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Lonely Planet’s Where to Go When: The Ultimate Trip Planner for Every Month of the Year

Sarah Baxter and Paul Broomfield. Lonely Planet, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-78657-193-9

This wonderful book is great for those with travel plans in mind, as well as for those who prefer to travel around the world without leaving home. Using the succinct, practical approach that has made Lonely Planet travel books so popular, the authors have divided the book into 12 chapters, one for each month, each describing 30 different places to visit “when the conditions and circumstances are just right.” At the start of each chapter, a two-page flow chart allows readers to decide just what kinds of trips they want, from short breaks to two-week adventures, whether “relaxing/indulging” or hoping to “challenge myself.” Each entry starts with an answer to the question “Why now?” (peninsular Malaysia in April: “Explore cities, beaches, islands, and highlands in relatively dry condition”) as well as trip plans (Kangaroo Island, Australia, in July: “You could do a day trip, but take advantage of off-season prices to stay for longer”). The true delights of the book are the copious stunning photos used to illustrate destination wonders such as Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor and Bhutan’s Tango Goema monastery. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Vol. IV, 1966–1989

Samuel Beckett, edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn, and Lois More Overbeck. Cambridge Univ., $49.99 (944p) ISBN 978-0-521-86796-2

This illuminating, exhaustively detailed fourth and final volume of Beckett’s collected letters illustrates his world-weariness during his last 23 years of life, as well as his continued and energetic attention to writing. Correspondents include James Knowlson, Beckett’s authorized biographer; Barney Rossett, Beckett’s publisher at Grove Press; and Fehsenfeld, the appointed editor of his letters. Regarding an unauthorized biographer, Beckett writes that “I have told her... that I won’t have anything to do with any biography, that my ’life’ is entirely without interest, that I will neither help nor hinder her, that my friends are free to tell her & show her what they please.” With great warmth, Beckett recommends the Cuban novelist Nivaria Tejera for a Guggenheim. With his typical humor, Beckett tells New York Times theater critic Mel Gussow that he has “nothing to say about the sad unevent [Beckett’s 80th birthday] & its sad effects—for publication or otherwise.” Editor Craig contributes impeccable translations of the letters in the collection written in French. These lovingly selected letters capture an introspective Beckett living out his final years with the same devotion to the written word that marks his earlier letters. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Hollywood Divided: The 1950 Screen Directors Guild Meeting and the Impact of the Blacklist

Kevin Brianton. Univ. Press of Kentucky, $45 (174p) ISBN 978-0-8131-6892-0

Brianton’s well-documented study of a Hollywood controversy delves into one example of the post-WWII Red Scare. In this period, screenwriters, actors, and directors were blacklisted for their political beliefs, preventing many from working for years. Brianton recounts how, in 1950, powerful ultraconservative director Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments) fought to oust Joseph Mankiewicz (All About Eve) as head of the Screen Directors Guild over Mankiewicz’s unwillingness to impose a mandatory anti-communist loyalty oath for members. After contentious debate, John Ford (The Searchers) stepped forward and, according to different accounts, either condemned DeMille or defused the tensions between the directors. In any case, Brianton shows, the meeting shadowed the three directors’ careers and reputations for many years. More historical and cultural background would have been welcome, but Brianton does offers readers an exhaustive account of the meeting, the internal politics of Hollywood, and how the facts of the incident were distorted over time by the frailty of human memory, time, and the desire to tell a good story. Film buffs will find this an intriguing and provocative examination of a pivotal moment in Hollywood history. 13 b&w photos. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement

Wesley Lowery. Little, Brown, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-31247-9

Digging beneath the news headlines of police killings and protests, Lowery’s timely work gives texture and context to a new era of African-American activism. Lowery, a young black Washington Post journalist with a bit of street cred after being arrested during a protest in Ferguson, Mo., found himself at the middle of the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement. Though Lowery shares his personal and familial experiences with race, he is a reporter at heart, focusing on the stories of activists behind the protests. One of his most vivid subjects is Netta Elzie, a social media–savvy St. Louis native. As Lowery writes, she was already devastated by a beloved friend’s unresolved killing by police when she first learned of Michael Brown’s killing. She went to the scene and became a “chief on-the-ground correspondent” in Ferguson. Another strong voice in the book belongs to Bree Newsome, an NYU film school alum, who was politicized by the slaying of Trayvon Martin and first expressed her activism in voting rights advocacy in her home state of North Carolina. She came to public attention when, following the killing of parishioners of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, she removed the Confederate flag displayed at the South Carolina statehouse in protest. Through their stories and those of others, Lowery conveys the shape and direction of a national movement. Agent: Mollie Glick, CAA. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refuge’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival

Melissa Fleming. Flatiron, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-10599-8

This poignant tale of survival and loss gives immediacy to the plight of Syrian refugees. In a spare, unobtrusive style, Fleming, head of communications for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, profiles Doaa Al Zamel, who as a teenager fled her homeland of Syria. Fleming’s skillful writing brings new vividness to Al Zamel’s dramatic story, already well known from media accounts. The book provides a quick sketch of Syria’s complex civil war, which erupted in 2011, making it critical for Al Zamel’s family to escape to Egypt. There, she married another displaced Syrian, and in 2014 they sold their remaining valuables to pay smugglers to take them across the Mediterranean. “It is better to have a quick death in the sea than a slow death in Egypt,” she reasoned. Conditions on the decrepit ship became deadly when they were rammed by another boat. Floating on a plastic inflatable ring, Al Zamel survived the ordeal and saved the life of a small child, but suffered the heartbreak of seeing her husband die. This book amply demonstrates why she has since become a symbol of hope for other refugees. Fleming should be congratulated for bringing Al Zamel’s inspiring and illuminating story to the page. Agent: Mollie Glick, Creative Artists Agency. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Birds: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior

Jonathan Elphick. Firefly, $29.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-77085-762-9

Elphick (The World of Birds), a wildlife writer, lecturer, and broadcaster who specializes in ornithology, effectively communicates his lifelong fascination with birds in this detailed guide. He begins by taking readers back to “dinobirds,” birds’ feathered ancestors, describing their evolution and their remarkable anatomy. Then he discusses modern bird anatomy, flight, feeding, breeding, migration, habitats, society, and populations, as well as avian interactions with humans. Elphick is a brilliant storyteller who goes into just enough detail to hold readers’ attention as he describes the amazing intelligence of the striated heron, who drops bait in the water to attract the fish it preys on, or the Oriental Pied Hornbill’s large beak, which is mainly hollow and therefore less of a weighty encumbrance than it looks. The book delves into the disadvantages of flocking, discusses which birds are considered “extreme copulators,” and spends time on hunting and the cage bird trade, both of which have contributed to decreased numbers of birds. The text is complemented by great photographs and other illustrations on every page. This book will delight bird enthusiasts and serve as a useful reference. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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North America in the Anthropocene

Robert William Sandford. Rocky Mountain (PGW, U.S. dist.; Heritage Group, Canadian dist.), $16 (168p) ISBN 978-1-77160-180-1

In six chapters, Sandford (The Climate Nexus) lays out the climate challenges facing humankind, and North Americans in particular. He concludes with a call for more effective action. Beginning with the need for water, Sandford details the implications of climate change, including mass extinction and widespread political and economic instability. While acknowledging global efforts such as the Paris agreement, Sandford is quite clear that the steps taken by various nations fall far short of hopeful rhetoric, and if humans continue to substitute talk for action, the consequences could be dire for both human civilization and wildlife. Written in a straightforward style, this manifesto is short but heartfelt. Humans have embraced the ability to alter the Earth, Sandford observes, so we must also embrace the responsibility to do so wisely. Sandford’s sincerity cannot be doubted, but the solutions he suggests assume a context in which international cooperation is deemed desirable by national governments. Events such as the 2016 U.S. election and the British vote to leave the European Union point to a wave of isolationism that would appear to make such efforts impossible, in which case Sandford’s work predicts that humans will face chaos and worse. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Blue Lines, Goal Lines and Bottom Lines

Greg Oliver. ECW (Perseus/Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar, Canadian dist.), $39.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-77041-251-4

In this interesting coffee-table book, hockey writer Oliver (Don’t Call Me Goon) explores the game’s history through contracts and historical documents provided by collector Allan Stitt. The book features short biographies of players (and notable figures in hockey management) and includes photos of their hockey contracts, mostly from the 1960s to 1980s, going back to times when a $500 annual raise made players feel like they had “won the lottery.” There are also more whimsical and fun documents; in a questionnaire for players, Jean Beliveau answers the question, “What are your hobbies?” with “Golf and women.” A letter from a cereal company executive to the Minnesota North Stars’ management, sent with a case of cereal, suggests that veteran player Elmer “Moose” Vasko try making it a part of his diet because “when combined with hard exercise, it will help peel off the pounds fast.” Alongside info on stars such as Bobby Hull and Mario Lemieux, the book also includes documents for interesting, under-the-radar players such as Fred Stanfield and Greg Sheppard. Readers will enjoy flipping through this book for fun tidbits, hockey nostalgia, and a glance at the upsides and downsides of less regulated times. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Aqueduct

Adele Perry. ARP (AK Press, U.S. dist.; LitDistCo, Canadian dist.), $14.95 trade paper (101p) ISBN 978-1-894037-69-3

This remarkably compact history of the water network of Winnipeg, Manitoba, serves as a microcosm for Canadian policies of land dispossession, residential schools, broken promises, and other injustices committed against the continent’s First Peoples, all of which continue to resonate more than a century after this story began. In this instance, the success of a major prairie city was built on the misery of nearby Anishinaabe neighbors at Shoal Lake, where residents have not had access to clean water for decades. The construction of the aqueduct that drains away their water also left them stranded without all-weather access to the mainland. Despite occasionally drifting into academic cant, historian Perry (Colonial Relations) manages an accessible synthesis of a huge body of material, including a fascinating overview of the social and economic conditions that led to the waterworks’ 1919 construction. It also explores how history is remembered and filtered through selective public commemoration; Perry’s examination of plaques and related landmarks reveals how the aqueduct is celebrated as a heroic conquest and technical triumph while the people at Shoal Lake are either misremembered or completely written out of the history of what is, ironically, Canada’s city with the highest indigenous population. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Wolves Return

Celia Godkin. Pajama (IPS, dist.), $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-77278-011-6

Godkin (Skydiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World) eloquently examines how the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park led to dramatic changes both in the landscape of the park and in the lives of the creatures that make their home there. “On a moonlit night, a howl rings out across the river valley,” startling elk who “have not heard this sound before.” The wolves’ predation drives the elk to the shelter of forested slopes, which allows trees and berry bushes to grow in the valley, feeding birds and bears, and giving beavers material to build dams. This, in turn, creates ponds that provide habitats for muskrats, ducks, and insects, among other developments. Godkin’s text focuses on the interconnectedness of the animals’ environment and how one ostensibly small change can have dramatic effects over time. Although the author emphasizes the necessary role that predators play, her mixed-media artwork avoids goriness, instead focusing on delicate textures of fur, feather, leaf, and grass. The hunts that removed wolves from the landscape in the first place (and their 1995 reintroduction) are covered in thorough back matter. Ages 6–9. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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