Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, July 5, 2013

Week ending July 5, 2013

Carroll, Tim. The Dodger: The Extraordinary Story of Churchill’s Cousin, Two World Wars, and the Great Escape. Lyons: Globe Pequot. 2013. 336p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780762787760. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780762794195. BIOG
British author Carroll (The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III) focuses on the life of John “Johnny” Bigelow Dodge (1894–1960). Using interviews, letters, firsthand accounts, and contemporary sources, Carroll relates how American-born British army officer Dodge was captured and sent to a Luftwaffe POW camp (Dulag Luft) in 1940. Because he was related by marriage to Winston Churchill, he was treated as a VIP, enjoying walks and dinners with his captors as well as with permanent British staff there. Dodge’s recapture after each of several escape attempts led him to various POW camps and eventually to Stalag Luft III, from which he participated in the Great Escape. Again, he was recaptured along with other POWs. He was lucky to survive as many escapes and recaptures as he did without losing his life. Carroll offers fascinating details of the personalities of the various camp officials as well as the lives of the POWs. As the Reich collapsed into chaos, Dodge, again a prisoner, was sent to England to try to bring about a separate peace in May 1945 through his access to Churchill. Although Dodge’s World War II years are at the heart of the book, Carroll also relates Dodge’s earlier life, his World War I military career, and his years after World War II.
Verdict This is an easy-to-enjoy biography of a fearless optimist who led a charmed life in a dangerous world, as perhaps only the British elite could do. For World War II enthusiasts everywhere.—Daniel Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL

starred review starChödrön, Pema. How To Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind. Sounds True. 2013. 184p. ISBN 9781604079333. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781622030484. HEALTH
Chödrön (Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears) is an American Buddhist nun who has written many well-received books that introduce and explore the essential elements of Buddhist living. This new instructional title on meditation enters a publishing field that is crowded, but Chödrön’s credentials, reputation, writing and teaching skills, and supportive tone make this book rise above the rest. This is a practical, workbook-like text; its five sections detail how to work with technique, thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, and “opening your heart to include everything.” There are also occasional exercises including the steps to complete a body scan and use “sound as the object.” At all times Chödrön is careful not to overwhelm readers or make meditation feel like an Everest expedition, and she features her own practice as an example of challenges and successes.
Verdict Both confirmed Chödrön fans and newbies will gain much and find inspiration from this highly recommended, in-depth guide to meditation.—Elizabeth J. Eastwood, Los Alamos Cty. Lib. Syst., NM

Genovese, Peter. Pizza City: The Ultimate Guide to New York’s Favorite Food. Rutgers Univ. (Rivergate Regionals). 2013. 256p. index. ISBN 9780813558684. pap. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9780813558691. TRAV
Journalist Genovese (feature writer, The Star-Ledger; Jersey Diners) has written a comprehensive guide to pizza in the Big Apple. A brief history of pizza and pizzerias in New York City is followed by interviews with some of the city’s most interesting and, sometimes famous, names in pizza. There is even a section on pizza blogs! The bulk and most important part of the book is its reviews. With pizzerias arranged by borough and then alphabetically, New Yorkers can see how their favorite pizza joint stacks up and where to find a nearby slice. The reviews are honest, and not all are glowing. Factoids and interesting photos from many of the featured restaurants round out this volume.
Verdict A nonfussy, fun guide for New Yorkers and tourists alike who are looking for a good slice in the city. Recommended.—Sara Miller, Atlanta

Krause, Mariella & others. Pacific Northwest’s Best Trips: 33 Amazing Road Trips. Lonely Planet. (Best Trips). 2013. 352p. illus. index. ISBN 9781741798159. pap. $22.99. TRAV
With road trip season upon us, vacationers looking for a weekend drive in Washington, Oregon, or British Columbia will enjoy this book. Trips generally last one to three days (though a few are as long as a week), and most have options for extending the drive by linking trips. Despite the many options, the book is simple to navigate. A “Highlights” section helps drivers select trips based on preferences for sights or activities. In addition, each trip begins with a one-page overview. Like others in the series, this book focuses on general routes with a few key stops or sights. Cultural and historical descriptions are limited, and the entries on restaurants, hotels, and transit are short and not always reliable. Drivers will likely need to supplement this book with more in-depth guides and maps.
Verdict Readers intending to explore the Pacific Northwest by car (or armchair) could fill a few hours or an entire summer with this book, but it is not a replacement for traditional travel guides.—Audrey Barbakoff, Kitsap Regional Lib., Bainbridge Island, WA

Meyer, Scott. Hooch: Simplified Brewing, Winemaking, and Infusing at Home. Running Pr. 2013. 208p. ISBN 9780762446032. pap. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780762448296. BEVERAGES
Meyer, former editor in chief of Organic Gardening magazine and author of several books focusing on small-space gardening, once again addresses the “land-challenged” hobbyist interested in creating homemade beer, wine, and infused liquors. Hard-core enthusiasts will enjoy information on sanitation, fermentation, growing crops, and setting up a still, while novices will appreciate hints on buying fruits and juices. Meyer also tackles infused spirits, currently all the rage. Though infused alcohols and sangrias are usually made with artificial flavors, this title offers plenty of useful content to those eager to work with fresh ingredients—from melons and berries to peppers and herbs, the variety is endless. There’s even a homemade recipe for Limoncello.
Verdict A strong starting point for those attempting to brew beer or make wine. Bottoms up!—Jane Hebert, Glenside P.L. Dist., Glendale Heights, IL

Newman, David. Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas To Boost Sales, Maximize Profits, and Crush Your Competition. AMACOM: American Management Assn. 2013. 240p. index. ISBN 9780814432860. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780814432877. BUS
Marketing expert Newman (founder, Do It! Marketing) has written “77 Instant-Action Ideas” designed for the small-business owner with the underlying premise that “only action creates results.” Grouped into 13 parts, the ideas include “Marketing Rocks”; “Expert Positioning”; “Dominate Social Media”; “Get Better Prospects”; Personal Success Strategies”; “Taking Action,” and a “21-Day Marketing Launch Plan.” Worksheets assist readers in gaining insights into marketing strategies, and each of the 77 ideas are clearly and concisely explained to provide practical advice. Among Newman’s ideas are “make sure you know who you are,” “identify who your best customers are,” “create killer social media scripts,” “work your network,” and “five marketing moves for business success.” The chapters flow step by step and are easy-to-follow. The marketing plan is based on informative and practical advice.
Verdict Recommended to small-business owners and would-be entrepreneurs. Students of business can learn a great deal about the nitty-gritty of marketing by reading this book. The author’s website (www.doitmarketing.com/book) features free marketing resources, worksheets, tools, and templates.—Lucy Heckman, St. John’s Univ. Lib., New York

Paterniti, Michael. The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese. Dial. Jul. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780385337007. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812994544. MEMOIR
What from the title appears to be a culinary adventure turns out to be a book about storytelling. Paterniti, a noted magazine writer, first ventured to Spain as a young man in search of a treasured cheese and its creator. Ultimately, however, the book’s central theme becomes the relationship that arises between the author and the cheesemaker and how that relationship influenced the writing of this very work. Paterniti moved his family to the cheesemaker’s remote Spanish village in order to complete his project, but instead it allowed Paterniti to become too involved with his subject and surroundings. This is reflected in his ruminations on how stories work and is further illustrated through side tales and copious footnotes that sometimes captivate, sometimes irritate. While the writing soars in its marvelous descriptions of the countryside, it also drags through lapses into introspection. Paterniti is not quite as funny as he thinks he is, either. This title is uneven, leaving the reader torn among vivid images, nicely observed scenes, and the author’s frustrating passivity.
Verdict Fascinating in sections, flawed in others. This book is recommended for libraries where offbeat and unconventional memoirs are popular.—Peter Hepburn, Coll. of the Canyons Lib., Santa Clarita, CA

Piscione, Deborah Perry. Secrets of Silicon Valley: What Everyone Else Can Learn from the Innovation Capital of the World. Palgrave Macmillan. 2013. 256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780230342118. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781137324214. BUS
When former congressional and White House staffer Piscione (Unfinished Business: A Democrat and a Republican Take on the 10 Most Important Issues Women Face) left her life in politics for the start-up community in Silicon Valley, she experienced culture shock that inspired her to write a cultural history of the companies and people south of the San Francisco Bay. The book’s early chapters explain how Stanford University and the development of semiconductors and the silicon chip industries attracted a more innovative type of company to the area. A solid portion of the work is devoted to exploring the entrepreneurial spirit of these businesses, with one chapter dedicated to the important venture capital firms that came out of Sand Hill Road. The author ends with an epilog that amplifies her main discovery: there is no way to replicate the culture of Silicon Valley.
Verdict Piscione’s focus on neighborhoods, tech celebrities, and popular restaurants limits the audience and may confuse those looking for insights into innovation. Readers might look to Robert X. Cringely’s Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date for more industry history.—John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston

Rosenheim, Jeff L. Photography and the American Civil War. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2013. 288p. photogs. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300191806. $50. PHOTOG/HIST
In presenting his companion to the current exhibit of the same title at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through Sept. 2, 2013), Rosenheim (curator, photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art) aims to go beyond the traditional Civil War coffee-table book by illustrating how photography was an important tool during the war, especially for the Northern population. In fact, he makes clear that his book “is not a history of the Civil War.” His considerable text, along with the 200-plus photographs, shows how photography was used for propaganda, recruitment, and in aiding the treatment of wounded soldiers. The chapters move by themes, often out of chronological order, e.g. Chapter 1 is “The Dead of Antietam,” followed by a chapter on “Photography Before the War.” A later chapter on “Collecting the Wounded” contains images that may disturb readers new to such photographs. Throughout, Rosenheim explains how the development of photographic technology enabled photographers like Mathew Brady, who were good salesmen, to develop lucrative businesses during the war. Many of the images here are portraits (Rosenheim discusses why this is), while fewer feature battle and camp scenes. Although publicized as relating to this summer’s 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, that battle is not prominently featured.
Verdict This book will be of interest chiefly to those Civil War buffs interested in the conflict’s photographic record, whether they can get to the exhibit (next in Charleston, SC, Sept. 27–Jan. 5, and New Orleans, Jan. 31–May 4, 2014) or not.—Michael Farrell, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL

starred review starSmith, Terri Peterson. Off the Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs, and Girls on Getaways. Chicago Review. 2013. 304p. index. ISBN 9781613744260. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781613744291. TRAV
Imagine reading Moby-Dick before going whale watching off the coast of Boston, or sleeping in a New Orleans hotel that previously housed Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams. Freelance writer Smith details how to make these experiences and more possible through her dynamic, detailed itineraries that allow readers to explore the settings of their favorite books. She highlights 15 cities across the United States selected for their literary connections, ease of travel, and concentration of activities. Readers can explore a brief introduction to each city’s history and literature, then move on to a suggested reading list full of varied fiction and nonfiction. In the three-day itinerary (designed to be enjoyed over a weekend), Smith supplies hotel suggestions, diverse cultural and literary activities, and a variety of meal ideas that transform familiar locations into literary adventures. For example, travelers can see New York City through new eyes by reading about the immigrant experience in Jane Ziegelman’s 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement and then visiting the city’s Tenement Museum. Index and trip planning tips included.
Verdict A bookworm’s dream, this title is an inspiring, unique read. Book clubs and the literary-minded will love it for the travel ideas, book lists, and delightful commentary on each city’s history. Highly recommended.—Katie Lawrence, Chicago

Tchernichova, Elena. Dancing on Water: A Life in Ballet, from the Kirov to the ABT. Northeastern Univ. 2013. 328p. ISBN 9781555537920. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781555538248. $34.99. DANCE
Part historical portrait of Leningrad in the 20th century, part ballet primer, and part nostalgic coming-of-age story, this book tells the story of world renowned ballerina and coach Elena Tchernichova. From her tragic beginnings in the Soviet Union to her success with the American Ballet Theatre, Tchernichova chronicles her trials and triumphs from poverty to prosperity. Written in highly descriptive language, this book will fascinate even nondance aficionados with the dancer’s story of her rise through the ranks of Russian ballet to her eventual immigration to the United States. Although dancing memoirs tend to get caught up in nostalgia and readers may find themselves reaching for the dictionary owing to the book’s heavy use of dance-specific terminology, Tchernichova’s story is full of figures as flawed and interesting as the ones these dancers portrayed in their performances. Readers will not only learn about the life and career of a great dancer but also get a glimpse of the oppressive artistic climate of the Soviet Union.
Verdict Recommended for ballet lovers and anyone interested in against-all-odds success stories.—Tamela Chambers, Chicago Pub. Schs.

starred review starVaughn, Daniel & Nicholas McWhirter (photogs.). The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue. Ecco: HarperCollins. 2013. 384p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062202925. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062202956. HOME ECON
This exploration of barbecue by Texas Monthly magazine barbecue editor Vaughn reads more like a love story than a cookbook. With a restaurant guide and collective bibliographies of the who’s who of pit masters and some of their secret recipes, Vaughn’s homage to smoked meat is full of cadence, and the accompanying photos are so luscious and seductive they will tempt even the least likely fan of smoky brisket, pulled pork, beef sausage, and ribs. In this first book in Ecco’s Anthony Bourdain series, Vaughn describes place by place the fare he encountered as he traveled throughout the state. According to the author, there are four major types of barbecue: East Country (smoky with sauce), Hill Country (cowboy style), South Texas (barbacoa, or whole cow heads cooked in pits), and Central Texas (rubs and indirect heat). Whether readers are looking to replicate these techniques, experiment with different woods, or take a trip to Texas for themselves, this book is likely to be the closest thing most will have to visiting the mecca of meat in person.
Verdict A great gift for the barbecue enthusiast and a gorgeous book for display.—Jane Hebert, Glenside P.L. Dist., Glendale Heights, 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"


  1. Lacey Smith says:

    Great list! I’m reading “One American Woman Fifty Italian Men” by Lynne Ashdown, http://lynneashdown.com/, right now and I love it! I’m going to look in to these, I’ve been looking for another book to jump in to when I’m finished with this one and I really love nonfiction. Thanks for the suggestions!