Inspiring Gift Books Reviewed in May/June
Do you go to gift books for inspiration? Do you look to them for knowledge? Or do you receive them as, well, gifts and display them on your coffee table? Gift books can do more; they can teach and motivate you. If you need a gift book too intrigue you, we have eight, reviewed in our May/June 2017 issue.
Hardcover $95.00 (176pp)
The term “climate change” obscures the infinite number of global disturbances caused by rising temperatures. One of the dooziest is taking place at the earth’s poles: ice is changing to water and that melting exposes land and ocean—much more absorbent of solar heat than reflective white ice. The cold, barren Arctic is fragile; we have abundant evidence of that, including the more than fifty jaw-dropping photos captured in The Arctic Melt. From Greenland’s ice sheets and icebergs to sea ice in the Arctic Ocean to Norway’s mountain glaciers, in Diane Tuft’s photos we see devastation in all its wondrous beauty. She has also included several superb haikus to further convey her strong, emotional feelings for the Arctic.
Softcover $18.95 (216pp)
The human body has nearly 700 named skeletal muscles, so it stands to reason that an ideal exercise would make use of every last one—a tall order, to be sure. The full-body-workout gold medal for sporting events may go to the swimming, biking, running demands of triathlons, especially Ironman-type competitions—2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run—in which most competitors need more than twelve hours to finish. While still grueling, most triathlons around the world involve much less total mileage, and most triathletes are ordinary women seeking a unique, healthy challenge. Alicia DiFabio, mother of four, admittedly out of shape (before her first triathlon), explores the history, subculture, and psychological appeal of triathlons in this engaging memoir.
Rare Bird Books
Hardcover $26.95 (284pp)
A great memoir offers the-rest-of-the-story appeal, and when the CIA, 9/11, waterboarding, whistleblowing, scapegoating, coverups, and federal prison all factor in, the page turning reaches hyperdrive. John Kiriakou spent fifteen years working for the CIA, including the infamous period following 9/11. In 2002, he was invited to be certified in enhanced interrogation techniques but said no, rightly recognizing it as sanctioned torture. Even so, he was privy to all the sordid details. Jump to 2007 when ABC News asked him to rebut charges that he tortured an al-Qaeda prisoner. He proceeded to go on air and disclose way, way too much detail about the interrogation policy; the CIA promptly went ballistic and then spent years fabricating a case to get Kiriakou arrested. They finally succeeded, and he spent twenty-three months behind bars. With humor and poignancy, he writes about his not-so-terrible prison experience—the CIA trained him well.
University of Nebraska Press
Hardcover $32.95 (272pp)
Major League Baseball has gone to war with itself—the Black Sox gambling scandal, collective-bargaining negotiations in the late 1960s, steroid use—and also against Germany and Austria-Hungary during World War I when more than 1,250 players, team owners, and sportswriters enlisted. The history of those tumultuous nineteen months is further enlivened by the heroism of certain players from the Negro Leagues (barred from the MLB), the patriotic news coverage of notable players overseas, and the major-league talent that studded the army, navy, and marine ball teams. To be sure, the Great War has been written about extensively, but this project takes a hanging curveball and knocks it out of the park.
Hardcover $30.00 (192pp)
With Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, the explosive year of 1967 got the album it deserved—delivered from a band desperate to replace its mop-top-boys persona with that of artists-basking-in-the-glow-of-psychedelia. Described as a “decisive moment in the history of Western civilization,” by the Times, ironically, the album was never performed live by the Beatles, but it proceeded to sell tens of millions of copies around the world. It’s been fifty years from that summer of love, shadowed by the Vietnam War, and Sgt. Pepper is still thought to have changed everything. Written by the former EMI Head of Press Brian Southall, this project delivers a rave of photos, interviews, anecdotes, and expert commentary on the album and the Fab Four.
Nicholas Fox Weber
Bellevue Literary Press
Hardcover $26.99 (352pp)
In the first few years of the sixteenth century, in Orvieto’s splendid medieval cathedral, Luca Signorelli painted The Last Judgment, a sprawling, shocking fresco of muscled nude men, bared buttocks, horrific violence, antichrists, angels, and evil mayhem. Sigmund Freud simply called it the greatest artwork he’d ever seen. Months later, for very Freudian reasons, he suddenly couldn’t recall the painter’s name and then, when reminded it was Signorelli, his memory wiped itself clean of what the painting depicted. So, what was the old boy repressing? With a barely suppressed grin, Nicholas Fox Weber believes the homoerotic imagery was to blame and this witty, art-savvy project meanders in all manner of delightful directions to build the case.
Hardcover $29.99 (192pp)
The premise here is simple, yet its importance is impossible to overstate—men gazing at women creates a toxic environment, and male photographers have always posed their female subjects to please men, perpetuating a narrow expression of femininity, as well as corrupting ideas of what the female body ought to look like. Girl on Girl showcases the photos of forty female photographers as they explore the female gaze. The accompanying interviews (conducted by Charlotte Jansen) cover issues like self-image, authenticity, sexuality, feminism, identity, and seeing her subjects as “unconscious reflections” of herself, according to American photographer Deanna Templeton. International in scope and culturally diverse, the photos are often raw and intensely intimate. Most of the subjects exude striking confidence.
Deirdre Hassed, illustrator
Hardcover $24.99 (160pp)
Take wisdom where you can find it, and keep on looking—especially in unlikely places. The first three or four sentences of this illustrated compendium of more than eighty of wisdom’s greatest hits points directly at a religious conundrum: “While most people are disposed to their \[religious\] faith without much interest in questioning what has been taught, others are more disposed to reflection and inquiry. Therefore spiritual traditions very often have two main arms: one being for those disposed to faith—the religious—and another, more mystical or philosophical arm for those drawn to reflection.” Consequently, wisdom of the everlasting sort almost always draws deeply from both spiritual and philosophical traditions, whether Western or Eastern. Rendered in beautiful, multi-styled calligraphy, the wise words are artful, the art insightful, inspirational, and appealing to all.