April 2020 Prime Picks
Biography and Autobiography
The Adventurer's Son
The Adventurer's Son is a powerful memoir of the son of iconic adventurer Roman Dial and tells of the danger which befell him when he entered a remote Costa Rican rainforest on a 4-day jungle trip and never returned.
Roman Dial embarked on a two-year quest to find out what had happened to his son—a journey that also uncovered facets of their relationship that he hadn't accepted or realized before.
Dial's own journeys through the Costa Rican jungle, his encounters with local authorities who suspected his son had been murdered, and his quest to uncover the truth in some of the most remote regions he'd ever experienced makes for an epic and involving survey that examines a father's influence on his son's choices and personality.
The mystery of whether his son's disappearance was choice or tragedy adds a compelling element to this moving, riveting adventure.
The Lives and Extraordinary Adventures of Fifteen
from the Golden Age of Vagabondage
The Lives and Extraordinary Adventures of Fifteen Tramp Writers from the Golden Age of Vagabondage gathers the stories of fifteen wanderers who represent widely different approaches in documenting their stories.
Some were prolific writers of their experience. Others only produced a page of powerful reflection. All receive excellent-quality embellishment, background information, and notes by Ian Cutler, who brings these diverse stories and times to life.
From tramping in America and through Europe to summaries of the successes and failures of the vagabond life, Cutler provides not just a series of biographical sketches, but an important probe into the experience, motivations, and social milieu of early vagabonders around the world.
The wide-ranging detail and scope of this coverage makes it a recommendation for biography, history, travel, and social issues collections alike.
There Was a Time: James Brown, the Chitlin' Circuit,
Post Hill Press
There Was a Time: James Brown, the Chitlin' Circuit, and Me blends a personal memoir into a music history, offering a travelogue of the author's journey around the world with James Brown, serving as his tour manager.
It offers candid insights into Brown's music and persona, observes the 'Chitlin' Circuit' during the rise of soul music, and comes from the personal experiences of a mid-60s DJ who became an early promoter of James Brown, eventually becoming his road manager.
Fans of soul music history in general and James Brown in particular will find There Was a Time adopts a unique approach as it romps through personal appearance, record stores, and the rising world of James Brown and soul power at its height.
The lively moment-by-moment tone imparts a 'you are there' feel that other general soul music histories don't achieve, making for an outstanding treat for Brown and music history enthusiasts alike.
Down East Books
Boiling Off: Maple Sugaring in Maine is a history and memoir blend. It's reviewed in this section because cooks with any degree of interest in the history of maple sugar will find it a lively, compelling read.
Said cooks will be especially interested in the culinary discussions of syrup flavor and grading, changing grading in the industry, and what differentiates superior maple syrup from ordinary batches.
Political influences, social changes, regional transformation, new technology, and culinary observation create a book that belongs on many different shelves, from culinary libraries to those strong in Maine history and culture and the evolution of food and business in America.
The Flavor of Wood
The Flavor of Wood: In Search of the Wild Taste of Trees from Smoke and Sap to Root and Bark is more than another 'cooking with wood' book, surveying trees and their wood and how these different flavors and smells affect taste.
Artur Cisar-Erlach traveled the world studying how trees infuse dishes with their unique wood flavors, from whisky and cheese to tea and maple syrup.
'Wood' isn't limited to barbecue references, here. Wood can involve storage barrels, smoke, roots, and bark.
This journey takes the form of a lively culinary travelogue that explores the evolution of wood-based culinary flavoring methods.
The result is an outstanding survey that cooks will want to note.
The Great Fashion Designers
Brenda Polan and Roger Tredre
The Great Fashion Designers: From Chanel to McQueen, the Names That Made Fashion History reviews the lives and collections of 55 iconic fashion designers, pairing interviews with designers with a work of investigative fashion journalism in an excellent new edition that adds five new designers to the mix.
This book has been entirely revamped to include the latest trends, changes, politics, and artistic influences of the fashion industry. It explores the evolution of designer careers, fashion houses, and how each designer influenced peers and industry trends as a whole.
Full-page color photos of the fashion styles influenced by the visions of Issey Miyake, Azxedine Alïa, Phoebe Philo, and others consider their effects and perspectives, their unique visions, and the impact of different approaches such as the Halston look, which reflected understated wealth.
Interviews with these designers round out the historical, artistic, and social assessment of their impact in a survey highly recommended for its contrasts between fashion approachs and for its industry history and discussions.
Harlem of the West
Elizabeth Pepin Silva and Lewis Watts
Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era is about a point in time in 1940s and 1950s San Francisco when jazz and a mixed ethnic neighborhood produced some of the most vibrant musical atmospheres in American history.
Two photographers provide full-page black and white images capturing the people, interactions, and community of this era. These accompany written descriptions of specific clubs and locales where jazz blossomed, from The Primalon Ballroom and The Manor Plaza Hotel to Bop City and Jack's Tavern.
Each institution receives not just a historical or musical review, but a personal reminiscence of the institution's atmosphere and attractions, helping recreate the milieu of the house parties, after-hours clubs, and those who played in and visited them.
This outstanding coverage will hold special appeal for San Francisco audiences but is also highly recommended for any definitive American jazz history collection and many a library strong in ethnic community explorations.
Stone Nudes Climbing Bare
Stone Nudes Climbing Bare's inspiration began on an impulse twenty years ago, when photographer Dean Fidelman asked a rock climber to boulder nude, creating different visual body representations as she navigated the rocks sans clothes.
This sparked a series, Stone Nudes, and led the author on a world journey to capture athletic climbers of both sexes who scaled surfaces, rested in waters or on beaches, and experienced the outdoors in the buff.
Stone Nudes Climbing Bare is sensual, revealing, and packed with rock climbing and nature images in black and white. Its approach and subjects will appeal to a range of audiences, from sports and climbing aficionados to photographers of black and white nude photography who will find much inspiration, here, for capturing a more active human form than is commonly displayed in the art of nude photography.
The Big Goodbye
The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood tells, for the first time, the stories of Jack Nicholson, Roman Polanski, and the scripts, deals, and politics which played a part in transforming the film industry into today's corporate Hollywood.
Where other Hollywood stories focus on factual history, The Big Goodbye adopts a lively descriptive style that reads with the action and emotion of fiction as it probes a movie called Chinatown that changed the face of the industry and its major players.
Readers who anticipate that somehow this will be coverage of ethnic struggles in Hollywood may be surprised to find that, in fact, the subject is much wider-ranging, using some of the major movers and shakers of the industry to reveal Hollywood's evolution and influences.
The Big Goodbye is a powerful account of personality and purpose clashes that should be part of any definitive collection on Hollywood's social, political, and artistic history.
Kate Winkler Dawson
American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI details the efforts and crime-busting techniques developed by Edward Oscar Heinrich (deemed 'America's Sherlock Holmes'), who created and tested many basic techniques of investigation between 1921 and 1933 as he solved murders and crimes.
Heinrich pioneered many crime-solving methods that are used in modern times. He invented new forensic techniques, worked both in the lab and on the crime scene, and single-handedly changed the nature of how crime was investigated and proven.
Kate Winkler Dawson stumbled upon reference to this little-known man and embarked on a search for his story. This led her to the archives of UC Berkeley, which contained over 100,000 pieces of information donated by Heinrich's son in the 1960s and which had remained untouched until her study.
Her story and that of Heinrich should be in every American history and criminology studies collection.
North American Aviation in the Jet Age: The
North American Aviation in the Jet Age: The California Years covers military aviation's evolution in the state from 1945-1997, surveying changes in technology, new objectives, and the evolution of World War II weaponry as it applied to rocket planes and fighters, creating the cornerstones of modern military might.
The postwar corporate history of North American Aviation (NAA) that translated these wartime German weapons' technological advances into today's modern weaponry creates a strong connection between US aviation and space history and military struggles. This comes from an author who retired from Boeing after 36 years in various departments following his military service.
Black and white and color photos, charts, and illustrations pack a survey that discusses such aviation challenges and developments as midair refueling, carrier airplanes, rocket studies seized from Germany that proved viable only decades later, and everything from attire to survival kits.
These discussions of military aviation advancements aren't limited to World War II, but move into the Vietnam era and beyond, discussing company testing operations, methods of advancement, and improvements made to specific jet fighter models over the years.
Aviation and military collections who want a solid connection between history, technology, military developments, and equipment advancements will find North American Aviation in the Jet Age: The California Years a lively, comprehensive, very highly recommended examination.
The Three-Cornered War
Megan Kate Nelson
The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West provides a different view of the American Civil War—one that rests not in the soil and battles of the South, but in the West, where Union and Confederate struggles have been rarely covered...until now.
Some of the most epic battles for control for the West between Union, Confederate, and Native Americans took place in this region, with military strategies tailored to protect territories such as New Mexico, the gateway to Southern California.
Researcher Megan Kate Nelson examined diaries, military records, oral histories, and photos for her book. Her survey focuses primarily on Arizona and New Mexico, considering the politics and influences upon each as Union, Native, and Confederate forces clashed in a border region that was key to control.
This important focus should be in any collection strong in Civil War or Southwest history. It provides many insights into an often-overlooked and critical piece of Civil War history.
E.J. Dionne, Jr.
St. Martin's Press
Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our Country is a much-needed answer advising calm in the current political storm, and comes from a Washington Post columnist who provides a concrete blueprint for making the kinds of social and political changes that will lead to a more stable, unified political environment and United States.
This can be done through a politically diverse coalition that crosses age, gender, ethnicity, and ideal barriers alike. Code Red points out that Trump's presidency has created a negative environment that needs to be countered by a coalition that emphasizes what it opposes and supports in a more encompassing manner. It also asks progressives and moderates on all sides to build better regard for one another's views and to develop and foster points of agreement.
Any reader who would better understand the forces at work pulling the country apart and, more importantly, the options that can join it back together need to place Code Red at the top of their reading list.
The Power Worshippers
The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism discusses the rise of religious political power in America, showing how religious nationalism is not only increasing, but seeks to replace democratic institutions with a Christian-based method of governance which promotes one particular objective in a non-inclusive atmosphere.
This movement has already had early successes in the political arena and threatens to expand its reach and objectives. The Power Worshippers documents this new tool of the religious right, examining the movement's leaders, tenants, and the network of pastoral and advocacy groups involved in expanding its alliances in both in the U.S. and abroad.
Christian nationalism holds some disturbing connections to repressive movements of the past. The Power Worshippers provides an intriguing consideration of how this past may be arising in new yet frighteningly familiar form.
Russians Among Us
Russians Among Us: Sleeper Cells, Ghost Stories, and the Hunt for Putin's Spies could not have arrived at a better time. It provides a detailed exploration of Russia's espionage against the U.S. from the end of the Cold War to the modern era.
Gordon Corera focuses on Putin's escalating espionage campaign in this country, Russian spies who penetrated the US and the FBI's hunt to identify and capture them, and the evolution of the Russian intelligence system as a whole.
The focus on deep-cover spies in America and the FBI's efforts to identify and stop them makes for an engrossing exploration of crime, international politics, and the history of espionage on American soil. Russians Among Us should be in every American history and social and political issues collection.
Sunnis and Shi'a: A Political History
Princeton University Press
Sunnis and Shi'a: A Political History is an excellent survey of not just the two groups at war, but how they fit into the overall picture of the Islamic world and its political clashes.
There is a common perception that these two groups have always been at odds, but Laurence Louër refutes this notion, showing how they have often led peaceful lives together in different eras.
This makes the focus on what divides them all the more intriguing as chapters explore Islamic contentions, history, and the forces outside of Islam which have helped foster these ongoing clashes.
Any reader who would understand more about Islam and these two groups in particular must read this history in order to fully understand the historical bigger picture of their differences and similarities.
The Anatomy Bible
The Anatomy Bible: The Incredible Biology of You is the 15th contribution to the Subject Bible series on human life, and provides an in-depth yet lively introduction to human anatomy.
Anatomy books are often designed for technical or medical readers, but The Anatomy Bible is directed to general-interest audiences and explains all medical terms, explores how systems work, and provides excellent color illustrations throughout which range from cutaway views to charts depicting how each human system looks, functions, and interacts with the body as a whole.
High school to adult readers looking for an introduction that assumes no prior familiarity with physiology or human anatomy will find The Anatomy Bible the perfect starting place for building basic understanding.
The Autonomous Revolution
William H. Davidow & Michael S. Malone
The Autonomous Revolution: Reclaiming the Future We've Sold to Machines discusses the Autonomous Revolution, an effort to regain traction, jobs, and lives lost to AI-based machines which are replacing human beings with both automated functions and less personal social interactions.
The big social implications and impacts of this revolution will affect all business endeavors and social contacts. New roles and approaches to living based on revised values and assessments will create new opportunities even as they revise or shut down old methods of handling data, work, and relationships.
For these reasons, The Autonomous Revolution should ideally reach beyond an audience of business readers into general social circles with not just observations and predictions, but recommendations. These may often appear radical in nature, but are designed to provide guidance in a rapidly changing technological world.
Science, Nature & Technology
Geostories: Another Architecture for the Environment
Raina Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy
Geostories: Another Architecture for the Environment surveys changing environments around the world and responses to these events, acknowledging the presence and effects of climate change and the potential of a different kind of response to these revised environments.
The book's three sections (terrarium, aquarium, and planetarium) contain black and white images throughout that accompany such intriguing blends of science, social history, and technology as the note that icebergs are actually free for the taking. They can be used in projects such as towing them to the Arabian Peninsula to provide fresh water at less cost than building a water plant.
This blend of science, technology, and human affairs creates an intriguing survey of the earth's geosystems and the need for creative, wide-ranging, innovative systems of transformation in response to climate change.
No science or social studies collection should be without this futuristic analysis.
The Saguaro Cactus: A Natural History
David Yeltman, et.al.
University of Arizona Press
The Saguaro Cactus: A Natural History contains a complete survey of this desert plant and its importance not just to the Sonoran Desert that is its home, but to Native American culture and American history.
Essays gathered in The Saguaro Cactus discuss the history, symbolism, natural history, and role played by the saguaro cactus in desert systems.
From controversies surrounding the plant's protected species status and invasive grass's threat to the saguaro cactus to Papago ceremonies surrounding its harvest and treatment and speculations on the plant's origins, this wide-ranging gathering of insights will delight any reader with a special affinity for Southwest desert ecology in general and the importance and history of the saguaro cactus in particular.
Search and Rescue Alaska
Search and Rescue Alaska will appeal to a wide range of readers, from those who enjoy travelogues and stories of the outdoors to others who seek tales of heroism, rescue, and Alaskan history.
These stories follow the pilots and military personnel who are on call for search and rescue missions in Alaska, providing a history of such efforts through the decades. It follows the process from its instigation in 1932 to a 2017 rescue, comparing the very different equipment, technology, and approaches that evolved over the decades.
From news reports and reminisces of rescuer and rescued alike to vivid accounts of Alaska's terrain and the special challenges it poses to rescuers, this is a action-packed survey that will not just entertain, but enlightens readers about Alaska's environment and the process of surviving it.
Until the End of Time
Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe explores deep time and the search for purpose in mathematical laws and physics. It uses a series of stories to explore different levels of reality, presenting a cosmic timelines of events that indicates how these explorations help give meaning to human aspirations.
Until the End of Time is a heady whirlwind tour through the universe that considers belief systems, evolutionary drivers, thoughts about the universe's origins and possible ends, and patterns of data analysis and examination. It includes subjects as wide-ranging as a belief in God and how scientific and religious assessments are formed, revised, or discarded.
Readers interested in a synthesis of science, philosophy, and religious inspection will find Until the End of Time engrossing, lively, and thought-provoking.
Simon & Schuster
Blue Skies is recommended reading for ages 8-12 and tells of ten-year-old Glory Bea, who anticipates and longs for a miracle with her father's return from a war that ended three years ago.
Glory can't accept the adults' messages that her father died in France. She retains faith that her father is still alive. Maybe it's up to her to find him.
When she learns that a train will stop in the town he was last seen in, she decides to take matters into her own hands to guide her lost father back home.
A heartfelt, engrossing story emerges about life, death, faith, and proactive dreaming.
Two new books for teens are standout recommendations from Disney/Hyperion's latest releases, and deserve a place in any discriminating library catering to teen leisure readers.
London Shah's The Light at the Bottom of the World (9781368036887, $17.99) is set in the last days of the 21st century when sea creatures invade the ruins of London, threatening its human survivors.
Teen Leyla McQueen is a submersible racer who participates in the city's annual marathon and plots to save her father, who has been arrested on false charges. The prime minister has promised to make the winner's dreams come true.
But when the race introduces Leyla to truths that lead her to identify and work against corruption in the government, more is at stake than her father's survival.
A thought-provoking story of a world in crisis and on the cusp of irreversible changes evolves, with Leyla's family and life at the heart of these transformations.
Liz Braswell's Straight On Till Morning (9781484781302, $17.99) is especially recommended for fans of the classic Peter Pan, who here receive a very different take on the traditional Pan focus from the viewpoint of teen Wendy Darling, who is threatened with banishment to Ireland to become a governess.
As now-nearly-adult Wendy documents Never Land tales and a dream that began four years earlier, she faces a new opportunity to visit Never Land via pirate ship, makes a deadly deal to achieve her dream of meeting Peter, and embarks on a journey that defies her memories of Peter's promises, involving her in Captain Hook's evil plans.
This engrossing spin-off on the fantasy realm will delight Peter Pan fans with its very different take on Wendy's return.
The Hunter and His Dog
Sassafras de Bruyn
Wm B. Eerdmans
The Hunter and His Dog: A Fantastical Journey Through the World of Bruegel is a wordless picture book that excels in capturing the nuances of the 1500s artist's landscapes and scenes and holds great detail and unexpected moments.
Kids of all ages, as well as their adult readers, will benefit from an early introduction to Bruegel's art forms and scenes which captures a series of his paintings, documenting their evolutionary process in fine detail.
The result is a work best enjoyed by those who would teach the young about Bruegel's works, art, and meaning.
Many an adult relatively new to Bruegel will also be engrossed by this accessible, colorful survey of his themes.
I, Cosmo tells of an old, arthritic dog challenged by his young owner's dream of having him compete in a dance contest.
Max is convinced this dance can help keep his conflicted parents together, if he and his canine companion can win the freestyle competition and a prize role in a movie. Such a win would lead his parents to see that Max and Cosmo shouldn't be separated by family strife.
A dog training mission evolves in a fun story told from Cosmo's viewpoint which explores issues of love, loyalty, and togetherness in a humorous, compellingly different manner.
Young dog story readers in advanced elementary to middle school grades will find I, Cosmo takes an involving and fun perspective that uses the dog's-eye view for a different view of family conflict and proactive behaviors.
My First Cookbook
America's Test Kitchen
America's Test Kitchen, Publishers
It's not like there are no other cookbooks for children on the market, but what makes My First Cookbook a standout is its production by a publisher who not only tests all recipes to present the best version, but explores the testing process to outline why that recipe works better than its competitors.
This cookbook differs from adult collections, though, in that it focuses on preparation equipment and methods as much as the recipe itself. It walks kids ages 5-8 through the process of each of 60 recipes that encourage math and science knowledge, kitchen skills development, and knowledge about ingredient choices.
'Fun facts' range from a discussion of America's Test Kitchen's review of different kinds of canned pumpkin and what makes one superior over another to culinary insights, such as where molasses comes from.
Lovely contemporary color photos of kids in the kitchen make for a collection that is further vetted by thousands of kid testers, making for a 'best of the best' gathering that should indeed be the first cookbook a parent gives to their child.
Three new releases from Penguin provide young readers with exceptional leisure reading picture book tales.
Dev Petty's The Bear Must Go On (9781984837479, $17.99) receives exceptionally engaging drawings by Brandon Todd as it follows Bear and his animal friends, who are planning on putting on a show.
There's a lot to be done to get ready for a vivid show, and shy Bear, its note-taker and organizer, is very satisfied with not going on stage.
As he sings contented songs over his notes, Bear seems to have everything well in paw...until disaster strikes.
A zany, fun story evolves into a dilemma that requires Bear to move outside his comfort zone.
Vanessa Roeder's The Box Turtle (9780735230507, $17.99) tells of a turtle who is just a little different from the other turtles.
He loves his box, but when he confronts other turtles with real shells who tease him about his box, Terrence begins to wonder if there's something better for him in the wider world.
A search begins for the perfect shell in a quest that proves hilarious, results in some colorful but odd choices, and ultimately translates to something quite different for the little box turtle.
Madelyn Rosenberg's Cyclops of Central Park (9780525414701, $17.99) is illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov and tells of a shy Cyclops who rarely leaves his cozy cave in the park and views the world as, ironically, a dangerous place.
When his sheep Eugene vanishes, however, Cyclops must venture into the city to find him, and discovers that the urban environment may not be as scary as he'd envisioned.
Good reading skills will lend enjoyment to this fun tale of discovery and a monster's revelations about the wider world that is his home.
All are excellent, creative leisure read choices kids will relish.
Sleeping Bear Press
Three new titles provide young picture book readers with excellent stories that stand out from the crowd.
Elisa Boxer's The Voice That Won the Vote (9781534110496, $16.99) is illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger and helps commemorate the ratification of the 19th Amendment as it explores the story of Febb Burn, her son Harry, and the letter that helped achieve women's voting rights in 1920.
Based on real-life experiences, it promotes historical knowledge of women's sufferage as it explores a historical event and one woman's lasting contribution to women's rights.
Good reading skills will enhance enjoyment of this story, recommended for readers ages 6-10.
Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum's Boats Will Float (9781534110410, $16.99) will reach ages 4-8 with a collection of nautical rhymes exploring different kinds of boats of all shapes and sizes, from fishing boats to sailboats and freighters.
Colorful drawings by Brett Curzon pair with a lively adventure that teaches kids about boats in a fun manner, whether it's exploring how a submarine houses "sailors short on space" to how a houseboat "floats and gently rocks/tied up tightly to the docks."
Meeg Pincus's Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery (9781534110403, $17.99) enjoys lovely drawings by Yas Imamura and will reach ages 6-10 with a survey not just about butterflies (like so many discussions already offer) but specifically the Great Monarch Butterfly Migration. The survey moves from facts about the butterflys' route and how it was finally tracked to how young readers can help the monarchs.
Good reading skills lend to a ready understanding of monarch studies and their natural history in a survey that outlines some of the people who contributed to butterfly studies and discoveries.
All are exceptional reads recommended for young readers, even those who might already have basic butterfly facts in hand, but not monarch-specific ones.
Michelle Vasiliu and Gwynneth Jones
EK Books/Exisle Publishing
Together Things is a lively picture book illustrated by Gwynneth Jones and offers a compelling story about adult depression. It's book that encourages kids to understand the presence of mental illness in the world around them.
Kids living with parents with mental conditions receive a gentle set of insights based on a very young child's experiences of a fun father who used to play with her, but now is too sad to participate in her life with fun and fantasy adventures, like he used to.
As the child narrator reflects on his past engagements and present sadness, she admits that "...there's lots of things we don't do anymore" and offers basic insights into her father's struggle to get well and her changed role in his life.
Parents looking for an introduction to adult depression that will reach and teach the very young will find this compelling picture book the perfect start to a conversation about depression and a revised approach to life.