Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, June 15, 2012

Week ending June 15, 2012

Barker, Juliet. The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors; The Story of a Literary Family. Pegasus. Sept. 2012. c.1200p. illus. index. ISBN 9781605983653. $39.95. LIT
British historian and literary scholar Barker (Wordsworth: A Life) has, after 16 years, produced a second edition of her massive and insightful work on the Brontë family. In addition to the two new subtitles, Barker has incorporated material from sources published since her first edition. She makes use of Margaret Smith’s three-volume Selected Letters of Charlotte Brontë, as well as Victor Neufeldt’s three-volume Works of Patrick Branwell Brontë. As Barker points out in her introduction, works like those are invaluable because much of Brontë scholarship prior to her own first edition was too often hampered by a lack of edited and published transcriptions. While the new source materials flesh out this impressive second edition, none of Barker’s conclusions have changed significantly since the first edition.
For such a dense and scholarly work, Barker has produced an engaging and readable study for serious fans or scholars of the Brontë family and their period of English history. Academic libraries will find this a useful addition to their collections if they don’t already own the first edition. If they have the first edition, they should consider this optional.—Felicity D. Walsh, Emory Univ., Decatur, GA

Bremer, Francis J. First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in the Atlantic World. Univ. Pr. of New England. (New England in the World). 2012. 296p. illus. index. ISBN 9781584659594. $27.95. HIST
Bremer (history, emeritus, Millersville Univ.; John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father), an expert on Puritanism in America, takes a biographical approach to detail how Puritans’ ideas and values ultimately contributed to the forming of our American government and institutions. Through chapters on more than a dozen notable Puritans, he effectively presents the distinct and evolving Puritan views and elaborates on how they influenced American life. Perhaps one of the most interesting chapters covers four puritan women: Anne Eaton, Lady Deborah Moody, Mary Dyer, and Anne Hutchinson (Anne Bradstreet is the only woman to get her own chapter as the men do, from John Winthrop, founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to Samuel Sewall of the Salem witch trials). Bremer states that the emphasis puritans placed on the importance of each individual served to empower women and that Puritan women, educated along with men, had an important voice in the formulation of ideas.
In all, Bremer’s work will appeal to the thoughtful reader with an interest in exploring the roots of our country’s founding credos through these accessible biographies.—Karen Sutherland, White Oak Lib. Dist., Romeoville, IL

starred review starGay, Timothy M. Assignment to Hell: The War Against Nazi Germany with Correspondents Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney, A.J. Liebling, Homer Bigart, and Hal Boyle. NAL Caliber: Penguin Group (USA). 2012. c.448p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780451236883. $26.95. HIST
Gay (Tris Speaker: The Rough-and-Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend) provides a readable and informative account of the early careers of five highly esteemed American journalists who willingly faced incredible danger on the European front lines of World War II to deliver unflinching eyewitness battleground news. While other works, e.g., James Tobin’s Ernie Pyle’s War: America’s Eyewitness to World War II, have examined famous reporters of the era, Gay uniquely recounts how these five correspondents formed a loose alliance through their common wartime experiences and grew to become a band of courageous, persistent battlefield reporters. Along with thrilling accounts, such as Stars and Stripes cub reporter Andy Rooney’s warship passage on D-Day and UP correspondent Walter Cronkite flying along on bombing runs over Germany, Gay’s concise research and the use of his subjects’ personal papers, diaries, and letters provide an unsentimental yet emotionally compelling tale of how these journalists became some of the greatest war correspondents of their time.
For those interested in World War II, especially the journalistic aspects, Gay’s telling of the audacious bravery of these reporters makes for an inspirational read.—Mary A. Jennings, Sno-Isle Libs., Camano Island, WA

Goldin, Amy. Amy Goldin: Art in a Hairshirt; Art Criticism, 1964‚ 1978. Hard Pr. 2012. 220p. ed. by Robert Kushner. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781555953423. pap. $19.95. FINE ARTS
A highly influential art critic during the 1960s and 1970s, Goldin has seen her legacy dim somewhat over the past three decades, something this collection, the first ever of her writings, seeks to address. Goldin’s purview was remarkably broad; this book, edited by artist Kusher (a founding member of the Pattern and Decoration movement), includes essays on the early 20th-century avant-garde, emerging art in New York, the politics of museum exhibition display, and the decorative arts. It was her writings on the latter for which she was most well known; Goldin saw decoration, as expressed in such disparate sources as Islamic embroidery and late Matisse, as a refreshing alternative to the stultifying formalism proscribed by high modernist critics.
With her sharp observational skills and witty, accessible prose, Goldin provides essays that will appeal to those with an enthusiasm for the rich field of 1960s and 1970s American art criticism, as well as those interested in the Western reception of the Islamic decorative arts.‚ Jonathan Patkowski, CUNY Grad Ctr.

Heckle, Harold. A Traveller’s Wine Guide to Spain. Interlink: Interlink Pub. Group. (Traveller’s Wine Guides ). 2012. 196p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781566568418. pap. $22. TRAV
Holmes, Robert. A Traveller’s Wine Guide to California. Interlink: Interlink Pub. Group. (Traveller’s Wine Guides ). 2012. 218p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781566568425. pap. $22. TRAV
Not just oenophiles will appreciate these handsome, basic guides for two of the world’s major wine producers: California and Spain. Just over pocket-sized, hefty, with quality paper, both books (from Interlink’s Traveller’s Wine Guides series) display nearly identical formats. They offer an abundance of color photographs, illustrations, and maps that add to the attractiveness of their destinations. While the authors eschew public transportation in favor of the private auto for wine touring, their maps lack sufficient detail for point-to-point driving. Whether promoting a winery in California or a bodega in Spain, travel writer Holmes (Frommer’s 25 Great Drives in California) and wine writer Heckle, who updated the text of the late Desmond Begg (The Vodka Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide), infuse their information with first-person knowledge and enthusiasm. Each wine-producing region covered includes additional listings for dining, sightseeing, special attractions, accommodations, and wine-related events. Holmes covers California wine regions from the wildly popular Napa-Sonoma area to the little-known Central Valley towns of Lodi, Clarksburg, and Madera. In Spain, Heckle shares the historical delights of Andalusia’s Sherry Triangle and Aragon’s famous vineyards of Rioja within the nine regions he explores.
Wine tasting at the source has become a major attraction for many travelers, and both books provide an excellent series of itineraries for trip planners looking for a themed tour.—Janet N. Ross, formerly with Washoe Cty. Lib. Syst., Sparks, NV

Johnson, Simon & James Kwak. White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You. Pantheon. 2012. c.368p. index. ISBN 9780307906960. $26.95. ECON
In a book that is part history, part political analysis, and part crash course in economics, Johnson (Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship, MIT Sloan Sch. of Management) and Kwak (law, Univ. of Connecticut Sch. of Law), coauthors of 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, demonstrate why the national debt matters to ordinary citizens. They explain that how politicians deal with the debt affects both the present and future of the United States. Johnson and Kwak outline the beginnings of U.S. debt, credit, and fiscal responsibility during the time of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton and trace the path through the spending and fiscal policy that led to the current economic situation. In the final chapter, they make recommendations for dealing with the national debt, including letting the Bush tax cuts expire and increasing payroll taxes while closing tax loopholes.
The easy-to-follow prose, combined with descriptive footnotes, a technical appendix, and a plethora of charts and graphs, makes this a good choice for general readers interested in the national debt‚ though there are better options for those looking for a scholarly treatment.—Elizabeth Nelson, UOP Lib., Des Plaines, IL

Lacey, Robert. The Queen: A Life in Brief. HarperPerennial: HarperCollins. Jun. 2012. c.176p. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 9780062124463. pap. $15.99. BIOG
Lacey, author of two excellent biographies of Queen Elizabeth‚ Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor (1977) and Monarch: The Life and Reign of Elizabeth II ( 2002)‚ begins his latest work by acknowledging that this little book is intended to distill and reshape what I’ve learned into one pleasant afternoon’s reading. This is a thoroughly enjoyable, if superficial, summary of the Queen’s life and reign, extracted largely from Monarch. Its brevity does not allow for more than a page or two to be spent on any event, however important, but the highlights are there. For those not interested in tackling the author’s earlier and more substantive biographies, this book does what Lacey intended.
Nicely illustrated, with source notes and some good suggestions for further reading, this title will be appropriate for patrons drawn by coverage of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Not a necessary purchase if your library owns the author’s earlier biographies or this year’s new biographies: Sally Bedell Smith’s Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch and/or Robert Hardman’s Her Majesty: Queen Elizabeth II and Her Court.—Elizabeth Mellett, Brookline P.L., MA

Reisler, Jim. Igniting the Flame: America’s First Olympic Team. Lyons: Globe Pequot. Jun. 2012. c.304p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780762778485. $24.95. SPORTS
Today’s Olympics are a humongous international event costing billions of dollars to produce so they can be watched worldwide by billions of people. As described here by sportswriter Reisler (Babe Ruth Slept Here), the first modern Olympics, held in 1896 Athens, were drastically smaller and drastically different. For example, described as a glorified pickup squad, the full U.S. Olympic team consisted of 14 athletes from only three organizations (Princeton, Harvard, and the Boston Athletic Club). Also, before the games got under way, the American public was barely aware that the event was to be held. Once the U.S. athletes and their scholarly entourage arrived in Greece, articles were sent back to American newspapers describing the U.S. team’s success. The athletes won nine of the 12 track and field events held. One of the best stories here is about American Robert Garrett, who won the gold medal in the discus despite taking up the event for the first time on the very day of the competition.
This fun and accessible read is recommended to all coming Olympics watchers interested in putting today’s games in historical perspective. The photographs, appendix of award winners, and notes will add to the reader’s experience.—Todd Spires, Bradley Univ. Lib., Peoria, IL

Shamdasani, Sonu. C.G. Jung: A Biography in Books. Norton. 2012. 224p. illus. index. ISBN 9780393073676. $65. PSYCH
Here Shamdasani (Philemon Professor of Jung History, Ctr. for the History of Psychological Disciplines, Univ. Coll., London; Jung Stripped Bare: By His Biographers, Even) traces the growth of pioneering psychoanalyst C.G. Jung through his books, especially fruitful as Jung was unconstrained by financial considerations (although this isn’t mentioned in the present text). He examines Jung’s reading history from his Latin texts and love for Goethe’s Faust as a schoolboy, to his interest in spiritualism as a medical student, to the books he read during his training in psychiatry and psychoanalysis. The bulk of this title deals with the Liber Novus, also known as The Red Book, his illustrated manuscript of self-generated symbols that was largely produced between 1915 and 1925, which led to many decades of study of the parallels between his visions and the contents of Asian and alchemical writings.
For readers versed enough in the world of Jung to chuckle at the name of Shamdasani’s professorship. Everyone else is better off with one of Jung’s own introductory texts, such as Man and His Symbols or Memories, Dreams, Reflections.—Mary Ann Hughes, Shelton, WA

Sheppard, Ruth. Explorer of the Mind: The Illustrated Biography of Sigmund Freud. Andre Deutsch, dist. by Sterling. 2012. 92p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780233003306. $44.95. PSYCH
In this beautifully produced book, historian Sheppard (Extraordinary Heroes: The Amazing Stories of the George and Victoria Cross Recipients) relies mainly on Ernest Jones’s flawed 1957 biography of Freud. The first half of the book covers Freud’s life to age 44 and the publication of Interpretation of Dreams, which appeared in 1900. Sheppard’s writing is clear, and the tale of Freud as a family man and cancer patient is poignant. However, the author’s explanation of evolving psychoanalytic theory and practice sometimes falters. Freud’s Jewish identity is emphasized without mention of his dependence on gentiles Carl Jung and Jones. Sheppard repeats Jones’s mistaken claim that Freud had not read Otto Rank’s Trauma of Birth before publication and his dubious assumption that Freud was always faithful to his wife.
The elegance of this volume‚ with stunning illustrations, many in color, on almost every page‚ offsets its uneven biographical and historical presentation.—E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC

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"