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Untold: The New Orleans 9th Ward You Never Knew

Lynette Norris Wilkinson. Write Creations, $13.99 trade paper (118p) ISBN 978-0-9706292-1-0

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New Orleans native Wilkinson, who after Hurricane Katrina welcomed 16 storm survivors into her Dallas home, offers readers an engrossing and important book that provides a fresh glimpse of the Lower Ninth Ward and its “hardworking, family-oriented people, who owned their homes, had a sense of community, and were contributing members of society.” Giving voice to the voiceless, Wilkinson helps these survivors tell their stories: they describe the devastation of the storm and coping with personal losses, as well as forging new beginnings. For 83-year-old Geraldine, Katrina meant leaving “the only place I ever lived,” while for Betty it meant living “in four different cities before we came back to New Orleans.” Wilkinson’s succinct narratives prove that there’s more to the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward than was shown in the media’s coverage of Katrina, and they constitute a splendid oral history as well. This is an unpretentious, readable, informative, and extraordinary account that shouldn’t slip through the cracks. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A Field Guide to Procuring and Profiting in Fine Art

Brett K. Maly. Bear N Desert, $16.95 trade paper (118p) ISBN 978-0-9915380-0-3

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Maly, best known as the art appraiser on the reality TV show Pawn Stars, helps readers navigate the murky waters of art collecting and selling in this introductory guide, which aims to keep newbies to the trade from spending or expecting too much. Maly begins at the most basic level, explaining how watercolors differ from oil paintings and the importance of a piece’s provenance, as well as debunking the debatable value of “limited editions,” lest customers get fleeced. Maly’s advice ranges from the obvious (preview an estate sale online before jumping in your car) to the specific (how to identify the plate mark on etchings and engravings), with practical tips for identifying flaws that can affect even the most valuable artwork’s value. Maly does his best to keep expectations low—the chances of finding a lost Picasso at a garage sale or on Craigslist are minuscule, he notes. While the advice is practical and well-suited for a novice readership, much of the information could be easily gleaned in an afternoon of searching on the web or at the local library. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion

Durrell Bowman. Rowman & Littlefield, $45 (178p) ISBN 978-1-4422-3130-6

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From Rush’s self-titled debut album in 1974 to 2012’s Clockwork Angels, this work covers the recording career, music, and, less extensively, the personal lives of the progressive rock band. After a time line outlining key points in the band’s existence, Bowman’s introduction notes that Rush deserves such extensive focus because of the musicianship, professionalism, and willingness to experiment that have garnered the band a cultlike fan base from its native Canada and the U.S. to many other countries. While there is some biography in this band history, for the most part Bowman focuses on the band’s music as he analyzes each album, including lyrics, time signatures, key and chord choices, themes, and cover art. Though music notation may help readers understand Bowman’s explanations, those without musical backgrounds might find his analysis too intricate. But true Rush fans will revel in the author’s complex descriptions; for instance, he notes that from 1980’s Permanent Waves to Roll the Bones in 1991, the band’s lyrics evolved “from vaguely Randian atheistic individualism to vaguely left-wing agnostic liberalism.” It’s fitting that Bowman finishes with how Rush, after years of being ignored, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thanks to its fans. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Every Army Man Is with You: The Cadets Who Won the 1964 Army-Navy Game, Fought in Vietnam, and Came Home Forever Changed

Nicolaus Mills. Rowman & Littlefield, $37 (262p) ISBN 978-1-4422-3985-2

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Historian Mills, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, traces the heroics of the Army players who triumphed in the 1964 game against Navy (piloted by future Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Roger Staubach) to the jungles of Vietnam with exceptional insight. The title of the book comes from a gung-ho telegram sent by former president Dwight Eisenhower to the Army football stars before their classic showdown with Navy, but their upset victory, their first in five years, pales in contrast to their exploits in their battles with the Vietcong. Although Mills writes with much respect and authority of the importance of the Army brass to the young athletes, he reserves some of his highest praise for the Army head coach Paul Dietzel and his fearless squad, including quarterback Rollie Stichweh, linebacker Sonny Stowers, tailback John Seymour, guard Peter Braun, wingback John Johnson, and tackle Bill Zadel, all of whom faced foreign conflict and postwar life with grit and determination. Mills includes insightful interviews of these Army athletes on the battlefield and on the gridiron, honoring honor, courage, and determination. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A Year with Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks of Coaching for Leadership Effectiveness

Joseph A. Maciariello. Harper Business, $29.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-06-231567-0

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Any book with the late management guru Peter Drucker’s name on it is likely to draw a crowd. However, this one, compiled by Maciariello, Drucker’s onetime student and longtime colleague, may leave readers feeling that, although Drucker’s insight still has merit, its value might be waning in today’s changing landscape. The book, as the title indicates, is meant to be savored one week at a time; each chapter features reading material that supports that week’s theme and ends with “practicum prompts” featuring thought-provoking questions. Although most of the lessons are still current—“defining purpose and mission,” “succession decision”—some seem timeworn or odd. Occasional references are dated. E-commerce receives only a minor mention. And today, when so many individuals and companies are finding ways to build successful businesses and “do good,” Drucker’s chapter on how to “Move from Success to Significance” feels redundant. Drucker’s views on religion’s place in American culture, particularly, will leave many readers cold. Still, the book (especially its latter half) may prove the perfect holiday gift for an older and accomplished business professional, one in the waning years of his or her career and with the time and inclination to reflect. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Strategize to Win: The New Way to Start Out, Step Up, or Start Over in Your Career

Carla A. Harris. Penguin/Hudson Street, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5946-3305-8

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Harris (Expect to Win), Morgan Stanley’s managing director, offers hope in this career manual both to people just starting out and to those seeking professional redirection or revitalization. She divides the book into three major sections, respectively entitled “Starting Out,” “Stepping Up,” and “Starting Over.” The first section provides solid guidance, including on choosing a career, identifying necessary skill sets, and examining company entry points, to beginners who want to be deliberate in their career choices. For mid-levels who want to move up, she emphasizes that responsibility for this task rests on the individual, providing practical help on communication strategies, bouncing back after a misstep, and building up “relationship currency.” Advice to those in the “Starting Over” phase covers knowing when it’s time to jump ship and recognizing what factors motivate one, whether it’s increased compensation, improved chances for advancement, or escaping current unfair treatment. She also provides an informative chapter on repositioning oneself, which many will find especially insightful. Most professionals should be able to find something of value, whether they’re just starting out, ready to move on, or somewhere in between. Agent: Barbara Lowenstein, Lowenstein Associates. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why Our Country Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement

Thomas Geohegan. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-59558-865-4

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This unsettling cri de coeur from a veteran labor lawyer laments the extent to which unions have vanished from the American workforce and political consciousness. Geohegan, who explored modern Germany’s social democracy in Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?, spotlights that country’s principle of “co-determination,” in which blue-collar workers share power with executives, as an alternative to the U.S. economy’s low-skill, low-wage blueprint. But his prescriptions for finding our way back to a union-backed middle class are tough to see as feasible: bolstering unions to raise wages, and backing away from four-year college education as a panacea in lieu of more high-skills vocational education and mentorship opportunities. Similarly, creating a constitutional right to union membership sounds good, but Geohegan’s own experience makes it clear how much of an uphill fight such an amendment would require. Even for those who agree on the need to create a new labor movement in principle, his closing exhortation that “unless we do so, you and I are done” will seem less inspiring than intended. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Modernity Britain: 1957–1962

David Kynaston. Bloomsbury, $52 (912p) ISBN 978-1-62040-809-4

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Kynaston continues his history of postwar Britain (after Austerity Britain: 1945–1951 and Family Britain: 1951–1957) in this rich tapestry of political, socioeconomic, and cultural developments. He profiles a Tory-ruled, post-Suez, largely postcolonial U.K. that was still a highly stratified society, but was attempting to become less so, partly through attempts at educational reforms that would allow more middle- and lower-class children access to better secondary schools. Kynaston shows that while Britain lagged behind the U.S. in purchasing “consumer durables,” it was beginning to catch up. He is particularly interested in urban development, and illustrates major efforts at slum clearance in the industrial cities. Occasionally, Kynaston presents a confusing tableau of unrelated events, such as a housewife’s washing routine, the popularity of a TV show called The Archers, and the debate over where Prince Charles should go to boarding school. He sometimes offers too much detail, as in quoting several reviews of a relatively minor Arnold Wesker play, and many of his Britishisms—“Teddy boys,” an “HMSO,” a “PPB,” and “Podsnappian”—will be lost on American readers. Still, Kynaston has a knack for narrative pacing and manages to hold the reader’s attention in this comprehensive, multifaceted look at a changing period. B&w photo inserts. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones

Thomas Asbridge. Ecco, $27.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-226205-9

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Respected medievalist Asbridge (The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land) investigates the life of William Marshal (1147–1219), thought by many to have been the model for the perfect chivalrous knight. Most of William’s life comes from a highly colored biography commissioned by his family shortly after his death; Asbridge uses contemporary sources to flesh out the story and correct the panegyric. The strength of this work is the depiction of the early formation of the concept of knighthood and the unromantic life of a professional warrior. Asbridge also explains the political context of the time in a clear narrative. William, the younger son of a minor lord, grew wealthy and powerful through his military skill, but even more through his loyalty to the members of the family of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine—a rare feat, considering the Plantagenets’ internecine battles. The story of William’s maturation from a freelance fighter to a statesman who managed his property and became the guardian for the young Henry III includes daily life, as well as politics. It is not always clear, however, which anecdotes are drawn from the biography and which are better substantiated; the maddening absence of footnotes spoils an otherwise excellent book. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Italian Americans: A History

Maria Laurino. Norton, $35 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-24129-7

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Published as a companion to the PBS TV series of the same name, this work tracks the history of Italian-Americans, from the mid-19th century to the present day. While there is some general history in the book focusing on topics like immigration, assimilation, infamy, stardom, stereotypes, and naturalization, Laurino (Were You Always Italian?) uses in-depth research to focus on individual stories to tell the Italian-American story. Some spotlighted stories are well known, like those about anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia, and Frank Sinatra. But the more obscure tales have more impact, like those about Angela Bambace, one of the first union leaders, and A.P. Giannini, a banker who tried to help improve the lives of immigrants. Laurino wonderfully captures the history of Italians in America. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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