Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the backissue database. PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital edition via our app or online. For more information on PW's new integrated subscription plan, click here. If you are currently a PW subscriber, click "Login" for full access to the site (if you have not done so already, you will need to set up your account for the new system by going here), or click the "Subscribe" button to become a PW subscriber. Email service@publishersweekly.com with questions.

Login or
The Banjo: America's African Instrument

Laurent Dubois. Harvard, $29.95 (366p) ISBN 978-0-674-04784-6

In this less than melodious celebration of the origins and history of the banjo, Dubois delivers a straightforward social history of the relationship between race and music. Drawing deeply on archives of primary materials, Dubois traces the life of the banjo: its earliest days in Africa, its introduction into Caribbean culture by enslaved peoples in the 17th century, its central role in the lives of slaves on 19th-century plantations, its use in minstrel shows, its rise in the Appalachian mountains during the second half of the 19th century, and its role in the folk movement and protest movements of the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the music of Pete Seeger. The instrument has had many names—banza, banjaw, bandjo, banjor—but they all describe a kind of "drum on a stick" with a long neck, at the top of which are four tuning pegs. Dubois illustrates that the banjo was instrumental in transculturation, a process by which a number of cultures shaped one another to create something new, especially as the banjo moved from Africa to the various indigenous cultures of the Atlantic. Regrettably, Dubois leaves out many women banjo players, such as Wilma Lee Cooper, Roni Stoneman, and Alison Brown, who as the cofounder of Compass Records has done more in the last 20 years to raise the profile of the banjo and its history than perhaps any other musician. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

Kevin Kelly. Viking, $28 (318p) ISBN 978-0-525-42808-4

Kelly (What Technology Wants), a cofounder and former editor of Wired magazine, reflects on the revolutionary digital and technological changes currently underway and seeks to define 12 of the forces driving these changes. He writes that these forces are active trends that make certain outcomes inevitable: "There is a bias in the nature of technology that tilts it in certain directions and not others." Throughout the book, Kelly catalogs the many new developments of the last couple decades, from the Internet itself to the explosion of cloud computing and digital services such as Facebook and Uber. Each chapter addresses one of the 12 forces and ends with a vision of what our daily lives might look like if the given trend persists 30 years from now; for example, he predicts the personalization of nearly everything—including healthcare and advertisements—based on comprehensively collected, maintained, and shared data profiles. These imaginative speculations reflect an optimistic and arguably idealistic view, and the book as a whole exudes faith in the power of technology to better the world. Kelly notes that bad actors are just as inevitable as the technological changes themselves, but he chooses to elide discussions of the specific downsides that likely will accompany the changes he describes. Kelly's stated goal is "to uncover the roots of digital change so that we can embrace them." The book effectively identifies these roots, but in omitting critical discussion of them, it leaves the reader inadequately equipped to thoughtfully embrace or engage with them. (June)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
Wear and Tear: The Threads of My Life

Tracy Tynan. Scribner, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5011-2368-9

Hollywood costume designer Tynan begins her juicy yet touching memoir by recounting the challenges of growing up in London as the only child of legendary theater critic Kenneth Tynan, creator of the avant-garde revue Oh Calcutta!, and novelist Elaine Dundy, who divorced Kenneth on Tynan's 13th birthday. During breaks from boarding school, Tynan spent most of her time in the U.S. with her mother, who moved to New York to reinvent herself. Tynan was able to detect her mother's alcoholism at a young age and vividly recalls her mother's embarrassing behavior while under the influence. Tynan's love of and fascination with clothing became the guiding force in her life. Descriptions of outfits or items of clothing are woven into the narrative as she recounts encountering family friends such as Orson Welles and Tennessee Williams and becoming attuned to her mother's addiction and her father's well-known penchant for sadomasochism. Tynan captures the hedonism of London in the swinging '60s, and the emotional journey of a survivor. (July)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Cyber Effect: A Pioneering Cyberpsychologist Explains How Human Behavior Changes Online

Mary Aiken. Spiegel & Grau, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9785-9

Aiken, a self-described forensic cyberpsychologist, shows in compelling detail how the online world bleeds into people's daily lives in ways that occasionally involve actual bloodshed. The online environments that people increasingly inhabit provide a range of benefits, but they present as many problems. Aiken's stories are stirring enough to stand alone: she covers the near-normalized phenomenon of online dating, the addictive and fatal extremes of gaming, and even murders that are motivated by aspirations of Internet fame. Some analysis focuses on how children respond to the digitized world, information that is especially useful to parents hoping to protect their children from developing bad habits or ending up in danger. Aiken accompanies every anecdote with her own carefully researched, comprehensible analysis. Some of the final notes might read as extreme; for example, her suggestion of a general redesign of the Internet seems at this point inconceivable, and predictions of an all-encompassing battle between humans and machines feels more like the stuff of movies than of scholarship. Still, the relevance of Aiken's careful discussion is undeniable.(Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
On Bowie

Rob Sheffield. Dey St., $19.99 (198p) ISBN 978-006256270-8

Not quite a biography, Sheffield's book, written shortly after Bowie's death earlier this year, focuses on the impact of the artist's music on pop culture and society. After an opening chapter called "The Night David Bowie Died," the book follows Bowie's career from his first hit, "Space Oddity" to the release of his final album, Blackstar, just days before his death. Written over the months following Bowie's death, Sheffield's book intertwines accounts of his own encounters with the artist's music and more biographical elements, in order to investigate the musician's legacy. Sheffield details the experiences that shaped Bowie's work, including a stoned viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey and studying the Kabbalah and the Stations of the Cross. The timeline is mostly linear, but it often veers ahead to discuss how future generations enjoying Bowie's music might interpret his work. A quick and stylish read, Sheffield's eulogy-like piece memorializes Bowie while leaving the future of the artist's legacy open-ended. Sheffield contextualizes it with ample research and interviews throughout, keeping a personal tone while a tapestry of voices praise Bowie's music and its impact on their lives. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.