Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, August 24, 2012

Week ending August 24, 2012

Germany, Lisa. Houses of the Sundown Sea: The Architectural Vision of Harry Gesner. Abrams. 2012. c.240p. illus. ISBN 9781419700491. $75. FINE ARTS
Primarily a self-taught architect (excepting a brief stint at Yale and with Frank Lloyd Wright), Harry Gesner (b. 1925) has designed over 100 homes, primarily in California. Germany (Great Houses of Texas) covers Gesner’s life from his early childhood through 2010 and highlights 15 of Gesner’s homes in or near Los Angeles. His architecture reflects his independent drive, his interest in building in difficult terrain, and his emphasis in providing views of magnificent cityscapes, seascapes, and mountain scenery. His striking 1957 Wave House inspired the Sydney Opera House. The book includes 250 historic and contemporary photographs of the homes’ interiors and exteriors. Architectural drawings and floor plans accompany essays describing each home and include information about the people who commissioned each home, the building process, and the homes’ striking features. Gesner’s emphasis in bringing the outdoors inside shares much with Wright’s design philosophy, yet his homes are executed in an entirely new way.
Verdict This lovely summation of Gesner’s style will be of interest to architecture students as well as enthusiasts interested in midcentury modern and California design.—Valerie Nye, Inst. of American Indian Arts Lib., Santa Fe, NM

Jones, Nigel. Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.464p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780312622961. $35. HIST
Jones’s (Countdown to Valkyrie: The July Plot To Kill Hitler) latest offering traces the history of the Tower of London from its 11th-century beginnings under William the Conqueror to the present day. Interweaving a history of the structure itself with the unfolding of related historical events, Jones reveals how it evolved from a physical stronghold to becoming the symbolic center of power and now the UK’s most popular tourist site. In each chapter, Jones chronologically details a further stage of history that demonstrates how the evolving tower endured over a millennium. He also explores such themes as the tower’s ghosts and great escapes from confinement there. Jones enlivens the narrative with use of contemporary accounts and by asserting his own opinion on such famous episodes as the murder of Richard III’s nephews in the tower. Unfortunately, he fails to reference his sources fully, offering only a select bibliography for each chapter, but this is usual for a trade history book such as this. The book is not aimed at serious scholars. Instead, Jones artfully melds architectural and dynastic history encompassing all the tower’s incarnations
General readers looking for an entertaining single reference on the Tower of London will find this a good choice.—Deborah Cooper, MLIS student, Ithaca, NY

starred review starKeene, Nancy & others. Childhood Cancer Survivors: A Practical Guide to Your Future. 3d ed. O’Reilly. (Childhood Cancer Guides). 2012. c.443p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781457118678. $29.95. MED
Keene (Childhood Leukemia: A Guide for Families, Friends & Caregivers), Wendy Hobbie (associate director, cancer survivorship program, Children’s Hosp. of Philadelphia), and Kathy Ruccione (codirector, hematology-oncology psychosocial & education program, Children’s Hosp. of Los Angeles) have updated their excellent guide covering life after the last cancer treatment. The first few chapters give advice on dealing with follow-up care after therapy has been completed, schooling concerns, family relationships, and insurance and job issues as children grow up. The later chapters deal with diseases and body systems that are impacted by the adverse effects of cancer treatments, which can occur years later—an increasingly common phenomenon as more and more children survive for years past treatment. The great strength of the book is the stories from survivors and their parents, which offer a voice to the many problems and concerns they have during and after cancer therapy.
An essential book for childhood cancer survivors, their parents, and the health care providers who treat them.—Margaret Henderson, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. Lib., Richmond

McCoy, Roger M. On the Edge: Mapping North America’s Coasts. Oxford Univ. 2012. 256p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199744046. $29.95. HIST
Columbus “discovered” the Americas over 500 years ago but, amazingly, it took 400 years to map completely the North American coastline. McCoy (physical geography, emeritus, Univ. of Utah; Ending in Ice: The Revolutionary Idea and Tragic Expedition of Alfred Wegener) describes the explorers and expeditions that contributed waypoints, snippets, and large segments to this cartographic puzzle. In chronologic chapters, the author covers both familiar expeditions (for example, of John Cabot, Henry Hudson, John Franklin, etc.) and those by lesser-known men (e.g., Peter Dease, John Rae, George Nares), succinctly and engagingly describing their journeys and focusing on the men’s mapping achievements. A fascinating chapter on 16th-century navigation, mapmaking, and ships helps put these gains into perspective.
While McCoy presents a distinct approach to North American/Arctic exploratory history, he doesn’t break any new ground or offer any reinterpretation, making his work an optional purchase for exploration, geography, and Arctic collections. A glossary of nautical terms and an appendix of selected North American expeditions are included.—Margaret Atwater-Singer, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN

Posamentier, Alfred S. & Ingmar Lehman. The Secrets of Triangles: A Mathematical Journey. Prometheus. 2012. c.300p. illus. ISBN 9781616145873. $26. MATH
In this new work, frequent coauthors, most recently of The Glorious Golden Ratio, Posamentier (dean, Sch. of Education, Mercy Coll.) and Lehman (mathematics, Humboldt Univ., Berlin) address the subject of triangles in remarkable detail. They provide numerous theorems with proofs and also chronicle the construction of triangles with those classic tools—the compass and straightedge. Almost 300 illustrations show the triangles and the construction details discussed.
Theorem proofs and other analyses in the text are carefully done and should be clear to attentive readers. Much of the book will be intelligible to the brightest high school students and to adults with an interest in recreational mathematics.—Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI

Shearer, Sybil. Without Wings the Way Is Steep. Vol. 2: The Midwest Inheritance: The Autobiography of Sybil Shearer. Morrison-Shearer Fdn. 2012. c.506p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780976935322. $25. DANCE
The legacy of Shearer (1912–2005), an inspired dancer and choreographer, is unknown to many. In this second volume of a three-volume autobiography, she describes her career in the Midwest, why she chose to work outside the mainstream, and why so many came from far and wide to see her dance in the Chicago suburbs and at rare performances in New York City. As a solo artist, Shearer was uncompromising, demanding emotional and spiritual honesty, holding the highest artistic standards, and involving herself in all aspects of a performance. Interspersed between the extensive newspaper and journal reviews she received from the 1940s to the 1970s, the book contains correspondence from colleagues, friends, business partners, and, most notably, photographer Helen Morrison, along with Shearer’s own ideas about nature, music, art, and the life of an artist.
This book will most appeal to committed followers of modern dance and modernist movements in the arts, who will likely want to track down Volume 1 in this trilogy, 2006’s Within the Thicket, and learn of Shearer’s studies with Doris Humphrey and her work with Agnes De Mille.—Joan Stahl, Catholic Univ. Libs., Washington, DC

Tranquada, Jim & John King. The Ukulele: A History. Univ. of Hawaii. 2012. 336p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780824836344. pap. $20.99. MUSIC
Great-grandson of ukulele pioneer Augusto Dias, Tranquada (director, communications, Occidental Coll.) and late ukulele musician King wrote their book at the right time—the lowly, much-maligned ukulele is enjoying yet another wave of popularity by a new generation. Those unfamiliar with the history of the instrument will learn a tremendous amount here. Tranquada and King have traced the history of the instrument, highlighting its origins in Madeira, Portugal, its introduction to and significance in Hawaii, and other moments in time where it has captured the world’s attention. Though neither author is an academic, their scholarship is impressive. They include 85 pages of appendixes and footnotes to satisfy more ambitious fans.
The book’s chapters make for quick, enjoyable reading for a general audience. Recommended for any comprehensive music collection (and, really, for any popular music collection). This book pairs well with Jim Beloff’s The Ukulele: A Visual History.—Bill Walker, Stockton–San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA

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"