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Best Indie Nonfiction of 2018

A magnetic and vital historical restoration.

LEGACIES

INTERVIEWS WITH MASTERS OF PHOTOGRAPHY FROM DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE

A reprinting of long-lost interviews with photography icons. 

As the lead interviewer for the now-defunct Darkroom Photography magazine, debut author Bultman didn’t shy away from approaching high-profile personalities, asking uncomfortable questions, and distilling complex photographic theories into digestible, compelling prose. The author spoke with some now-legendary photographers, such as Gordon Parks, Robert Mapplethorpe, Mary Ellen Mark, Ernst Haas, Barbara Crane, and Lee D. Witkin, and allowed each to speak freely about their practice, without any limitations. “Gordon Parks flirted. Lee Witkin was so likeable, I wanted him to be my new best friend. Robert Mapplethorpe was weak and barely articulate,” Bultman writes. “He hadn’t yet announced he had AIDS…but he was clearly ill. I left his studio, and I cried.” In this book, readers experience intimate discussions that had been lost to those without access to Darkroom Photography—all featuring Bultman’s intelligent questions, engaging repartee, and genuine curiosity. Many interviews published here were conducted in the 1980s, pre–9/11 and pre-digital age. As a result, a lot of their wonder and critical thinking may seem somewhat foreign to modern readers. In her interview with Parks, the photographer identifies “the camera as a weapon against intolerance, injustice, and poverty”; later, Mark says “there’s no such thing as being objective on a personal project. If you care about it, then you have to be subjective. But it’s very easy to make pictures lie, so you have to be fair in that sense.” Although these ideas aren’t novel, reading them here, as they were expressed by masters, may give readers goosebumps—and perhaps even entice some younger readers to consider photography in the same ways. Ultimately, this is a beautiful historical document of a long-gone era.

A magnetic and vital historical restoration.

Pub Date: April 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-83443-5

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Quercus Agrifolia Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

An exuberant, mind-expanding, and at times enthralling call for inventive entrepreneurs.

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    Best Books Of 2018

MOONSHOTS

CREATING A WORLD OF ABUNDANCE

In this debut book, an entrepreneur views intellectual capital as securing the world’s future.

Jain’s enthusiasm for the entrepreneurial mindset permeates a potent volume that is both a futuristic look at innovation and a recipe of sorts for success. Part 1 of this elegantly written treatise deeply explores in the broadest possible terms the thought processes of the entrepreneur. The author makes a solid case for the entrepreneur as an imaginative visionary. Jain, a serial entrepreneur, celebrates in particular those magnates who take “moonshots,” or reach for the impossible. He believes they “will emerge as leaders of the new world order,” a bold if not wildly audacious prediction. Equally daring are some of Jain’s educated guesses as to where entrepreneurial thinking will take readers in 30 to 50 years, examples intended to demonstrate exciting possibilities rather than accurately predict the future. The author waxes poetic about intellectual curiosity, motivation, perception, and wisdom, but none are more important than imagination—all elements embodied in the moonshot entrepreneur. Parts 2 and 3 of the book are shorter but no less enticing. Part 2 concentrates specifically on health care and education, two areas in which Jain thinks moonshots are sorely needed. Here, his pertinent illustrations are creative, stimulating, and thought-provoking; for example, his idea to “make illness ‘optional’ ” is discussed in the context of Viome, a company he founded, which works in the microbiome space. Part 3 is an exhortation for entrepreneurs to have “an openness to radical possibility” and to strive for moonshots, with some helpful advice for how to do so. “As long as you continue to learn,” advises the author, “you never really fail.” The “ten takeaways” offered at the end of Jain’s volume—written with Schroeter (Between the Strings, 2004, etc.)—encapsulate his thoughtful counsel. The prose conveys breathless, almost soaring optimism; the book exudes an infectious passion for the role of the disruptive entrepreneur in meeting the world’s challenges. There is so much genuine wisdom in this work that it is hard not to come away impressed with the breadth and depth of Jain’s insights.

An exuberant, mind-expanding, and at times enthralling call for inventive entrepreneurs.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9997364-0-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Moonshots Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

A must-read for entrepreneurial experts that also will have a broad appeal for other professionals.

THE BUSINESS OF EXPERTISE

HOW ENTREPRENEURIAL EXPERTS CONVERT INSIGHT TO IMPACT + WEALTH

A marketing consultant shares his accumulated wisdom about developing and selling expertise.

Baker (Managing (Right) for the First Time, 2010, etc.) targets an audience inhabiting the “narrow overlap between entrepreneurship and expertise,” that is, individuals and firms providing insight and advice to others for pay. He opens with three “foundational” chapters that summarize how expertise flows from focus, how greater proficiency makes a consultant less interchangeable with others, and how precise positioning can achieve a “price premium.” Sixteen short but information-packed chapters follow, fleshing out these themes in detail. Baker explores many issues that confront advisers, from self-confidence and work fulfillment to managing client relationships and maintaining relevance over the long term. Each chapter advances his argument that proper positioning is the key to success. He draws relevant illustrations from his decades of experience and offers pointed questions and concrete metrics that readers can use to assess their situations. Throughout, he urges consultants to make “courageous” decisions to narrow and deepen their knowledge rather than holding themselves out as capable of tackling any assignment. He emphasizes the power of saying “no” and recommends keeping a “getting to ‘know’ ” list of subject matter gaps to research and master. Baker’s writing reflects the approach he counsels. His tone is confident and authoritative yet tempered with self-deprecating humor. He projects an insouciant command of numerous topics without sounding like a know-it-all. His deep thinking on the subject manifests in clear, succinct prose and measured wit that make the reading easy and enjoyable (“Charge your batteries so that you can do the hard work…and put a hard hat on because some of this work is painful”). Chapters move briskly, and he is particularly nimble with transitions that orient the reader and enhance orderly flow. Despite the book’s focus on consulting agencies, other professionals who provide expertise or whose livelihoods rely on it—physicians, scientists, writers, etc.—should find relevant and useful ideas. Since Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung appeared in 1964, numerous authors and designers have emulated its color and small format in hopes of becoming “the little red book” in their categories. This compact, illustrated volume makes a strong bid to become the standard-bearer on selling expertise.

A must-read for entrepreneurial experts that also will have a broad appeal for other professionals.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60544-060-6

Page Count: 266

Publisher: RockBench Publishing Corp.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

A thorough, genuine, and highly effective self-help work.

A YEAR OF LIVING KINDLY

CHOICES THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE AND THE WORLD AROUND YOU

A year’s worth of valuable insights about kindness.

In 2015, Cameron (One Hill, Many Voices, 2011) dedicated a whole year to becoming a kinder person. The abundant lessons she learned comprise this book, and early on, she makes an important distinction between being kind and being nice: “Nice doesn’t ask too much of us…holding the door, smiling at the cashier….[Kind] means thinking about the impact I’m having in an interaction with someone and endeavoring to make it rich and meaningful.” She makes a convincing case for doing the latter, noting its benefits to physical health, mental health, and even business success. She then works her way through the many obstacles to being kind, including fear, time constraints, impatience, and resentment. Other sections examine how to react to unkind interactions, how to be kinder to oneself, and dozens of related concepts. To conclude each chapter, the author writes a powerful “Kindness in Action” paragraph with reflective questions and clear invitations to help readers truly apply the book’s principles. As a longtime blogger, Cameron knows how to captivate an audience; her prose is, by turns, humorous, astute, logical, eloquent, and sincere. There are no distracting tangents, and there’s no meaningless “fluff” to fill space. Cameron is also genuinely open about her own weaknesses; for example, she writes that when she first committed to the idea of being kinder, she “all-too-quickly resumed my cranky ways, stopping and starting kindness like a sputtering engine.” Cameron’s anecdotes are consistently memorable, and her analysis of them is often brilliant. Overall, this well-organized book is engaging enough to read quickly but profound enough to savor slowly.

A thorough, genuine, and highly effective self-help work.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-479-0

Page Count: 296

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

It’s difficult to imagine what the authors could have done to improve this marvelous guide.

ICONOGRAPHY

AN IRREVERENT INTRODUCTION

A sweeping, accessible historical survey of artistic iconography.

Visual art has always been pervaded by symbolic imagery, much of which would have been recognizable to historically contemporary viewers. But the same embedded meaning is largely unfamiliar to today’s audience, which is a barricade to more meaningful appreciation, according to authors Angel Rafael Colón and Patricia Ann Colón (co-authors: Tincture of Time: A Concise History of Medicine, 2013): “Most iconographic symbols, however, now appear arcane, unfathomable, begging for explication.” Only in the 19th century did iconology emerge as a formal field of study, but in such a prohibitively academic form, it’s of little use to the layperson. The authors cover the span of visual artistic production up until the 19th century, prior to the emergence of more abstract, less representational efforts. The first chapter covers Christian iconography; the majority of art between the 10th and 15th centuries displayed devotional themes. Chapter 2 talks about Western art in the Renaissance period, when mythology and allegory began to replace (or enact in a new setting) Christian themes; much of this art was saved from destruction by Arab scholars. The authors continue the theme of gradual secularization by examining the Dutch golden age, a period liberated from the need to depict Christian images in the wake of the Reformation. A fascinatingly morbid chapter explores the iconography associated with death and includes a particularly grim but gripping look at funereal depictions of deceased children. Finally, the Colóns include a discussion of what they call “iconographic erratics,” those pieces of art that defy conventional classification, like Francisco Goya’s El Tres de Mayo and Edvard Munch’s The Scream. The flawlessly clear writing is often charmingly lighthearted though just as consistently characterized by scholarly scrupulousness. The scope is dazzlingly broad, yet the treatment of any particular motif or artistic product never feels unsatisfyingly abridged. Also, the work abounds with hundreds of gorgeous photographs of art, meticulously parsed into their symbolic components and then carefully decoded.

It’s difficult to imagine what the authors could have done to improve this marvelous guide.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-80704-0

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Ingram

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

A skillfully written, well-researched account of two difficult, mesmerizing characters.

RIKO

SEDUCTIONS OF AN ARTIST

This biography tells the story of Czech artist Jan Emmerich “Riko” Mikeska and his wife, Greta Schmied.

When Dailey (Listening to Pakistan, 2013) first met Riko, at a friend’s recommendation, the artist was already 80 years old and nearing the end of his life. “The works of Mikeska give you joy,” summarized an art critic writing in 1936, yet today he’s barely known. Fascinated by Riko’s powerful personality and Greta’s need to tell their story, Dailey began recording their chats and, over 20 years, gathering accounts from the couple’s friends. The saga is amplified with photographs, some in color; curious readers can visit an associated website (https://flic.kr/s/aHsm7mkkSL) for more. Born in the industrial town of Vitkovice, Moravia, in 1903, Riko painted and studied in cities like Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, living mainly in Prague. He married Greta, an artist, illustrator, and teacher, in 1929. With Greta later in danger because of her Jewish ancestry, the couple escaped Prague and the Nazis for Britain. After 10 years in that country, Riko and Greta moved to New York City, where they lived until their deaths (in 1983 and 1998, respectively). Despite Riko’s promising early career, his work gained little notice after he emigrated. Dailey draws out the many captivating strands in Riko’s personality: his skill as a teacher, his ability to win friends, his highly developed sense of injustice, his hatred of self-promotion, and his perfectionism. These last two traits could be self-destructive; he’d overwork paintings, sell them for too little, or refuse to offer them at all, though money was always an issue. Dailey describes all this with verve and insight, as when discussing Riko’s palette. "Riko’s love for André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, both leaders of the Fauves movement, was as intense as their colors—pigments unseen (but yearned for) in the chiaroscuro of Riko’s coal-scrimmed youth,” she writes in a nice passage. Greta’s story, too, is well-represented, making this nearly a dual biography: her birth in 1900; her moneyed upbringing, being tutored by the likes of Kafka and Max Brod; her first marriage; and her struggles to earn a living and guard her husband’s legacy.

A skillfully written, well-researched account of two difficult, mesmerizing characters.

Pub Date: Dec. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-99-940690-8

Page Count: 313

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

A modest, beguiling biography that brilliantly mirrors its understated and remarkable subject.

THE FINAL RACE

THE INCREDIBLE WORLD WAR II STORY OF THE OLYMPIAN WHO INSPIRED CHARIOTS OF FIRE

This straightforward, enthusiastic biography by Eichinger and Everson recounts the life story of Eric Liddell, the Olympic athlete whose achievements inspired the iconic movie Chariots of Fire.

The opening sequence of Chariots of Fire—men running barefoot on a Scottish beach backed by a soundtrack scored by Vangelis—is one of the most enduring scenes in cinema. Ironically, the subject of the movie, Eric Liddell, once one of the most famous men in Britain, is perhaps now less well-known than that scene. Eichinger and Everson’s biography seeks to redress this by reilluminating a remarkable life. Liddell was born in China, the second son of Scottish missionaries. At 5, he and his brother Robert were enrolled in a boarding school in London while their parents continued their work in the Far East. From competing as a university freshman and taking a “shocking first in the 100 meters” against Edinburgh’s fastest sprinter to winning gold in the 400 meters at the 1924 Paris Olympics, Liddell led a life of achievement and victory. Yet he is maybe more famous for declining to compete in the 100-meter event of that same Olympics due to his religious respect for the Christian Sabbath. The biography charts his lifelong relationship with God, from his early curiosity with the intersection of science and theology to his work as a missionary in his later years. Short openings to chapters imagine key moments in Liddell’s life: “Eric stretched his legs from the seat he’d nearly collapsed into, one directly opposite the seat his friend slouched on. He glanced out the small window of the train, smudged with a child’s fingerprints from an earlier passage, to the platform on the other side.” These elegantly written passages are elaborated on with factual, to-the-point details: “The physical exertion through sport and competition was a welcome break from his daily pedagogical aerobics. Simply put, running gave his mind a rest.” The biography is occasionally oversentimental; Duncan Hamilton’s For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr suffers the same pitfall. The authors’ admiration for, and fascination with, Liddell, however, is palpable on every page, demonstrated by the depth of research and the care taken to preserve his legacy.

A modest, beguiling biography that brilliantly mirrors its understated and remarkable subject.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4964-1994-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Tyndale Momentum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

An addictively written, thorough coroner’s chronicle.

UNREASONABLE CERTAINTY

A MEDICAL EXAMINER ACKNOWLEDGES THE LIMITS OF LEGAL MEDICINE

The art of forensic medicine from a veteran medical examiner.

In her riveting and frank chronicle, forensic pathologist Huser dispels many common misperceptions portrayed in contemporary entertainment media about the field of death investigation. With descriptive grace, the author affably escorts readers along through her formative years as a pathology resident at the Methodist Medical Center of Illinois in Peoria performing autopsies and determining the manners of death in a mélange of cases. Huser introduces a brilliant array of medical authorities and others whose stories energize the narrative and offer personal anecdotes of occurrences in the field that became learning experiences for the author as she advanced through her years as a pathologist. She also reviews cases that proved discouraging, suspicious, and perplexing and explores the frustrating “feeling of helplessness and failure and the sting of the surgeon’s scorn.” Descriptions of corpses in various states of disease and decay are graphic but accurate representatives of a coroner’s work. Some details will surprise readers: a majority of pathologists don’t like to do autopsies, and some even believe them to be “largely a waste of time.” Other chapters address the heartbreak of sudden infant death syndrome and child abuse, drug dependency, probing for bullets in body cavities, as well as the author’s relationship with her heart-disease–addled father and her fascination with forensic toxicology. Because Huser never skimps on the grisly details of subjects like suicides or a particularly horrifying, meticulously portrayed rape case, her medical memoir is not for the squeamish. For those with stronger constitutions, the collective educational benefits of the book are immense, and Huser’s in-depth, personal guide through forensic medicine will surely engross eager clinical students as well as death-investigation fans.

An addictively written, thorough coroner’s chronicle.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 328

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

A book that will make readers want to pack their bags and catch the first flight to somewhere far away.

RUDY’S RULES FOR TRAVEL

LIFE LESSONS FROM AROUND THE GLOBE

A set of rules for life, by way of a delightful travel narrative.

Jensen (How to Recruit, Select, Induct and Retain the Very Best Teachers, 1987, etc.) and her late husband, World War II veteran Rudy, had diametrically opposite personalities, but their combination makes for excellent stories. Her memoir highlights her husband’s list of travel rules, and over the course of their adventures, he taught her how to apply them to all things in life. The tales can be hilarious or heartbreaking, but all highlight “Rule #11”: “Relax. Some kind stranger will appear.” Throughout, the author highlights Rudy’s adventuresome spirit and absolute optimism as they journeyed to Scotland, Mexico, Egypt, Indonesia, and elsewhere. The stories don’t necessarily teach readers very much about the places they visited but rather tell how to live life to the fullest. “We don’t travel to have comfort...we can have comfort at home,” Jensen writes; traveling, according to Rudy, is for learning about new cultures, and to do that, you must “ride with locals, not tourists.” In Oaxaca, for example, the Jensens were swept up in a crowd headed to celebrate Holy Thursday. They would have missed the opportunity to participate in the ceremony if they’d gone to the recommended tourist destinations—and indeed, Jensen looked up “to see tourists in the two restaurants above us…straining to see, to understand what has happened on the streets below. I see what they had missed.” Other stories are laugh-out-loud funny, as when the couple decides between two dangerous modes of transportation in Puerto Escondido. When in Egypt, the Jensens faced a heartbreaking experience, yet it was one that also showed the generosity of the people in the community. Not a lot of time is spent at any given location in each section; instead, the author takes readers to many places, briefly but vividly describing each. In this way, the author shows how Rudy’s Rules applied to a wide variety of scenarios.

A book that will make readers want to pack their bags and catch the first flight to somewhere far away.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-322-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

A must-read for policymakers but one that’s not too wonkish for lay readers.

THE CONFLICTED SUPERPOWER

AMERICA'S COLLABORATION WITH CHINA AND INDIA IN GLOBAL INNOVATION

A foreign policy scholar analyzes two decades of American policymaking to better understand the country’s uneasy posture toward globalized innovation, research, and development.

Kennedy (Public Policy/Australia National Univ.; The International Ambitions of Mao and Nehru, 2011, etc.) has long studied China and India. This book specifically examines the globalization of innovation, focusing on how the United States interacts with these two countries in the high-tech arena. Innovation, he says, increasingly involves collaboration. Modern transportation, information, and communications technologies facilitate cross-border exchanges of ideas, people, and investments—but politics, he points out, can constrain these activities. Kennedy considers policies that regulate admission of skilled immigrants, allocation of foreign student visas, and offshoring of research-and-development services. In the first of five concise, well-organized chapters, he quantifies transnational flows of brainpower and R&D investment, tracking the rise of foreign-born students in higher education, international co-authorship of scientific papers, and overseas laboratories opened by multinational corporations. Next, he characterizes the U.S. high-tech community, “HTC,” as an interest group with business and academic wings and proposes explanations for America’s varying levels of openness. The last three chapters test his hypotheses through case studies of immigration, student visas, and offshoring. Kennedy details how the H-1B visa program for skilled workers expanded before 2004 but declined as citizen groups intensified opposition. He finds more consistent policy in soaring F-1 visas for foreign students; a slight decline followed the 9/11 attacks, but the HTC’s academic wing faced little opposition in re-establishing an open-door policy. The HTC’s business wing, he says, has also been partially successful in defeating anti-offshoring proposals; again, citizen opposition groups proved more decisive than labor. Kennedy concludes that inconsistent American policies toward global innovation reflect domestic political battles rather than coherent strategy. Drawing on research from 2017, the author also thoughtfully writes about whether anti-immigration fervor will recede after President Donald Trump leaves office, allowing more openness to collaboration with China and India. His last sentence: “Whether the United States will pursue such collaboration in a more intelligent way, one that addresses the shortcomings of its current approach, remains to be seen.” Throughout this work, Kennedy effectively demonstrates his thesis that innovation is indeed globalizing. His portrait of an ad-hoc legislative patchwork, driven more by intensity than by majority opinion, raises clear concerns about America’s future competitiveness. The text is replete with data and examples and supported with numerous graphs and tables, but the narrative flow never stumbles or feels overburdened. Overall, Kennedy writes with a clarity and command of his subject, and this provides an easy path for readers to follow. Extensive endnotes and a 34-page bibliography substantiate his prodigious research, which includes interviews with 72 sources from government, business, labor and citizen groups in all three nations at hand. As President Trump pursues trade battles abroad and an anti-immigration agenda at home, this cogent work from a seasoned observer of Asia and the United States could not be more timely—or, indeed, more necessary.

A must-read for policymakers but one that’s not too wonkish for lay readers.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-231-18554-7

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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