Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the backissue database. PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital edition via our app or online. For more information on PW's new integrated subscription plan, click here. If you are currently a PW subscriber, click "Login" for full access to the site (if you have not done so already, you will need to set up your account for the new system by going here), or click the "Subscribe" button to become a PW subscriber. Email service@publishersweekly.com with questions.

Login or Subscribe
René’s War: Memoirs of French Resistance in WWII

Michel Mockers. New Dawn Services, $19.95 trade paper (228p) ISBN 978-1-4993-4288-8

..
Former French Resistance fighter Mockers provides a riveting firsthand account of his role fighting the Nazi occupation of France from 1941 to 1944. A story of courage, love, and coming of age in the midst of war, Mockers grows from an idle young 19-year-old student artist in 1941 (who used the alias René) to a hardened senior leader of the resistance at the age of 23. He leads the reader from one dangerous encounter with Nazis to another, and, with excellent pacing, the book reads like the best spy thrillers of fiction. Aside from the author, the most intriguing figures are three women who play key roles: Marika, a zealous German spy attempting to trap members of the resistance; Mary, a British Commando team leader coordinating resistance activity; and Michelle, a French messenger who travels over German-controlled roads on her bike to coordinate the activities of different resistance bands. Michelle in particular is a heroine the reader will never forget. Mockers’s narrative holds the potential to become a classic antiwar war memoir, and it is a must-read for anyone inspired by the courage and determination of young people who take a stand against aggression in a dangerous and chaotic world. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 12/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader

Robert Middlekauff. Knopf, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-1-101-87423-3

..
Middlekauff (Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies), an acclaimed historian of early America, shows how, from the 1760s to 1783, Washington went from being a “Virginia provincial” to a national leader, one who “held together the political structures that constituted the United States” by integrating state militias. He devotes about one quarter of his book to the French and Indian War, and three quarters to the Revolutionary War. During the latter, Washington complained repeatedly to the Continental Congress of a shortage of supplies and lost more battles than he won. But he kept the colonies in the war through daring triumphs at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, responded with equanimity to criticism when campaigns went badly, and showed great “strategic sense” in choosing to fight a war of attrition. Middlekauff praises Washington’s commitment to civilian supremacy in directing military policy and demonstrates how Washington came to be seen as “a creature apart... a chosen instrument of providence.” Though he glosses over some noteworthy events, Middlekauff’s clearly written study supports the view of Washington as a military leader who was as adept at working with ordinary soldiers as he was with querulous political leaders, revealing how much of Washington the legend was reflected in the real man. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Six Capitals, or Can Accountants Save the Planet? Rethinking Capitalism for the Twenty-First Century

Jane Gleeson-White. Norton, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-393-24667-4

..
Gleeson-White (Double Entry) has an ambitious agenda for this thought-provoking book: radically transforming how people think about the social and environmental cost of humans’ current consumption patterns. To this end, she turns to people whom, initially, might seem like an unlikely source of salvation: accountants, typically regarded as little more than number crunchers. Gleeson-White argues, however, that this profession (to which she belongs) can provide the hard data needed to persuade people to change their behavior. As an example, she explains how one burger can cost $200 when its full environmental and public health effects are factored in. To her, the traditional corporation is the major obstacle to progress, but she points to how the growth of so-called benefit corporations “redefines fiduciary duty to include nonfinancial considerations,” as an encouraging alternative. Not all her readers will share her optimism, particularly those to the right of the political spectrum. And though the ideas shared here will be inspiring to many, a frank discussion of whether Gleeson-White’s dreams are remotely feasible would have made for a better, more grounded book. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America

April Ryan. Rowman & Littlefield, $24.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-4422-3841-1

..
As White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Networks for 17 years, April Ryan has enjoyed a front-row seat (often literally) during some of recent American history’s most tumultuous moments. That background isn’t exploited nearly enough, however, in this loosely organized account of the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Ryan states often that she strived to bring minority-focused issues to prominence during her career, so it’s surprising how rarely she depicts herself asking hard questions when given the chance. Describing her experience traveling with Mr. and Mrs. Bush to view a post-Katrina New Orleans, for example, she prefers to focus on the president’s demeanor rather than his behavior, regretting that “this president’s heart never came through during his two terms.” Controversial topics, like the 2000 election, are referenced only briefly, while more trivial subjects, such as the incident in which two socialites crashed a White House party during the Obama administration, receive multiple pages. Ryan shows the most insight into Clinton, with whom she had more one-on-one interviews than any other reporter ever has (he even granted her an interview specifically for the book). Readers will come away with a new perspective on the 42nd President, but may wish that Ryan could have applied equal attention to numbers 43 and 44. Agent: Diane Nine, Nine Speakers Inc. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Phantom Terror: The Threat of Revolution & the Repression of Liberty, 1789–1848

Adam Zamoyski. Basic, $35 (544p) ISBN 978-0-465-03989-0

..
In the first days of the French Revolution, minor nobles and the French lower classes hoped for greater liberties. Instead, as Zamoyski (Warsaw 1920) reveals in this meticulous, thorough account, the revolution’s devolution into a bloodbath and the subsequent rise and fall of Corsican upstart Napoleon created paranoia among monarchs, leading to the evolution of narrowly focused police and agents provocateurs (who became models for state agents in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union). Zamoyski demonstrates how this atmosphere enveloped not only France, but much of Europe, leading to increased restrictions and harsh punishments, notably for students and foreigners. In the midst of the overarching theme of progressive (also called liberal or radical) movements and their opponents, key figures such as Wellington, Napoleon, Czar Alexander, and the Bourbon heirs pale beside the grand schemer and architect of the multicountry alliance: Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich. It’s a dense but stimulating work; Zamoyski takes an infamous 18th-century class struggle and painstakingly shows how the resulting suppression manifested itself through sophisticated spy networks and Germany’s heightened nationalism, as well as a chasm between the economic and social classes that persists today. Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Assoc. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles

Ron Garan. Berrett-Koehler, $27.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-62656-246-2

..
Debut author Garan, an astronaut who has spent 178 days in space, offers a well-considered set of strategies for curing social ills and improving the world, gleaned from the history of space travel and his thoughts while viewing Earth from the International Space Station (ISS). His philosophy centers on global cooperation, inspired by the creation of the ISS, the “largest, most daring peacetime international collaboration in history,” during which the U.S. and Russia overcame long-standing rivalries, language barriers, and cultural differences in pursuit of a common goal. As another compelling example, Garan recalls the successful rescue of the trapped Chilean miners, for which NASA officials were enlisted, along with psychologists and various private enterprises. Other current innovations done through mass collaboration discussed here include a satellite system for detecting weather and natural disasters, a project to advise farmers in developing countries on what and how much to plant, and user-driven websites like Wikipedia. Garan highlights some important structural flaws in humanitarian work as it’s currently practiced, noting that donors reward short-term methods and “new and shiny” results over consistency and a broader scope. His thesis that “Earth is a small town with many neighborhoods in a very big universe” rings powerfully true, and his lessons are particularly apt for those working in the nonprofit sector. Agent: Amy Moore-Benson, AMB Literary Management. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Once Upon a Revolution: An Egyptian Story

Thanassis Cambanis. Simon & Schuster, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4516-5899-6

..
As the heady days of revolution in Tahrir Square recede further into the past, liberal democracy in Egypt seems increasingly like a pipe dream. Beirut-based journalist Cambanis (A Privilege to Die) follows two leaders of the uprising from the beginnings of their political involvement to the military coup that overthrew Mohamed Morsi. Basem, an unassuming architect, becomes one of the few liberal members of parliament, while Moaz, a Muslim Brother, grows increasingly disenchanted with political Islam. Cambanis eloquently describes post-Mubarak Egypt and the “chaos coursing below the surface, but open conflict still just over the horizon,” as well as the “inability of secular and liberal forces to unify and organize,” which left the political field open to the military apparatus and the secretive Islamists. Crushed by arbitrary military edicts and ascendant puritanism, Egypt’s nascent civil society stalled and sputtered while its freewheeling press degenerated into “a brew of lies, delusion, paranoia, and justification.” The people Cambanis shadows never lose hope, exactly, but he makes clear that they feel as if they are spitting into the wind, struggling to enunciate what the revolution accomplished. Agent: Wendy Strothman, Strothman Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Italians

John Hooper. Viking, $28.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-525-42807-7

..
British journalist Hooper (The New Spaniards) draws on his years of experience as a correspondent in Italy to produce a nuanced look at its national character. He begins by describing the history of the peninsula, along with the topographic and linguistic variety that distinguishes its various regions. Topics like politics and the economy recur throughout, while the Catholic Church, soccer, the Mafia, and food receive their own sections or chapters. Hooper ranges from important issues, such as the centrality of family and the treatment and role of women, to minor ones, like the national penchant for sunglasses. Hooper continually returns to Italian vocabulary to explain terms that have no direct English equivalent but which are central to life in Italy. He selects certain people as examples of specific traits, suggesting that Silvio Berlusconi, for instance, managed to weather so many political setbacks before being convicted of tax fraud, in part because he seemed to offer an ability much desired among Italians: that of doing quello che gli pare (whatever he likes). This is a fascinating study of the fundamentals and foibles of Italy’s people. Agent: Lucy Luck, Aitken Alexander Associates. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery

Kevin Ashton. Doubleday, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-53859-6

..
Ashton wastes no time debunking the creativity myth, explaining in the preface to this book (his first) why creativity is not the domain of a select few individuals but the result of hard work by anyone willing to put in the effort. A pioneer in radio-frequency identification networks, the author coined the phrase “the Internet of things” and is no stranger to the topic of innovation. His theory—that everybody is capable of creating—applies to individuals as diverse as a 19th-century slave who at the age of 12 discovered how to fertilize vanilla flowers, Mississippi Delta bluesman Robert Johnson, South Park masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the rock band Fleetwood Mac, and the Wright Brothers (whose attempts to develop “a bicycle with wings” inspired the title of the book). Ashton explores common barriers to creativity, including fear of failure and aversion to change. While he belabors some points and indulges in unexpected pep talks, the author’s detailed account of the origins of Coca-Cola, for instance, makes for fascinating reading, as does his shorter synopsis of Apple’s evolution. Many examples come from the medical and science fields, but taken collectively, the creations documented in this thought-provoking book prove that creative power resides in us all. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute

Zac Bissonnette. Penguin/Portfolio, $26.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-59184-602-4

..
Bissonnette (Debt-Free U) does a masterful job of tracing the rise and fall of the Beanie Baby phenomenon of the 1990s, reminding readers that in 1998, a whopping 64% of Americans owned at least one of the small stuffed animals. Although Beanie Babies creator Ty Warner designed the toys for young children, the likes of Brownie the Bear and Chocolate the Moose soon became frantically sought-after possessions among adults, who viewed them as investments that could only increase in value. Warner, a marketing master, drove up sales by periodically retiring characters, a strategy that kept fanatic collectors buying Beanie Babies in bulk out of fear that supply would dry up. At the height of the craze, the $5 plushies were selling for hundreds of dollars. This cautionary tale of elevated consumerism, with collectors fretting over what they didn’t have rather than taking pleasure in what they did, serves as a useful history lesson for today, told with wit and subtlety. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.