Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, October 26, 2012

Week ending October 26, 2012

Kealing, Bob. Calling Me Home: Gram Parsons and the Roots of Country Rock. Univ. of Florida. 2012. 256p. photogs. discog. bibliog. ISBN 9780813042046. $27.50. MUSIC
Kealing (Tupperware Unsealed: Brownie Wise, Earl Tupper, and the Home Party Pioneers) here emphasizes the distinctly Southern roots of country rock pioneer Gram Parsons (1946–73). Kealing details the musician’s journey from early admirer of Elvis to “urban folkie” to his ultimate musical explorations of what the author refers to as “cosmic America” as a member of the Byrds and the founder of the Flying Burrito Brothers. In the late Sixties and early Seventies, Parsons helped integrate the distinct, though related, strains of rock and country music, creating a new kind of sound that changed the trajectory of rock. From his brief but influential stint with the Byrds to the formation of the Flying Burrito Brothers and further solo work with Emmylou Harris, Parsons’s career as a guitarist and singer/songwriter was cut short when he died of an overdose at age 26. Using interviews with his friends, family, and fellow musicians and contemporary visits to the primarily Southern sites associated with Parsons, Kealing mines the cultural geography of a region and time period while narrating the story of a musician who has remained influential over the past 40 years.
Verdict Kealing’s detailed biography will appeal to rock fans looking to read more about a formative time in music history through the story of one of its most pivotal figures.—James Collins, Morristown–Morris Twp. P.L., NJ

Rose, Peter R. The Reckoning: The Triumph of Order on the Texas Outlaw Frontier. Texas Tech Univ. 2012. 288p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780896727694. $34.95; eISBN 9780896728011. CRIME
These days, the Texas Hill Country is known as a paradise for hunters and an iconic landscape that will appeal to anyone in search of wide, open spaces. Ten years after the Civil War ended, however, this part of Texas—particularly Kimble County—was a magnet for outlaws. Rose, a Kimble County native, depicts the late 19th-century struggle between law-abiding families and sordid folks who made their living stealing livestock. A professional geologist, Rose uses maps and recounts precise details of the eastern Edwards Plateau landscape to demonstrate how geography made law and order difficult to establish on this frontier. Only the relentless efforts of the federal government, the Texas Rangers, and conscientious civilians struck a mortal blow to the entrenched outlaw network. In effect, Rose argues that order must be firmly established before the rule of law can thrive.
Verdict A thoroughly researched work, this book is well suited for criminal justice and history collections. This fascinating account is easy to follow and will be well received by Texas history enthusiasts.—Chad Clark, Lamar State Coll. Lib., Port Arthur, TX

Smith, Earl & Angela Hattery. African American Families Today: Myths and Realities. Rowman & Littlefield. 2012. c.228p. index. ISBN 9781442213968. $36; eISBN 9781442213982. SOC SCI
Authors Smith (sociology & American ethnic studies, Wake Forest Univ.) and Hattery (sociology & women & gender studies, George Mason Univ.) provide evidence against theories that the election of President Obama either ushered in a postracial America or had a positive impact on African Americans as a whole. Intended for students, the book updates and expands the coverage of the same subject in their African American Families (2007). The authors now show heavy reliance on Eugene Robinson’s Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America (2010) in addition to other sources including their own previous book (although they don’t cite that one). Throughout the volume’s 11 chapters, arranged in topics ranging from the domestic (e.g., marriage, divorce, and child rearing) to issues of economics, crime and punishment, poverty and wealth, and politics, the authors explore and dispute the myths about the status of African American life now with varying degrees of efficacy. While the arguments do strengthen toward the end, the authors’ good, clear points are undercut throughout by circuitous examples that neither adequately reflect topical complexity nor appropriately focus attention.
Verdict Recommended with reservations for high schools and undergraduate students of American or African American studies, sociology, or criminal justice.—Jewell Anderson, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah

Volvovski, Jenny & others. The Where, the Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science. Chronicle. Oct. 2012. 168p. illus. ISBN 9781452108223. $24.95. SCI
Though its vivid, lively illustrations will pull readers in, this book is not meant for coffee tables, and, though it answers intriguing scientist questions with brief and accurate responses, it is also not a scientific encyclopedia. Instead, this compilation by designers Volvovski, Julia Rothman, and Matt Lamothe brings together brief works by over 50 scientists and 75 artists answering 75 quirky questions such as “Do squirrels remember where they bury their nuts?” and “Why do we blush?” Some of these queries don’t receive a definitive answer, for instance, “Is sexual orientation innate?” and the responses explain what about the question is controversial or unknown. Featuring the work of illustrators like Lisa Congdon, Jen Corace, Neil Farber, Susie Ghahremani, and Jeremyville, this is a beautiful and engaging title to own.
Verdict This book is fun to read, hard to set down, and a great way to engage readers otherwise uninterested in science by presenting the kinds of questions everyone has asked themselves at least once. Highly recommended for those curious about the world around them.—Eric D. Albright, Tufts Univ. Lib., Boston

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"