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The Bookwatch

Volume 15, Number 3 March 2020 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Health/Medicine Shelf Audiobook Shelf
Music Shelf Theatre/Cinema/TV Shelf Biography Shelf
Cookbook Shelf Judaic Studies Shelf General Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Architecture Shelf Geography Shelf
Human Sexuality Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2020
World Almanac
World Almanac Books
c/o Infobase Publishing
132 West 31st Street, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10001
9781600572302, $15.99

The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2020 updates old yearly editions and includes new sections for 2020, from an election preview detailing state primaries and caucuses to new sections on education, food and agriculture, and the latest statistics about popular culture, including podcasts and world religious populations. The wealth of statistical information in book format offers leisure readers and researchers alike a fine browse of the latest facts unique to the year's events and progression, creating a gathering of inviting information and data that should be in every general lending library.

A Rare Treatise on Interior Decoration and Architecture
Joseph Friedrich zu Racknitz
9781606066249, $85.00

A Rare Treatise on Interior Decoration and Architecture: Joseph Friedrich zu Racknitzís Presentation and History of the Taste of the Leading Nations originally appeared as four volumes in 1796-99, and while it was a revolutionary work in its time, today it's largely unknown. German aristocrat Racknitz surveyed nations of the world to delineate some twenty-four regional tastes from ancient Eastern civilizations to comparative modern Europeans, creating a wide-ranging survey. This translation of his work reproduces some of the original color plates, adds essays on the author's biography, and comes replete with historic art notes about the evolution of French grotesque taste, Siberian taste in comparison with Russian culture, and more. At once an artistic and cultural cross-examination A Rare Treatise on Interior Decoration and Architecture is not just an art survey of interior decoration and architecture, but a work of cultural and historical scholarship that should be in any world history or arts collection.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

Treating Cancer with Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy
David A. Olle
Mercury Learning
9781683924500, $29.95

Treating Cancer with Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy joins others in the MyModernHealth FAQs series to offer an easy question-and-answer format for understanding cancer treatments. In-text web links to information from medical journals and institutes of health and cancer studies accompany discussions that discuss various options, provide color illustrations and photos of science and health processes, and assume no prior medical knowledge. Everything from hormones to radiotherapy and how an MRI is used is defined, analyzed, and addressed so that all general-interest consumers can readily understand.

The Audiobook Shelf

Hachette Audio

Two new audios from this publisher offer stories that will stand up to the test of time. Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen's Hindsight (9781549141379, $35.00) is narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers, who lends a strong and compelling voice to this story of Kendra Michaels, an investigator whose former blindness has created some usual abilities in her efforts to stop crime. These skills are put to the test when two staff members are murdered at a school for the blind, each in a different way. Is Kendra facing two killers? If so, what are their motives? A tense race against time evolves. Joe Ide's High Five (9781549150197, $35.00) is narrated by Zeno Robinson, who captures the tension and high drama of Ide's latest IQ novel revolving around the daughter of an arms dealer who is a sole witness and suspect in a murder case. Father Angus will do anything to protect her and hires private eye Isaiah Quintabe to do so, applying a form of pressure that will come back to haunt them all as he struggles with Christina's multiple personality disorder and the question of their involvement in the murder. These are outstanding and tense listens, perfect for thriller audiences.

The Music Shelf

Dangerous Melodies
Jonathan Rosenberg
W.W. Norton
9780393608427, $39.95

Dangerous Melodies: Classical Music in America from the Great War through the Cold War comes from a historian and Julliard-trained musician, who provides an intriguing history of classical music and culture. Music's connections to political sentiments, nationalism, and controversy on both sides of the Cold War is charted with an eye to exploring the tunes, conductors, and classical community's debates and interactions on subjects that often strayed from musical performances and composition choices. From relationships between individual musicians and political perspectives to how classical music in the 1930s influenced United States citizens to view Europe differently as newspaper reports drew connections between artists and the rise of fascism, Dangerous Melodies crafts a fascinating examination that's unique and hard to put down.

The Theatre/Cinema/TV Shelf

The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch
Kimberly Potts
Grand Central Publishing
9781538716618, $28.00

At first glance, The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking About Today looks like another review of the popular sitcom for The Brady Bunch fans, but TV historian and entertainment journalist Kimberly Potts does more than document show personalities, evolution, and events. Her analysis considers how the show grew in popularity to reflect the ideals of the mixed family American home of its times, considering its wide-ranging influences through generations of viewers, its social and psychological draws, and how it came to reflect the humor and ideals of blended family situations. From origins stories and threats of legal action to viewer novelty and evolution, this story is as much about the evolving American family structure and its changing media tastes and relationships as it is about the Brady TV phenomenon, and deserves a spot in social issues and media studies as well as performing arts collections.

The Biography Shelf

Michael Seth Starr
Applause Theater and Cinema Books
9781495082689, $32.95

Shatner offers a biographical focus on the evolution of the actor as a performer, focusing on interviews, archival research, and a focus that follows his career before and after his iconic role in Star Trek. William Shatner's career was rocky throughout, shaken by failures as well as successes and personal struggles and losses. With a performance-based exploration of his life, readers are treated to a focus that considers how his career choices and personal life intersected and evolved over time. This offers more depth and exploration of career and personal life than other Shatner considerations have created, crafting a survey that is engrossing and educational not just about William Shatner, but an actor's progression in his field.

When Life Gives You Pears
Jeannie Gaffigan
Grand Central Publishing
9781538751046, $28.00

Readers may know Jim Gaffigan as a comedian, but this autobiography by his wife holds as much inspiration and wisdom as humor as it recounts her diagnosis of a brain tumor and her survival. Jeannie Gaffigan faced not only the usual medical challenges, but as the mother of five children, she had to come to terms with her mortality, her family connections and changing relationships, and how to move from active young mother to patient and back again. Her insights embrace humor, family, and faith in a spunky, spirited story that may be chosen because of prior fan interest in Jim Gaffigan's family, but will ultimately be relished for Jeannie's strengths and words apart from her famous comedian husband

The Cookbook Shelf

Half the Sugar All the Love
Jennifer Tyler Lee and Anisha Patel, MD, MSPH
9781523504237, $22.95

Half the Sugar All the Love: 100 Easy, Low-Sugar Recipes for Every Meal of the Day comes from a cookbook author and an associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University who are concerned about the amount of sugar in the average family diet. Parents who agree with this insight and who want to take action to modify the family diet receive discussions about sugar myths, where sugars reside in the modern American diet, and how to produce kid-friendly recipes which eliminate the sugar rush from the equation. Readers might think that "kid-friendly" and "low/no sugar" don't equate, but Half the Sugar All the Love demonstrates that sugar needn't be a requirement for satisfaction. It shows that some traditional favorites, from chocolate layer cake to "Newtella", can remain on the family menu with a little modification. Modifications include prefaces comparing the amount of sugar in a given recipe with what the dish traditionally holds in other places, while fare such as Blondies with Chocolate and Almonds and a no-sugar Chinese Barbecue Pork-Fried Rice prove that sugar needn't be an essential ingredient for satisfaction.

Low & Slow Cooking
Robyn Almodovar
Page Street Publishing
9781624148484, $21.99

Low & Slow Cooking: 60 Hands-Off Recipes That Are Worth the Wait focuses on easy slow-cooked recipes that require only cooking time to bring them to fruition, emphasizing minimal effort for the most flavorful results. In other cases this would translate to a slow cooker scenario, but professional chef Robyn Almodovar remakes classic recipes to embrace the 'low and slow' method of cooking, and thus her recipes often involve Dutch ovens, 300 degree ovens (or less), and cooking times that can run to 6 hours or more. All this means that home cooks need to think in advance. Since this is usually the case anyway, the only special requirement is that recipes should be browsed a day or two ahead of trying so that the longer cooking times are taken into account. Another plus: the book isn't just intended for busy weekday cooks, but includes volume recipes for entertaining, dishes that lend to potlucks, and those that lend to advance preparation. Color photos complete and compliment an appealing book that especially excels in hearty comfort food-style creations.

Purezza Vegan Pizza
Filippo Rosato, Tim Barclay and Stefania Evengelisti
Kyle Books
c/o Octopus Books
9780857837554, $19.99

Purezza Vegan Pizza: Deliciously Simple Plant-Based Pizza to Make at Home comes from the first vegan pizzeria in the UK, and excels in its purpose of making pizza superior to traditional non-vegan fare. They achieve their goals using a sourdough crust that is easy to make at home and they focus on recipes which are also easy for home cooks, from Mixed Mushroom and Sausage Pizza to Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut Pizza. Recipes for sides and toppers alike, such as Tepanade Dip, Salmon-Style Filets or Chickpea and Lemon Sauce, offer a wide range of homemade embellishments that can be made ahead and used for quick toppings. Vegans who look for full-flavored pizzas now have many fine plant-based choices to welcome, complete with full-page color photos.

The Judaic Studies Shelf

Feasting and Fasting
Aaron S. Gross,
New York University Press
9781479827794, $30.00

Feasting and Fasting: The History and Ethics of Jewish Food blends a discussion of Judaism with culinary history and debates about how food reflects Jewish values, and pairs a history and cultural exploration with an examination of food in Jewish lives. This is no recipe collection, but a scholarly consideration of how Jewish ethnic food reflects values and religious sentiments in various cultures around the world, from Hungary to the U.S. In addition to its globe-hopping considerations, Feasting and Fasting surveys the evolution of Jewish dietary laws, Biblical representations of food and its modern translations in Jewish culture, and contemporary Jewish ethical dilemmas in dietary management and culinary tradition alike. This wide-ranging discussion of the history, philosophy, religion and origins of Jewish culinary traditions should be in any serious culinary and Jewish history collection.

The General Fiction Shelf

Molly Bit
Dan Bevacqua
Simon and Schuster
9781982104580, $26.00

Molly Bit is a debut novel about Hollywood, acting, and an aspiring young woman's career and journey to becoming a Hollywood star. Molly faces more than a difficult career choice: she is ignorant of the politics and social milieu of Hollywood and finds herself journeying from Boston to California to confront not only her own skills as an actress, but the environment which will make or break them. While Dan Bevacqua's strong characterization drives the story line, it's the detailed insights into the film industry, acting and directing world, and the viewpoints of the directors, producers, screenwriters, and those around Molly which bring the story to life. Perhaps its realistic portrait stems from Bevacqua's own experience working sets as a background actor and production assistant, or his knowledge of theory. All lend an authenticity and compelling attraction to the story which is hard to resist.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Andromeda Revolution
Daniel H. Wilson
9780062473271, $29.99

The Andromeda Revolution is a highly recommended techno-thriller which will please fans of the late Michael Crichton's classic, and takes place decades after the original story, when a project has long waited for the Andromeda Strain to reappear. Nothing has happened and the world begins to relax, but this is just when something mysterious surfaces in a Brazilian jungle which indicates danger may be threatening once again. A team assigned to investigate discovers the frightening possibility that the microbe is evolving. And even quarantine may not keep the world safe from its destruction, this time. A thoroughly engrossing thriller entirely in keeping with the original story evolves to delight new generations, new audiences, and those who loved the original story.

The Architecture Shelf

Engineering Bridges
Pendred Noyce
Tumblehome, Inc.
9781943431496, $22.95

Engineering and architecture books directed to teen audiences are uncommon. Most engineering titles are either picture books for the young which introduce the topic with a basic focus on structural science, or adult-oriented books suitable for arts and architectural holdings. Engineering Bridges is a standout because it bridges the gap between a picture book for younger readers and an adult survey, offering young adults the opportunity to absorb the history and structural processes of bridge building in a lively manner. This illustrated guide to bridges of the world combines history with a focus on different bridge construction styles and challenges, from concrete and steel-arch bridges to stone bridges, truss structures, moveable bridges, and selected famous bridges such as the Brooklyn Bridge. Extensively researched and embellished with illustrations and a solid bibliography, Engineering Bridges may be written for younger audiences, but is highly recommended for all ages, including general-interest adult readers who will find it both accessible and surprisingly involving - and not just for youth.

The Geography Shelf

Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds
Ian Wright
The Experiment Publishing
9781615196258, $19.95

Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds: 100 New Ways to See the World provides 100 maps that translate statistics and states into visual geography, providing a fun connection between history, politics, culture, and locations around the world. These aren't your usual maps: they provide visual embellishments for such collected facts as European countries that have invaded Poland, roads throughout Europe that actually lead to Rome, a map that shows why you can't dig to China from the U.S., and a U.S. map of cat versus dog popularity. Fun, creative facts and subjects make this collection a real winner.

The Human Sexuality Shelf

Sex Positive
Dr. Kelly Neff
9781786782953, $18.95

Sex Positive: Redefining our Attitudes to Love and Sex comes from a social psychologist whose visions of the future have resulted in a broad fan base of radio and media followers. Her views of how technology is changing psychological patterns and cultural influences, especially in the area of sexual freedom and exploration, are presented in this book, which advocates such explorations and the acceptance and innovations that should ideally come with them. Dr. Kelly Neff holds a daunting charge: to refute centuries of religious, political, social and cultural teachings. On her side is her determination to not just disrupt traditional thoughts about sexuality and unions, but paint a positive portrait of the future based on scientific sexology research, a blend of philosophies and spiritual insights from East and West, and social observation of the changing society around her. Sex Positive takes much of the guesswork and uncertainty out of understanding the new challenges of social and sexual relationships. It fosters an easy understanding of the obstacles, positive solutions to common issues, and underlying influences on sexual behaviors and development and does so in a manner that is accepting, encouraging, educational and easy to absorb. Perhaps one of the next steps in the human evolutionary process, Dr. Neff's definition of the nature, presence, and positive force of sexuality embraces many futuristic visions and questions, from robots and sexual involvements to the nature and achievement of orgasms. Sex Positive probes a hot topic of learned and changing behavior patterns in a survey that any young person, Millennials and earlier, will want to consider.

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Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
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