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, the latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access to 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).

Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for Our Wallets

Brett Scott. Harper Business, $29.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-293631-8

Journalist Scott (The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance) sounds the alarm on a world without cash in this trenchant if uneven account. The cashless movement is gaining momentum, he writes, thanks in part to the pandemic, when paper money was seen as a disease vector (in 2020 the use of notes plummeted by almost 50% in the United Kingdom alone). Scott considers the virtues of hard currency—including its tactile nature and the fact it doesn’t track data—and portends a cash-free future wherein government and the finance-tech industry monitor transactions and extract fees. Scott’s depiction of the invisible web that facilitates digital transactions is sobering: “Cash is a bug, jamming the emerging fusion between finance and tech, and given that those are the biggest players in our economic network, they are jointly pulling away from it.” Unfortunately, in explaining financial concepts, he often relies upon clumsy analogies that muddy things more than clarify them (global monetary systems are a “nervous system,” central banks are a “Giant in the Mountain,” and bad posture is a metaphor for “the passive element” of digital payments). And while he makes a solid case for concern, he comes up short on solutions. This one’s likely to leave readers wanting. (July)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Sinkable: Obsession, the Deep Sea, and the Shipwreck of the Titanic

Daniel Stone. Dutton, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-32937-5

Journalist Stone (The Food Explorer) examines in this incisive and entertaining history how the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 has captured the public’s imagination. Though Stone dives deep into technical matters, including how icebergs form, the “downblast effect” that occurs when a sinking ship pulls a column of water behind it, the limitations of sonar technology, and the survival rates of men, women, and children in maritime disasters, the book’s most intriguing sections spotlight obsessives who have devoted their lives to the subject. Massachusetts jeweler Edward Kamuda formed the first Titanic fan club in 1960, convincing 75 of the ship’s 87 living survivors to join. Oklahoma oilman Jack Grimm spent most of the 1970s and much of his fortune in an ill-fated attempt to find the wreck, while Doug Woolley, a former pantyhose factory worker whose great-aunts allegedly had tickets to sail on the Titanic but backed out when they “had the same dream about disaster striking the ship,” has claimed ownership of what’s left of the passenger liner since the 1960s. Colorful personalities, astute cultural analysis, and fascinating details about the science of shipwrecks and the mechanics of salvage operations make this a must-read for Titanic buffs. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Stolen Year: How Covid Changed Children’s Lives, and Where We Go Now

Anya Kamenetz. PublicAffairs, $29 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5417-0098-7

Journalist Kamenetz (Generation Debt) delivers a compassionate study of how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted schoolchildren and their families. Drawing on interviews with children and parents across the U.S. and her own experiences as the mother of two young daughters, Kamenetz documents “high levels of chronic absence and disengagement from school” following the shift to remote learning in 2020, and reports that former secretary of education Betsy DeVos “diverted a disproportionate share of federal relief funds to private schools” during the pandemic, while resisting calls for the Department of Education to take the lead in directing schools how to safely reopen. Noting that U.S. public schools were closed for more than twice as long as those in the U.K. and China, Kamenetz cites evidence that the absence of America’s “most broadly accessible welfare institutions” caused food insecurity to double, even as many children gained weight due to a lack of exercise. She also claims that student-organized protests over the murder of George Floyd by police provided “catharsis, after a season of confinement and monotony,” and sketches how parents and teachers can foster children’s “posttraumatic growth.” Striking an expert balance between the big picture and intimate profiles of students, teachers, parents, and school officials, this is an astute and vital first draft of history. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners

Margaret A. Burnham. Norton, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-393-86785-5

Burnham, founding director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University, debuts with a searing study of the “chronic, unpredictable violence that loomed over everyday Black life” in the Jim Crow South. The threat, Burnham contends, was not limited to the mob lynchings of African American boys and men accused of raping or sexually harassing white women, but also included such “quotidian violence” as the beating death of an “elderly Negro woman”—as a contemporaneous letter sent to the NAACP described her—by a white storekeeper in a small Georgia town in 1944. That murder, like many others recounted in the book, was not prosecuted and not reported on by local journalists. According to Burnham, these and other acts of racialized terror lie at the heart of the Jim Crow regime, which was a system of racial segregation as well as a statement about who could, and who could not, claim the privileges of American citizenship. Drawing upon a database created by Northeastern and MIT researchers that catalogues “racially motivated homicides” in the South between 1920 and 1960, Burnham illuminates the role that white terror played in controlling Black life, resistance efforts mounted by Black communities in the face of indifference and hostility from federal and local governments, and the legacy of Jim Crow in the modern-day judicial system. The result is an essential reckoning with America’s history of racial violence. Photos. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Mothercare: On Obligation, Love, Death, and Ambivalence

Lynne Tillman. Soft Skull, $23 (160p) ISBN 978-1-59376-717-4

In this discerning if uneven work, novelist and critic Tillman (Men and Apparitions) reckons with the equivocations and guilt she weathered while caring for her ailing mother at the end of her life. Recalling the 11 years she and her sisters spent tending to their mother (referred to as “Mother” here) after she was diagnosed in 1994 with a rare condition that caused memory loss, Tillman suggests that “keeping her alive was done generously, but not selflessly, and also as a grueling obligation.” As she traces Mother’s decline, Tillman details her frustrations with a medical community unable to properly handle her mother’s unusual case, including an “arrogant neurologist” and a “lunatic” caregiver who’s later fired for being “utterly ineffective.” Though the intellectual rigor and analysis that mark Tillman’s criticism are evident, they often lend a dispassionate distance to her observations, even as intimate details are shared. Two recurring themes lend propulsive force to the book: Mother’s love for an abandoned cat, and a late-in-life declaration to her daughter that “if I had wanted to be, I would have been a better writer than you.” It’s this “unvarnished truth” that gives the work its emotional texture, underscoring the complicated binds that make up families. Despite being something of a mixed bag, Tillman’s frank insights on love and loss are cannily original. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Stay True: A Memoir

Hua Hsu. Doubleday, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-0-385-54777-2

New Yorker staff writer Hsu braids music, art, and philosophy in his extraordinary debut. As a second-generation Taiwanese American coming of age in 1990s Cupertino, Calif., Hsu traversed an evolving cultural climate with rebellious gusto, finding creative expression in zines and developing, as he writes, a “worldview defined by music.” At UC Berkeley Hsu met Ken, an extroverted, “mainstream” frat-brother whose only similarity to Hsu was that he was Asian American. Yet despite their differences, an unlikely friendship bloomed. In lyrical prose punctuated with photos, Hsu recalls smoke-filled conversations—from the philosophy of Heidegger to the failures of past relationships—trolling chat rooms and writing a movie script with Ken as they navigated a world teeming with politics and art, and basked in the uncertainty of a future both fearsome and enthralling. That future came to a harrowing end when Ken was murdered, leaving Hsu to fend for himself while unraveling the tragedy. As he recounts sinking into songs “of heartbreak and resurrection,” Hsu parses the grief of losing his friend and eloquently captures the power of friendship and unanswerable questions spurred in the wake of senseless violence. The result is at once a lucid snapshot of life in the nineties, an incredible story of reckoning, and a moving elegy to a fallen friend. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Esmond and Ilia: An Unreliable Memoir

Marina Warner. New York Review of Books, $19.95 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-1-68137-644-8

English professor Warner (Alone of All Her Sex) reimagines the post-war lives of her parents in this fanciful memoir. “Itemise the things that you know,” Warner writes, “because they belonged to them and through them became part of you.” The items are her parents’ belongings, an inventory Warner sifts through as she recreates the couple’s journey from 1940s Italy, to post-colonial Cairo, to Brussels, and ultimately, back to Britain. After meeting and marrying in WWII Italy, Ilia and Esmond relocated to Cairo to establish a branch of the British bookstore W.H. Smith. Warner tediously conjures this post-colonial realm from her father’s letters to “the old-boy network,” her mother’s journals, and sundry objects of Esmond’s that encapsulate “a way of life, a class and its expectations.” Building toward Warner’s first memory—the sight of her father’s burned-out bookstore in the 1952 Cairo Fire, the same fire that would ignite the Egyptian revolution—the author employs fictionalizations to speculate about difficult realities: her father’s sexuality, her mother’s unhappiness, and Warner’s worry that she bears “the stamp of colonial ambivalence”—a concern that seems validated when she weighs in on blackface: “in the traditions of the Caribbean carnival, dancers and masqueraders repay the travesties in kind.” This hefty memoir is steeped in imperial whimsy that will either delight or exhaust. (June)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Asian American Histories of the United States

Catherine Ceniza Choy. Beacon, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8070-5079-8

Choy (Empire of Care), a professor of ethnic studies at U.C. Berkeley, chronicles the diverse experiences of Asian Americans over the past 150 years in this illuminating history. Contending that Asian American contributions and struggles have been erased from standard histories of the U.S., Choy highlights the complexity of the Asian American experience, noting that various groups migrated at different times and under different circumstances. She details the recruitment of male Chinese railroad workers in the 1860s; the increase in international adoptions from Asian countries, in particular Korea, in the 1950s; and the influx of refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. She also discusses how nursing shortages have been filled by the recruitment of Filipino nurses and describes the distressing uptick in anti-Asian violence during the Covid-19 pandemic as the latest chapter in a “long-standing history of racializing Asians as disease carriers.” Amid the harrowing stories of abuse and prejudice—including the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII—Choy interweaves inspiring acts of resistance, among them Filipino American labor activist Larry Itliong’s leadership of the Delano Grape Strike in 1965. Sharply drawn profiles of individual Asian Americans add depth to Choy’s broad overview and bring historic events to dramatic life. The result is an essential reconsideration of American history. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Skirts: Fashioning Modern Femininity in the Twentieth Century

Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-27579-0

Journalist Chrisman-Campbell (The Way We Wed) takes an entertaining and insightful look at the evolution of the skirt across the 20th century. Spotlighting 10 groundbreaking styles and their various iterations, she examines each design through the lenses of gender, race, class, and fashion. Highlights include the risqué, body-skimming pleats of designer Mariano Fortuny’s 1909 Delphos gown, which was inspired by a Hellenistic bronze sculpture, and the empowering and form-fitting elasticized bands of Azzedine Alaïa’s 1989 “mummy” dress. Chrisman-Campbell also takes note of controversies surrounding tennis star Suzanne Lenglen’s shedding of the sport’s long skirt and petticoats for the mobility of a calf-length skirt in 1919, Coco Chanel’s liberation of women’s formalwear with her “little black dress” in 1920, and Diane von Furstenburg’s capturing of the feminist and sexual revolutions with the wrap dress she created at her dining table in 1973. Chrisman-Campbell also sketches the history of men in skirts from the late Middle Ages, when bared legs symbolized strength and power, to Harry Styles’s pairing of a black tuxedo jacket and gray evening gown for a 2020 Vogue cover: “There is no more menswear or womenswear, it implied; there is only fashion.” Exquisitely detailed and evocatively written, this stylish history casts an underappreciated garment in a rewarding new light. Illus. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Monster’s Bones: The Discovery of T. Rex and How It Shook Our World

David K. Randall. Norton, $27.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-324-00653-4

Reuters reporter Randall (Black Death at the Golden Gate) chronicles the fossil-hunting exploits of Barnum Brown (1873–1963) in this colorful adventure saga. Hailed as “the Father of the Dinosaurs” in his New York Times obituary, Brown discovered his first fossils in coal deposits his father dug up on the family’s Kansas farm. His uncanny knack for finding the mineral-preserved remains of ancient creatures eventually landed him a job working for paleontologist and railroad scion Henry Fairfield Osborn, who was leading the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. Randall takes note of how Osborn’s racist and eugenicist beliefs intertwined with his overweening ambition, but the focus is on Brown, who most famously discovered and excavated the first documented tyrannosaurus rex remains in Montana’s Hell Creek Formation. Randall draws on Brown’s unpublished memoirs and biographies by his daughter, Frances, and second wife, Lilian, to draw a multidimensional portrait of the paleontologist, and astutely analyzes the T. rex’s place in popular culture while maintaining that the most important lesson to be learned from the dinosaur’s “fearsome reign” on Earth may be that “the climate always wins.” Paleontology buffs will thrill to this vibrant, treasure-filled account. (June)

Reviewed on 06/03/2022 | 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.