Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, April 6, 2012

Week ending April 6, 2012

Alterman, Eric & Kevin Mattson. The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama. Viking. Apr. 2012. c.416p. index. ISBN 9780670023431. $29.95. POL SCI
Despite the authors’ insistence that liberalism is an optimistic political philosophy, it sometimes can seem that Lost should be added to the title here. Alterman (CUNY Graduate Sch. of Journalism; What Liberal Media?) and Mattson (Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History, Ohio Univ.; Upton Sinclair and the Other American Century) construct a history of liberalism’s highs and lows from New Deal successes through today’s struggles with conservative-dominated politics. They profile influential individuals who have espoused and exemplified liberalism’s promise to provide social and economic justice and human rights advancements in all corners of society. Although they maintain enthusiasm for the core values of liberalism, the authors admit that since the 1960s the Democratic party and its elected representatives have been forced to pull back from the leftward-leaning elements of liberalism in order to obtain acceptance by the electorate. Their prescription for a liberal revival is for believers in the liberal philosophy to regain their confidence to lead the country toward a vision of equalizing conditions between the wealthy and the poor.
Alterman and Mattson present an impressive history, with profiles of leaders both famous and unfamiliar, and detailing legislative and cultural battles that highlight the advancement of the cause. Readers interested in liberal politics and sociopolitical history will most appreciate the authors’ extensive research.‚ Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.

Caillat, Ken with Steven Stiefel. Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album. Wiley. Apr. 2012. c.400p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781118218082. $25.95. MUSIC
Caillat, coproducer of Fleetwood Mac’s chart-topping, Grammy Award‚ winning 1977 album, Rumours, here tells his story of its nearly yearlong recording. The personal dramas and hedonistic lifestyles of the band members at the time are well known and have been written about in Donald Brackett’s Fleetwood Mac: 40 Years of Creative Chaos and Bob Brunning’s The Fleetwood Mac Story: Rumours and Lies; however, Caillat’s then position as a relative novice with no producing experience makes this contribution distinctive and absorbing. Transplanted to Sausalito, CA, for the bulk of the sessions, where he lived with members of the band and became intimately connected with them in and out of the studio, the author presents not just a story about the recording of a classic album but also a vivid evocation of the laid-back atmosphere of the California music scene in the mid-1970s.
Verdict Recommended for readers interested in music recording and popular music, particularly 1970s pop and Fleetwood Mac.‚ Dave Valencia, Seattle P.L.

Crimp, Douglas. Our Kind of Movie: The Films of Andy Warhol. MIT. Apr. 2012. c.184p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780262017299. $27.95. FILM
This series of six essays on many of Andy Warhol’s best-known films occasionally has the same hypnotic and engrossing effect of Warhol’s own works. In his strongest entry, Spacious, Crimp (Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History, Univ. of Rochester; Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics) capably elucidates the sublime way in which Warhol used spatial relationships. His few pages of analysis of Warhol’s masterful feature My Hustler (1964) are especially invaluable, providing a queer understanding that is necessary for many of Warhol’s iconic works. Crimp admirably strays from some of Warhol’s better-known, more accessible works, although he puts his imprint on the renowned Chelsea Girls (1966).
Verdict Crimp’s thoughtful evaluations of many of Warhol’s lesser-seen films, like The Closet (1966), make this reading essential for anyone delving headlong into Warhol’s filmography. Several of these films have never been written about before in such depth. Academic libraries with film or art programs should consider this book for its rare, profound content.‚ Adam Waldowski, Los Angeles

Doyle, Robert, M.D. & Joseph Nowinski. Almost Alcoholic: Is My (or Loved One’s) Drinking a Problem? Hazelden. Apr. 2012. c.250p. bibliog. ISBN 9781616491598. pap. $14.95. PSYCH
Psychiatrist Doyle (psychiatry, Harvard Medical Sch.) and psychologist Nowinski (The Family Recovery Program: A Professional’s Guide for Treating Families of Alcoholics and Addicts) teamed to write this addition to the Almost Effect series, a cooperative effort of publishers Hazelden and Harvard Health Publications. They treat alcohol use as a continuum: someone who is almost alcoholic is in the zone where their drinking has become a problem but they do not meet the criteria for alcoholism. The book has two sections: one to help readers understand their own relationship, or that of someone they know, with alcohol; the second, to address solutions. The book is full of vignettes that are examples of almost alcoholics or almost alcoholism. The text includes checklists to help determine the severity of alcohol use as well as some tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous. The second half of the book offers helpful and practical advice about effectively reducing alcohol use and abuse.
This is a short and highly readable work about an issue that troubles many people. Recommended for public libraries with large self-help collections.‚ Fran Mentch, Cleveland State Univ. Lib.

Dyson, George. Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe. Pantheon. 2012. c.432p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780375422775. $29.95. TECH
Dyson’s (Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship) history of the first computer is a compelling and readable narrative. Under the leadership of John von Neumann, researchers at the Institute of Advanced Study in New Jersey built the first working computer. The book details each of the principal scientists and their part in this grand scheme. Chapter by chapter, readers are introduced to more than 70 individuals, each of whom played a unique role in the project. Even Princeton University gets its own chapter. The novelistic structure of the book makes it more entertaining than a typical, chronological history text, though at times also more difficult to follow. Dyson often has newly introduced persons interact with other figures who do not appear until later chapters, which will make reading more difficult for those who are not already familiar with this topic.
Recommended for readers interested in the history of computers, history of science during World War II, and modern American history.‚ Dawn Lowe-Wincentsen, Oregon Inst. of Technology, Portland

Gertner, Jon. The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). 2012. c.432p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594203282. $29.95. TECH
Gertner’s text is an in-depth, interview and research-based study of the groundbreaking inventions at AT&T’s Bell Laboratories, written with a particular interest in research processes. Gertner (contributor, New York Times Magazine; editor, Fast Company) focuses particularly on six of the lab’s members, from the well-known William Shockley (who shared the Nobel prize for the transistor and eugenics supporter) to lesser-known men like Mervin Kelly, who recruited some of the best scientists to the lab. The book is a celebration of basic exploratory research, which the scientists and engineers at Bell Labs managed to do despite being in a for-profit setting. The discussion of the search for semiconductor materials is particularly fascinating. Gertner takes readers from the 1920s through World War II to the AT&T break up in the 1980s.
This dense but fascinating title is less accessible than it could be because lacks any illustrations, though the writing and the longitudinal biographical portraits are engaging. Engineers, physicists, materials scientists, inventors, and readers interested in research and entrepreneurship should all enjoy this detailed work.‚ Sara R. Tompson, Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles

Guttenberg, Steve. The Guttenberg Bible: A Memoir. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. May 2012. c.336p. index. ISBN 9780312383459. $25.99. FILM
Guttenberg here recounts his bountiful 35-plus-year Hollywood career, from sneaking onto the Paramount Studios lot at age 18 and creating his own makeshift office in an empty building to starring in film franchises Police Academy and Three Men and a Baby as well as many other successful projects. He has lots of chutzpah and is genuinely kind and gracious‚ he drops names like Walmart drops prices but doesn’t say a bad word about anyone and is quick to share his success and give credit where it’s due. Guttenberg took incredible notes throughout his career; the innumerable stories have a distinct narrative quality with seemingly exact dialog. He loves his parents, and he reproduces throughout phone conversations with mother Ann and father Stanley in Massapequa, NY, which have a loving and comical quality suggestive of an Anne Meara‚ Jerry Stiller comedy routine.
Verdict The Hollywood memoir genre is inherently dicey, but this one is a winner. Guttenberg has a fetching style and is a good storyteller (the tale of getting wasted with Brian Dennehy during the filming of Cocoon is a hoot!). Anyone who can tell funny personal stories about having worked with both Colonel Sanders and Sir Laurence Olivier is aces. [See Prepub Alert, 11/14/11.]‚ Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX

starred review starKagan, Jerome. Psychology’s Ghosts: The Crisis in the Profession and the Way Back. Yale Univ. 2012. c.416p. index. ISBN 9780300178685. $32. PSYCH
Kagan (psychology, emeritus, Harvard Univ.; What Is Emotion? History, Measures, and Meanings) combines a frank but sympathetic critique of the present state of psychological research with a bold call for reform. The author ruminates on the history of the field, from psychology’s early attempts to model itself after physics to a split in focus between the United States and Europe, where the former emphasized acquired behaviors and conditioning and the latter, mental states, childhood events, and sexuality. As psychology’s search for a grand, unifying theory failed and biological psychiatry has become more important, Kagan believes the field has declined in prominence. Moving from theory to application, the book devotes considerable attention to mental illness. The author recounts the great paradigm shift from talk to drug therapy in the 1960s and successfully points out the limitations of this approach. In conclusion, he challenges psychologists to question common assumptions and accepted dogmas in their field.
Verdict A valuable synthesis of ideas forcefully expressed in graceful prose, this book is highly recommended for academic and professional mental health collections.‚ Antoinette Brinkman, Evansville, IN

Naylor, Sharon & others. The Bridal Bible: Inspiration for Planning Your Perfect Wedding. Lyons: Globe Pequot. 2012. 384p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780762772513. $30. HOME ECON
In this comprehensive resource about planning that special day, Naylor (Your Wedding, Your Way; Bridesmaid on a Budget) and popular wedding bloggers Blair deLaubenfels, Christy Weber, and Kim Bamberg (junebugweddings.com) seek to guide the stressed-out bride with helpful tips and expert information. They address attire, flowers, and photographers as well as other parties that may occur during the wedding weekend. The coverage is unbalanced, with 97 pages devoted to flowers and only 21 to ceremony. The jacket copy advertises step-by-step DIY information, but the book falls short of offering concrete steps, supplies, or instructions. This guide frequently uses the word alternative to describe weddings that don’t fit into the mainstream wedding industry, which could turn off some readers. Couples who identify outside of heterosexuality may not find representation here.
Verdict This book covers all the expected areas of wedding planning and is filled with many photographs of details that may inspire brides; however, it does not cover new ground or offer new ideas. A good gift book for women or men who have been dreaming about their big day since they were children; otherwise, an optional purchase.‚ Maura Deedy, Weymouth P.L., MA

Robb, David L. The Gumshoe and the Shrink: Guenther Reinhardt, Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker, and the Secret History of the 1960 Kennedy/Nixon Election. Santa Monica. 2012. c.336p. index. ISBN 9781595800664. $24.95. HIST
There have been many books on the 1960 U.S. presidential election, from Theodore H. White’s The Making of the President 1960, to W.J. Rorabaugh’s The Real Making of the President: Kennedy, Nixon, and the 1960 Election, but Robb takes a more provocative approach. He presents a never-before-published confidential report by a shadowy private detective, Guenther Reinhardt, who apparently worked for JKF’s team prior to the 1960 election, seeking to uncover information about Richard Nixon and his therapy with Arnold Hutschnecker, which had begun in the 1950s. The gumshoe’s report was held in storage for decades and then made available to Robb, as was Hutschnecker’s unpublished memoir, provided to Robb by the doctor’s family, detailing his treatment of Nixon. Robb speculates that the Kennedy team may have decided not to use the psychotherapy information for fear that Nixon’s team would respond with information on JFK’s Addison’s disease.
Verdict Robb insightfully reveals how a notorious detective and a respected doctor intersected with history through their connections to the political powerhouses of the day. He continues with a recap of the balance of Nixon’s political life. This will be very engrossing reading especially for presidential history buffs and conspiracy theorists, though serious political scholars may well choose to skip it.‚ Mary A. Jennings, Sno-Isle Libs., Camano Island, WA

Spacek, Sissy with Maryanne Vollers. My Extraordinary Ordinary Life. Hyperion. May 2012. c.288p. illus. ISBN 9781401324360. $26.99. FILM
Academy Award winner Spacek, writing with Vollers (coauthor of Ashley Judd’s memoir), shares her story of an idyllic childhood growing up in Texas and her road to acting success. After heading to New York City to pursue a musical career (she wanted to become the next Joni Mitchell), Spacek was soon auditioning for plays and films. It didn’t hurt that she is a cousin to actor Rip Torn, who was married to actress Geraldine Page. One of Spacek’s first roles was in Badlands, where she met her husband of nearly 40 years, production designer Jack Fisk. Iconic roles followed‚ in Carrie, Coal Miner’s Daughter (for which she won an Oscar), and, most recently, The Help. But Spacek’s real love is her farm in Virginia, where she raised her two daughters and where she continues to live and pursue her career.
Verdict Much of Spacek’s book centers on her growing-up years and her farm, illustrating her ordinary life. In between, she writes about her movies but does not provide much Hollywood dish for celebrity watchers. This is all about the simple pleasures of home and family. A feel-good memoir that older readers will enjoy.‚ Rosellen Brewer, Sno-Isle Libs., Marysville, WA

Teleky, Richard. The Dog on the Bed: A Canine Alphabet. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, dist. by Ingram. May 2012. 248p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781554552191. $24.95. PETS
This beautifully written abecedarian book by poet and novelist Teleky (humanities, York Univ., Toronto) will delight sophisticated readers who appreciate well-crafted, thoughtful essays about dogs. Moving from A to Z, Teleky covers, among others, anthropomorphism, death, fiction, gardens, intelligence, rescue missions, television, writers’ dogs, and concludes with Zoli (the author’s dearly departed pug). He eloquently examines aspects of the bond between dogs and humans in what appears like randomly selected but are in fact carefully chosen topics. The richness of dogs’ interior lives‚ in particular their devotion, affection, sense of smell, anxiety, and humor‚ provide fertile ground for the author’s speculations and theories. The title comes from a French proverb: there are two kinds of masters‚ those who admit that their dog sleeps on the bed and those who don’t.
Verdict Literary dog lovers will want to curl up with their dog on the bed with this book.‚ Susan Riley, Mamaroneck P.L., NY

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"