Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access feature articles from our print edition. To view, subscribe or log in.
Site license users can log in here.

Get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to Publishers Weekly for only $15/month.

Instant access includes exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, he latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: PWHelp@omeda.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (outside US/Canada, call +1-847-513-6135) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday (Central).

The Vanishing: Faith, Loss, and the Twilight of Christianity in the Land of the Prophets

Janine Di Giovanni. PublicAffairs, $30 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5417-5671-7

In this informative work of journalism and memoir, war reporter Di Giovanni (Ghosts of Daylight) recounts her travels through the Middle East with a focus on rapidly shrinking Christian minority groups. While Islam is the majority religion of the region, there are sizable populations of Christian in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Egypt dating back to the founding of Christianity. In recent decades, Di Giovanni notes, they have suffered ethnic cleansing, political oppression, and the upheaval of civil wars. Di Giovanni’s insightful reporting traces the histories of these groups and emphasizes the cultural legacies they represent; among other topics, she explains the spread and impact of ISIS on Christian minorities throughout Syria and Iraq, and the “drum roll of violence and killing” targeting Coptic Christians within Muslim Brotherhood–controlled Egypt. The propulsive account is marked by the author’s keen eye for detail and the stories of the people involved, such as an Egyptian Coptic Christian jeweler who refuses to give up proclaiming his faith despite constant fear and public humiliations. This is perfect for anyone interested in the Middle East, or in how humans live through war. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood & Family

Ron Howard and Clint Howard. Morrow, $28.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-0630-6524-6

Actors and brothers Ron and Clint Howard reflect on growing up in Hollywood in this fascinating dual autobiography. Born in the 1950s to actors Rance Howard and Jean Speegle, the two were groomed for the big screen as soon as they could walk, with Ron landing his first role at age 4. Like his older brother, Clint also found a home in the “world of lights, cameras, and boom mics.” Both starred in popular 1960s TV shows—Ron as Opie in The Andy Griffith Show and Clint as Mark in Gentle Ben—and in lighthearted prose, they fondly recall the years they spent in friendly competition (“I love Ron, but I friggin’ wanted Gentle Ben to top the charts,” writes Clint), as well as the differences that led Ron, “the kid always on the straight and narrow,” and Clint, “the mischievous little guy,” down their own paths. As a teen, Ron began making short films on his 8mm camera, eventually leading him to attend film school at the University of Southern California. While the memoir focuses on the brothers’ coming-of-age—and the close relationship that saw them through the joys and challenges of stardom—it also offers glimpses into their later work, especially Ron’s career as a successful director. Candid, humorous, and entertaining, this intimate account will be a hit with the brothers’ fans. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
New Realities: The Comics of Dash Shaw

Greg Hunter. Uncivilized Books, $22.95 (112p) ISBN 978-1-941250-47-1

Comics critic Hunter debuts with a perceptive survey of the idiosyncratic oeuvre of Dash Shaw, a “changeable” cartoonist whose “stylistic leaps have become his most obvious constant.” In essays that dissect each of Shaw’s major works—beginning with his massive 2008 graphic novel, Bottomless Belly Button—Hunter chronicles Shaw’s evolution as a cartoonist, his unwavering commitment to experimental storytelling, and his fascination with the subjectivity of human experience. “His comics explore... the ways people can occupy the same spaces but regard them with different ways of seeing,” writes Hunter before diving headlong into the plots, themes, and array of visual formal tricks that connect Shaw’s disparate works. While 2010’s visually complex BodyWorld takes a stylistic departure from his other books—with a “vertical (not right-to-left) page turn”—it still deploys color as a “major tool” to advance chronological and emotional narratives. Likewise, the 2014 graphic novel Doctors differs from its predecessors in depicting consciousness in a “near-literal sense,” but its preoccupations with the “inhabitability of the mind” is a common theme throughout Shaw’s milieu. Though Hunter’s analysis of Shaw’s animated films feels rushed, it succeeds in illustrating how Shaw has never limited himself to one art form. It’s a great starting point for anyone wanting to know more about the work of this restless and relentlessly curious artist. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
H Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America

Mayukh Sen. Norton, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-324-00451-6

In this dazzling debut, James Beard Award–winning food writer Sen looks at the lives of seven remarkable immigrant women whose passion for their homeland’s food transformed how Americans cook and eat. While he originally set out to write about immigration using food as his lens, Sen ended up “interrogating the very notion of what success looks like for immigrants under American capitalism.” What results is a vibrant, empathetic, and dynamic exploration of culture, identity, race, and gender. The story of Iranian-born cookbook author Najmieh Batmanglij examines how America became, for her, “a wonderful place for the stateless,” even as the prejudice she faced in the 1980s stifled the potential reach of her work. The late Chao Yang Buwei’s revolutionary How to Cook and Eat in Chinese (1945)—“a manual of gastronomic diplomacy”—and Elena Zelayeta’s Mexican cookbooks in the 1960s made their home cuisines palatable for an American audience, while the late acclaimed chef Norma Shirley resisted assimilation and eventually returned to Jamaica, because “making food for white Americans was never her chief aim.” Thoughtfully written, Sen’s portrayals of his subjects reveal how rich and nuanced being “American” can truly be. Food lovers with a big appetite for knowledge will gobble this up. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Patriotism and Profit: Washington, Hamilton, Schuyler and the Rivalry for America’s Capital City

Susan Nagel. Pegasus, $28.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64313-708-7

Journalist Nagel (Marie-Therese, Child of Terror) delivers an overstuffed yet underwhelming account of the development of Washington, D.C., as America’s capital in the 1790s. After prolonged surveys of European expeditions to the New World and England’s colonization of America, Nagel focuses on U.S. president George Washington and New York senator Philip Schuyler, “whose parallel dreams, analogous visions, and similar skills provoked an intense, decades-long rivalry and protracted crusade for the location of the new empire city.” Schuyler advocated for New York City, then operating as the temporary home of the federal government, to be permanently made the nation’s capital, while Washington pushed for a site along the Potomac River near his Mount Vernon estate. Washington eventually won passage of the 1790 Residence Act, which authorized him to select and supervise the location and design of the capital. Nagel dubs Washington “the first real estate developer president,” and notes that he was the largest single shareholder in the Potomac River Canal Company, which stood to benefit from the development of D.C. But her claim that Washington “misled, coerced, and otherwise cheated his way to creating the nation’s capital city” will strike many readers as unfair, given the other players and issues involved, including the federal government’s assumption of states’ wartime debts. This sensationalist history overstates its case. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Centrist Solution: How We Made Government Work and Can Make It Work Again

Joseph Lieberman. Diversion, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63576-904-3

Lieberman (With Justice for All), a former U.S. senator and Democratic vice-presidential candidate, calls for “the restoration of bipartisanship and centrism to Washington” in this simplistic and self-congratulatory account. Contending that “America’s freedom, security, and prosperity depend on a healthy political center... that avoids chaotic and self-destructive extremes,” Lieberman makes his case with historical sketches, theological lessons, and episodes from his political career. Confusingly, he cites the creation of the Electoral College during the 1787 Constitutional Convention as an example of the kind of “centrist compromise” essential to American democracy, then, in a sidebar to his discussion of the 2000 presidential election, calls for its repeal (“It is undemocratic and unfair”). Elsewhere, he defends his steadfast support of the Iraq War and his rejection of a public health insurance option; touts his legislative achievements, including the 1990 Clean Air Act and the repeal of the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy; and praises Bill Clinton’s efforts to find common ground with House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Though Lieberman sharply criticizes Donald Trump’s “reckless behavior” in contesting the 2020 election, he’s more concerned with responding to criticisms from progressives than documenting the causes of today’s partisan discord and providing specific solutions. This banal treatise feels out of touch. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Secret of Life: Rosalind Franklin, James Watson, Francis Crick and the Discovery of DNA’s Double Helix

Howard Markel. Norton, $30 (608p) ISBN 978-1-324-00223-9

One of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th century was also the scientific heist of the century, according to this action-packed history. Historian Markel (The Kelloggs) recreates the 1953 elucidation of DNA’s structure by Cambridge University’s James Watson and Francis Crick and their rivalry with the King’s College team of Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins. While for decades history books have attributed the discovery to Watson and Crick, it really wasn’t so simple, Markel writes—their discovery was based on Franklin’s research that was “borrowed” by Watson. Markel skillfully explains the knotty science behind the breakthrough and highlights the clash of outsize personalities: the mercurial, loudmouthed physicist Crick; the nerdy, manipulative molecular biologist Watson; the prickly X-ray crystallographer Franklin; the “high-strung, bumbling” biophysicist Wilkins; and the world-renowned chemist Linus Pauling (who threatened to beat them all). Markel decries Watson and Crick’s secret appropriation of Franklin’s X-ray data as “one of the most egregious rip-offs in scientific history” and the culmination of her “oppression” by “white, entitled, English academic lords.” His tone sometimes feels overblown, but his tart, sharp-eyed prose—“Chargaff was unimpressed by Crick’s nonstop blathering, not to mention Watson’s Greek chorus of eye-bulging and snorting”—saves the day. This wonderfully evocative tale sings. Photos. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Gilded Edge: Two Audacious Women and the Cyanide Love Triangle That Shook America

Catherine Prendergast. Dutton, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-59-318292-5

Prendergast (Buying into English), an English professor at the University of Illinois, disentangles the mysterious lives of 1900s “New Women” Nora May French and Caroline “Carrie” Sterling in this high-stakes if uneven account of the Carmel literary colony. Founded in the early 20th century Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., the colony hosted such writers as Jack London and Upton Sinclair. At its height in 1907, French, who made up a love triangle with Carrie Sterling and her husband George, died by cyanide poisoning—the Sterlings each died by the same means years later. Prendergast sympathetically depicts French, an acclaimed poet of her time, as a woman whose life had been “cursed by the actions of neglectful and malignant men” but maintained her confidence while her male peers offered “scathing and patently misogynistic” responses to her work. Similarly, Sterling, an artist and the hostess of the Carmel writing colony, was branded by the press as the “know-nothing” wife of Bohemian poet George Sterling who tolerated his many indiscretions. While Prendergast’s commentary is sharp, she fails to fill in the gaps of French’s life between her arrival at Carmel and her death, making things feel incomplete. Still, this punchy feminist tribute offers a fascinating look at two forgotten women of the Gilded Age. Agent: Anna Sproul-Latimer, Neon Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System

Natalie Starkey. Bloomsbury Sigma, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-47296-036-8

Starkey (Catching Stardust), a geologist and cosmologist, breaks down what volcanoes can teach people about Earth and other planets in this fascinating tour of the solar system. The discovery of volcanoes on icy planets, Starkey writes, “forced scientists to reconsider volcano classification,” as the word volcano had typically conjured images of flowing rivers of red-hot lava and plumes of cloud and ash. This “classic” type, though, is skewed toward what volcanoes are like on Earth. On Pluto and on Saturn’s moon Titan, frosty ice volcanoes emit methane and ammonia. Starkey explains that the existence of volcanoes elsewhere in the solar system demonstrates that a planetary object is “alive” and geologically active, and explores the geology of volcanoes thoroughly, describing the origins of magma (which is molten or semi-molten rock, and not the same thing as lava), how volcanoes produce new land by extending coastlines or forming new islands, and the role they might play in a planet’s ecosystem (the gases they release on Earth helped create a life-supporting atmosphere). Along the way, Starkey takes readers on NASA’s expeditions, onto islands, and between tectonic plates undersea with vivid, immersive descriptions. The result is a thoroughly accessible look at a lesser-known part of the universe. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Dear White Women: Let’s Get (Un)Comfortable Talking About Racism

Sara Blanchard and Misasha Suzuki Graham. Collective Book Studio, $17.95 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-951412-31-9

Blanchard (Flex Mom) and Graham, cohosts of the podcast Dear White Women, encourage white people of all genders to make an “intentional life change” with “practical steps towards becoming more anti-racist” in this accessible blend of history, psychology, and advice. They explain how white privilege works; address hot-button topics, including the use of the n-word by Black people and the concept of Black-on-Black crime, that can derail attempts to understand systemic racism; and discuss the Asian model minority stereotype and the “myth of the vanishing Native American.” The authors, both of whom are of mixed Japanese and white heritage, share their own stories of facing prejudice, and stress the importance of building friendships across racial lines and having political conversations in the “robust middle ground,” rather than “cancelling” others for their mistakes. Though the authors name common microaggressions such as “confusing one Black person for another” and “assuming that one person speaks for all people of that group,” they don’t explain why they are problematic, or how to repair the damage they may cause. Still, this gentle but firm guide will appeal to readers interested in putting the concept of anti-racism into action. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/06/2021 | Details & Permalink

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

Password

Log In Forgot Password

Premium online access is only available to PW subscribers. If you have an active subscription and need to set up or change your password, please click here.

New to PW? To set up immediate access, click here.

NOTE: If you had a previous PW subscription, click here to reactivate your immediate access. PW site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. If working at an office location and you are not "logged in", simply close and relaunch your preferred browser. For off-site access, click here. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options, please email Mike Popalardo at: mike@nextstepsmarketing.com.

To subscribe: click here.