Nonfiction on Soldiering, Prince, the Cubs, Franciscan Missions, Happy Traveling | Xpress Reviews

Week ending March 31, 2017

Bonadonna, Reed Robert. Soldiers and Civilization: How the Profession of Arms Thought and Fought the Modern World into Existence. Naval Inst. May 2017. 352p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781682470671. $35. HIST
Arguing that the contributions of Western military professionals went beyond fighting, Bonadonna (retired colonel, U.S. Marine Corps; former director, ethics and character development, U.S. Merchant Marine Acad.) finds the military profession to be an interdisciplinary branch of the humanities. He examines the roles of soldiers in society and the impact they have had on society throughout history as well as how society affected them. The author considers this work “military history told as collective biography.” Arranged chronologically, chapters begin with the Greeks and Macedonians and continue on to the Roman era, Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the early modern period. There are individual chapters for the 18th century and onward, up until the present day. Each chapter concludes with an examination of the legacy that era demonstrates with regard to professional soldiers.
Verdict A rather cerebral analysis of war, this work will appeal to a more academic audience. Military historians, officers, and professional soldiers should find this book useful.—Matthew Wayman, Pennsylvania State Univ. Lib., Schuylkill Haven

Greenman, Ben. Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince. Holt. Apr. 2017. 304p. discog. notes. ISBN 9781250128379. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781250128362. MUSIC
prince033017Many authors have tried to assemble the puzzle that is the life and death of Prince; novelist and frequent music-bio cowriter (Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove; I Am Brian Wilson) Greenman has assembled a complete if slightly blurred image. This book is a thorough analysis of the music of Prince/The Symbol and readers (from the casual to the ardent fan) will view the music/performances through the lens of increased insight after reading. Although the biographical information is scant, it is effective in its brevity and foreshadows the making of the megastar whose star burns just as brilliantly after his 2016 death at age 57. Greenman cleverly dispenses slivers of Prince’s personal life to whet the appetites of those hungry for biographic information while leading readers to draw their own conclusions about its influence on his music. A fitting homage to the legacy of an artist whose body of work and persona remain a study in contrasts (overt sexuality/social commentary and masculinity draped in lace and heels) that continues to question the “who” and “why” of the man, the mystery and his music.
Verdict Greenman’s writing is both personal and profound from the equal perspectives of fan and scholar. An excellent addition to the Prince compendium.—Tamela Chambers, Chicago Pub. Schs.

Kaplan, David. The Plan: Epstein, Maddon, and the Audacious Blueprint for a Cubs Dynasty. Triumph. May 2017. 304p. photos. ISBN 9781629373263. $24.95. SPORTS
The biggest sports story of 2016 was the Chicago Cubs. The team’s 108-year World Championship drought finally came to an end after a stellar season and a thrilling seven-game World Series. The names Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Joe Maddon, Jake Arrieta, and David Ross will be remembered in Chicago as fondly as Ernie Banks or Ron Santo. Here, Kaplan reviews the team’s recent history, primarily its ownership and management along with key decisions and player acquisitions that led to the Cubs’ success. Kaplan covers the Cubs for CSN Chicago along with hosting CNN’s SportsTalk Live and cohosting Kap & Company on ESPN 100. The author offers insight into the inner workings of the team based on firsthand interviews with executives such as Cubs president (and former Boston Red Sox general manager) Theo Epstein. However, it is unfortunate that such access did not result in a more readable book. The quality of the writing throughout is subpar, hampered by repetition and poor sentence structure. Stronger editing would have helped.
Verdict Baseball fans will likely be disappointed, no matter how much they love their Cubbies.—Brett Rohlwing, Milwaukee P.L.

Kittle, Robert A. Franciscan Frontiersmen: How Three Adventurers Charted the West. Univ. of Oklahoma. May 2017. 336p. illus. maps. notes. index. ISBN 9780806156989. $29.95. HIST
Journalist-turned-historian Kittle (San Diego Union-Tribune) turns his attention to the exploratory endeavors of Franciscan friars Pedro Font, Juan Crespí, and Francisco Garcés, who documented their travels in the American West, mapping uncharted territory, negotiating treaties with Native Americans, and helping Spain to conquer and settle the Western regions of what is now modern-day Mexico and the United States. While the friars’ contributions may have been significant to European colonialism, Kittle’s tone is perhaps too flattering to his subjects throughout, and his final chapter is little more than an apologist’s treatise for the Spanish missions. By wanting to assimilate the native population instead of killing them outright, he argues, Spaniards were far nobler in their American conquest than other European nations. However, the author’s word choices in describing Native Americans who chose to leave the missions—fugitives and runaways—reveal his bias, favoring the friars over a balanced narrative. Furthermore, the writing is not as crisp or fast-paced as one might hope for, and, despite its relatively modest length, the prose lags in places.
Verdict This book might be of interest to those who like reading about the American Southwest, Spanish missions, Western exploration and expansion, religious history, or Catholicism.—Crystal Goldman, Univ. of California San Diego Lib.

Kurtz, Jaime. The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations. Oxford Univ. Jun. 2017. 271p. notes. index. ISBN 9780190638986. pap. $19.95. TRAV
Author and psychology professor (James Madison Univ.) Kurtz believes happiness is hard work, especially for travelers. Describing herself as an “allocentric introvert,” she pursues a scientific investigation of happiness through an overwhelming number of reference citations (323 in a 271-page book). She also recounts many personal anecdotes as a tour group leader. At one point Kurtz uses “How Vacations Are Like Colonoscopies” to introduce a chapter—so much for happy traveling. The book often reads like an expanded master’s thesis, with the addition of personality tests and self-examination questions. It seems a superfluous guide for those who feel secure in themselves but equally so for others when Kurtz sums up on the last page with an epilog, “The Twelve Rules for Happy Travel.” Who needs the previous 270 pages?
Verdict Less expensive than a course or consultation with a mental health professional. Happiness junkies may find the book filled with practical advice and exercises. Others may wonder if it’s just psychobabble for the insecure.—Janet N. Ross, formerly with Washoe Cty. Lib. Syst., Sparks, NV