Book List

Best Edifying Indie Books of 2014

Corporate history with enough drama for a movie.



Business history that will satisfy anyone captivated by Silicon Valley.

Maxfield has written an engaging story about ROLM, a Silicon Valley startup that made its mark in the 1970s and ’80s. According to this insider account based on primary sources and interviews, ROLM was a model of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship that future startups sought to emulate long before consumer technology and social media companies captured the high-tech spotlight. ROLM’s innovative use of emerging digital technologies challenged AT&T’s monopoly position in the telephony business by helping companies save millions of dollars and improving office workers’ productivity. Maxfield fleshes out the story with engineering details, financial data, business strategies and management lessons that will appeal to MBAs eager to create their own successes. ROLM’s founders enjoyed extraordinary success in two distinct businesses—selling digital phone systems to businesses and making military grade computer systems for the Department of Defense. In its heyday, ROLM was a great place to work, with corporate perks such as 12-week sabbaticals for all employees—at full pay—after every sixth year of employment. With tennis courts, a gym, two pools, a gourmet cafeteria and landscaped grounds, its campus headquarters in Santa Clara, California, set a high bar for other companies competing for engineering talent during the late 1970s through mid-1980s. It’s easy to identify with the author’s sadness at how this story ends. ROLM was sold to IBM in 1984, and IBM sold ROLM to Siemens in 1988. The author draws from materials collected by the Silicon Valley Historical Association, newspaper and magazine articles, and interviews with the founders and former employees of ROLM to write a corporate history unusual in its candor. Readers don’t need to know the difference between a PBX and a CBX—although they’ll know after reading this book—to appreciate the intense emotions and exuberant personalities Maxfield portrays. A favorite among employees was ROLM executive Leo Chamberlain, known for “Leo-isms” such as being “ ‘up to our ass in alligators,’ a phrase he used whenever the going got tough.” Few authors have Maxfield’s knack for describing both the forest and the trees, which makes her history of ROLM a worthy model for other histories of Silicon Valley companies.

Corporate history with enough drama for a movie.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1937110628

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Emerald Book Company

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

An intriguing, well-written and poignant work that transcends its historical genre.

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    Best Books Of 2014



This is history at its best: the riveting, realistic story of courageous sailors forgotten by their country.

During an exercise in the South China Sea on June 3, 1969, the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans was split in half after colliding with an Australian aircraft carrier. Seventy-four men perished. Although the ship was actively engaged in the Vietnam War, the names of these men have never been placed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. In her first book, seasoned journalist Esola brings the events and people involved vividly to life. She begins with a double-barreled prologue: first, a powerful description of the memorial wall, ending with Ann Armstrong Dailey’s realization that her brother Alan’s name is not on it. “It was like he was dead all over again,” their sister said. Next, a gripping account of the ship’s final moments puts readers right in the middle of the action: “Everything was going, rolling, topsy turvy. And fast.” What follows is a comprehensive yet uncannily personal history of this arcane footnote to the Vietnam War. Esola inhabits the minds and hearts of all players, from sailors to admirals to Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Many men, she discovers, joined the Navy (some at the behest of their parents) to avoid being drafted into the Army. She moves easily from their personal stories to politics to the reasons WWII vintage ships like the Evans—a “floating paint bucket”—were still in service. The story proceeds from the men’s enlistments and the ship’s role in Vietnam through to the accident and its aftermath. Later, Esola’s own growing involvement forces her to abandon journalistic detachment and join the effort to have these men recognized. Replete with black-and-white pictures, endnotes and incredibly detailed research, this book is both comprehensive history and a beautifully written human tale that reads like a novel: “Eunice Sage wore a short-sleeved black suit and matching gloves; a gold rose pinned to the center of her blouse glistened in the sun.” It should appeal not only to readers of military history, but to anyone who enjoys a well-told, fascinating tale.

An intriguing, well-written and poignant work that transcends its historical genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0996057400

Page Count: 452

Publisher: Pennway Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

An eye-opener for anyone concerned about concussion—which the authors persuasively argue should include everyone.

Conquering Concussion


Powerful advocacy for an emerging therapy.

Esty, a seasoned neurofeedback practitioner, and Shifflett (Migraine Brains and Bodies, 2011, etc.), a science and technology writer, argue that public ignorance and medical dogma plague the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injuries (used synonymously with concussion). In this primer, aimed at both lay readers and professionals, they deliver a searing indictment of the status quo and an impassioned plea for a new paradigm. The authors hook readers by opening with stories about concussion’s impact on famous figures, including Henry VIII, Mary Lincoln, Howard Hughes and Elvis Presley. This eases the transition to Esty’s client histories (using pseudonyms), which are woven throughout chapters that cover what happens physiologically during and after TBI and its manifold physical, psychological, emotional and social consequences. Their experiences personalize discussions about the frequency of misdiagnoses, overreliance on pharmaceuticals, the efficacy of neurofeedback to treat TBI and its role in conjunction with other therapies. Esty and Shifflett catalog the abundant chances for brain injury in modern life, particularly in sports, and dispel popular myths that lead to downplaying risks and tolerating repeated exposures. Citing evidence suggesting that frequent smaller injuries are as dangerous as large ones, they document how neurofeedback has brought relief even decades later, helping sufferers reduce or eliminate medications. While neurofeedback results seem miraculous, the authors avoid cure-all claims by discussing unresolved symptoms and physical distortions that brain wave treatment cannot fix. They acknowledge that science cannot yet explain why neurofeedback works—a valid source of skepticism. Critics may question whether the authors have cherry-picked examples to support their case, but the successes provided, often in clients’ own words, speak for themselves. The text is written clearly enough to engage lay readers while still providing the thoroughness and documentation demanded by professionals. They cite more than 300 references, mainly scientific journals and academic books, but they also draw from popular media to keep the discussion relevant and down-to-earth. Clear figures, photos and illustrations; a glossary; and a list of supplemental resources make the book even more user-friendly.

An eye-opener for anyone concerned about concussion—which the authors persuasively argue should include everyone.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0965342506

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Round Earth Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

First-rate research, writing and presentation.

Whirlwind & Storm


A scholarly biography of a midlevel Union officer’s short, dramatic life.

This spotless debut is a personalized account of the Civil War years and a work of significant original scholarship. Farnsworth is a lawyer by training, but if this were a thesis, his meticulous analysis of previously unexplored primary source materials and extensive background research could earn him a degree in history. He mines a family heirloom, the papers of his great-grandfather Lt. Col. Charles “Charlie” Farnsworth, born in 1836. Charlie, an ambitious young Norwich, Connecticut, resident, skipped college to pursue business and gold prospecting. After war came, Charlie volunteered and used family connections—his father was Gov. William Buckingham’s personal physician—to win promotions. He led a battalion, was wounded and recovered, rebuilt an Army base in Baltimore, returned to battle and was captured. After eight months in Richmond’s Libby Prison, he was paroled, demoted and honorably discharged. He broke off an engagement, married his true love, and used connections to President Abraham Lincoln to become one of the first Northern investors to enter Reconstruction Georgia, where he started a commodities exchange and rice plantation. In 1867, with his wife seven months pregnant, he drowned at age 31. Charlie’s impetuous temperament, outspoken manner, social position and extensive documentary record create a unique lens through which to view the times. Numerous books stitch together “voices” culled from soldiers’ letters, but few capture entire lives. Full biographies usually feature top military or political leaders. Yet Charlie, though he ranked high enough to have well-known connections, still retains a sense of the Everyman. Farnsworth’s supple narrative of Charlie’s life, including black-and-white photos, illustrations and maps, takes up less than a third of the book. The rest includes the appendix, nearly 500 footnotes, a bibliography of 100 secondary sources and an index. Farnsworth consistently places Charlie’s travels and observations in the context of contemporaneous events and mainstream historical opinion, all while telling the story unsentimentally, highlighting strengths and flaws. The entire trove of 135 personal letters, diary entries, and other documents by or about Charlie appear in the appendix, with Farnsworth’s comments about each. Reading them makes his preceding synthesis all the more impressive.

First-rate research, writing and presentation.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491719626

Page Count: 450

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Comprehensive, cogent and smartly packaged; should have great appeal to those with a real interest in better body management.



This unique guide is cleverly constructed to explain the operation and health of the human body in business terms.

Instead of offering the typical prescription for healthy eating, exercise and stress reduction, as so many books do, debut author Foard compares the body to a large corporation. He chose to explain it this way as he was diagnosed with a chronic, irreversible health condition, and he wanted to use his knowledge of biology, combined with his experience as a business consultant, to learn as much as possible about how the body works so he could possibly beat the disease. Using the metaphor of the body as a business, Foard ingeniously describes the body’s various functions: “Within our body are the standard systems we find in any business.” The digestive tract becomes a “disassembly plant,” the immune system is the body’s “security,” and the intestines and colon are a “delicate nutrient extraction system.” The author covers how to take control and become “the CEO of our Body.” Foard criticizes the “Western diet,” noting that “consumers today are willing to compromise health for convenience.” He recommends reducing reliance on processed foods, cooking at home and avoiding artificial ingredients, and he includes a discussion of probiotics, cautioning that “we have to be careful of the marketing messages when making buying decisions based on buzzwords.” The guide proposes a “Strategic Framework for Health,” which highlights the need to be proactive about the health of the body. Readers may find some of his recommendations extreme; for example, he advocates doing a “decomposition analysis”—analyzing the nutritional content of every food consumed over a period of time. Still, he bases much of his advice on research that he scrupulously documents.

Comprehensive, cogent and smartly packaged; should have great appeal to those with a real interest in better body management.

Pub Date: March 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0989874304

Page Count: 232

Publisher: CVFPublishing Inc

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

A perfect graduation gift for young women—but the advice is applicable to all.

Do Your Laundry or You'll Die Alone

Mixed-media artist and debut author Blades combines wit with sincere counsel in an innovative scrapbook format.

With a daughter approaching high school graduation, Blades began compiling life lessons she hoped to impart on her daughter. The resulting book of aphorisms could have been schmaltzy but is instead both humorous and visually impressive. Offered as a numbered list in a quirky variety of fonts, her maternal instructions range from two words to paragraphs. The themes may be perennial advice-guide fodder—seizing the day, embracing creativity, being prudent with money and treating others with compassion—but snappy delivery and unsentimental wording help them feel fresh. Thus the doctrine of mindfulness becomes, simply, “WHEREVER YOU ARE, BE ALL THERE.” Where Blades acknowledges clichés, she always adds a clever twist: “IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE, DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL. You’re smart enough to think of something nice.” She also debunks a few old chestnuts: Instead of exhorting girls to “dream big,” which she’s nonetheless in favor of, she reassures them that “It’s okay to OUTGROW YOUR DREAMS.” Some standout features include two-page spreads in which each epigram repeats the same first word (“KEEP your knees together when you’re sitting on stage”; “KEEP your head when all about you are losing theirs,” etc.), occasional puns (“HAVE RUBBER GLOVES. On hand”), and echoes of Kipling’s “If—” and Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. In one notable, original proverb, Blades balances enthusiasm with discipline: “COMMON SENSE AND SELF-RESTRAINT SHRINK IN THE PRESENCE OF PASSION. Does this mean don’t be passionate? Absolutely not.” Pithy recommendations about forgiveness, charitableness, being a good hostess and accepting change would be valuable in their own rights, but the whimsical artwork renders the book all the more delightful. Cutouts of paper dolls and maps share space with colorful, textured illustrations of houses, trees and clouds. Fashion plates lend a sophisticated, faux Parisian feel, while plentiful tips on Internet and cellphone etiquette help put the book on trend for today’s teenagers. Inspirational yet never syrupy, the text could easily be read in one sitting and should prove useful throughout college and beyond.

A perfect graduation gift for young women—but the advice is applicable to all.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9897583-0-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Startistry Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

An excellent history that should catapult Miller to the top tier of popular historians.



The first book of a planned trilogy chronicling American-led relief efforts in Belgium during World War I.

Just in time for the Great War’s centennial, this valuable narrative reprises a dramatic chapter of world history that rarely takes center stage in history books, as it’s often overshadowed by subsequent wars. Specifically, Miller (Facing Your Fifties, 2002, etc.) focuses on the Commission for Relief in Belgium, a multinational humanitarian organization that saved 9 million Belgian and French civilians under German occupation from starvation. Led by future U.S. president Herbert Hoover, then 40 years old and living in London, the CRB was the first mission of its kind, establishing precedents that shaped current policies regarding universal human rights and international humanitarian intervention. Miller shows how Hoover navigated German and Allied opposition, co-opted competing humanitarian groups and improvised a distribution network that deployed young Americans as neutral “delegates” across Belgium’s provinces. Miller’s grandfather Milton M. Brown was one of these delegates, and he married Erica Bunge, a wealthy Belgian native whose family is integral to the overall story. Their diaries, letters and photos, bequeathed to the author in the 1980s, sparked Miller’s interest in the period, and it’s obvious that this book was a labor of love. The narrative covers only August through December 1914, and readers contemplating 397 pages of text (plus sources, notes and an index) about a mere six months of wartime may fear a tedious journey. But instead, the pages fly by, thanks to Miller’s consistently smooth prose and careful scene-setting. He effectively captures the human drama, with exquisite descriptions of how characters looked (“With his rimless pince-nez, he had the appearance of a scholar or professor and, just like one, he longed for the solitude of the writer’s garret”) and why they behaved as they did. He quickens the pace with short chapters that bounce among Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam, London and New York. Readers who only associate World War I and Herbert Hoover with trench warfare and the Great Depression (or the Hoover Dam) will discover meaningful contexts for both in a tale that personalizes extraordinary times. Miller writes that his goal was to write for people “who never read history books”; he accomplishes that splendidly, while also creating a work that scholars will admire.

An excellent history that should catapult Miller to the top tier of popular historians.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990689300

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Milbrown Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

A compelling narrative of the design and development of Ford cars in the 1950s and ’60s.

The Man Who Saved the V-8


The story of the creation and marketing of some of Ford’s most popular, iconic cars, as told by one of the company’s early “Whiz Kids.”

“I have always loved to drive,” Morsey says in this debut memoir. “Ever since I was a small boy, I have been fascinated with automobiles and felt the tug of the open road.” His passion took him from driving his first Ford Coupe in 1936 to convincing a boardroom of Ford executives in 1949 that V-8 models would be necessary to put the company back on top. After college, with World War II ongoing, Morsey’s father shot down his idea of going to law school, saying, “You’re going to get drafted, and you’re going to have absolutely nothing to offer the army—no skills at all.” So, with his father’s recommendation, Morsey instead started working for IBM, where he learned the essentials of good business and how customer satisfaction could sell products better than market research. The author deftly weaves the lessons he learned into his narrative, but he’s always careful to bring his readers back into the action of the story. As a lead market analyst for Ford, he learned of a new initiative to stop production of the V-8 engine. Morsey’s passion comes through in this section, since he understood that the V-8 didn’t sell Ford cars because it was cheaper or more efficient but because it gave people pride to drive one. It’s intriguing to watch the concepts develop, such as the author’s idea of the Thunderbird as “the apple in the window”: The legendary car didn’t make money on its own, he says, but customers desired it so much that it led them to buy other, more practical Ford cars. Children who saw their parents idolizing the sleek Thunderbird grew into adults, and Morsey and future Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca sold them the sporty yet sensible Ford Mustang in the late 1960s.Morsey’s detailed prose, passionate recollections and careful documentation help bring this era of automotive history to life.

A compelling narrative of the design and development of Ford cars in the 1950s and ’60s.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4923-5733-9

Page Count: 156

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

A thoughtful, if occasionally strident, account of a neglected aspect of Nixon’s presidency.

A Chicano in the White House


A panoramic historical study of President Richard Nixon’s handling of Hispanic affairs, as told by a former White House insider.

In his debut, Ramirez, offers a historical tour de force. Part scholarly study, part ringing celebration of Hispanic-American success, the work is also an intensely personal account of his own evolution as a man juggling dual Mexican and American identities. The analytical meat of the book defends Nixon as the president who effected the most profound changes for the Hispanic community, which began to swell in the United States following World War II. Ramirez focuses on Nixon’s impact on the Mexican population, a “sleeping giant” that quickly catapulted into a major American demographic. “Nixon was the man who grew up with us Mexicans. He knew us, cared about us, and included us,” Ramirez writes. “Let history show that he was the only president who really and truly gave a damn for the Mexicans.” Discussing largely forgotten political operatives such as Robert Finch, Counselor to the President, and Martin Castillo, first Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Opportunities for Spanish Speaking People, the author persuasively makes a case that Nixon, rather than his predecessors Kennedy and Johnson, was truly devoted to the precarious plight of Hispanic-Americans. Sidestepping some of Nixon’s infamous failings, the analysis sometimes borders on hagiographic. Also, it can be a bit self-referential, detailing maybe too meticulously the author’s privileged vantage point (a lengthy section of the book is entitled “Why I am the One Who Can Tell the Story”). Ramirez bluntly informs readers that the book is “a sine qua non for understanding the rise of the Chicanos and Nixon’s part in it,” and his arguments are well-articulated and rigorously sourced, including extensive appendices of pertinent documents.

A thoughtful, if occasionally strident, account of a neglected aspect of Nixon’s presidency.

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615821931

Page Count: 474

Publisher: Henry M. Ramirez

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

Reveals one fascinating aspect of the legal system, informing the reader while demonstrating the value of artistic...

The Illustrated Courtroom


A new approach to understanding the criminal justice system through the eyes of courtroom artists.

The drawings and paintings that make up this collection, compiled by debut author Williams and Russell (Lethal Intent, 2013), are the work of courtroom artists, the only people able to capture images in the many courtrooms where video and photography aren’t permitted. Striking images accompany artists’ reminiscences of the trials they have covered. Many of the cases are explored in detail, and some are well-known—the O.J. Simpson trial, Iran-Contra, Martha Stewart’s insider trading. The collection also includes stories of memorable attorneys and defendants, along with representative images. The anecdotes shared by the artists range from the unexpected—e.g., an undercover detective attempted to bribe an artist to destroy a drawing that might reveal his identity—to the absurd—Judge John Sirica threatened to expel anyone chewing gum in his courtroom—to the touching, particularly the depictions and descriptions of witnesses delivering their testimonies through tears. The images included in this collection demonstrate that a charcoal or pen-and-ink drawing, while dependent on an artist’s style and unable to match the precision of a photograph, can be more effective in conveying the mood of a courtroom, as in a Howard Brodie sketch of the scene at the opening of the Watergate trial. A Bill Robles drawing of Patty Hearst’s father writing a $500,000 bail check tells a story in itself. When Aggie Kenny describes her experience covering the organized crime trials of the 1980s—“Few defendants interact with artists or really seem to care what we are doing. But I always sensed that mafia guys understood the process and saw it as part of the business”—it’s clear that courtroom artists provide an essential, often overlooked perspective on the justice system, one that is a crucial part of understanding the legal history of the United States.

Reveals one fascinating aspect of the legal system, informing the reader while demonstrating the value of artistic interpretation.

Pub Date: April 11, 2014


Page Count: 248

Publisher: CUNY Journalism Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

A thorough introduction to the publishing industry.

The Insider's Guide to a Career in Book Publishing

A book industry veteran describes the publishing world to aspiring editors, sales reps and production managers.

In this debut career guide, Siegfried uses both her own experience working in the industry and comprehensive interviews with other insiders to present a balanced, thorough portrait of the world of books and publishing. The book targets readers in the early stages of their careers, particularly college students and recent graduates, and begins with a detailed overview of the departments found in most publishing houses, from editorial and publicity to subsidiary rights and sales. Siegfried warns readers that it can seem like everyone dreams of being the next great editor, and she suggests that other, less well-known career paths can provide professional fulfillment as well. Although there is some discussion of smaller publishers, the book focuses heavily on the industry’s Manhattan core (“Eventually, you can move away from New York City if you’d like”), and while much of the book’s advice is also useful to those trying to break into publishing in other locations, readers will not find an insider’s perspective on topics like university publishing or the options available in Minneapolis or San Francisco. Siegfried is clearly knowledgeable, and the book addresses many of the structural changes the industry has undergone in the past two decades, though her description of the retail side of the business draws on her experience at a chain bookstore and seems less applicable to the careers available at other book retailers. The book’s discussion of the job-search process is directed specifically at the needs of recent graduates—a line-by-line analysis of several job postings is particularly helpful—and offers advice that can be applied to cover letters and interviews in other industries as well. A detailed glossary at the end of the book explains everything from flap copy to first serial rights.

A thorough introduction to the publishing industry.

Pub Date: June 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0985336257

Page Count: 134

Publisher: Chickadee Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

A study that may become the new sausage makers’ bible, outstanding in its range, depth and clarity.

Charcutier. Salumiere. Wurstmeister.

A culinary cri de coeur by author Vecchio and photographer Silva that explores the history, process and prospective future of sausage making.

This book approaches sausage creation as both an art and a science. It begins by introducing readers to the industry’s leading artisans from Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland, who each offer their own unique philosophies regarding their trade. Despite their differences, however, all are bound by their dedication to making quality pork products. The author’s study focuses on the care and attention that these artisanal producers bestow upon their work, culminating in a diary-style recounting of Hawaii-based charcutier Thomas Pickett’s experiences giving pork seminars. An in-depth examination of the current state of the sausage industry follows, which can be read as a kind of call to arms. The author asks for a re-evaluation of the industry’s core values—namely, he advocates a return to quality over quantity. He also looks at how traditional approaches not only make for a better tasting sausage, but are also more environmentally sound. The book heralds a new wave of chefs and butchers who have a respect for sustainability, humane husbandry, organic growth and ecology. It also offers a series of educational chapters that tackle important subjects such as spices, salting, chopping, stuffing, tying and aging. Alongside the fundamentals, the author considers the minutiae of the craft, such as the role of activated proteins during the mixing process. He also includes more than 40 detailed, step-by-step recipes for everything from the ominous headcheese—a sausage made from snout, lips, cheek and tongue—to the deliciously spicy nduja sausage from Calabria. This approachable, elegant book, clearly the result of extensive research, will appeal to master butchers as well as ambitious home cooks.

A study that may become the new sausage makers’ bible, outstanding in its range, depth and clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615720845

Page Count: 240

Publisher: FRANVEC

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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