Arts & Humanities Reviews | November 15, 2012

Roberts, David. Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration. W.W. Norton. Jan. 2013. c.352p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393083712. $27.95. REC

Climber and author Roberts (Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer) presents a well-written narrative on the ambitious and arduous Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911–13 and its intrepid leader, Australian geologist Douglas Mawson. This large, multi-party expedition aimed to explore and study large sections of the then-unmapped Antarctic continent. Mawson only barely survived after two of his companions died and most of his food was lost in a crevasse. An experienced and knowledgeable adventure writer, Roberts deftly combines polar-exploration history and biographical background on Mawson and his companions with moving descriptions of the expedition’s tragedies and triumphs. VERDICT While Mawson may be lesser known than fellow explorers Shackleton, Amundsen, or Scott, Roberts’s thoroughly researched portrayal leaves little doubt that Mawson deserves a place among these giants of polar exploration. Best suited to history or adventure fans interested in the history of Antarctic exploration and tales of survival against the odds. Readers may also consider Douglas Mawson’s own chronicle The Home of the Blizzard: A True Story of Antarctic Survival or Lennard Bickel’s Mawson’s Will: The Greatest Polar Survival Story Ever Written.—Ingrid Levin, Salve Regina Univ. Lib., Newport, RI

Sibley, Robert C. The Way of the Stars: Journeys on the Camino De Santiago. Univ. of Virginia. 2012. c.184p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813933153. $23.95. REL

The journey along the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, has been undertaken by countless pilgrims over the centuries. Sibley’s (senior writer, Ottawa Citizen; A Rumour of God) account is primarily a story of his journey of both internal and outward discovery along this route across northern Spain. He prefaces the main text with an account of the second time he travelled the route, with his son Daniel, but this book is about the author’s first such trek. The text is neatly divided into subjects that encompass the author’s quest: prayer; pain; paths; time; gratitude; gifts; visions; underglimmer; disappearance; and home. Each chapter describes a series of events that encompass its subject matter, upon which the reader can reflect, thus travelling the spiritual miles with Sibley. VERDICT Sibley captures his journey, both existential and physical, succinctly, yet with artistry. Readers will be both engaged and enlightened by this carefully crafted tale.—Annette Haldeman, Dept. of Legislative Svcs. Lib., Annapolis, MD

Benjaminson, Peter. Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motown’s First Superstar. Chicago Review Press. Nov. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781569762486. $26.95. MUSIC

Benjaminson follows his definitive biography of Supremes vocalist Florence Ballard (The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard) with the first biography devoted solely to the tumultuous life of Motown hitmaker Mary Wells. “My Guy” remains Wells’s signature tune, but she was much more than a one-hit wonder (Benjaminson provides an extensive discography) and readers will be fascinated by the trajectory of Wells’s career; her personal and professional choices; and ultimately, her tenacity. Wells was signed to Motown at the age of 17 after cornering label chief Berry Gordy at a Detroit nightclub. Success followed and she hit the top of the national charts. Later in life she regretted her decision to leave Motown at the age of 21, never achieving the same level of success, but her story did not end there. Near the end of her life, Wells lost her ability to sing due to the ravages of throat cancer; but through extensive research and interviews Benjaminson once again gives her voice. VERDICT “My Guy” remains a popular classic (Wells cited Mae West as her inspiration for the songs outro) and this book tells the rest of the story. A fascinating narrative of the life of a popular music icon.— Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR

The following titles are reviewed in the November 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Aiello, Carlo & others. eVolo Skyscrapers. eVolo. 2011. 1224p. illus. ISBN 9780981665849. $249.99. ARCH

Lamp, Frederick John & others. Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery. Yale Univ. 2012. c.328p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300169928. $75. FINE ARTS

Lucy, Martha & John House. Renoir in the Barnes Foundation. Yale Univ. 2012. c.392p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300151008. $75. FINE ARTS


The Best American Essays 2012. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. (Best American Series). 2012. c.304p. ed. by David Brooks. ISBN 9780547840093. pap. $14.95. LIT

Barnes, Julian. Through the Window: Seventeen Essays and a Short Story. Vintage: Random. Nov. 2012. c.272p. index. ISBN 9780345805508. pap. $15.95. LIT

Fried, Michael. Flaubert’s “Gueuloir”: On Madame Bovary and Salammbo. Yale Univ. Nov. 2012. c.224p. illus. index. ISBN 9780300187052. $35. LIT

Muhlstein, Anka. Monsieur Proust’s Library. Other. Nov. 2012. c.160p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781590515662. $19.95. LIT

The Pushcart Prize XXXVII: Best of the Small Presses. Pushcart. (Pushcart Prize). 2012. c.640p. ed. by Henderson, Bill. ISBN 9781888889666. $35; pap. ISBN 9781888889659. $18.95. LIT


Feinstein, Michael. The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs. S & S. 2012. c.320p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781451645309. $45. MUSIC

Koenig, David. Danny Kaye: King of Jesters. Bonaventure. Nov. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781937878016. $27.95. FILM


Duffy, Carol Ann. The Bees. Faber & Faber. Mar. 2013. c.96p. ISBN 9780865478855. pap. $23. POETRY

Wicker, Marcus. Maybe the Saddest Thing. HarperPerennial: HarperCollins. Oct. 2012. 96p. ISBN 9780062191014. poetry

Bond, Adam L. I’ve Been Called: Now What? Judson. Nov. 2012. c.128p. ISBN 9780817017118. pap. $14.99. REL

Claiborne, Shane & Tony Campolo. Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said? Thomas Nelson. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9781400204182. $22.99. REL

Leiter, Brian. Why Tolerate Religion? Princeton Univ. Nov. 2012. c.208p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780691153612. $24.95. REL

Vauchez, Andre. Francis of Assisi: The Life and Afterlife of a Medieval Saint. Yale Univ. 2012. c.416p. tr. by fr. French, Michael F. Cusato. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300178944. $35. REL

Wunthnow, Robert. The God Problem: Expressing Faith and Being Reasonable. Univ. of California. 2012. c.350p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520274280. $34.95. REL


Finder, Chuck. The Steeler’s Encyclopedia. Temple Univ. 2012. c.346p. ISBN 9781439908327. $35. SPORTS