Foreword Reviews

Hail to Academe

Ten More Reasons to Love University Presses

Academic Press

Dig Darwin. Down as he was with climbing the social ladder, albeit out of the primordial swamp. Make something of yourself, amoeba. Get the evolutionary process started. Bring on opposable thumbs, consciousness, wisdom and language, Plato and Gutenberg and Newton and Blitzen. (If a flying reindeer doesn’t merit evolutionary mention, nothing does.)

Indeed, the human family has done quite well for itself, in no small part because of our innate desire to learn and achieve. But equally important is the ability to retain as well as pass along knowledge. And how do we do that? With books and universities, of course. And when books come from universities, well, what could be better?

Frontier Farewell (new edition)

The 1870s and the End of the Old West

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Garrett Wilson
University of Regina Press
Softcover $34.95 (525pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

For the time being, let’s not peek again at any of the horrific deeds perpetrated by the US government against the native peoples of North America in the mid–to-late nineteenth century. Let’s also avoid images of slaughtered buffalo, so as not to recall that thirty million (some estimates run as high as sixty million) of the noble beasts once grazed the plains and sustained tens of thousands of aforementioned Amerindians.

We can turn, instead, to the awesome realization that two great nations caught their stride at this same time through the courageous efforts of mountain men, explorers, pioneers, miners, ranchers, military figures, riverboat captains, missionaries, and others.

The splendid Frontier Farewell: The 1870s and the End of the Old West upgrades the historical record through a north-of-the-border lens, offering the US reader an unvarnished account of the ten-year period when the “vast prairies were converted from a great commons that was home to all, to a neatly surveyed system of land titles designed for the individual ownership of thousands of immigrant homesteaders.” Garrett Wilson cites new evidence that confirms the US government initiated a policy in the Black Hills that would stop at nothing short of the complete eradication of the Sioux nation. In his preface, Wilson writes, “These pages carry the story of the tumultuous times, with as much attention to the injustices, misery, and suffering inflicted upon the first inhabitants of the West as my research would support.”

He includes extensive details surrounding Custer’s defeat at Little Bighorn and how that humiliation kickstarted the United States’ own “final solution” policy.

MATT SUTHERLAND (November 27, 2014)

The Assassination of Europe, 1918–1942

A Political History

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Howard M. Sachar
University of Toronto Press
Unknown $32.95 (480pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

The two epic wars of the twentieth century were separated by twenty-odd years of European despondency, impoverishment, and simmering, unresolved hatreds. The 1920s and ’30s witnessed a devastating series of murders against the political leaders of several countries, extremists gained power, and fascism took possession of the cultured, ancient peoples of Germany and Italy.

In his meticulously researched, highly engaging The Assassination of Europe 1918–1942, Howard Sachar details an astounding number of plots and intrigues—German, Italian, Russian, French, and those of several Eastern European nations—and bloodletting. Hitler and Mussolini receive microscopic attention, and Sachar leaves no doubt that both men fully earned their leadership positions (Mussolini was the most popular man in Europe for many years) but also experienced extraordinary good luck at fateful times.

History at its best, Sachar spins the web of European connections in unprecedented ways.

MATT SUTHERLAND (November 27, 2014)

Compassionate Stranger

Asenath Nicholson and the Great Irish Famine

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Maureen O’Rourke Murphy
Syracuse University Press
Hardcover $39.95 (440pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

After decades of misrule, mass unemployment and widespread poverty, Ireland was brought to her knees in 1845 by an invisible assailant: Phytophthora infestans, potato blight. At the time, potatoes fed two-thirds of Ireland’s 8.1 million people. Potatoes were the one crop most capable of supporting extended families on small plots of land, and by 1852, one million people had starved and another million fled the island.

In Compassionate Stranger, we meet Vermont-born Asenath Nicholson, a battle-tested crusader against slavery, alcohol, meat eating, and other social ills of the early to mid-1800s in New York City, who boarded a three-masted schooner and sailed to Ireland as a woman in her fifties to help the poor. Arriving in the summer of 1844, she spent much of the next five years walking the Irish countryside alone. The devastating famine compelled her to write Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger (1847), with hopes that it would bring much-needed help to the Irish poor. Her book further served as an indictment against reprehensible official policies related to land, employment, and famine relief.

Compassionate Stranger is authored by Maureen O’Rourke Murphy, the director of New York State’s Great Irish Famine Curriculum.

MATT SUTHERLAND (November 27, 2014)

Ocean to Plate

Cooking Fish with Hawai’i’s Kusuma Cooray

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Kusuma Cooray
University of Hawai’i Press
Softcover $29.99 (368pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Spicy Seared Tuna with Mint Chutney, Curried Gray Snapper Fish Balls, Lettuce-Wrapped Steamed Red Snapper with Orange Glaze, Fish Cakes with Chili Crème Fraîche, Sauteed Swordfish and Roasted Corn Salad, Grilled Mahimahi with Tomato and Seaweed Vinaigrette, Nicoise-style Bigeye Tuna Salad, Stewed Hawaiian Sea Bass with Rhubarb, Broiled Long-Tail Red Snapper Fillets with Wilted Spinach and Tomato Relish, Grilled Bigeye Tuna with Curry Butter, Barbecued Swordfish with Avocado Salad, Cured Marlin with Fruit Salsa, Grilled Cured Wahoo with Minty Fruit Relish.

We could do no better service to this outstanding project than to list all 200 of the enticing dishes, but the chef-author’s Sri Lankan background and culinary school professorship deserve special attention, as does the astounding array of Pan Pacific herbs and spices that culminate in two hundred flavor-forward dishes, none of which veer toward tricky kitchen-science projects.

Seeing the compendium of Pacific fish—species, filleting skills, cooking techniques, complementary dishes, and timeless guidance—professional chefs on down to Joe Bob behind the garage will swear by this book.

MATT SUTHERLAND (November 27, 2014)

Pro-Life, Pro-Choice

Shared Values in the Abortion Debate

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Bertha Alvarez Manninen
Vanderbilt University Press
Softcover $24.95 (240pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Here’s an idea: let’s delete the word “abortion” from our vocabulary so as to start a more civilized conversation about how to deal with unwanted pregnancy. Both sides of the debate can begin by acknowledging areas of shared values. Everyone (except for the extremists on both sides) can agree, for example, that more expansive, affordable support services would help needy mothers to stay in school, continue working, etc., while they raised their children. That, and pro-choice feminists can surely appreciate the miracle and wonder that is early fetal life, even as they advocate for a woman’s right to make decisions about her body.

In Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Bertha Alvarez Manninen delicately explores the ethics of abortion, believing that a majority of men and women of all ages are tired of the traditional abortion rhetoric. An associate professor of philosophy at Arizona State University, she teaches on abortion ethics and champions the middle ground, stressing to her students (and readers) that “pro-choice is not synonymous with pro-abortion.” She also mulls the elephant in the room for many on the pro-choice side. Namely, is there such a thing as irresponsible pregnancy, and do some women choose abortion for trivial reasons?

Heady, challenging stuff, to be sure, but her book is an important step in moving the conversation along.

MATT SUTHERLAND (November 27, 2014)

The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness

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Rebecca Solnit
Trinity University Press
Hardcover $25.95 (344pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

For a writer like Rebecca Solnit, it is impossible to walk through a pitch dark labyrinth in Iceland without thinking of Athena hacking her way out of Zeus’s head, labias, certain Christians who believe the Virgin Mary conceived through her ear, and this mesmerizing passage:

Darkness is amorous, the darkness of passion, of your own unknowns rising to the surface, the darkness of interiors, and perhaps part of what makes pornography so pornographic is the glaring light in which it transpires, that and the lack of actual touch, the substitution of eyes for skin, of seeing for touching.

The great essayists can make miracles happen through free association because, frankly, they know more about the world, write better, and effortlessly contemplate any number of compelling ideas at the same time.

In this, her latest of a dozen-plus books of nonfiction, Solnit delivers twenty-nine more essays featuring Japanese earthquakes, mercury and gold mining, the Mexican drug trade, Martha Stewart, and an untold number of other touchstones.

Whatever the subject, let’s just get out of the way and let the gifted woman write.

MATT SUTHERLAND (November 27, 2014)

Creating Conservatism

Postwar Words that Made an American Movement

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Michael J. Lee
Michigan State University Press
Softcover $34.95 (312pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Books a movement make. Consider the state of conservatism in the United States following the Second World War. In the words of Lionel Trilling in 1950: “Liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.” Other prominent commentators of the time dismissed conservatism as the province of cranks and fanatics, rabid anticommunists, and subscribers to the belief that religion deserves an important role in the political world.

But in the twenty or so years after 1945, adrift conservatives came together around a handful of books by Friedrich Hayek, Barry Goldwater, Richard Weaver, William F. Buckley, and the ex-communist spy Whittaker Chambers, amongst others. Foremost, the writers offered eloquent debate points for anyone leaning right to defend conservative political positions.

In Creating Conservatism, Michael Lee documents the decisive arguments and battles of the day, including how the books were wielded in the culture wars.

MATT SUTHERLAND (November 27, 2014)

The Last Amateur

The Life of William J. Stillman

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Stephen L. Dyson
SUNY Press
Hardcover $29.95 (389pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Born the 1st of June, 1828, this restless man from Schenectady set aside a fairly promising painting career at the Hudson River School to help found the nation’s first critical art journal, The Crayon. Tall, ruggedly handsome, and adventurous, he chummed around with Louis Agassiz, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and other Eastern notables, and complemented his landscape brush with the newly invented camera in the late 1850s.

Not for the first time, Europe called, in the form of consular service in Rome during the US Civil War, and William Stillman’s eclectic life was put on an extraordinary trajectory—art, photography, writing, disarming earnestness, intelligence, and a revolutionary’s spirit all serving to open doors from London to Crete, the Balkans to Paris.

He pursued archaeology seriously, took some of history’s most revered photos of the Athens Acropolis, and served as a correspondent for The Times of London for many years.

The man from Schenectady died in early July, 1901, at his beloved home in Surrey, England. The Last Amateur, in splendid prose, proves that they don’t make men like they used to.

MATT SUTHERLAND (November 27, 2014)

The Ethics of Creativity

Beauty, Morality, and Nature in a Processive Cosmos

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Brian G. Henning
University of Pittsburgh Press
Hardcover $30.00 (264pp)
Buy: Amazon

Without further ado, can we finally set aside the excuses and get to work on a serious plan to reverse the damage caused by carbon emissions, deforestation, overpopulation, water misuse, etc.?

How else to do so but to create an ethical code of conduct that values the living and nonliving alike, because nothing—not man, mountain, or microscopic molecule—exists in isolation.

In The Ethics of Creativity, Brian Henning explores the ideas of many of history’s finest philosophers of environmental ethics in his composition of a beauty ethic that expands our sphere of moral concern beyond living things. This remarkable philosophical work also includes Henning’s formal “obligation of beauty,” beseeching each of us “to always act in such a way so as to bring about the greatest possible universe of beauty, value, and importance that in each situation is possible.”

MATT SUTHERLAND (November 27, 2014)

Zen-Brain Horizons

Toward a Living Zen

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James H. Austin
MIT Press
Hardcover $27.95 (253pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

This freight train has been rounding the bend for, oh, several thousand years or so. Finally, neuroscience is building an indisputable body of data on the benefits of meditation, and those of you who always seek a doctor’s permission might find yourself cross-legged on a cushion sometime soon, or simply staring at the horizon, because each has a profound effect on the brain.

Dr. James Austin, the author of five previous books on Zen and neuroscience, writes with the playful enthusiasm earned from three decades of Zen study. He’s as comfortable with the koans and cadence of classical Buddhist literature as he is with cerebral anatomy.

With numerous case studies, research, and compelling stories, Austin isolates those moments when certain identifiable parts of the brain somehow shift in powerful ways. He offers a glimpse of the brain during involuntary movements and functions; specifically, those that trigger attentional systems of the brain and lead to moments of clear awareness.

Zen-Brain Horizons advances our understanding of creativity and happiness. What more can we ask of the good doctor?

MATT SUTHERLAND (November 27, 2014)

Matt Sutherland

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