Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, September 20, 2013

Week ending September 20, 2013

Errington, Frederick & others. The Noodle Narratives: The Global Rise of an Industrial Food into the Twenty-First Century. Univ. of California. Sept. 2013. 216p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520276338. $65; pap. ISBN 9780520276345. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780520956674. HOME ECON
Through their investigations, Errington (anthropology, Trinity Coll.), Deborah Gewertz (G. Henry Whitcomb 1874 Professor of Anthropology, Amherst Coll.; coauthor with Errington, Cheap Meat: Flap Food Nations in the Pacific Islands), and Tatsuro Fujikura (Asian & African area studies, Kyoto Univ., Japan; Discourses of Awareness: Development, Social Movements and the Practices of Freedom in Nepal) became convinced that ramen noodles are one of the most amazing foods of all time. In this copiously researched book, they trace ramen’s popularity from its invention by Momofuku Ando in 1958 to the production in 2010 of over 95 billion packages and cups of instant noodles. The authors concentrate on three markets (Japan, the United States, and Papua New Guinea) and illustrate how Ando’s aim to produce a food that was tasty and easy to prepare, had a long shelf life, and was inexpensive and safe resulted in a product that became popular in these countries. The final chapters discuss how these noodles may help alleviate starvation globally as the world population increases; the authors conclude that ramen “will not save the world but will continue to help…and that is for the better, not for the worse.”
Verdict A well-written, thoughtful book for anthropologists, nutritionists, sociologists, and individuals who are interested in the problem of world hunger.—Christine E. Bulson, emeritus, Milne Lib., SUNY Oneonta

Gregerman, Alan. The Necessity of Strangers: The Intriguing Truth About Insight, Innovation, and Success. Jossey-Bass. Sept. 2013. 224p. notes. ISBN 9781118461303. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781118534557. BUS
Gregerman (president & chief innovation officer, Venture Works, Inc.; Surrounded by Geniuses: Unlocking the Brilliance in Yourself, Your Colleagues and Your Organization) argues that the key to realizing one’s full potential is by understanding, engaging, and collaborating with strangers, both personally and professionally. He urges readers to look outside of familiar environments to find inspiration from the unexpected and claims that such observations often lead to those moments of clarity needed to create solutions. Ostensibly, the book is about how strangers provide the spark to achieve the “aha” moment of innovation. However, the definition of strangers varies from a person unknown to someone different from a friend to customers, and the disparity provides an uneven premise that causes the reader to follow laboriously the book’s leaps in logic. The author hits on interesting case studies and insights into breakthrough moments, but the overall hypothesis is at times too strained to provide a strong narrative.
Verdict Gregerman would have been better served arranging the foundation of his case around the importance of filling in gaps of ignorance and bolstering observation skills instead of inflating a weak assertion of invaluable strangerhood, which, unfortunately, doesn’t sustain the book.—Laurel Tacoma, Strayer Univ. Lib., Washington, DC

Hjalmarsson, Helena. Finding Lina: A Mother’s Journey from Autism to Hope. Skyhorse. Sept. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781620875957. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781626365100. PSYCH
Hjalmarsson (coeditor, The Quotable Book Lover) has endured a process most mothers never experience: the discovery, diagnosis, and treatment of a child with autism. In this emotional memoir, she shares these struggles through an intense discussion of how the treatment and love of a child with disabilities affects every facet of life, including marriage, the relationship to other children in the household, and a parent’s own sense of self. And this is the book’s stronger aspects. Unfortunately, it is rather awkwardly written with an inconsistent timeline, making readers of memoir confused and those reading for insights into help for their children with Autism frustrated.
Verdict Although the emotional roller coaster is raw and engaging, this memoir falls far short of similar offerings such as Susan Senator’s fabulous Making Peace with Autism: One Family’s Story of Struggle, Discovery, and Unexpected Gifts and Eustacia Cutler’s Thorn in My Pocket.—Victoria Frerichs, Prescot, UK

Sviokla, Sylvester, III & Kerry Zukus. From Harvard to Hell…and Back: A Doctor’s Journey Through Addiction to Recovery. Central Recovery. 2013. 184p. ISBN 9781937612290. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781937612306. MEMOIR
Sviokla, a Harvard graduate, shares his story of how addiction to drugs caused his life of success to crash and burn. He describes his early childhood, his academic and athletic accomplishments in high school and later at Harvard College, which led to his admission to the Harvard Medical School. He notes the irony of women having difficulty getting accepted into university during the Sixties even though a female classmate of his had already had published one of his assigned textbooks. He shares how a freak home accident ended his hopes of becoming a surgeon and ignited the beginnings of alcohol and prescription pain medication abuse that lasted for years. He details his experience working as a doctor, including his fame as a “house” physician to rock stars, his entry into abusing hard drugs, and the resulting troubled relationships with his family. Ultimately, Sviokla’s rock bottom was successfully followed by his long journey into recovery, leading to the directorship of several methadone clinics, co-ownership of a substance abuse clinic in Rhode Island, certification by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and verification as a diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine.
Verdict Sviokla’s frank, refreshingly honest memoir is a valuable addition to the substance abuse genre. His status as a relatively affluent, successful physician proves that chemical substance addiction can happen to anyone in any class or income level. His direct, no-nonsense style adds poignancy to this work, which nicely complements the literature.—Dale Farris, Groves, TX

Thornton, James. American Wine Economics: An Exploration of the U.S. Wine Industry. Univ. of California. Sept. 2013. 368p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520276499. $39.95. BUS
Thornton (economics, Eastern Michigan Univ.) approaches wine in a way seen rarely if ever, linking economic theory with production and consumption. While many books on wine may provide data on such topics as acreage devoted to vineyards or cases of wine distributed, this title looks past raw numbers, instead focusing on decision-making from planting through vinification to purchase and the resultant implications. The reader is challenged to think beyond the aesthetics behind the creation and enjoyment of wine to the costs and benefits involved. Thornton targets his book primarily at those studying economics, so he is careful to outline the process of winemaking and distribution and also acknowledges the importance of subjective tastes. His approach can make for dry writing, but his detail is precise and well connected to the underlying economics. The content is supplemented with detailed notes and references.
Verdict A solid work that effectively explores a niche area of both economics and wines. Recommended for academic libraries serving economics or viticulture and oenology programs.—Peter Hepburn, Coll. of the Canyons Lib., Santa Clarita, CA

Williams, Tom. A Mysterious Something in the Light: The Life of Raymond Chandler. Chicago Review. Sept. 2013. 400p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781613748404. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781613748435. LIT
This new biography of American novelist Raymond Chandler (1888–1959) by British writer Williams draws upon previous accounts of Chandler’s life as well as archival primary sources and newly uncovered letters (though Williams’s use of Wikipedia citations is questionable). From Chandler’s birth in the United States to his education in England, his writing for crime magazines and for Hollywood, his marriage to a woman 18 years his senior and their constant relocations, primarily within the Los Angeles region, Williams posits several persistent themes: Chandler’s perception of himself as a moral and trustworthy individual, in the chivalrous manner of Arthurian legend Sir Galahad, and a concern with developing character in his writing, no matter the subject and occasionally at the expense of plot. Williams clearly admires Chandler, but he doesn’t shy away from discussing the author’s faults, particularly his ongoing struggles with alcoholism. He shows how Chandler’s impression of L.A. as a lonely and often corrupt city is reflected in his fictional characters. Williams may give Chandler more credit than he is due, however, as Chandler comes across as a difficult person with whom to work.
Verdict An intriguing biography of the Edgar Award–winning author whose works (The Big Sleep; Double Indemnity) many of us have read or seen adaptations of on screen and who made great inroads in the mystery genre, though not so much in his own life.—Gina Kaiser, J.W. England Lib., Univ. of the Sciences, Philadelphia

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"