. Interlink: Interlink Pub. Group. Dec. 2011. c.244p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781566568692. pap. $17. MUSIC
In his heyday in the 1960s and early 1970s, Jimmy Cliff (b. 1948) was huge in Jamaica in the early days of reggae and performed on the soundtrack and starred in the film The Harder They Come, which helped introduce reggae music to world audiences in 1972. He went on to become a Muslim rather than a Rastafarian and pursued a path of sometimes socially conscious light pop and reggae. Katz (People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee Scratch Perry) presents a well-written and well-researched biography, based on his interviews with Cliff and his associates as well as press archives. Because Cliff has always seemed slightly removed from the reggae wave of popularity and never became as big a star as Bob Marley and others, this book is unlikely to attract a large audience.
For collections of reggae or popular music books that strive for completeness.‚ Bill Walker, Cesar Chavez Central Lib., Stockton, CA

Kirby, Richard R. Ocean Drifters: A Secret World Beneath the Waves. Firefly. 2011. 192p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781554079827. $29.95. SCI
Kirby (Marine Inst. Research Fellow, Plymouth Univ., UK), who has published widely in scientific journals, combines in this book his area of expertise‚ plankton‚ with magnificent color photography of each species. He details the importance of the ocean’s plankton layer to the health of the globe and its effects on sea and human life in the photos’ descriptions. The introduction and conclusion provide important background and a historical overview of the study of plankton. Other books on this topic include Thomas Kiørboe’s Mechanistic Approach to Plankton Ecology, which is better for understanding the life cycle of plankton species; Deboyd L. Smith’s Guide to Marine Coastal Plankton and Marine Invertebrate Larvae contains only line drawings and covers just the coasts; and Otto Larink and Wilfried Westheide’s Coastal Plankton: Photo Guide for European Seas features good images but is also limited in geography. Kirby’s book is not easy to read through, and a glossary would have been helpful; however, the photographs encourage readers to spend time on their descriptions.
Recommended for readers interested in the smaller denizens of the natural world, the ocean, or microphotography.‚ Jean E. Crampon, Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles, Lib.

Kish, Matt. Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page. Tin House. 2011. c.600p. illus. ISBN 9781935639138. pap. $39.95. FINE ARTS
For Kish, his white whale is Moby-Dick itself: he’s reread the novel nine or ten times. While he is quick to qualify that he does not consider himself an artist, it’s clear he has a rich visual imagination. His first book, a collection of mixed-media drawings, one for every leaf of the 552-page Signet Classic paperback edition of Moby-Dick, is a worthy tribute to its inspiration. Most of the images are drawn in ink, acrylic paint, or marker on found paper: pages of electronics diagrams and from anatomy textbooks, gardening handbooks, even Moby-Dick itself. Kish’s work is fairly figurative‚ readers will be able to connect image with caption‚ but he takes liberties that invigorate his work. The whale men are barrel-chested robots, and Ahab and Moby-Dick seem to blur together as the book concludes, so that they are indistinguishable in some images but for Ahab’s lightning scar. (Take that, Harry Potter!)
A vibrant, beautifully produced book, it will remind Moby-Dick lovers of Melville’s brilliance and convince new readers of Kish’s compelling vision. [Previewed in Booked Solid, LJ 7/11, p. 31.‚ Ed.]‚ Molly McArdle, Library Journal

Lichter, Paul. Elvis in Vegas. Overlook, dist. by Penguin. 2011. 288p. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 9781590201879. $35. MUSIC
In his latest book about Elvis Presley, Lichter (Elvis in Hollywood; The Definitive Elvis) concentrates on Elvis’s Las Vegas shows in the 1960s‚ 70s. Including hundreds of color photos, many of which have never been published before, he begins with Elvis’s first stint in Vegas during 1956. The author quickly moves to a section about Priscilla Presley and then deals with the mid-1960s Viva Las Vegas period. Lichter spends most of his time on Presley’s reign in Vegas from 1969 to his death in 1977, moving among his concerts, his loves, his disintegrating personal life. Though a fan, Lichter has done his research and presents an unbiased, compelling story of the precipitous decline of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. In a frenzy of true fandom, the author ends with set lists and the costumes worn by Presley in nearly every one of his Vegas performances.
This well-balanced, richly illustrated book will interest Elvis fans.‚ Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle

Moore, Charles with Cassandra Phillips. Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Quest To Save the Oceans. Avery: Penguin Group (USA). 2011. 368p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781583334249. $26. SCI
As any good sea captain should, Moore (founder, Algalita Marine Research Fdn.) can tell a compelling story with the right balance of color and fact. His book details his struggle to document the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a floating island of plastic garbage in the North Pacific) while raising public and government awareness of its dangers. The narrative style of the book is difficult to describe but remarkably effective as it drifts back and forth from his personal history as an environmental activist, to his discovery of and attempts to catalog the ocean debris, to his reflections on society’s reliance on the nonbiodegradable chemistry of plastic. Moore warns that his story is not chronological but instead is an attempt to connect the dots of his life. He admits that even he, a highly engaged and educated environmentalist, did not immediately understand the insidious nature of the floating plastic that became more common over a decade of sea travel.
Reading a little like a certain other sea captain’s epic struggle with an indefatigable foe, this book will be worthwhile to anyone with an interest in protecting the environment. Recommended.‚ Marianne Stowell Bracke, Purdue Univ. Libs., West Lafayette, IN

Nicosia, Gerald & Anne Marie Santos. One and Only: The Untold Story of On the Road and of Lu Anne Henderson, the Woman Who Started Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady on Their Journey. Viva. 2011. c.240p. photogs. ISBN 9781936740048. $22.95. LIT
Lu Anne Henderson, who, at age 15 in 1945, married Neal Cassady, was Jack Kerouac’s model for Marylou, child bride of Dean Moriarty (modeled on Cassady) in On the Road. The bulk of this book is drawn from 1978 interviews with Henderson undertaken by Kerouac biographer Nicosia (Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac), in which she reminisces about events portrayed in the 1957 novel and talks about her feelings for her ex-husband, to whom she was married only briefly, as well as her romantic involvement with Kerouac. Henderson remarried several times, but she and Cassady continued to share strong feelings for each other, remaining close until Cassady’s death in 1968. Nicosia includes analysis of Henderson’s role in Beat history, the story of Cassady’s longtime friend Al Hinkle (Ed Dunkel in On the Road), and a revealing portrait of Henderson by her daughter, Santos, to round out the volume.
With a movie version of On the Road set for release in 2012, starring Kristen Stewart as Marylou, this book should attract a wider readership than it might have otherwise. A welcome addition to the growing literature on the women of the Beat Generation. With a generous selection of black-and-white photographs.‚ William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib, CUNY

Sale, Peter F. Our Dying Planet: An Ecologists View of the Crisis We Face. Univ. of California. 2011. c.346p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520267565. $34.95. SCI
Marine ecologist Sale (asst. director, Coastal Program, United Nations Univ.; Coral Reef Fishes: Dynamics and Diversity in a Complex Ecosystem) pulls no punches as he addresses the impact of overfishing, deforestation, and the emission of greenhouse gases on the environment in general and on coral reefs in particular‚ the first ecosystem poised to become extinct according to his projections. He draws us into his life’s work by sharing personal reflections, explaining key concepts‚ many of which are familiar but are perhaps not thoroughly understood by nonscientists‚ placing critical issues in historical context, and suggesting courses of action, such as sustainable management. Sale has crafted an engrossing work, but it is not for light reading. He includes much data and many references to scientific reports and studies. Footnotes and the bibliography are an added bonus for those seeking further study.
Sale provides a solid introduction to the study of ecology, simultaneously making readers comfortable with the science at hand and stressing the need to address collapsing ecosystems. Recommended for all those interested in ecology.‚ Robin K. Dillow, Oakton Community Coll. Lib., Des Plaines, IL

Shange, Ntozake. Lost in Language & Sound; or, How I Found My Way to the Arts: Essays. St. Martin’s. Dec. 2011. c.144p. ISBN 9780312206161. $22.99. LIT
Shange’s collection of personal pieces, written over the last 30 years (many published initially in the Village Voice, Yardbird Reader, and other journals), displays the dissected English that devotees of her work appreciate and revere. Fans of her poetry (e.g., Nappy Edges), novels (e.g., Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo) and plays (e.g., For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf) will delight in this collection. Shange cites those‚ in literature, art, and culture generally‚ who have inspired her works and those who’ve played a structural role. There is nothing typical about her approach, so when reading these pieces, readers must not expect the traditional chronology and rhythm often associated with personal essays. Poetic in its stylistic infrastructure, the collection often reads like a series of verses, much in accord with the style experienced Shange readers have come to look forward to from her‚ and to admire. Those who’ve struggled with Shange’s trademark deconstructed style will not become fans through these pieces, but it’s doubtful that the author’s intention here was to win more fans.
Recommended for all wishing to add to their Shange book collection and for readers in search of distinct voices that have influenced later artists.‚ Christina Vortia, student, Pratt Inst., New York

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Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"