Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, May 24, 2013

Week ending May 24, 2013

Balding, Clare. My Animals and Other Family. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781594205620. $26.95. MEMOIR
British broadcaster Balding (The Ration Book Olympics: When London Hosted the Austerity Games) grew up in a family where animals earned more respect and were better understood than its human members. This did not make Balding’s childhood unhappy, but it did make it different. Her father was a racehorse trainer, and she grew up in the English countryside of the 1960s surrounded by champion steeds and a constant procession of dogs. Her life completely revolved around horses and the people who helped care for and train them. The book chronicles her experiences as a child and adolescent, with each chapter named for a horse that was paramount in her life at that point. Balding’s social awkwardness as a child is endearing; many readers may identify with the ten-year-old who desperately wants to make friends but who always seems to say the wrong thing. She has no trouble interacting with a horse or dog, but dealing with her peers is a different matter.
Verdict This memoir will be of interest to readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories, and it provides a glimpse into the British world of horse racing. Balding’s story of growing up in an unusual environment and trying to fit in with the rest of the world will resonate with many readers.—Deborah Emerson, Central New York Lib. Resources Council, Syracuse

Moore, Charles. Margaret Thatcher; The Authorized Biography; From Grantham to the Falklands. Knopf. May 2013. 912p. photogs. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307958945. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780307958952. BIOG
Thatcher’s official biographer, Moore (columnist, Daily Telegraph) divides this first volume of his two-volume biography into three parts: “The Approach, 1925–1959,” “Parliament, 1959–1979,” and “Power, 1979–1982.” While much of Thatcher’s life is already known, Moore goes deeper and reveals new details. For example, he had access to over 150 letters from Margaret Roberts (before she met and married Denis Thatcher) to her sister, Muriel, relating a young woman’s obsession with appearance and discussing several beaus. Married in late 1951, mother of twins in 1953, and called to the bar in 1954, Thatcher was elected Conservative MP in 1959. Moore describes a nervous breakdown by Denis Thatcher in 1964, when he may have considered divorce. Always the ambitious, determined woman in a man’s world, Thatcher emerges here as lacking emotional intelligence, a failing for which she paid a price. Moore writes fluidly, with relative objectivity (he is known as a conservative journalist), and incorporates a large number of quotations. Thatcher did not see what he wrote; the book’s publication followed her death.
Verdict This book is competing in Britain with Thatcher speechwriter and ghostwriter Robin Harris’s Not for Turning: The Life of Margaret Thatcher. A one-volume tribute/biography by a sympathetic insider, it will have U.S. publication in September. Moore’s first volume, providing insight into a leader both admired and controversial whose policies shaped late 20th-century Great Britain and beyond, will appeal to serious students of the Thatcher era.—Leslie Lewis, Duquesne Univ. Lib., Pittsburgh

Public Libraries and Resilient Cities. American Library Assn. 2013. 175p. ed. by Michael Dudley. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780838911365. pap. $65; ebk. ISBN 9780838996133. PRO MEDIA
Editor Dudley (urban planning librarian, Inst. of Urban Studies, Univ. of Winnipeg) brings together 14 original essays authored by 17 international scholars and librarians. Each piece explores roles that public libraries can play in urban planning, offering ideas from those who have been involved in public library planning in urban areas. Applicable to public libraries of any size, in any urban setting from large to small, from wealthy to poor, the pieces offer guidance on how to demonstrate your library’s ability to adapt to change, its capacity to educate, and its value to a city’s diversity. Whether looking at the small, local impact of public libraries on groups such as the homeless, or the effect of larger urban disasters such as hurricanes on a library’s functions, this book will provide case studies to help others demonstrate their library’s resiliency and value. The international coverage, including pieces from Zimbabwe, Canada, the United States, and Finland, presents not only a worldwide view of the services libraries provide to their communities but enables readers to gain ideas from those with differing approaches and use of resources, encouraging the possibility of thinking outside the box.
Verdict A useful resource for urban librarians involved with strategic planning.—Sara Marcus, Queensborough Community Coll. Lib., Bayside, NY

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"