Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, March 29, 2013

Week ending March 29, 2013

Bolton, Michael. The Soul of It All: My Music, My Life. Center Street. 2013. 352p. index. photogs. ISBN 9781455523658. $24.99. MUSIC
Pop singer and songwriter Bolton, who shot to the top of the charts in the late 1980s and 1990s, tells his story in this engagingly written and entertaining memoir. Bolton’s youth in Connecticut in the late 1960s and 1970s was spent living a hippie lifestyle, gigging with bands in clubs, eventually landing a few unsuccessful record deals before he finally achieved songwriting and singing success, a smash music video, Top 40 hits, and eight Grammy Awards. Bolton writes about the process of songwriting collaboration and working with artists as diverse as Cher, Luciano Pavarotti, and Bob Dylan, as well as touches upon his family and romantic relationships, a long-lasting and finally resolved copyright lawsuit brought by the Isley Brothers, and his extensive charitable work. Throughout the book, Bolton’s obvious passion for his art, devotion to singing and performing, and desire to give back comes across in his laid-back prose and winsome, conversational tone.
Verdict Fans of the singer will find the memoir a revealing look at Bolton’s life and career. Recommended.—James Collins, Morristown-Morris Twp. P.L., NJ

Drash, Wayne B. On These Courts: A Miracle Season That Changed a City, a Once-Future Star, and a Team Forever. Touchstone: S. & S. May 2013. 288p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781476710211. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781476710259. SPORTS
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was a Parade Magazine National High School Player of the Year in 1990 and Memphis State University All American who in just his second NBA season helped lead the Orlando Magic as far as the finals. After three more seasons as an All Star, injuries struck, and a few years later a diminished Hardaway retired in 2008. He had risen from the meanest streets of Memphis to stardom and wealth, but he left basketball without a championship. Drash (senior producer & staff writer, CNN.com) tells of Hardaway’s return to those Memphis streets to help coach a middle school team in its own quest for a state title. Along the way, Hardaway did far more, giving much-needed fatherly love and helping instill discipline among his players, as incidents at school involving them dropped and grades rose. As a bonus, owing to the team’s unifying effect on the neighborhood, rival gangs even declared a rare truce. Particularly impressive is that Hardaway did all this without an accompanying PR blitz.
Verdict Recommended not just to NBA fans but to fans of uplifting sports stories and those who cling to the belief that social change really can be effected, even if only a little at a time.—Jim Burns, Jacksonville P.L., FL

Jahanbegloo, Ramin. The Gandhian Moment. Harvard Univ. Mar. 2013. 208p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780674065956. $24.95. HIST
Jahanbegloo (Islamic studies, York Univ., Toronto) has written a tightly focused examination of Gandhi’s philosophy and politics, emphasizing his central reliance in advocating nonviolence to challenge injustice and tyranny. Motivated by the need to end colonial rule in India, Gandhi drew on Hindu thought to assert the primacy of moral duty over individual rights. Yet he rejected Hindu chauvinism and promoted pluralism and inclusion to reach out to other communities in India, especially Muslims. As well as carefully analyzing Gandhi’s shaping of separate principles into a coherent view, Jahanbegloo demonstrates the continuing impact of Gandhian thought outside India, particularly upon Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights leadership, Nelson Mandela’s successful challenge to apartheid, and the spread of nonviolent demonstrations against repressive regions throughout the Middle East during the Arab Spring. Perhaps surprising to American readers, Jahanbegloo highlights Muslim leaders in the Indian independence movement who integrated Gandhian nonviolence into Islamic thought, contrary to recent claims that Islam is inherently violent or terrorist.
Verdict This complex and serious analysis will interest readers willing to think rigorously about political philosophy and options for change in today’s world.—Elizabeth Hayford, formerly with Associated Coll. of the Midwest, Chicago

Lane, Maggie. Understanding Austen: Key Concepts in the Six Novels. Robert Hale. 2012. 208p. bibliog. ISBN 9780709090786. $24.95. LIT
“Good company requires only birth, education, and manners, and with regard to education is not very nice,” Mr. William Elliot says to Anne Elliot in Austen’s novel Persuasion. Today’s reader may not know that the word nice in 1816 was read to mean “exacting” and as a result may be confused by William’s statement. Enter Lane (Jane Austen’s Family) to set forth an explanation of the meaning and values of the abstract nouns used by Austen in her six novels represented here. In 17 chapters, Lane discusses some 30 concepts—abstract nouns—including genius, wit and taste, delicacy, gentility, mind, propriety, and decorum, suggesting that their selection reveals insight into Austen’s personal convictions that feed her characters and plotlines. Lane’s analysis focuses on particular words taken from Austen’s six completed novels, defines their etymology, and discusses how her characters reflect the concepts. While the book is not an authority for deeper understanding, it will serve as a valuable reference for Austen readers less familiar with the author’s lexicon.
Verdict Austen enthusiasts and general readers will value this title.—Kathryn Bartelt, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN

Marshall, Howard Wight. Play Me Something Quick and Devilish: Old-Time Fiddlers in Missouri. Univ. of Missouri. 2013. 400p. discog. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780826219947. $29.95 with CD. MUSIC
This monumental 400-page look at the history of fiddlers and fiddling in Missouri spans old-time, bluegrass, African American, French, Spanish, and American Indian influences. Arranged chronologically, this history takes readers from the Old French District around St. Louis in the 1700s to the dawn of ragtime with Scott Joplin and includes 21st-century fiddlers along the way. Marshall defines styles (old-time, North Missouri, Ozark, jigbone, bluegrass, Little Dixie, and more) and includes a wealth of history on cultural (not just musical) traditions, e.g., Lewis and Clark, prairie life, amusements during slavery, and German American waltzes. Marshall looks at all aspects of fiddling, including the role played by Charles Ingalls, father of Little House on the Prairie’s Laura Ingalls Wilder, while they lived in Missouri. A wide variety of black-and-white photos, posters for performances, maps, and sheet music are included.
Verdict Indispensable for studies in American music, this book includes a thorough bibliography with hundreds of interviews, notes, books cited, and an index. A very impressive effort. Includes a CD of 39 fiddle tunes.—Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA

Norman Bel Geddes Designs America. Abrams. 2012. 399p. ed. by Donald Albrecht. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781419702990. $65. GRAPHIC ARTS
Norman Bel Geddes (1893–1958) was a visionary designer active in many fields. Edited by Albrecht (curator, architecture & design, Museum of the City of New York; Cecil Beaton: The New York Years), this first book about his life and career was published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Here, 17 well-illustrated, scholarly essays touch on different aspects of Bel Geddes’s work. Bel Geddes was largely self-taught, and his talent led to early success in theatrical design, then to a pioneering role as a product design consultant. He was also involved in architecture, graphic design, magazine art direction, market research, scriptwriting, and urban planning. Bel Geddes was a high-profile advocate of plain geometric style as the best look for an oncoming technological future. His designs could be derivative or impractical, but highly innovative concepts like the “Futurama” show at the 1939–40 New York World’s Fair caught the public’s imagination.
Verdict This valuable volume highlights Bel Geddes’s influence during the 20th century. Readers with an interest in design and designers should enjoy it.—David Conn, formerly with Surrey Libs., BC

starred review starRobinson, Jackie. Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life After Baseball. Syracuse Univ. Apr. 2013. 248p. ed. by Michael G. Long. notes. index. ISBN 9780815610014. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780815652182. HIST/SPORTS
Drawing almost entirely from the legendary ballplayer’s columns in the New York Post and New York Amsterdam News that spanned the volatile years from 1959 to 1968, Long (musicology, SUNY at Buffalo) offers a terrific, even invaluable collection. Those syndicated columns, and a sprinkling of earlier pieces, offer the ex–Brooklyn Dodger great’s often astute reflections on a broad range of issues pertaining to civil rights, foreign affairs, and, of course, baseball. Robinson expressed great affection for the man who signed him to his first major league contract, Branch Rickey; disputed Bill Veeck’s assertion that the sport’s first black major leaguer in the 20th century would have to rein himself in to serve as a coach or a manager; and lauded “the kind of courage” displayed by teammate Pee Wee Reese amid racial epithets. Robinson referred to his wife, Rachel, as an equal partner, deemed Martin Luther King Jr. the greatest leader of the century, and extolled nonviolent activists, while admitting that he would be unable to turn his cheek if threatened with violence. Movingly, Robinson insisted that even well-known, comfortable African Americans should never be altogether comfortable “until the most underprivileged Negro enjoys his rights as a free man.”
Verdict Highly recommended.—Robert C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico

Rome, Adam. The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-in Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation. Hill & Wang: Farrar. Apr. 2013. 272p. notes. index. ISBN 9780809040506. $27. SOC SCI
Earth Day on April 22, 1970, had its roots as a teach-in proposed by Wisconsin’s U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. It was brought to life by energized young people, politicians, and academics across America. It spread nationally by a news media that understood the environmental movement was worth paying attention to. Rome (environmental history & environmental nonfiction, Univ. of Delaware; The Bulldozer in the Countryside), whose previous book won both the Frederick Jackson Turner Award and the Lewis Mumford Prize, has written the first comprehensive history of Earth Day and its influence, arguing that those first events sparked the modern environmental movement, bringing together disparate groups into a single, empowered one. Detailing the “educational experience as well as…political demonstration” that was that first Earth Day, Rome painstakingly dissects the subsequent movement and how it changed America. He makes use of prodigious primary source research and his own interviews.
Verdict Those studying the history of the environmental movement or of the Vietnam and post–Vietnam era in America generally, as well as environmentalists themselves, will enjoy this very readable presentation about how the modern environmental movement was energized. Recommended.—Jaime Corris Hammond, Naugatuck Valley Community Coll. Lib., Waterbury, CT

Root, Andrew. The Relational Pastor: Sharing in Christ by Sharing Ourselves. IVP. Apr. 2013. 256p. notes. ISBN 9780830841028. pap. $18. REL
Root (youth & family ministry, Luther Seminary, St. Paul; The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry) examines the modern concept of relational pastoral ministry and tackles the problem of seeking relationships to convince or change people. Using modern brain science and relationship theory as well as the Christian understanding of incarnation, Root articulates a ministry of building a true relationship rather than attempting to sell a changed life by joining in a pseudorelationship. He interweaves real-life stories of ministry with modern relationship theory and illustrations from TV and the movies to formulate a down-to-earth, people-based book. Following theoretical and theological overviews, he focuses on prayer, preaching, and leadership as key tools to build a “place” in which authentic sharing and relationship can root and grow. It is the means of spreading his belief that the church should be a safe place for people to share and experience true relationship in the midst of our superficial world.
Verdict Pastors in local churches will appreciate this practical volume, as will interested Christian congregants and theology students.—Ray Arnett, Fremont Area Dist. Lib., MI

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"