Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, November 15, 2013

Week ending November 15, 2013

Brannigan, Paul & Ian Winwood. Birth School Metallica Death: The Biography. Vol. 1. Da Capo. 2013. 416p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780306821868. $27.99; ISBN 9780306821875. MUSIC
It is more than high time that someone wrote a decent book about Metallica, one of the biggest American bands in rock history. British music writers Brannigan (This Is a Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl) and Winwood are writing the group’s three-decade history in two volumes, the first of which, reviewed here, covers each member’s childhood through their titanic 1991 eponymous release (aka “the black album”). Much of the research is culled from various articles in rock magazines and interviews with former band associates. Despite the book’s claim to include “exclusive” interviews with current and former band members, quotes from them are brief and few and far between. This flaw prevents the title from living up to its asserted status as a “definitive” biography. Nonetheless, the writers put together a highly readable book filled with lots of little-known stories and anecdotes about the group. The tone may be grating to some—it’s written in the kind of effusive, hyperarticulate style favored by music magazines—but it suits the subject well. This will do until the members of Metallica get down to writing their own story.
verdict This hard-rockin’ book will be a popular and frequently used title in any public or music library collection—better get two copies.—Brett Rohlwing, Milwaukee P.L.

Dauber, Jeremy. The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye. Schocken. (Jewish Encounters, Bk. 23). 2013. 480p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780805242782. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780805243161. LIT
Sholem Aleichem (1859–1916), creator of the exuberant optimist Tevye the Dairyman of stories that inspired the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof was one of the major practitioners and proponents of the Yiddish language and its literature. His prolific writing career began in his teens when he compiled a lexicon of his stepmother’s curses. Dauber (Yiddish literature, Columbia Univ.; In the Devil’s Bedroom: Yiddish Literature and the Early Modern) concentrates his biography on the veritable writing machine that was Aleichem, presenting a thorough accounting and explication of his journalism, stories, plays, and books, with commentary on their relevance to contemporary Russian literature and east European shtetl or “town” culture. While Dauber’s prodigious research informs Aleichem’s literary life, the book is slight on information about his family life. He was one of eight children, but the facts are scant on his siblings; he enjoyed a long marriage to Olga Loyeff, who bore him four daughters and two sons, yet there is little here on his relationship to his wife or children. A daughter, Maroussie, is mentioned only when she marries, and we learn of a son, Misha, much later in the book, who dies of tuberculosis.
Verdict Essential for understanding Aleichem’s literary history and development.—Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal

starred review starDifford, Simon. diffordsguide Cocktails: The Bartender’s Bible. 11th ed. Firefly. (Diffordsguide). Nov. 2013. 502p. illus. ISBN 9781770852228. $49.95. BEVERAGES
Glenfiddich Food and Drink Award–winning writer Difford presents 3,000 beautifully illustrated cocktails in the latest edition of this work. Beginners will find the directory of glass types, 14 key alcoholic ingredients, and 28 essential refrigerator and cupboard staples an indispensable reference. The cocktails are arranged alphabetically and the descriptions include glass type, garnishes, method (blended, shaken, stirred, etc.), ingredients, comments, origins, a one- to five-star rating, and a photo of the drink. Well-seasoned cocktail drinkers are sure to locate old favorites such as black and tan, cosmopolitan, highball, hot buttered rum, piña colada, screwdriver, Tom Collins, and white Russian, while adventurous readers will enjoy experimenting with more unorthodox offerings (bat bite, espresso daiquiri, fruit and nut chocolate martini, and Nelson’s blood cocktail). Nearly 20 mocktails are listed as well (e.g., pink lemonade, Roy Rogers, and Shirley Temple). Interspersed throughout are helpful tips on topics such as layering, swizzling, measuring, and rolling drinks.
Verdict This is a visually appealing, easy-to-use guide for accomplished bartenders and newcomers alike.—Carrie Scarr, West Fargo P.L., ND

Humes, Edward. A Man and His Mountain: The Everyman Who Created Kendall-Jackson and Became America’s Greatest Wine Entrepreneur. PublicAffairs. 2013. 304p. index. ISBN 9781610392853. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781610392860. BUS
The Kendall-Jackson wine brand is both broadly recognized and immensely profitable. In this recounting of the life of its founder, Jess Stonestreet Jackson, author and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Humes (Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash) brings the rise of the label into sharp focus, with particular emphasis on backroom deals for land. Aspiring entrepreneurs rather than wine enthusiasts are the likely target audience, and Jackson’s rags-to-riches tale may prove inspirational to some. However, the book does not provide applicable lessons or models for readers to follow. Also problematic is the writing, which verges on fawning. Jackson apparently seldom set a foot wrong and was usually proved right. Dissenting voices are unwelcome in this narrative, and those who do get on Jackson’s bad side are never fully realized characters in their own right. His business acumen was laudable, but his story needs a more objective telling.
Verdict An account of a life lived fully, captured inadequately. Of limited appeal.—Peter Hepburn, Coll. of the Canyons Lib., Santa Clarita, CA

Jawhariyyeh, Wasif. The Storyteller of Jerusalem: The Life and Times of Wasif Jawhariyyeh, 1904–1948. Olive Branch: Interlink. Dec. 2013. 384p. ed. by Salim Tamari & Issam Nassar. tr. from Arabic by Nada Elzeer. illus. notes. ISBN 9781566569255. pap. $25. LIT
In this autobiographical memoir of Jerusalemite Jawhariyyeh, a Palestinian Christian, the reader will find intensely personal narratives of a native son amid the backdrop of major events in the holy city and the Holy Land witnessed during the first half of the 20th century. A self-taught chronicler, poet, local historian, and musician, Jawhariyyeh had a photographic memory, which enabled him to recall not only the dramatic but also give vivid, firsthand renditions of daily life in the alleys of the city and its environs. Through this eclectic collection of real stories, observations, and anecdotes the reader is immersed in the life of the city, particularly its Arab quarters. Published initially in Arabic in a more extended version by the Institute for Palestine Studies, this English-language translation attempts to convey the richness of the original work. Extensive notes and a glossary enhance these vivid stories.
Verdict More than a personal memoir, this is eyewitness testimony to major historical events in Jerusalem from the waning days of Ottoman rule and the beginnings of the British mandate to the emergence of the state of Israel. It will prove a valuable source of primary material, recording Palestinian urban life and the rise of national consciousness. Highly recommended for historians of the era and for anyone interested in a legacy of Jerusalem.—Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY

Marsden, Keris & Matt Whitmore. The Paleo Primer: A Jump-Start Guide to Losing Body Fat and Living Primally! Midpoint. 2013. 214p. photos. index. ISBN 9781939563040. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781939563101. COOKING
Marsden and Whitmore own Fitter London and Fitter Food, a nutrition and group training company, and with this book they take their teaching to a wider audience. Lightly researched, this title provides lots of visual appeal to what can be a dry topic. The first half of the work addresses the health benefits of the Paleolithic diet, while the second half contains more than 100 recipes (including breakfast and dessert options). The fun and approachable writing style will appeal to newer and less experienced cooks. Some of the recipes are little more than a how-to on preparation, but others include additional details. There is an effort made to include substitutes for some carb-heavy favorites, such as a cauliflower crust pizza or vegetable-based spaghetti and fries.
Verdict The noncook, the new cook, and those new to the Paleo movement or to cooking with whole foods will find this work a helpful guide.—Dawn Lowe-Wincentsen, Oregon Inst. of Technology, Portland

starred review starMikics, David. Slow Reading in a Hurried Age. Belknap: Harvard Univ. 2013. 332p. index. ISBN 9780674724723. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780674728325. LIT
Mikics (John & Rebecca Moores Professor of English, Univ. of Houston; A New Handbook of Literary Terms) opens this guide for overburdened readers by asserting, “Faster is not always better.” His goal is to help people read smarter and enjoy reading more in an age when for many of us surfing websites has replaced careful reading, especially for the younger generation. This is a how-to book offering a number of rules, from “be patient” (a book doesn’t always unveil its secret at once) and “ask the right questions” to “find another book.” Mikics starts with a discussion of the problems posed in an Internet culture (e.g., studies indicate that teenage students find it hard to focus on single reading tasks and are less able to handle complex, multistage problems). He then moves on to explicate his rules and concludes with chapters on reading different genres: novels, short stories, essays, plays, and poems. If at times, Mikics seems a bit cookie-cutter in approach (e.g., to read a Wallace Stevens poem: “explore different paths,” “find the parts,” then “use the dictionary”), the problem he addresses is very real, the rules he proposes make sense, and he is a perceptive reader.
Verdict Expect a run on this book; it should prove popular in English classes at all levels, from high school and up.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA

The Native American Renaissance: Literary Imagination and Achievement. (American Indian Literature & Critical Studies, Vol. 59). Nov. 2013. 368p. ed. by Alan R. Velie & A. Robert Lee. index. ISBN 9780806144023. pap. $29.95.
Parins, James W. Literacy and Intellectual Life in the Cherokee Nation, 1820–1906. (American Indian Literature & Critical Studies, Vol. 58). 2013. 296p. illus. ISBN 9780806143996. $34.95.
ea. vol: Univ. of Oklahoma. LIT
In Literacy and Intellectual Life in the Cherokee Nation, Parins (English, emeritus, assoc. dir., Sequoyah National Research Ctr., Univ. of Arkansas at Little Rock) gives a detailed historical account of the development of written language and education systems in the Cherokee Nation during the 19th century, both before and after the Southeastern tribe’s removal from west of the Mississippi to Indian Territory. This includes early European missionary attempts at conversion of Cherokees to Christianity and the creation and use of the Sequoyan syllabary alongside English. The prose can be dense, but the importance that Cherokees placed on education and literacy, as a weapon against the constant oppression they were under from European settlers, is made clear. There is also an overview of early influential Cherokee writers. By contrast, The Native American Renaissance, edited by Velie (David Ross Boyd Professor of English, Univ. of Oklahoma; American Indian Literature) and Lee (American Literature, emeritus, Nihon Univ., Tokyo; Native American Writing) is a collection of scholarly essays on the blooming of Native American literary output since the 1960s and the publication of Scott Momaday’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel House Made of Dawn. Included are studies of such well-known writers as Leslie Marmon Silko, Sherman Alexie, and Louise Erdrich.
Verdict While Literacy and Intellectual Life is an informative work that could alert lay readers to the historical framework of the Native American struggle, The Native American Renaissance is firmly couched in a literary theoretical narrative and is preferable for scholars.—Lara Jacobs, Brooklyn

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. Hi Bette-Lee:
    I would like to be on the mailing list for Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books.
    Please send them to me at ramernick@sfpl.org.
    Hope all is well with you. I am now the cookbook librarian again at SFPL, after being the health librarian for over 17 years. Happy Thanksgiving.
    Congratualions on your 41st Year Anniversary. I just started my 31st year at SFPL… and I thought this was going to be my tempoary job, until I went back to the SF Community College!
    Time flies.
    Best to you.
    Ruth Amernick