PositiveBooklistCaptivating, copiously researched ... The author spares no details in limning the destitute, cruelly violent childhood Jackson miraculously survived; his evolution as a world-class athlete; friendships and enmities with coaches, teammates, reporters, family, and fans; and his admirable disdain for the trappings of success. But it’s the individual moments Pearlman shares that startle.
PositiveBooklistA lively, wide-ranging primer...certainly in the author’s wheelhouse ... A timely, authoritative study.
RaveBooklistSo crushing are the grim totals of microplastics circulating in the water, air, and land of planet Earth that early on in this informed, utterly blindsiding account, Wired science journalist Simon pauses to comfort readers that there are indeed solutions to be found ... Simon offers solutions...But it all starts with understanding the scale of the problem, which Simon’s book clearly conveys.
RaveBooklistMogelson’s fine reporting is multifaceted, including profiles of principal and supporting figures from all sides, a clear narrative of how this battle has played out, and, most impressively, perilous at-the-scene reporting, including a dazzling account of the January 6 riot from inside the Capitol itself. Perhaps most striking in this book is the almost casual dehumanization of political adversaries by the extreme alt-right, with violence to the Other only a trigger-pull away. An unflinching, minutely observed, and wholly unsettling portrait of today’s America, begging the question: Can the center hold?
RaveBooklistAuletta delivers a compelling, assiduously reported, full-formed biography of Weinstein ... Auletta is keenly sensitive here to the \'long half-life of trauma\' these many women experienced, yet also unsparingly graphic in detailing how Weinstein would entrap his victims, enabled by a host of individuals and forces that allowed such monstrous behavior to continue unchallenged for so long. A definitive, unblinking account of sexual abuse and violence in the American movie history.
PositiveBooklistBourgon, who’s written on the topic for National Geographic and Smithsonian, brings a nuanced understanding to an important, overlooked environmental issue.
PositiveBooklistA compelling, copiously researched account of DDT in America ... A vitally important contribution to the ongoing discussion over the use of pesticides.
RaveBooklistArmed with invaluable primary-source material, along with interviews with Bryant’s high-school coaches and other figures in Bryant’s life, Sielski draws an affecting portrait of young Bryant, a man among boys on the basketball court, but also a curious, tentative, sweet, fish-out-of-water kid feeling his way to adulthood—in other words, how Kobe became Kobe.
Isaac Stone Fish
PositiveBooklistIt’s complicated, yet Fish...lays out a damning narrative of how American corporations, sports leagues, universities, media, politicians, and diplomats, among others—citing names and incidents—have kowtowed to the Communist Party to protect their own interests while vainly, perhaps cynically, expressing the hope that, in the process, China might somehow democratize ... Fish ends with a strong pushback against the demonization of Chinese Americans, and of mainland Chinese; his beef here is always with the Communist Party.
RaveBooklistHong Kong journalist Cheung pushes back mightily on those who think her hometown could be summed up in one tome...Yet English-language readers might not find a book that captures Hong Kong in such visceral detail and humanity as Cheung’s ... It’s a grim status report, to be sure, but Cheung doesn’t quite let go of hope for that extraordinary city.
PositiveBooklistFeinstein, who’s white, argues strongly, and often, that he will never comprehend how racism might feel to a Black man. He also argues equally, and sadly, that perhaps only a white sportswriter could write this book.
RaveBooklistHowever utterly despairing these tales read, Saladino profiles those who are finding ways to regenerate these foods against implacable odds ... A deeply saddening, too-familiar story containing yet a kernel of hope.
PositiveBooklist... a surprisingly detailed, candid, ultimately affectionate behind-the-scenes account of one of the greatest NBA teams of any era. While his focus is on team leader Larry Bird and his relationships with his teammates, his opponents, and even the press, including Shaughnessy himself, the author gives ample space to how master architect Red Auerbach built the team ... Of particular note is just how informal relations were between players and the media back in the day—beat reporters like Shaughnessy traveling, breakfasting, drinking, even shooting occasional hoops with the players—before the league exploded into the international colossus it’s become. Recommended for the strong sports collection.
MixedBooklistAlong with a classical-music world that has historically shunned African American composers and performers, Horowitz sees a falsely held American \'pastlessness\' that ignores the depth and breadth of the \'sorrow songs\' of America’s slaves, a pastlessness that, internalized even by the likes of Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein, has deprived the musical world of a truly vernacular American classical music. It’s certainly a provocative claim, and Horowitz’s narrative, informed as it is, isn’t the easiest to track. Still, the full manifestation of Dvořák’s vision is thrilling to consider.
RaveBooklistAccepting the impossibility of ever capturing the essence of such a brilliant, curious, darkly funny, loving, cruel, über-rebellious, wholly mercurial man, a shell-shocked Vitale still lays out an immersive narrative, rich with insight and detail, of their work together ... If not capturing Bourdain, Vitale’s account might be as close to an authentic portrait of the late chef-traveler as readers will find.
PositiveBooklistIn his revealing behind-the-scenes account, Pomfret conveys the comity and respect each country’s intelligence community had for the other even in the middle of the Cold War ...Pomfret draws strong portraits of principal spies and diplomats on both sides, and recounts significant events ... All in all, an important contribution to the study of U.S.-European relations.
PositiveBooklistFader does a fine job of reconstructing a childhood bathed in love by family but challenged at every step by racial discrimination, grinding poverty, and doubt ... Fader tracks his unlikely ascent to the NBA as the fifteenth overall pick in 2013, his ungainly and inconsistent early play, and his hard-won emergence as the dominant force in today’s game.
PositiveBooklistThe backstory of how author Webb, an American from small-town northern New Mexico, literally lurched her way through the deepest jungles of Indonesian Borneo in 1993 as an undergraduate biology major to study orangutans is worth the price of the ticket here, so arduous was her journey, and so fantastical her ultimate destination, the Gunung Palung National Park, home to some of the world’s greatest diversity of flora and fauna ... This really is a journey of hope, told with an observant eye and an open heart.
PositiveBooklistZirin gives ample space for each of the many athletes profiled here to detail the thinking behind their actions. The result is a thoughtful take on what remains a complicated, highly charged issue.
RaveBooklist[Johnson] deliver[s] a viscerally harrowing, almost minute-by-minute narrative of the events leading to that conflagration, the dawning realization that a massively fatal wildfire was descending on the region ... She humanizes the book with detailed, sensitively told stories of many of the townspeople ... A cautionary tale in this age of climate change.
PositiveBooklist... has the earmarks of cliché: a tough but kindhearted coach forges a motley group of players from a violent urban community into one of the most successful football units in the state. In less capable hands, it might indeed rely on cliché. But, instead, Washington Post sportswriter Babb draws full-blooded portraits of head coach Brice Brown, his assistants, the team’s principal players, and a neighborhood so riven by gun violence that tragedy is almost to be expected. Babb also details the sheer force of will and thought Coach Brown brought to his players to win the state 4A football title, the team’s fourth in a row.
PositiveBooklistIn these self-contained accounts, the authors clearly admire the courage, political savvy, and sheer physical effort required to create and then sustain such critical movements, but they’re also unsparing in saying that mistakes were made ... As a result, the Talbots have created a coherent narrative of mid-century political activism, from which readers can see the through lines of modern-day success or failure, and proceed from there.
PositiveBooklistWhile Martino’s history of cheating in baseball is almost superfluous to the main story, really, his account of the unfolding, and undoing, of the Astros’ plot is well covered and compellingly told.
PositiveBooklistIf Whyte frames the book in sometimes off-putting conservative terms—he refers to the array of landmark laws passed by the 89th Congress, including the Social Security Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Highway Safety Act (mandating seat belts and head restraints), as an \'orgy\' of legislation—he does a good job of parsing the self-interests of many of the principals, while adding depth and welcome nuance to this significant American business story.
PositiveBooklistHamer here turns thoughtfully to the complex of plant and animal life he encounters over one calendar year in the 12-acre garden in Wales that he has worked for two decades, full time, for its elegant, wealthy, somewhat detached owner, the widow Miss Cashmere ... Which might be all that any humble gardener could wish for.
PositiveBooklistDarling lays out in detail the vexing issues—robot rights, robot accountability, our fears of a robot takeover, our deep-seated anthropomorphism that leads to surprising attachments to these machines—more than resolving them. But it’s a thoughtful, constructive starting point.
Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever, illustrated by Wesley Allsbrook
PositiveBooklistThis is an odd, bittersweet mash-up of a travel guide ... Complementary sidebars written by friends and family are sprinkled throughout. Oddly, though, there’s no mention of COVID-19, let alone how a traveler might navigate our pandemic world to reach any of these destinations. A surprisingly useful guide, but only for a time and place well beyond ours at the moment.
Michael Patrick F. Smith
PositiveBooklist... celebrating the lives of both Williston’s townspeople and the men who worked the derricks, laying out the relentlessly perilous nature of the trade they plied, centering its importance in serving the world’s energy demands, and tracking Smith’s transformation from city slicker to “trained-up” professional. Those notes also deliver a deceptively affecting snapshot of blue-collar America in a singular place and time.
RaveBooklist... broadly and deeply informed discussion of the life-and-death issues over how we grow, process, and consume our food ... All in all, an almost indispensable guide to our food system—and how to make that system work better.
PositiveBooklistSeton Hall University law professor Healy brings equal measures of sympathy and detail to this quixotic story.
Carl L. Hart
RaveBooklistEvery step of the way, Hart backs up his conclusions with science, showing, for example, how the actual, usually more benign, effects of a drug can often contradict the news media’s negative portrayal of it. A timely, fact-based, coherent, humane counterargument to America’s spectacularly failed War on Drugs.
RaveBooklistIf tackling an 832-page biography of anybody seems daunting for the general reader, Swafford makes it almost effortless with Mozart, animating his genius, detailing the interpersonal dynamics with family, lovers, friends, rivals, and patrons that would drain him even as he pushed on to create more than 600 indelible works in his 35 years; drawing a visceral portrait of the cities where Mozart composed and performed ... and, as a composer himself, offering an astute yet thoroughly approachable analysis, almost piece by piece, of the composer’s entire canon, lingering fittingly on the composer’s major operas. A virtually indispensable volume for the music collection.
PositiveBooklist... a smart, uncommonly funny, thoroughly endearing account of his long but consequential coming-of-age.
Zach St. George
PositiveBooklist... a rumination, backed by in-depth reporting ... the extraordinary scientists he features here do give hope that their nuanced work, in this pandemic time of renewed respect for facts, will be taken seriously enough to repair, even avert, catastrophic change.
PositiveBooklistPulitzer Prize—and National Book Award—winning journalist Weiner brings heft to this account of U.S.-Russian political warfare ... In this fraught, globally consequential 2020 campaign season, one could hardly ask for a better explanation of how we landed here.
Sandra B. Tooze
PositiveBooklistHelm gets his due here—it’s about time—in a biography that spans his impoverished but richly lived rural Arkansas boyhood through his salad days with Ronnie Hawkins and then The Band, that group’s bitter dissolution, and Helm’s final, wonderfully redemptive solo albums ... Tooze makes unmistakably clear that, yes, Helm was uniquely gifted, but it was also his unceasing efforts to improve his craft—he attended Berklee College of Music after his first tour with Bob Dylan—and the joy with which he shared it that defined his greatness.
PositiveBooklistThe origins of this title’s \'lost pianos\' start with the mass manufacture of the instruments in Russia beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Their production was inspired, English travel writer Roberts writes, by a national fever dream over the arrival—more pointedly, the playing—of Franz Liszt in St. Petersburg in 1842. With the banishment of millions of Russians over the decades to tsarist prisons, later gulags, in the unimaginably vast Siberian expanse, the pianos followed, establishing cultural beachheads that Roberts seeks out here in digressive, hopscotch fashion, with a passion bordering on obsessive ... Roberts has a splendid eye for detail, whether in the history and flavor of the cities and regions she visits or in the living, breathing people she encounters on this almost otherworldy journey.
PositiveBooklistNewton avoids the quicksand of detail while still laying out the issues closest to Brown’s heart and the political races he ran ... Brown’s failed campaigns for president are well covered, too. Very nearly a must for the politics collection.
MixedBooklistKnighton brings some keen historical and cultural insights to this survey of America’s five dozen wondrously varied national parks ... But those insights are almost undone by the author’s taste for self-indulgence, whether he’s sharing the details of his scrapped wedding plans, dragging his readers back to the Methodist church camp of his youth, or cracking not so wise (or funny) throughout. But some readers might enjoy the combination, and certainly the author’s TV fame, and the national-park segments he’s been presenting on CBS Sunday Morning, could create strong demand for this title.
PositiveBooklistBascomb delivers an engaging narrative, filled in with generous profiles of the principal drivers, sponsors, and the fraught era in which they operated. Of special interest to racing fans and readers of WWII.
RaveBooklist... an approachable, uniquely thoughtful rumination on a range of musical topics, from the unrelenting demands of musical practice and performance to the mysterious and fraught dynamic between parent and child, from the delicate art of pedagogy to Bach’s place in the firmament of classical composers—its brightest star, arguably, manifest from almost anywhere. Recommended for anyone with an ear for classical music and an interest in biography.
PositiveBooklistAuthor Keith...casts light on the important role of so-called Radical Republicans in inculcating the idea of abolition into mainstream American thinking ... If not a definitive account, When It Was Grand shows that noble ideas can still be made manifest, whoever ends up carrying them through.
Fred P. Hochberg
PositiveBooklist[Hochberg] highlights six invaluable products that embody our country’s trade interdependence, including our diverse food system, the most American car on the road (the Honda Odyssey, 75 percent American-made), our computers and smartphones, and, intriguingly, our educational system. He also takes criticisms head-on, agreeing with many of them—including the fact that there really are losers in the bargain—while offering mitigations. Oddly, he ignores the most damning criticism: the huge carbon footprint produced by global trade. Still, an approachable, well-argued work.
PositiveBooklist...[a] fulsome biography ... This is not hagiography, for Frazier’s wandering eye alone scuttles that, but it gives this man of uncommon will and humanity his due.
PositiveBooklist Online\"If Bob Woodward’s best-selling Fear pulled back the curtain on the willful ignorance and toxic politics behind the Trump administration’s brand of federal governance, Lewis reveals the frightening effects such governance could have on the massive and critically important agencies under its purview, including the Department of Energy (think nuclear), the USDA (food security), and NOAA (natural disasters).\
RaveBooklistPulitzer-winning New York Times reporter Branch records in utterly enthralling detail the efforts of a multigenerational Utah ranching family, the Wrights, to survive a shifting American West ... In letting the Wrights’ story slowly unfold itself, Branch conveys the timeless, almost mystical appeal of ranching in America’s west, even as Bill Wright, knowing the economic and social forces against him, decides in the end that it could work to allow women to set up a dozen tents down in the hollow for tourists. Heck, he could charge them (a lot) to help round up his cattle.
PositiveBooklistA book that will inspire wonder, even hope.
PositiveBooklistPulitzer Prize–winning sportswriter Dohrmann here plumbs the deep, mysterious ties that bind 'superfans' to their teams, profiling a dozen or so such folks ... An insightful study that can find application well beyond the world of sports.