Arts & Humanities Reviews | November 15, 2013

redstar Biespiel, David. Charming Gardeners. Univ. of Washington. (Pacific Northwest Poetry). 2013. 144p. ISBN 9780295993287. $24.95. POETRY

In epistolary poems, Biespiel (The Book of Men and Women) addresses friends, colleagues, and the world with letters that are expansive and excursive, conversational and familiar. From the historical to the mundane, Biespiel’s poems echo Walt Whitman, to whom he makes frequent reference—“And stand on both feet in the grazing sunlight/ And hear this chorus of America singing.” Biespiel can be prophetic. To a friend in a letter written on a plane, he says, “I mean, we are eclipsed with killing ourselves,/ Murmur and murmur of killing and forgotten killing.” Many of these letters were written while traveling, which enhances their sprawling and expansive qualities. Using language that is both lovely and musical—“…slices of toast/ that were so thin/ They tasted like quiet disbelief,” “where the blood unwrinkles like a shroud,” and “hemmed-in mothy light”—Biespiel’s letters are intimate chats with both recipients and readers. VERDICT Highly recommended for all poetry collections.—Karla Huston, Appleton, WI

redstar DuBois, Joshua. The President’s Devotional: The Daily Readings that Inspired President Obama. HarperOne. Nov. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780062265289. $24.99. REL

When DuBois (former head, White House Office of Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships) led the religious affairs department of Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, he received Obama’s permission to send him daily devotional email messages. As part of the Obama presidential administration, he continued to do so. He has now selected 365 of those emails, labeled here from January 1 through December 31, to inspire hope, illuminate key principles, or replenish a person’s busy life. Even though the book is based upon a calendar year, readers can really dip in as they choose or begin reading on any date. Entries feature a short biblical quotation, sometimes an additional relevant secular quotation, a snippet from a song or verse, a brief daily meditation, and a short prayer. Each month is prefaced by an autobiographical essay by DuBois relating to challenges the Obama administration confronted and how they connect to themes of faith and doubt and of moving forward. VERDICT It is unnecessary for a reader to have any particular theological or political background to gain from the book through the inspirational thoughts and encouragement expressed. Many readers are likely to find themselves attracted to this appealing title.—William Garrett, Troy Univ. Lib., AL

Erving, Julius with Karl Taro Greenfeld. Dr. J: The Autobiography. Harper. Nov. 2013. 448p. illus. ISBN 9780062187925. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062188038. SPORTS

Erving’s autobiography is an uncommonly insightful sports memoir. The first half of the book, covering up until Erving joins the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1971, is particularly moving. Most impressive of all is Erving’s ability to evoke through language the changing perspective of his young self as he grows up. Here commendations must surely be given to collaborator Greenfeld (Boy Alone), a gifted writer of both fiction and nonfiction, for understanding how to elicit and convey these feelings. Unfortunately, once Erving moves to the NBA, around three quarters of the way through, the book begins to grate at times. The personal insights and stories take a back seat to needless boasting, listing of personal statistics, and tedious summaries of seasons and games. Still, one is left admiring Erving tremendously. Sports fans will be reminded that he really is the innovator of the modern game that we associate with Michael Jordan and LeBron James, and everyone will be struck by Erving’s ability to own up to his mistakes, even when he seems unsure about whether he could have done things differently. VERDICT This work is essential for all basketball fans and should prove entertaining to all sports fans. It may even appeal to some general readers who wouldn’t ordinarily read about sports.—Derek Sanderson, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY

For all the latest reviews in this subject area and more, check out our new Book Verdict site! Book Verdict is fully accessible to all users, though certain content and functionality are only available to subscribers.

To log in to your account, click here. To view the new subscription options, Get Started With Book Verdict Pro Today.

Don't know if you have an account with us? It's easy to check and verify your email, or create a new account.
The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


redstar Atkins, Robert. Artspeak: A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, 1945 to the Present. 3d ed. Abbeville. Nov. 2013. 288p. illus. index. ISBN 9780789211507. $34.95; pap. ISBN 9780789211514. $24.95. FINE ARTS

Eastoe, Jane. The Art of Taxidermy. Pavilion. 2013. 160p. photos. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781862059870. $24.95. FINE ARTS

Gleason, Katherine. Anatomy of Steampunk: The Fashion of Victorian Futurism. Race Point: Quayside. 2013. 224p. photos. ISBN 9781937994280. $35. DEC ARTS

Grebe, Anja. The Vatican: All the Paintings; The Complete Collection of Old Masters, Plus More Than 300 Sculptures, Maps, Tapestries, and Other Artifacts. Black Dog & Leventhal. Nov. 2013. 512p. illus. index. ISBN 9781579129439. $75 w/DVD. FINE ARTS

redstar Heer, Jeet. In Love with Art: Françoise Mouly’s Adventures in Comics with Art Spiegelman. Coach House. (Exploded Views). 2013. 120p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781552452783. pap. $12.95. GRAPHIC ARTS

Solis, Julia (text & photos). Stages of Decay. Prestel. 2013. 160p. photos. notes. ISBN 9783791348193. $34.95. FINE ARTS


Batchelor, John. Tennyson: To Strive, To Seek, To Find. Pegasus. Dec. 2013. 448p. photos. ISBN 9781605984902. $32. LIT

Bulgakov, Mikhail. Diaries and Selected Letters. Alma Classics. 2013. 276p. tr. from Russian by Roger Cockrell. bibliog. ISBN 9781847493033. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781847493385. LIT

Colls, Robert. George Orwell: English Rebel. Oxford Univ. Jan. 2014. 356p. notes. index. ISBN 9780199680801. $34.95; ebk. ISBN 9780191502200. LIT

Hughes, Carrie. My Dear Boy: Carrie Hughes’s Letters to Langston Hughes, 1926–1938. Univ. of Georgia. Nov. 2013. 240p. ed. by Carmaletta M. Williams & John Edgar Tidwell. photos. index. ISBN 9780820345659. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9780820346397. LIT

redstar Laing, Olivia. The Trip to Echo Springs: On Writers and Drinking. Picador. Dec. 2013. 352p. photos. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781250039569. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781250039583. LIT

Twain, Mark. Autobiography of Mark Twain. Vol. 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition. Univ. of California. (Mark Twain Papers, Bk. 11). 2013. 776p. ed. by Benjamin Griffin & others. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520272781. $45; ebk. ISBN 9780520956513. LIT


Eskew, Glenn T. Johnny Mercer: Southern Songwriter for the World. Univ. of Georgia. Nov. 2013. 480p. illus. maps. notes. ISBN 9780820333304. $34.95. MUSIC

Matzen, Robert. Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3. GoodKnight. Jan. 2014. 350p. photos. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780988502512. $26.95. FILM

Shearer, Stephen Michael. Gloria Swanson: The Ultimate Star. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. 2013. 528p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250001559. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250013668. FILM

Shipton, Alyn. Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter. Oxford Univ. 2013. 352p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199756575. $27.95. MUSIC

Snow, Mat. Beatles Solo: The Illustrated Chronicles of John, Paul, George, and Ringo After the Beatles. 4 vols. Race Point: Quayside. 2013. 384p. photos. index. ISBN 9781937994266. $50. MUSIC

redstar Sounes, Howard. 27: A History of the 27 Club Through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Da Capo. Nov. 2013. 384p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780306821684. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780306821691. MUSIC

redstar Young, Steve & Sport Murphy. Everything’s Coming Up Profits: The Golden Age of Industrial Musicals. Blast. Nov. 2013. 252p. illus. ISBN 9780922233441. $39.95. THEATER


Geldard, Richard G. Emerson and Universal Mind. Larson. 2013. 96p. notes. ISBN 9781936012640. pap. $12.95. PHIL

Kahn, Paul W. Finding Ourselves at the Movies: Philosophy for a New Generation. Columbia Univ. 2013. 256p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780231164382. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780231536028. PHIL

Lang, Berel. Primo Levi: The Matter of a Life. Yale Univ. (Jewish Lives). Nov. 2013. 200p. notes. index. ISBN 9780300137231. $25. PHIL


D’Aquino, Alfonso. fungus skull eye wing: Selected Poems of Alfonso D’Aquino. Copper Canyon. Nov. 2013. 78p. tr. from Spanish by Forrest Gander. ISBN 9781556594472. pap. $17. POETRY

Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500–2001. Norton. Jan. 2014. 608p. ed. by Carolyn Forché & Duncan Wu. ISBN 9780393340426. pap. $25.95. POETRY

Reeves, Roger. King Me. Copper Canyon. 2013. 72p. ISBN 9781556594489. pap. $15. POETRY


Canon, Jon. The Secret Language of Sacred Spaces: Decoding Churches, Temples, Mosques, and Other Places of Worship Around the World. Duncan Baird. 2013. 224p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781848991118. $35. REL

Farmer, Paul & Gustavo Gutiérrez. In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez. Orbis. Nov. 2013. 224p. ed. by Michael Griffin & Jennie Weiss Block. index. ISBN 9781626980501. pap. $24. REL

Larrimore, Mark. The Book of Job: A Biography. Princeton Univ. (Lives of Great Religious Bks.). 2013. 240p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780691147598. $24.95. REL

Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith. White Cloud. (I Speak for Myself). 2013. 264p. ed. by Erin S. Lane & Enuma Okoro. photos. ISBN 9781935952862. pap. $16.95. REL


Viesturs, Ed with David Roberts. The Mountain: My Time on Everest. Touchstone. 2013. 352p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781451694734. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781451694758. RECREATION