Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, December 27, 2013

Week ending December 27, 2013

Davies, James O. A Year at Stonehenge. Frances Lincoln: Quayside. 2013. 112p. photos. ISBN 9780711234833. $27.95. PHOTOG
stonehenge122713In making this book, architectural photographer Davies was given privileged access to photograph Britain’s ancient site over a five-year period; the resulting photos reveal Stonehenge during different seasons and at all times of the day and night. Included are impressive scenes of Stonehenge in the snow, with the setting sun, and under a full moon. Davies captures close-up images that convey incredible detail about the monument’s history, such as the ancient graffiti carved into the stone monoliths. Also included is a private view of a Druid solstice celebration. The extended time frame and sheer volume of documentation give a concentrated and intimate view of this famous place—something that sets this work apart from other Stonehenge photo books. Stonehenge expert Mike Pitts (editor, British Archaeology) contributes the foreword, which deepens the reader’s understanding of British prehistory, including fascinating information on how the stone circle has been rearranged and even rebuilt over the years.
Verdict Recommended for Stonehenge enthusiasts and students of British prehistory.—Shauna Frischkorn, Millersville Univ., PA

A Fork in the Road: Tales of Food, Pleasure, & Discovery on the Road. Lonely Planet. 2013. 304p. ed. by James Oseland. ISBN 9781743218440. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781743601105. TRAV
Oseland (editor in chief, Saveur magazine) requested that those participating in this collection share the moment that they tasted something that changed them forever. Contributors range from Rita Mae Brown to Francine Prose to Michael Pollan. Probably the most humorous contribution is from food writers Jane and Michael Stern, who fondly remember the Naked City Truck Stop in Roselawn, IN. “We don’t spend much time dining in strip clubs, so it was a little strange eating a meal surrounded by naked cooks, waitresses, and customers. But that’s the way it was at the Adam and Eve Diner in 1974.” Sadly, the diner is no more; it closed in 1986 after several run-ins with the law. Writer David Kamp writes that some of the best food he’s ever eaten was during childhood vacations at Maple Cottages in Center Harbor, NH, where owner R.M. Fletcher did all the cooking, including a full-course turkey dinner and a New England boiled dinner. After dining all over the world, Kamp concludes, “My abiding culinary love is for…Mr. Fletcher food.” Other entries in this deliciously varied tome include an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, reflections on the Twinkie, and memories of the food miracles that a poor mother could create using few modern conveniences.
Verdict Foodies looking for something a bit different will be pleasantly satisfied.—Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL

Kastner, Victoria. Hearst Ranch: Family, Land, and Legacy. Abrams. 2013. 240p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781419708541. $50. PHOTOG
Many are familiar with William Randolph Hearst’s “Castle,” the vast 1920s estate the newspaper mogul built on designs by architect Julia Morgan. Less known is that the castle—a popular park donated to the state in the 1950s—is surrounded by a working cattle ranch comprised of lands purchased by patriarch George Hearst, a 19th-century mining tycoon, and occupying some of the most sublime and scenic portions of the Pacific coast. This lavishly illustrated coffee-table book directs attention away from the castle and toward the bucolic Hearst Ranch, now owned by the eponymous New York media company and largely protected from development through conservation easements and tax breaks awarded in 2005. That deal preserved the land as a working ranch while also allowing limited public access to shoreline areas. The text by Hearst Castle historian Kastner offers an insider’s history of this spectacular property and the Hearst family’s stewardship of it—a tad hagiographic and self-congratulatory in tone—with many photos demonstrating its singular beauty and the quality of the livestock raised there.
Verdict As a tribute to the picturesque, pastoral scenery that is within a day’s drive for millions of Californians, this book would be most enjoyed by those readers who have visited or live in the area.—Douglas F. Smith, Oakland P.L.