Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, October 18, 2013

Week ending October 18, 2013

Amatuzzi, Dan. A First Course in Wine: From Grape to Glass. Race Point: Quayside. Oct. 2013. 224p. photos. index. ISBN 9781937994136. $28. BEVERAGES
This friendly guide from Amatuzzi, a beverage director and wine educator in New York City, caters to wine newbies, covering topics that range from tips on hosting a dinner party where wine will be served to opinions about the screw tops vs. cork debate. However, even those who know the difference between a chardonnay and a chenin blanc will take tidbits of information away from this accessible overview. The many photos (some as large as a spread) are bright, clear, and cheery, and the tables are helpful. But those who are just learning wine appellations may find themselves wishing that the book had more than one map—particularly for the tricky geography of France. Sidebars deliver useful tips, definitions, and interesting facts. Curiously, Amatuzzi decides to divide appellations by white and red wines instead of explaining the wines produced by each country, making for a confusing organization. The writing can be dense, but this is not likely to bother those who will be lured to the plethora of material by the title’s clean design and easy tone.
Verdict This approachable volume is ideal for readers seeking a broad introduction to the world of wine.—Chelsey Philpot, School Library Journal

Atkinson, Brett & others. Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Lonely Planet. 2013. 352p. photos. index. ISBN 9781743217191. pap. $22.99. TRAV
Lonely Planet has used the expertise of 26 writers to produce a numbers game for its loyal travelers with 1,000 listed adventures separated into 100 chapters. There are a few duplications in these millenary adventures, making that total not quite accurate. Additionally, a few chapters list books and movies, perhaps as a sop to armchair traveler readers. This hefty, handsome book with lots of attractive color photographs won’t qualify as a guide for tourists. Beyond the brief entry for each of the treks, there’s minimal information for re-creating one’s own visit to a primitive tribe in New Guinea or sandboarding in Namibia. Many of them will qualify for personal bucket lists, like the ubiquitous climb of Mt. Everest, sleeping among polar bears in Churchill, Canada, and skysurfing in Arizona. More unusual pursuits might include watching the mask dances of the Dogon in Mali; skiing in Gulmarg, Kashmir, India; or visiting the Thrihnukagigur volcano in Iceland. Lonely Planet’s trips run the gamut of physical activities—running, walking, climbing, swimming, fishing, biking, boating, boarding, skiing, diving, and more. Most take place outdoors, but you can find the occasional indoor pursuit, like the skiing and snowboarding at a mall in Dubai.
Verdict Lonely Planet guide fans will love this weighty compilation of ideas for their next exciting travel experience.—Janet N. Ross, formerly with Washoe Cty. Lib. Syst., Sparks, NV

Barleti, Marin. The Siege of Shkodra: Albania’s Courageous Stand Against Ottoman Conquest, 1478. Onufri. 2013. 344p. ed. & tr. from Albanian by David Hosaflook. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9789995687779. pap. $15. HIST
After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II continued his westward conquest into Europe but was stalled twice by resistance from the Albanian city of Shkodra, which he besieged in 1474 and again in 1478. As a young man from Shkodra, Barleti participated in these battles. His account, written in Latin, of the final siege paints a vivid and personal picture of the heroic and desperate defense. Religion historian Hosaflook has translated the account into English for the first time, working from Aleks Buda’s 1962 translation into Albanian. Barleti’s text is accompanied by other contemporary accounts, which Buda had also translated into Albanian, including several by Ottoman authors. There are also two introductions, one by medievalist David Abulafia (Mediterranean history, Univ. of Cambridge; The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean), and the other a translation of Buda’s introduction to his 1962 Albanian translation. The lack of a single, cohesive introduction sometimes leaves the reader grasping for context. Hosaflook has added appendixes, including a chronology and an account of an early 20th-century siege of Shkodra.
Verdict Hosaflook’s decision to translate from the Albanian translation rather than from the original Latin and Turkish texts weakens the book’s value to scholars. The supporting material may confuse the nonspecialist reader. However, English-language readers interested in the Middle Ages will be intrigued by this newly available intimate and lively firsthand account.—Fred Poling, Long Beach City Coll. Lib., CA

starred review starConnell, Heather. Paleo Sweets and Treats: Seasonally Inspired Desserts That Let You Have Your Cake and Your Paleo Lifestyle, Too. Fair Winds: Quayside. Oct. 2013. 176p. photos. index. ISBN 9781592335565. pap. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9781610589130. COOKING
Readers who pick this volume up anticipating dry-looking baked goods and fruit smoothies are in for a pleasant surprise. Aimed at those on the Paleo diet or at those simply trying to eat healthier, this collection of treats is a win-win for anyone. Blogger Connell (multiplydelicious.com) has written one of the few Paleo dessert compilations on the market, though others are expected next year. The book starts off with an overview of the diet and some pantry staples and then highlights items that are available in stores by season. Connell features some obvious recipes, such as baked crumble-stuffed apples, as well as unexpected treats (fudgy chocolate coffee brownies, vanilla coconut ice cream, lemon bars, and dark chocolate pots de crème with roasted cherries).
Verdict A great addition for any library whose clientele can’t get enough of Paleo or gluten-free cookbooks or who are just trying to make healthier choices.—Jane Hebert, Glenside P.L. Dist., IL

Halloran, Bob. Impact Statement: A Family’s Fight for Justice Against Whitey Bulger, Stephen Flemmi, and the FBI. Skyhorse. 2013. 240p. photos. ISBN 9781626360334. $24.95. CRIME
Journalist Halloran has given us yet another Whitey Bulger book, but this one is very timely—coming out just after Bulger’s trial. For those who need a full overview of the life and crimes of Bulger and his coconspirator/co–FBI informant Steve Flemmi, this book will not suffice. For those who can’t get enough of the stranger-than-fiction exploits of the Winter Hill Gang, buy this title. Halloran frames this telling from the perspective of the far-too-short life and murder of Debra Davis. Working with Debra’s brother Steve, Halloran provides a detailed portrait of Davis, her relationship with the much-older Flemmi, and her murder at the hands (allegedly) of Flemmi and Bulger. By focusing on the victims and the anguished family members left behind, the author decisively portrays the Winter Hill Gang for what they were: murderous bullies protected by corrupt FBI agents. Best read after reading a fuller account of the life and crimes of Bulger and his cronies as Halloran does not fill in all the backstory.
Verdict Should prove a popular addition to true crime collections.—Karen Sandlin Silverman, Scarborough H.S. Lib., ME

Lunday, Elizabeth. The Modern Art Invasion: Picasso, Duchamp, and the 1913 Armory Show That Scandalized America. Lyons. 2013. 256p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780762790173. $26.95. FINE ARTS
This title is journalist Lunday’s first attempt at a serious work (she previously wrote Secret Lives of Great Artists and Secret Lives of Great Composers, which focus on disclosing weird factoids and juicy gossip about significant figures in art and music history and are best suited to young readers). This year marks the centennial of a pivotal moment in the history of modernism: the 1913 Armory Show. This massive exhibition, held at the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan, is widely known as the event that introduced America to modern art. The 1913 show has been written about extensively, and while the author doesn’t make any new or unexpected claims that contradict what has already been said about it, her research is solid (there are 433 references in her bibliography). Lunday covers the event primarily from the perspective of its organizers, important contributors, and art critics of the time, most of whom found the artwork “vulgar” and “in bad taste.”
Verdict Lunday weaves an interesting story, mostly based on facts found in archives, primary resources, and scholarly publications; however, the book is light on intellectual jargon, making it both informational and easy to read.—Jennifer H. Krivickas, Univ. of Cincinnati Lib.

McWilliams, Stephen. Fiction & Physicians: Medicine Through the Eyes of Writers. Liffey. 2013. 248p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781908308269. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781908308382. LIT
Dublin-based McWilliams has collected essays, short biographies, and literary reviews to provide an overview of medicine and practitioners of European, American, and Irish fiction. His informal study is divided into two parts: fiction by doctors (organized chronologically by century) and fiction about doctors (arranged topically, e.g., villains, heroes, infection, paranoia, and psychiatrists). McWilliams is a practicing consultant psychiatrist in Ireland, but his scope will be familiar to interested American readers. And while that makes his survey accessible, large portions of it may be redundant for those who read medical fiction (or fiction written by physicians) and are already familiar with authors such as Tess Gerritsen, Robin Cook, and Michael Crichton. The book is not intended to be exhaustive; individual digressions and pieces composed of lackluster prose may be overlooked by enthusiastic readers who will likely gain new information from the book’s historical overview.
Verdict McWilliams’s enthusiasm makes his book a “modicum of medical miscellany to enjoy over coffee,” but those seeking scholarly works or leads on less well-known modern authors will need to look elsewhere.—Audrey Snowden, Orrington P.L., ME

Penenberg, Adam L. Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking. Portfolio. 2013. 256p. notes. index. ISBN 9781591844792. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101623022. PSYCH
“Games and game design have been seeping into virtually every aspect of our lives,” writes Penenberg (journalism, New York Univ.; Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves) in his latest book about the influence of games at work. His focus is how to add game-like qualities successfully to any work environment to increase productivity, decrease cost, and ensure worker and consumer satisfaction. He uses personal examples from his own findings and shares anecdotes from colleagues in fields such as education, health care, the auto industry, business, and advertising to show how well it’s worked in those areas. Similar to research conducted by James Paul Gee (Good Video Games and Good Learning), Penenberg’s focus isn’t limited to a discussion of the games themselves but rather looks at how to take game-like elements and add them to traditional workflows. The author asserts that this provides instant feedback; allows for crowdsourcing of tasks; increases decision-making abilities, motivation, and collaboration; and breeds creativity. His findings could have a noticeable impact on individuals and workplaces of all kinds and are not just for gamers or Millennials.
Verdict Penenberg writes for an audience from all walks of life in this up-to-date book about the pervasiveness of game design and its influence on the way we think.—Jill Morningstar, Michigan State Univ. Libs., East Lansing

Rosenblatt, Roger. The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood. Ecco. Nov. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780062241337. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062241344. LIT
In place of a straightforward chronology, Rosenblatt (writing, Stony Brook Univ.; Children of War) has composed an extended riff on growing up in Manhattan in the 1940s and 1950s.The tone of this engaging memoir by the author of five Off-Broadway plays and 12 books, whose honors include two George Polk Awards, a Peabody Award, and an Emmy, is jubilant and lyrical and, at times, almost elegiac. At other moments, the mood changes to humorous and wryly self-deprecating. Woven into the narrative, which isn’t at all linear, are reflections on the act of remembering—“By the time you’ve told any story, fact or fiction, well enough, you’ve made it up anyway,” he concludes. Using the fiction that he is, or was, a detective, a Philo Vance manqué, he guesses at the hidden stories of the people who cross his path in the city; passages in this remembrance of sorts are hilariously funny. The picture that emerges of the young Rosenblatt and those who loved him is benignly forgiving of their all too human failings.
Verdict This delightful, funny book should appeal to all who love memoirs but also to anyone who simply appreciates good writing.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA

starred review starTaylor, Alan. The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832. Norton. 2013. 728p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393073713. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780393241426. HIST
In this well-written and engaging history, Pulitzer and Bancroft Prize winner Taylor (history, Univ. of California, Davis) zeros in on slavery in Virginia, particularly during the War of 1812, in the process revealing both the glaring hypocrisy of the Founders’ views on slavery and the lengths to which they went to ensure control of the enslaved population. In engaging prose, Taylor presents the dynamic, cogent argument that for Southerners, their chattel represented a dangerous “fifth column” that, given the opportunity, would carry their “networks and nocturnal expertise” to invaders “enhancing their capacity to wage war in the Chesapeake.” During the War of 1812, an alarming number of the “internal enemy” flocked to British camps, allowing the British to conduct raids deep into the Southern countryside.
Verdict This is an accessible narrative of great scholarship that, similar to Maya Jasanoff’s Liberty’s Exiles, takes a new and distinct look at a topic of persistent attention. Writing with an understanding of his subject that is stunning to behold, Taylor again shows why he is the dean of early American history. A great work for early American history buffs and anyone interested in the evolution of slavery in America.—Brian Odom, Birmingham, AL

Thompson, Jerry L. Why Photography Matters. MIT. 2013. 112p. photos. bibliog. ISBN 9780262019286. pap. $14.95. PHOTOG
Photographer and writer Thompson (The Last Years of Walker Evans; Truth and Photography: Notes on Looking and Photographing) makes the case for the continued relevance of the medium of photography, even in today’s image-saturated world. Arguing that photography is not merely a means for generating images, the author contends that photography helps to define how we fundamentally understand the world itself. Through 86 pages of prose and only a handful of illustrations, he concisely connects ideas from such thinkers as Plato, Walt Whitman, Susan Sontag, John Szarkowski, and Martin Heidegger while explaining the essential nature of photography both as an art form unto itself and as an aspect of our everyday existence. As a young man, Thompson worked closely with Walker Evans, who grounded and inspired Thompson’s writing through a traditional literary style that explores photography as a “visual language,” by contrast to more contemporary postmodern theory.
Verdict Recommended for readers of photo theory, criticism, and history.—Shauna Frischkorn, Millersville Univ., PA

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"