An informative but somewhat inconclusive study.




A brief glimpse into the increasing gentrification of tequila.

Widely published food and travel journalist Martineau makes her nonfiction debut with this thoroughly researched study of what appears to be a growing trend in the spirit world: the rise of tequila from a low-end frat-party tipple to a high-end connoisseur’s sipping drink. But the book is about more than just tequila’s new image as a luxury product; it’s also about the processes and people behind the making of the drink, the conflicts over mass-produced tequila versus more exclusive artisanal tequila (Patron et al.), and the agave activists who fight to keep tequila “real”—i.e., a Mexican product through and through. “How Mexicans are viewed—either by themselves or by foreigners—has long influenced how tequila is marketed,” writes the author, “both in the United States and in Mexico.” Through the marketing of tequila, using old-world Mexican authenticity as its selling point, it has become, ironically, just as American as it is Mexican. Martineau chronicles her interviews with a variety of industry insiders, from small producers and agave growers from Mexico’s Jalisco region to hipster mixologists and corporate CEOs pushing their upper-crust customers to take on what passes for authentic Mexican tequila. The real problem is not so much that age-old traditions are being made a mockery of in the mass production of tequila; the trouble comes when the production and bottling of the drink get increasingly co-opted by corporations based in the U.S., which means fewer jobs for Mexican workers in Mexico. So, as Martineau objectively presents it, the very factors that are making tequila so popular are also threatening to undermine it. Unfortunately, however, the book’s reportorial nature doesn’t lend itself to theorizing on what might ultimately be the answer to tequila’s curious new authenticity problem.

An informative but somewhat inconclusive study.

Pub Date: May 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61374-905-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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