Nonfiction on the Grateful Dead, Perfectionism, the U.S. Economy, Gay Marriage, Earhart, Sanders | Xpress Reviews

Week ending December 4, 2015

Benson, Michael. Why the Grateful Dead Matter. ForeEdge: Univ. Pr. of New England. Feb. 2016. 184p. photos. index. ISBN 9781611688511. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781611689242. MUSIC
This brief book by veteran journalist Benson is made up of short essay-like chapters on aspects of the Grateful Dead phenomenon.  It contains little in the way of fresh information or insight. While we get much on how the Dead did almost everything differently—from their marketing to their interaction with their fans to how they approached performing—it’s not clear why these differences mattered per se. The most provocative parts of the book are when Benson moves away from writing about the Dead qua Dead and tells us about his and others’ experiences of the band. Chapter 31 in particular, which narrates a trip to a Jerry Garcia Band concert, is full of fascinating details and perspective related to what makes rock shows exciting. That this section is not actually about the Dead is telling.
Verdict Chapter 31 should be published as a stand-alone essay, so that it can be enjoyed as a work unto itself. Otherwise, only hard-core fans or scholars need bother.—Derek Sanderson, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY

Broughton, Vanda. Essential Classification. 2d ed. ALA. 2015. 336p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780838913697. $95. PRO MEDIA
Broughton (information studies, Univ. Coll. London; Essential Thesaurus Construction) has completely revised her textbook, drawing from the cataloging and classification module for the master’s program at her college for this second edition. Targeting beginners, the author focuses on basic skills in assessing resources for effective categorization, including selection and construction of Library of Congress Subject Headings and formation of Cutter numbers. Background is provided about the development of major classification systems in the UK and the United States. A significant portion of the book deals with the Dewey Decimal System. The attractive illustrations and well-designed graphics make it easy to comprehend the concepts under discussion. The final chapter, “Classification in Digital Space,” addresses the use of online classification tools, information architecture, metadata management, and classification of digital objects.
Verdict This volume is most relevant for library faculty and new cataloging staff in the UK. Library faculty in the United States should consider Fotis Lazarinis’s Cataloguing and Classification, or Introduction to Cataloging and Classification, 11th edition, by Daniel N. Joudrey and others.—Betty J. Glass, Univ. of Nevada Lib., Reno

Cohen, Beth Thomas. Drop the Act, It’s Exhausting: Free Yourself from Your So-Called Put-Together Life. Taylor Trade: Rowman & Littlefield. 2015. 156p. ISBN 9781493008520. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781630761233. SELF-HELP
Publicist Cohen’s new book succeeds in encouraging women who are juggling work, family, friends, and fashion, to remove the fantasy veil of perfection. This book is an invitation to become realistic about the struggles of everyday life and to embolden one another to embrace difficulties rather than covering them with the usually expected social mask. Cohen expresses a candor which will simultaneously evoke both sympathy and laughter, as well as give hope for women to relax and enjoy life in all of its “realness.” This volume differs from the typical self-help title about letting go of perfectionism, in that the message is neither divinely transcendent, nor filled with psychobabble. The author’s voice is that of a friend having a conversation over coffee (or wine!), as she gives frank examples from her own life, interjecting humor and self-forgiveness.
Verdict This book may fall short as scholastic material for formal research, but its warmth will appeal to the casual reader, particularly exhausted mothers and career women who are trying to proverbially “have it all.”—Bonnie Parker, Southern Crescent Technical Coll., Thomaston, GA

Game of Thrones: The Noble Houses of Westeros; Seasons 1–5. Running Pr. Dec. 2015. 160p. ed. by Cindy De La Hoz. illus. maps. ISBN 9780762457977. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780762458028. TV
The HBO hit television series Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences for five seasons. Based on George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy novels, it involves a dense and complex world in which noble families vie for the Iron Throne and rule of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. This official guide provides an overview of all the powerful houses of nobility. Included are details about each family’s history, homeland, and house sigil, as well as the family tree of each house. Descriptions of key members and their roles in the “game” are useful in keeping track of the multilayered story line and intricate interpersonal relationships. The book is richly illustrated throughout, with color photographs of the characters, costumes, and weapons. The cover, too, is beautifully designed with gold-embossed house sigils.
Verdict Casual viewers will find this guide helpful in navigating the political intrigue among the rival families and their quest for power over the realm; die-hard fans will want this stylish book for their collection.—Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL

Gilbert, Ronnie. Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life in Song. Univ .of California. 2015. 304p. photos. ISBN 9780520253087. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780520962446. MUSIC/MEMOIR
Reading the final chapter of activist/performer Gilbert’s memoir, one is moved to reflect on the difficulty of enacting social change. Gilbert, who died in June 2015 at the age of 88, describes several demonstrations by her Seniors for Peace activist group in 2013 and 2014. Many of the seniors, like Gilbert herself, are lifelong activists, still working for the causes they were fighting for 50 or 60 years earlier. Activism is just one of the threads winding through this title, along with music, theater, performance, politics, and the challenges of building a life outside of the 20th-century mainstream. A number of interesting vignettes are included, from the Weavers’ (the folk quartet of which Gilbert was a member) difficulties finding work in the 1950s owing to their communist associations; Gilbert’s first retirement from music, from which she emerged with the feminist folk revival of the late 1970s; and the author’s essay into primal scream therapy, which led to Gilbert attending graduate school and a brief career as a psychologist. Yet it’s the music that shines the brightest in this memoir; Gilbert’s time with the Weavers and her creative partnership with Holly Near bookend a life no less remarkable for being remarkably nonlinear.
Verdict For fans of the Weavers and 20th-century American folk music generally.—Genevieve Williams, Pacific Lutheran Univ. Lib., Tacoma

Jameson, W.C. Amelia Earhart: Beyond the Grave. Taylor Trade: Rowman & Littlefield. Jan. 2016. 192p. bibliog. ISBN 9781589799905. $24.95. HIST
earhart.jpg12315Prolific author Jameson (Billy the Kid) initially traces Amelia Earhart’s (b. 1897) celebrated early flying career under the direction of her manager and husband-to-be George Palmer Putnam. Then, in the fall of 1936, with plans for Amelia’s projected around-the-world flight in progress, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Putnams agreed to Washington’s financial support of the undertaking in return for governmental control. Roosevelt, according to Jameson, wanted Earhart to reconnoiter and photograph Japanese military holdings in the Pacific from the air. The author details the trials and tribulations of Earhart’s doomed flight commencing on May 20, 1937. Jameson posits that Earhart’s Electra came down, not at her scheduled Pacific destination of Howland Island, but at the Mili Atoll in the Marshall Island group, and that she and Noonan were taken by the Japanese. He maintains that Earhart was a prisoner for eight years, before being discovered and rescued by U.S. occupation troops. During her captivity, Jameson’s research suggests Amelia may have become a naturalized Japanese citizen and also may have participated, willingly or otherwise, in enemy aeronautical research and Tokyo Rose overseas broadcasts. Once repatriated stateside, Earhart reputedly lived out her life in obscurity under the alias Irene Craigmile Bolam with the aid of stonewalling government officials and Monsignor James Francis Kelley, passing away on July 7, 1982.
Verdict This is a fascinating collage of highly provocative interpretations relative to the never-ending Earhart enigma; recommended for history and aviation enthusiasts, conspiracy theorists, lay readers, and public libraries.—John Carver Edwards, formerly with Univ. of Georgia Libs.

Kessler, Lauren. Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts, and My Midlife Quest To Dance the Nutcracker. Da Capo. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780738218311. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738218328. MEMOIR
Journalist and author (The Happy Bottom Riding Club: The Life and Times of Pancho BarnesCounterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging) Kessler’s dreams of becoming a ballerina were dashed at a young age when she overheard her ballet instructor tell her mother “her shape is wrong.” Finding herself in midlife, with her kids no longer at home, she decides to pursue her girlhood dream: to dance in a production of The Nutcracker with a professional company. She searches for a ballet company willing to take a chance on her, linking up with mentors along the way. To prepare her body for the rigor of ballet classes, she first has to get into shape to get into shape, submitting herself to seemingly torturous exercise classes. Throughout her journey, Kessler sprinkles in plenty of ballet history along with history of The Nutcracker itself.
Verdict This delightful story of one woman’s personal quest will be enjoyed by anyone who thinks age is just a number, but Nutcracker fans will find it especially appealing.—Erin Shea, Ferguson Lib., CT

McConnell, Michael & Jack Baker. The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World: America’s First Gay Marriage. Univ. of Minnesota. Jan. 2016. 200p. photos. index. ISBN 9780816699261. $22.95. BIOG
This charming debut by McConnell and Baker is the story of the first gay marriage legally recognized by a state—their marriage. In the early 1970s, this process was a lot more complicated than it sounds, the legal machinations being very tricky. Though the title suggests this book is about the marriage, and much of it is, this is also the story of the relationship between Michael and Jack over the span of 40 years. What makes them unusual for their time is how public they were in their relationship. Jack became president of the University of Minnesota student body twice and their lives became public once their application for a marriage license made the news. As a result, McConnell’s job offer as a librarian at the University of Minnesota was rescinded.
Verdict The great appeal of McConnell and Baker’s recommended story is its simple style and the everydayness of their lives. Their appeal is how ordinary people can do extraordinary things.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia

Meyerowitz, Seth with Peter Stevens. The Lost Airman: A True Story of Escape from Nazi Occupied France. Berkley. Jan. 2016. 320p. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781592409297. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698193963. HIST
Twenty-five-year-old Arthur Meyerowitz, a flight engineer and top turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber during World War II, was shot down over France on December 31, 1943. The Lost Airman, written primarily by Arthur’s grandson, recounts the story of Arthur’s path from life in New York City to his eventual escape from occupied France. The bulk of the account comes in the form of Arthur’s attempts to return to Allied territory with the assistance of various French Resistance operatives, including Marcel Taillander, an influential leader who largely orchestrated Arthur’s movements through France to neutral Spain, where Arthur made his way to Gibraltar. The story has a quick pace and reads much like a novel, yet recurring praise for Arthur makes him seem flawless, and there are significant discrepancies between Arthur’s version of events regarding actions of his plane’s pilot (Second Lieutenant Chase) and Chase’s description, which are unnecessarily prominent and detract from the book’s stated purpose.
Verdict This title will appeal most to those interested in tales of the French Resistance or similar escape stories.—Matthew Wayman, Pennsylvania State Univ. Lib., Schuylkill Haven

Stiglitz, Joseph E. Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity. Norton. 2015. 256p. illus. notes. ISBN 9780393254051. $26.95; ISBN 9780393353129. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393254068. ECON
rewritingtherules.jpg12315Stiglitz (The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them), a Nobel laureate, proffers that the world has changed, and that the United States needs to reshape its world view on economics. By analogy, if economics is a battlefield, Stiglitz would contend that we are fighting a past war with old weapons. Not so long ago, prior to the free fall of the stock market and the housing crash, the prevailing sentiment was to let the individual manage their own Social Security account. For Stiglitz, the best outcome for everyone is a level playing field. In broad brushstrokes, he contends that more investment is needed in health care, education, and infrastructure, and, at the same time, the policies that favor special interests should be eliminated. This investment would cost money, and Stiglitz is a proponent of rewriting the tax code to make the endeavor possible. While there are those who might see this as putting a damper on the economy, this is the same tactic that the National Football League uses to promote equity—there are still winners and losers, but any team has a fighting chance.
Verdict Recommended as a good scorecard by which to evaluate the policies presidential candidates.—Steven Silkunas, Fernandina Beach, FL

Sulich, Susan. 50 Great Bed & Breakfasts and Inns: New England. Running Pr. 2015. 256p. photos. index. ISBN 9780762457472. pap. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780762458011. TRAV
With this glimpse into bed and breakfasts, readers will daydream about a long, romantic weekend in New England—its coastline, parks, and charming towns. Each B&B is introduced with an exterior photo and a paragraph about its history and appeal. One to four of its signature recipes follow. These upscale brunch dishes range from local specialties like eggs Newport and wild blueberry strata with New Hampshire maple whipped cream to reimagined classics such as buttermilk-peach pancakes and baked cinnamon-apple French toast.  A few entries include a page on local attractions, but these are much less robust than those found in most travel guides. The quality of the physical book makes it a pleasure to read; the paper is heavy and most pages have color photographs.
Verdict More cookbook than travel book, this title has limited use for readers planning a trip. However, its greatest appeal will be for armchair travelers and home bakers.—Audrey Barbakoff, Kitsap Regional Lib., Bainbridge Island, WA

Sunlight on the River: Poems About Paintings, Paintings About Poems. Prestel. 2015. 140p. ed. by Scott Gutterman. illus. ISBN 9783791354774. $34.95. FINE ARTS
Both painter and poet seek to create an image: one by color, the other by words. These similarities frequently lead to a pairing of the two, as is the case in this work. The pairings are often intriguing, as in the Dante/Rauschenberg “Canto 1” and Jane Flanders’s imagery of Vincent van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles.” There are few surprises—John Keats’s poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” seems to appear in every volume of this sort. Other efforts are more strained, and it is anyone’s guess as to why editor Gutterman, deputy director at New York’s Neue Galerie, has chosen some of the pairings. For example, Rainier Maria Rilke’s poem “Orpheus” and the work of Cy Twombly have little in common, either in content or emotion. Gutterman’s effort to explain ekphrasis—poems inspired by paintings and paintings inspired by poems—is laudable, but the result adds little to the current literature. Overall, it is less a work about transformation than about a common thread of emotion and interpretation, which is one of the joys of the interaction of the arts. The poems are wonderful and the paintings superb, but that is not really enough to make the reader suddenly look at one or the other in a new light.
Verdict This handsome, well-produced book is not a necessary purchase for either the poetry or the reproductions, though it might suit as a gift book.—Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York

Tasini, Jonathan. The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America. Chelsea Green. 2015. 176p. notes. index. ISBN 9781603586672. pap. $14; ebk. ISBN 9781603586689. POL SCI
If you are a Bernie Sanders fan, no doubt you will enjoy this book. If you are not a follower of Sanders, no doubt you won’t read this book, for this work by author, analyst, and political commentator Tasini (The Audacity of Greed) is not an objective piece of critical political analysis. It’s not meant to be. Essentially, this is an attempt (and perhaps the November 2016 election will prove how successful an attempt) to persuade voters to endorse and elect Sanders, U.S. Senator from Vermont and Democratic candidate for the presidency during this primary season, the 45th U.S. president. Sanders is a very popular senator, self-described American Socialist, and, according to Tasini, an “authentic” person with no unvarnished opinions and beliefs. If one’s purpose is to discover the essence of Sanders’s political views and his policy preferences, then this study deserves close scrutiny. Not a standard campaign political biography, nor hagiography, the book, which is quite readable and accessible, is essentially an extended political pamphlet. Those readers desiring a more in-depth, objective analysis of Sanders the man, Sanders the seasoned, successful politico, will have to look elsewhere.
Verdict Recommended for serious policy wonks and committed Sanders followers.—Stephen Kent Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, ID

Share