PositiveThe Wall Street Journal[Ennos] takes a fresh look at the familiar substance, wielding it like a wedge to pry open our past, examine our present and even glimpse our future ... one of the appealing features of The Age of Wood is that it is about much more than its nominal subject ... Even when the focus is exclusively on wood, the author offers intriguing insights ... Throughout, Mr. Ennos writes with an amiable voice and a readable style. A visiting professor of biology at the University of Hull, in England, he knows how to explain technical subjects for the layperson. Even so, some readers may have appreciated more definitions of scientific terminology and fewer historical examples from the U.K.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe road trip forms the backbone of his book, but Mr. Gessner fleshes it out with succinct sections on Roosevelt’s life, especially the periods that helped to shape his environmentalism, such as his boyhood, when he became enamored with natural history, and his stint as a rancher in North Dakota ... Mr. Gessner doesn’t excuse Roosevelt’s limitations and hypocrisies, but neither does he want them to cancel his signal achievements.
Laurence C. Smith
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...[an] important new book ... Some of Mr. Smith’s most original and compelling passages don’t deal with rivers’ pervasive cultural influence but with their awesome physical force. The mechanics of how rivers push all that soil downstream are so complex that the young Albert Einstein reportedly threw up his hands and turned to astronomy. Yet Mr. Smith explains cogently and even lyrically how rivers constantly tune their flow to move their sediment efficiently.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...Mr. Boessenecker’s aim seems to be to chronicle the Earps’ adventures with more accuracy and in greater detail than anyone before. He has unearthed a lode of primary sources, including hundreds of contemporary newspaper articles, as documented in his extensive notes. This thoroughness is impressive—more than once he itemizes the internal organs ruptured by assailants’ bullets—but the sheer weight of information sometimes threatens to overload the story. For serious readers of Western history, however, Ride the Devil’s Herd may well prove the gold standard.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalAs [Clavin] explains in an author’s note, he wanted to complete a trilogy he had started with his books Dodge City and Wild Bill. Moreover, he writes, \'I wanted to tell my version of the Tombstone story, to have it refracted through my lens, and along the way provide new and previously overlooked characters and details.\' It’s hard to know what those new details might be, since the book includes no notes section and his bibliography lists only secondary sources, which he quotes a bit too freely in the text, sometimes producing a cut-and-paste effect. Yet his account does trot along at a brisk pace: Stressing story line over nuance, Tombstone may appeal more to casual readers curious about the Earp saga.
H. W. Brands
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalAll this nipping and tucking can give the book an episodic feel at times, as we skip from subject to subject, but it does make for a lively pace. And Mr. Brands’ economical, conversational prose serves him well. A professor of history at the University of Texas, he is also a best-selling author and knows how to write in a popular style that draws us in and holds our interest ... The so-called winning of the West is one of the fundamental dramas in American history, and Mr. Brands makes the most of his subject by quoting extensively from the participants’ own accounts ... Mr. Brands also pauses to make some thought-provoking insights, which round out the narrative and present his subject in a fresh light ... Mr. Brands takes pleasure in explaining how things work and has studded the book with illuminating asides ... This isn’t a book of white hats and black hats. Neither does Mr. Brands shy away from the less heroic episodes of western history ... is not intended as the final word on western history. But it is an engaging, eminently readable introduction. Mr. Brands has packed his wagon well. Like a wise westward-bound emigrant, he has taken on board enough beans to sustain us over the long journey, but also left room for a guitar—and plenty of books—to nourish the spirit and mind.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... some readers may find the political maneuvering more detailed than they require. And the decision to structure his story not as one continuous narrative but as two distinct parts, one focusing on the relationship between Muir and Pinchot and the other on the birth of public lands, at times yields an account that is fragmented and repetitive. But on the whole Mr. Clayton writes with clarity, passion and insight ... uneasily relevant to today, when more public lands are being opened to commercial exploitation.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIn his sprawling, provocative book, journalist Mark Arax examines California’s long-building water crisis with the keen, loving, troubled eye of a native son ... Although dense with information, The Dreamt Land assumes an urgent, personal tone and incorporates history, memoir and the lives of larger-than-life personalities ... it is a story biblical in scope and cautionary in tenor.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIn The Sakura Obsession, Naoko Abe, a Japanese journalist living in London, grafts two improbable stories onto the same rootstock. One tale is of an English gentleman with little previous experience of gardening, who became a world authority on cherry trees. The other traces how, in its homeland, the gentle sakura was perverted from a symbol of life and renewal to one of destruction and death ... Like the sakura itself, Ms. Abe’s book is a quiet pleasure—the story of a venerated flower and an English squire graced with the means to turn his passion into his vocation.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal\"... the novel’s tongue-in-cheek title and comic-book dust jacket also give fair warning of Mr. Charyn’s intent. The author doesn’t mean to lampoon his subject but to convert him into an action hero worthy of the dime novels and \'Boy’s Own\' stories popular during [Roosevelt\'s] time ... With Cowboy King [Charyn] has done his homework, and his account generally honors the historical record. The novel is also graced with vivid, vigorous writing ... Yet despite the first-person narration, it isn’t always easy to hear Roosevelt’s voice through Mr. Charyn’s phrasings ... [Charyn] has written the rousing yarn advertised in his title and dust jacket, and he has written it well. Maybe it’s unfair to wish that the hero had been rendered in all his three-dimensional glory. But sometimes portraying a figure larger than life serves not to magnify but to diminish.\
John F Ross
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalDespite its more-limited-sounding title, John Ross’s The Promise of the Grand Canyon is essentially a biography. After giving due scope to Powell’s years before the expedition, it moves smartly through the journey itself, then focuses on the Major’s later life ... The impressive résumé aside, some readers may tire of Mr. Ross’s blow-by-blow accounts of Washington, D.C., infighting, and they may not be persuaded that [Powell\'s journeywas impossible without congressional funding] ... But Mr. Ross does make a convincing case for Powell’s legacy as a pioneering conservationist.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalAs Henry Fountain recounts in The Great Quake, the most powerful temblor ever recorded in North America (and the second strongest ever measured anywhere) struck southeastern Alaska on March 27, 1964 ... In Alaska, the earthquake left an arc of destruction along the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound, the state’s most developed region. Mr. Fountain, a New York Times science reporter, focuses on two particularly hard-hit communities ... Concentrating on several individuals in Valdez and Chenega, Mr. Fountain humanizes the disaster. Some readers may wish he had trimmed the background on his characters, whose extended biographies are one reason the earthquake doesn’t make an appearance until the book is nearly half-finished ...by spotlighting a principal investigator of the tragedy, geologist George Plafker, Mr. Fountain weaves a compelling scientific detective story.
Jack E. Davis
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...a wide-ranging, well-told story, by turns informative, lyrical, inspiring and chilling for anyone who cares about the future of 'America’s Sea' ... This catalog of threats—not counting overbuilding, over-engineering of the coastline, land erosion and rising sea levels due to global warming—make for a sobering chronicle. Yet Mr. Davis also points to some reasons for hope, thanks to organizations working to protect and restore rivers, bays and the Gulf itself. 'If we’re lucky,' he suggests, 'their endeavors will one day write a new history.'