Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, April 26, 2013

Week ending April 26, 2013

Bly, Robert & Tomas Tranströmer. Airmail: The Letters of Robert Bly and Tomas Tranströmer. Graywolf. Apr. 2013. 476p. ed. by Thomas R. Smith. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781555976392. $35. LIT
In 1964, distinguished American poet Bly (Talking into the Ear of a Donkey) drove from his farm in rural Minnesota to the university library to obtain a copy of Swedish poet and Nobel Laureate Tranströmer’s latest book. When Bly returned home, a letter from the young writer was waiting for him. Thus began an enlightening correspondence that lasted more than two decades, until 1990 when Tranströmer suffered a stroke. In addition to their shared political and poetic ideas, the men showed a keen interest in translating each other’s work. Their enduring friendship is at times most reflected in their back-and-forth humor. The Swedish edition was originally published in 2001; however, a resurgence of interest in the poets’ relationship has been spurred by this first English edition.
Verdict This collection will be of interest not only to readers of Bly and Tranströmer but of particular value to those who enjoy the history and politics of the Sixties and those drawn to the process of translation.—Audrey Snowden, Orrington P.L., ME

Feingold, Susan Benjamin. Happy Endings, New Beginnings: Navigating Postpartum Disorders. New Horizon. 2013. 220p. notes. ISBN 9780882824024. pap. $14.95. MED
Published studies report that postpartum depression (PPD) affects between five to 25 percent of all mothers. Feingold—a clinical psychologist specializing in antepartum and postpartum depression as well as a former PPD sufferer—offers a message of hope and encouragement for these women. In addition to discussing medication, psychotherapy, and support groups, Feingold presents a broad range of practical suggestions for healing related to diet, exercise, relationships, humor, finding hope and inspiration, and much more. She also discusses extensively the role of spirituality in healing. She defines spirituality broadly to include organized religion as well as meditation, creative pursuits, and more, citing studies to support her claims without sounding preachy. Short case studies, some in patients’ own words, add interest and illustrate the principles discussed. Throughout the book, Feingold portrays PPD as a life-changing event and opportunity for personal growth and transformation.
Verdict Much of the book seems aimed at women who are middle class and above, and in several places the author seems to assume that her readers have spouses/partners. Nevertheless, most readers will find Feingold’s message both hopeful and empowering. Highly recommended for any woman struggling with PPD.—Janet Crum, City of Hope Lib., Duarte, CA

starred review starHarrington, Joel F. The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century. Farrar. 2013. 352p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780809049929. $27. HIST
Meister Frantz Schmidt of Nuremburg served as public executioner there from 1573 to 1618, when he retired. Over the course of those 45 years, he kept a journal, chronicling, in rather blunt seemingly nonchalant terms, the exercise of his responsibilities. The journal, both in its original German and in English translation, has been available in published form for scores of years. Though it has been considered a valuable primary source for the history of penal justice, its apparent lack of moral or internal reflection had not seemed to lend it well to social history—until now. Harrington (history, Vanderbilt Univ.; The Unwanted Child) seeks insights into Schmidt the man through his journal, while also using its narrative as a platform for his investigation into human nature and social progress. In his writings, Schmidt relates his 361 executions, along with his other avocations—he was also a healer—his yearning for social status, revealed in another document he wrote late in life, and his faith. Harrington’s work is impressive and accessibly conveyed, with period illustrations for further—and sometimes unsettling—context.
Verdict A fine example of social history that seeks the fuller and more complex story of some darker sides of human nature; a weighty, reflective, and rewarding read. Highly recommended.—Paul Roberts, Oklahoma Baptist Univ. Lib., Shawnee

Hutchinson, Susan. The Woman’s Guide to Managing Migraine: Understanding the Hormone Connection To Find Hope and Wellness. Oxford Univ. 2013. 240p. index. ISBN 9780199744800. pap. $19.95. HEALTH
The vast majority of migraine suffers are women, many whose estrogen level fluctuations are related to their headaches. Hutchinson (family medicine, Univ. of California, Irvine) has written a very thorough, eminently readable guide that tracks the case histories of seven women as they navigate diagnoses and treatment options. Although Paul Rizzoli, Elizabeth Loder, and Liz Neporent’s 2012 The Migraine Solution: A Complete Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment, and Pain Management covers many of the same topics, this book focuses on the roles that hormones play in the development of menstrual migraines, many of which interfere with quality of life. Hutchinson emphasizes the roles of oral contraceptives, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and the use of anti-epileptics, anti-hypertensives, and antidepressants in migraine prevention. There is a brief chapter about nonpharmacological treatment, including herbals and psychological interventions. Chapters close with references, almost all of which are from the professional literature, but medical and scientific information is integrated seamlessly, for the most part, into the text.
Verdict This well-written book by an expert in the field (who is herself a headache sufferer) is sure to be a popular purchase for any public library or consumer health collection.—Martha Stone, Treadwell Lib., Boston

O’Connor, Sandra Day. Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court. Random. 2013. 256p. photogs. notes. index. ISBN 9780812993929. $26. LAW
Former Supreme Court justice O’Connor has written a lively history of the court, its origins, its relationship to the other branches of government, and its difficult road to prominence in the United States. The opening chapters talk about the U.S. Constitution and its provision for a judiciary, with few details as to its structure. O’Connor’s stories of the earliest days of the Supreme Court and the difficulties of circuit-riding, along with the court’s lack of a permanent home, show how tenuous the nation’s early years really were. Subsequent chapters talk about how the modern Supreme Court was shaped by past law and practice. O’Connor also gives an insider’s view of the court’s ceremonies, such as the investiture for new justices, and the way that cases are decided. Her stories about former colleagues add extra appeal and humor.
Verdict This book is written for the layperson. Readers looking for an introduction to the workings of the court that is interesting and easy to understand but not condescending will enjoy this book.—Becky Kennedy, Atlanta-Fulton P.L.

starred review starRadford, Alexandria Walton. Top Student, Top School? How Social Class Shapes Where Valedictorians Go to College. Univ. of Chicago. Jun. 2013. 272p. bibliog. ISBN 9780226040950. $85; ISBN 9780226041001. pap. $27.50. ED
Radford (MPR Associates; coauthor, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life) investigates the impact of social class on college enrollment patterns based on research from the 2007 High School Valedictorian Project (HSVP) survey administered to approximately 900 American public high school valedictorians from 2003 to 2006; the results were augmented by 55 in-depth interviews that examined predisposition, preparation, exploration, application, matriculation, and college purpose. According to Radford, the HSVP data suggests “social class emerged as the most consistent factor shaping” college choice, more than gender or race. Seventy-four percent of valedictorians with high socioeconomic status chose a selective private or public college, compared to 47 percent among the middle class and 43 percent among the lower class. Some interviews reveal poor guidance and incomplete information given to students on the net cost of college attendance. Radford’s analysis delves into the phenomenon of what she calls “undermatching”—when students choose to attend a less-selective college despite having the aptitude to succeed at an institution that is more selective.
Verdict Highly recommended for guidance, admissions, and honors curriculum personnel and educators interested in social class barriers.—Elizabeth Connor, Daniel Lib. at The Citadel, Military Coll. of South Carolina

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"