Both an informative work for general readers and a page-turning seminar for would-be writers of narrative nonfiction.

WHERE THE WILD COFFEE GROWS

THE UNTOLD STORY OF COFFEE FROM THE CLOUD FORESTS OF ETHIOPIA TO YOUR CUP

A bracing natural history of coffee.

Barcelona-based journalist Koehler, who has published previously about tea (Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea, 2015) and contributed to such publications as Saveur, Food & Wine, and the Washington Post, returns with a work about tea’s stimulating cousin. This is no dull deed by a dull writer from a dusty archive—though the author certainly knows his way around an archive—but rather an informative, lively history informed by the author’s visits to key sites, especially in Ethiopia, which, as we learn, is the true home of the Arabica to which so many in the world are devoted. Koehler chronicles his journeys through hazy forests; visits with pickers, growers, brewers, and scientists; the fascinating history of the spread of coffee around the world; the story of the birth and growth of Starbucks and Peet’s; and the connections between failing coffee crops in Central America and the immigration crisis in the United States. Readers will come to understand the deleterious effects of climate change on coffee crops, especially the vulnerability of coffee to the diseases it faces—principally, coffee rust, a fungus. A consistently agile writer, Koehler knows when we’ve had enough of history—and the history of coffee goes way back—and are ready for some time in the woods, a few odd facts, or some sinuous science. We learn, for example, that coffee began as a food rather than drink, that the poet Rimbaud worked on a coffee plantation, and that it takes about 4,000 beans to produce a pound of coffee. Koehler also educates us on genetic mutations—the good, the bad, the ugly—that have affected and likely will affect the nature of our dark liquid companion.

Both an informative work for general readers and a page-turning seminar for would-be writers of narrative nonfiction.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63286-509-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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

NIGHT

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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