Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, December 21, 2012

Week ending December 21, 2012

Anthony, Arthé A. Picturing Black New Orleans: A Creole Photographer’s View of the Early Twentieth Century. Univ. Pr. of Florida. 2012. 128p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813041872. $34.95. HIST
Here is a perspective on New Orleans from 1920 to 1049, as recorded by the cameras of Florestine Perrault Collins (1895–1988), a Creole woman who broke barriers by becoming a professional photographer in a time when neither women nor minorities were a strong presence on that side of the camera. Through her photographs and the words of her great-niece, author Anthony (American studies, Occidental Coll.), readers will appreciate amusing and emotional anecdotes while also gaining a strong sense of what New Orleans was like in those 20th-century decades for Creoles and others of African heritage. The photographs are beautiful and well reproduced, providing a seeming glimpse into the souls of Collins’s subjects and freezing them in the moment. Many of Collins’s clients would save up to get their picture taken, often for an important milestone in their lives such as school graduation, first communion, and weddings. Anthony’s text describes the background of Creole culture in New Orleans and offers known specifics about those whose portraits are included.
Verdict Recommended for all collections on Creole or New Orleans history, African American studies, or American regional portrait photography.—Sonnet Ireland, Univ. of New Orleans Lib.

starred review starBane, Rosanne. Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science To Solve Writer’s Resistance. Tarcher: Penguin Group (USA). 2012. c.303p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781585428717. pap. $15.95. COMM
For stymied writers of all stripes, most books that aim to guide them through the challenges they face in productively getting words on paper are ineffective. Blocked writers do not need to learn how to write; they need—and want—to understand why they seem unable to undertake productively the very thing they want most to do. If they understand what is behind their regular procrastination, the perfectionism that halts them, the judgmental voice that stands in their way, they can then learn ways around these blocks, just as Bane’s title promises. The solution for blocked writers lies chiefly, per the author, in understanding how our brains function and how our hard-wired behaviors and responses can take charge. In the first section, “Overview,” Bane explains unpretentiously how elements of our brain, such as the limbic system and the cortex, can do battle in ways that impede our writing progress. Her next section, “Three Habits,” outlines solutions that are modest yet will steer writers toward fruition: “process time,” “product time,” and “self-care,” only one of which may appear to relate to writing. Yet all in fact do. Her last section discusses “Putting the Habits into Practice” and further discusses how we may counter resistance.
Verdict Very highly recommended to all struggling writers for its concrete, friendly, and profoundly useful approach.—Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal

Bown, Stephen. The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen. Da Capo. 2012. c.368p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780306820670. $26. SCI
Bown (Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600—1900) presents a great new biography of Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen (1872–1928), one of the most famous explorers of the Heroic Age of Exploration. Amundsen beat Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole, led the first expedition to reach the North Pole, took the first ship through the Northwest Passage, led the first expedition to traverse the North Pole (Spitzbergen to Alaska) in an airship, and was the first to try to reach the North Pole by airplane. This biography draws mostly from Amundsen’s books about his expeditions as well as his diaries.
Verdict Well written and enjoyable, the book uses ample quotes from Amundsen to give readers a sense of the man. However, Bown adds nothing new to the information already in print. A great title for collections that don’t own Amundsen’s own books or previous biographies, this volume is recommended for readers high school–age and up who are interested in polar exploration.—Betty Galbraith, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman

Duggan, William. Creative Strategy: A Guide for Innovation. Columbia Univ. 2012. 192p. bibliog. ISBN 9780231160520. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780231531467. BUS
Duggan (Columbia Business Sch.; Strategic Intuition) begins with an outline of his creative strategy: to appraise your problem rapidly; look for ways other companies and industries have solved parts of your problem (he calls this the “what-works scan”); and combine those effective methods in new ways. It’s a refreshingly simple methodology, easy to understand, and doesn’t require the complex diagrams that are present in so many strategy how-tos. In the second half of the book, Duggan provides his critique of other popular methods for innovation including brainstorming, design thinking, etc. This makes the book useful for those implementing his method, as well as those adapting his practices into their current workplace. He refers to best sellers from past years, listed in a narrative sources section, in addition to a comprehensive bibliography.
Verdict This is not an edge-of-your-seat read, but Duggan makes a clear case for his method of creating innovation.—Sarah Statz Cords, Reader’s Advisor Online, Middleton, WI

Godin, Seth. The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? Portfolio Pr. Jan. 2013. 239p. ISBN 9781591846079. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101612309. BUS
Marketing guru and best-selling author Godin first announced this book as a Kickstarter project. Promising backers a variety of “bonuses” for pledging their support, he easily (and quickly) reached his goal. Sadly, the book itself is not as successful as Godin’s publishing experiment; it reads like a collection of blog entries (his blog at sethgodin.typepad.com is massively popular) on the theme of “creating art” in a job market with increasing demands on making connections as well as working outside of your comfort zone. Perhaps the disjointedness of the narrative is part of Godin’s point: “the opposite of coherent is interesting.” Above all, Godin urges his readers not to fall prey to the Icarus deception by remembering the risk Icarus took when he flew too close to the sun, while forgetting that flying too low was just as dangerous. Godin attempts to soar, exhorting people to create art, then to create better art, and be inspired by other artists. Unfortunately, this loose collection of thoughts doesn’t quite get off the ground.
Verdict Godin has written more readable books, but his fans will love this, regardless.—Sarah Statz Cords, Reader’s Advisor Online, Middleton, WI

Gunsalus, C.K. The Young Professional’s Survival Guide: From Cab Fares to Moral Snares. Harvard Univ. 2012. 221p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780674049444. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780674070769. BUS
Gunsalus (The College Administrator’s Survival Guide) has written the essential manual for people starting their careers by providing authentic examples of ethical dilemmas, responses to possible dilemmas, and potential outcomes gathered from the author’s experience in teaching ethics, serving on research review boards, and as an associate provost. Gunsalus’s decision-making framework presents key tools for discerning issues of ethics, divided loyalties, or conflicts of interest before making a decision. Equally important is the step-by-step guide for establishing ethical behavior patterns within the workplace and the principles for handling disputes.
Verdict Gunsalus’s manual offers far more than advice; the conversational tone will appeal to the new professional, summer intern, or recent college graduate.—Jane Scott, George Fox Univ. Lib., Newberg, OR

The James T. Bialac Native American Art Collection: Selected Works. Univ. of Oklahoma. 2012. 240p. ed. by Mark Andrew White. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780806142999. $49.95; pap. ISBN 9780806143040. $29.95. FINE ARTS
Produced to celebrate an enormous gift of contemporary Native American artworks, this catalog from the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Museum is oriented toward the paintings and drawings of the tribes of the Southwestern United States. It also includes a large grouping of kachina dolls and sculpture, as well as representative works from other areas of North America. Together they represent a collection of art rather than an assemblage of historical artifacts. The collector, James Bialac, bought many of the works from the living artists. Six chapters discuss Bialac himself, the general history of contemporary Native American arts, and the range of this collection. Beautifully printed full-color images are integrated throughout the text. The book’s introduction is aimed at readers who have a strong interest in Native American art but don’t want an in-depth analysis of any one particular segment of the collection.
Verdict This catalog will appeal both to both art history professionals and readers who have a desire to explore the broad diversity of contemporary Native American art.—David McClelland, Philadelphia

Kirkpatrick, Melanie. Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad. Encounter. 2012. 350p. notes. index. ISBN 9781594036330. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781594036460. SOC SCI
Kirkpatrick (former editorial page deputy editor, Wall Street Journal) extensively interviewed North Koreans who left their families and risked forbidden travel in order to escape the world’s last Stalinist dictatorship. Although the comparison is sometimes strained, Kirkpatrick quotes pre–Civil War American slave letters and abolitionist speeches to equate them with present-day brave North Koreans. The Korean “underground railway” runs from North Korea through North China, and many of the “conductors” are Chinese or Korean Christians. Some of the escapees died on the way, some made their way to freedom, and some were taken into virtual slavery as prostitutes or sold as wives. Though she does supplement the interviews with other sources, Kirkpatrick offers little historical background, nor is the story, as the title claims, “untold,” as it has been related, though in less detail, in, for instance, Barbara Demick’s Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (2009).
Verdict Recommended for readers who prefer the personal approach rather than abstract or policy analysis of North Korea.—Charles Hayford, Evanston, IL

Mackey, John & Raj Sisodia. Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. Harvard Business Sch. Jan. 2013. 320p. index. ISBN 9781422144206. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781422144220. ECON
Mackey (co-CEO, Whole Foods) and Sisodia (Firms of Endearment) call for a return to the roots of free-enterprise capitalism. Their premise is that capitalism has gone badly off the rails. Conventional wisdom states that the sole purpose of business should be to create profit for its shareholders. The authors assert that this is a myth and call for the practice of conscious capitalism, where companies operate on the following tenets: upholding a higher purpose; integration of all stakeholder groups; conscious leadership; and conscious culture and management. Mackey and Sisodia decry the rise of crony capitalism, where big business and government collude to enrich a few. This book clarifies the difference between conscious capitalism and corporate social responsibility, which usually consists of adding social or environmental initiatives to a profit-driven business model. They provide examples of how successful businesses practice conscious capitalism as well as provide an outline of steps for improving business performance.
Verdict A timely explanation of what is wrong with capitalism and how it can be made right. Recommended for business owners, employees, customers, and investors.—Rachel Owens, Daytona State Coll. Lib., FL

Russo, Richard. Elsewhere: A Memoir. Knopf. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780307959539. $25.95. LIT
This memoir focuses on Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Russo’s (Empire Falls) life as the only child of an emotionally ill mother. Single after a brief marriage to his father, Jean worked at General Electric in Schenectady, NY, not far from the Gloversville flat she rented in her parents’ house, despite her pride in being independent. Prone to emotional outbursts followed by calm periods, Russo’s mother thought happiness would be available if she could just be elsewhere. Finally, she quit her job to move to Arizona with Russo when he goes there to college; it was then that Russo acknowledged her illness. Even after he married, had children, and had established a career, his mother’s demands continued to shape the family dynamics.
Verdict Without sentimentality, Russo succeeds in writing a poignant and humorous account of coping with his beautiful, charming, yet destructive mother. Recommended for readers interested in Russo’s life and his upstate New York roots, as well as anyone with a mentally ill loved one.—Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo

The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China. Yale Univ. 2012. 376p. ed. by James C. Lin. photogs. maps. index. ISBN 9780300184341. $75. ARCHAEOL
The Han dynasty, which controlled China between 200 BCE and 200 CE, represented a high point in cultural achievement, exemplified by the extraordinary art objects created for its royal tombs. Here Lin (applied arts, Fitzwilliam Museum, Univ. of Cambridge) brings together, for the first time in the West, the rich archaeological collections from the Xuzhou Museum and the Museum of the King of Nanyue, in Guangzhou. The book brings together recent scholarship with contributing expert essays on Han culture and religious beliefs. Over 360 photographs illustrate the exceptional artistry of jade carvings, earthenware figurines, and intricate bronze vessels that served to demonstrate the power and wealth of the tombs’ occupants, providing also for their comforts and entertainment in the afterlife. Each catalog item is fully annotated with extensive notes on use, related artifacts, and relevant archaeological research. Tomb diagrams and a glossary are included.
Verdict While the National Gallery of Art’s Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology is broader in geographical and period scope, that volume was published in 1999. This volume will excite both scholars and general readers with an interest in the antiquities and culture of China.—Nancy B. Turner, Syracuse Univ. Lib., NY

Sulick, Michael J. Spying in America: Espionage from the Revolutionary War to the Dawn of the Cold War. Georgetown Univ. 2012. 320p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781589019263. $26.95. HIST
Recognizing a gap in the subject literature, Sulick, a 28-year veteran of the CIA, including years overseeing its clandestine and counterintelligence departments, has written an informative collection of case studies, rather than a narrative history, reviewing some of the most important espionage activities against the United States and within its borders. He highlights the tradecraft of the spies, their access to secret information, American bureaucratic turf wars, and (in many cases very belated) counterespionage efforts. He assesses in each case what damage was done to the country. What is most interesting are the motivations of citizens to betray their own country in contrast to those sent here to spy on us. This work is well documented with a wide variety of open source books, articles, government publications, and online reports. A minor quibble is that a chronology would have been helpful. The book covers espionage from the Revolution through the Cold War, with limited coverage of recent years. The author certainly knows the subject inside and out.
Verdict While the experts know all about these cases, this is an easy-to-read introduction for interested laypersons or those taking beginning courses on the history of intelligence operations.—Daniel Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL

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"