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.