Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, May 10, 2013

Week ending May 10, 2013

starred review starDavis, Clive & Anthony Decurtis. The Soundtrack of My Life. S. & S. 2013. 586p. index. photogs. ISBN 9781476714783. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781476714806. MUSIC
In more than 50 years in the music business, Davis has discovered such artists as Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, and Barry Manilow. Born into a working-class family in Brooklyn, he won scholarships to New York University and Harvard Law School and eventually landed a job as legal counsel for Columbia Records. He was handed the presidency of the company by chance, and it was then he learned he had “ears”: the ability to spot talent and create hit records. The first artist Davis signed was Scottish folk singer Donovan in 1966, but he established himself with Janis Joplin, whom he signed after being blown away by her performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. From there, he went on to work with everyone from Billy Joel to Luther Vandross to the Grateful Dead and had successes on his own with Arista Records and then J Records, which he founded in 2000. Of course, his relationship with Whiney Houston (1963–2012) is well known, and he devotes a chapter to her that begins, “Without question this it the most difficult chapter for me to write.” At 81, Davis is still going strong and working on a Broadway musical.
Verdict An important addition to the literature of American music and an essential title for anyone who enjoys insider stories about famous musicians. [The S. & S. audiobook also received a starred review, LJ 5/1/13.—Ed.]—Rosellen Brewer, Sno-Isle Libs., Marysville, WA

starred review starHouston, Cissy with Lisa Dickey. Remembering Whitney: My Story of Love, Loss, and the Night the Music Stopped. Harper: HarperCollins. 2013. 320p. photogs. discog. index. ISBN 9780062238399. $27.99. MUSIC
Whitney Houston may have belonged to the world, but “Nippy” belonged to her mother. Grammy Award–winning gospel singer Houston, with coauthor Dickey (Happy Accidents), writes of the joy of discovering and nurturing her daughter’s talents and the sorrow and anger accompanying her premature death. Starting with her own fascinating career, Houston discusses how she revolutionized the background singing industry working with Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, and others. Her life changed with Nippy’s birth, and when 12-year-old Whitney decided she wants to sing professionally, Houston helped guide her daughter’s career, which included modeling and acting. Houston talks about her efforts to warn her daughter of the dangers of the music industry and to keep her grounded, especially in faith, but this fiercely protective mother could only do so much. Whitney’s career is celebrated, and her close relationship with her family is on display, both in text and in accompanying photos.
Verdict Whitney Houston was a megastar and fans will appreciate this honest, dignified, yet emotional account of her life from her mother. Those looking for lurid details, especially about Whitney’s relationship with ex-husband Bobby Brown, will be disappointed by her mother’s high-road approach. With photos, an index, and a discography for mother and daughter, this book is highly recommended.—Terry Bosky, Madison, WI

Knox, Amanda. Waiting To Be Heard. HarperCollins. 2013. 480p. ISBN 9780062217202. $28.99; pap. ISBN 9780062223265. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062217226. MEMOIR
Knox’s memoir will doubtlessly be gobbled up by those who have followed her imprisonment and trial in Italy. For those who are unfamiliar with the case, her story as she tells it is harrowing: a junior year abroad gone horribly wrong as Knox’s British roommate Meredith Kercher was found murdered and Knox and her Italian boyfriend pinned as the killers. Certain passages and turns of phrase (her repeated insistence that she is “quirky,” for example) seem strange until it becomes clear that she is responding to tabloid allegations. It’s hard to imagine Knox’s story will change anyone’s mind: those who believe her to be innocent will continue to do so; those who believe her to be guilty will see this book as a lie. Those who have no opinion as to her guilt or innocence will find that, despite its doorstopper proportions, Knox’s memoir is a very fast read.
Verdict Obviously, this book will circulate. If nothing else, people who think she’s guilty will want to hate-read this without generating royalties. Readers of The Monster of Florence will note that prosecutor Guiliano Mignini also appears in the Knox case.—Kate Sheehan, Waterbury, CT

Lliteras, D.S. Flames and Smoke Visible: A Fire Fighter’s Tale. Rainbow Ridge. 2013. 208p. ISBN 9781937907099. pap. $17.95. MEMOIR
If you’re looking for a tiny window into the life of a firefighter, look no further then novelist and former fireman Lliteras’s (The Master of Secrets) latest book. While working on the job, Lliteras suffers a life-altering injury and is sent to the hospital where he shares a room with someone who can’t form new memories. While there, Lliteras thinks back on his most memorable moments on the job and about why he truly loves being a firefighter. His style is simple, yet technical; he relies on firefighting vocabulary but without much explanation of what, precisely, it means. Still, readers will come to appreciate the rituals of firefighting.
Verdict A decent, quick read of one man’s reflection on being a firefighter, this book could have delved more deeply into Lliteras’s psyche, teasing out what really drove him into the profession, but this brief glimpse into both the mundane and exciting moments in a firefighter’s career is sobering. Recommended for those interested in firefighting and readers who enjoy career-focused memoirs.—Ryan Claringbole, Chesapeake P.L., VA

Montross, Christine. Falling into the Fire: A Psychiatrist’s Encounters with the Mind in Crisis. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2013. 256p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594203930. $25.95. PSYCH
Montross (psychiatry, Brown Univ.; Body of Work) here presents a concise analysis of present-day practices in psychiatry based on encounters with patients whose stories provoked deeper exploration of psychiatry’s current definitions of what it means to “help” and/or “harm.” Her admission to having “more faith in medicine before becoming a doctor” suggests a lens of thinking that stretches beyond training to reveal a trustworthy experience. Montross juxtaposes current case studies with historic examples to discuss questions such as why do some people rise with fortitude to meet change and why do others pull back. Her poetic insights into how tragedies may be understood stir empathy, as Montross delves into the details of the history of her patients, some who inexplicably land in the hospital repeatedly for swallowing lightbulbs. This beautifully written book doesn’t offer answers but rather encourages compassion.
Verdict Recommended for readers interested in current practices in psychiatry and stories intersecting research and personal memoir.—Nadine Dalton Speidel, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Inside the Baseball Hall of Fame. S. & S. 2013. 224p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781451676716. $35. SPORTS
This handsomely illustrated book presents both objects rarely on exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and some of the hall’s most famous pieces. The informative text pairs well with the images, although the book moves from topic to topic seemingly haphazardly, neither chronologically nor thematically. Included are ephemera and artifacts ranging from an 1854 Eagle Base Ball Club Rule Book (one of the last pieces in the book) to St. Louis Cardinal David Freese’s torn 2011 World Series jersey. Items such as the Freese jersey may puzzle when considered here against the jersey Hank Aaron wore hitting his 715th home run, or 1919 documents related to the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees, but they are probably mixed in to show the hall’s holdings up to the present and attract younger readers.
Verdict The book easily fulfills its purpose—to give us a glimpse into the hall’s collections and into the history of the game it enshrines. The index, simply of personal names, would have been more helpful had it included team names and topical subjects. Light on historical insight, this book is about the images, most of which are fascinating. This volume is especially for newer baseball fans and general readers who enjoy learning through objects. With a foreword by Brooks Robinson.—Derek Sanderson, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY

Outside the Wire: American Soldiers’ Voices from Afghanistan. Univ. of Virginia. 2013. 176p. ed. by Christine Dumaine Leche. photogs. ISBN 9780813934112. $23.95; ebk. ISBN 9780813934129. MEMOIR
While working with students at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, creative writing instructor Leche (English & creative writing, Austin Community Coll., TX) gathered this collection of their short nonfiction. In the introduction, Leche says that the stories feature “both combat pieces and childhood reflections and memories, because life in a war zone is punctuated almost equally by feelings of intense fear and nostalgic memories from the past…or present. The organization of the writings in this collection imitates the leaps the soldier’s mind makes across continents and decades.” The 32 firsthand accounts discuss soldiers’ experiences of childhood, enlisting, battle, and family as their lives are shaped by the wars they’ve fought abroad. Leche’s course was meant to provide a kind of therapeutic relief to her students, and the intensity of these stories reflects that intent.
Verdict These essays provide tiny glimpses into the psyche of war and its effects on the young men and women who fight. Those who prefer sound bite–length stories to in-depth investigation will enjoy this quick read.—Martha Bauder, Chandler, AZ

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"