Nature & Travel Book Reviews

SHRINKING THE EARTH by Donald Worster
HISTORY
Released: Feb. 3, 2016

"A bracing, intelligent survey of wealth become immiseration, essential for students of environmental history."
Eminent historian Worster (Emeritus, American History/Univ. of Kansas; A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir, 2008, etc.) offers a concise, often elegiac account of the end of the American centuries.Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"A soulful memoir of adventure and one woman's love for her sled dogs."
Moderow briskly recounts her experiences in the brutally challenging Iditarod race, a journey that requires "passion, dedication to learning, and an immense amount of patience," not to mention "the collaboration of many beating hearts." Read full book review >

LIGHT by Bruce Watson
HISTORY
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"An ingenious combination of science and art history."
The usual popular-science history of light begins with the ancient Greeks and peters out soon after Einstein, but this fine account by Smithsonian contributing writer Watson (Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy, 2010, etc.) paints with a broader brush.Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"Liberating reading for armchair adventurers."
A National Geographic explorer's account of the three years she spent trekking alone through wild and sparsely populated regions in Mongolia, China, Siberia, and Australia. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 1, 2016

"A brisk, lighthearted travelogue with an exuberant guide."
What dead American presidents reveal "about ourselves, our history, and how we imagine our past and future." Read full book review >

WALKING THE NILE by Levison Wood
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 1, 2016

"Wood delivers a bold travelogue, illuminating great swathes of modern Africa, but as literature, it leaves something to be desired."
Walking the Nile has enticed many explorers, but Wood provides an up-to-the-minute portrait of the nations and people that claim the world's longest river. Read full book review >
POSTCARDS FROM STANLAND by David H. Mould
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 1, 2016

"As a genial travel guide, Mould, an academic who doesn't write like an academic, shows how one should resist the temptations to stereotype a culture too easily and understand it too quickly."
An illuminating travelogue through Central Asia. Read full book review >
JAZZ DIASPORAS by Rashida K. Braggs
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS
Released: Jan. 26, 2016

"A fascinating look into an important chapter in cultural history. Braggs should return to the subject in more depth."
A study of a key epoch in the transition of jazz from a distinctively American music to an international art form. Read full book review >
THE ROAD TO LITTLE DRIBBLING by Bill Bryson
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 19, 2016

"Anglophiles will find Bryson's field notes equally entertaining and educational."
Bryson (One Summer: America, 1927, 2013, etc.) takes us on another fascinating cross-country jaunt.Read full book review >
BLOOD AND EARTH by Kevin Bales
CURRENT AFFAIRS
Released: Jan. 19, 2016

"A cleareyed account of man's inhumanity to man and Earth. Read it to get informed, and then take action."
In a heart-wrenching narrative, Bales (Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves, 2007, etc.) explores modern slavery and the devastating effects on its victims as well as the environmental degradation caused by this morally reprehensible institution.Read full book review >
CURRENT AFFAIRS
Released: Jan. 12, 2016

"Though Zoepf demonstrates a few instances of how 'small reform turns out to be even more transformational than its most devoted proponents could have predicted,' the evolving 'personal agency' she witnessed is almost too subtle (yet) to be perceived."
New America Foundation fellow Zoepf attempts to make "the case for small gestures" by extremely circumscribed Arab women. Read full book review >
ALL MONSTERS MUST DIE by Magnus Bärtås
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 12, 2016

"A clear and troubling picture of a country forced to embrace madness."
Two Swedish artists (one visual, the other musical) record their impressions of a one-week sojourn in North Korea in 2008. Read full book review >
Kirkus Interview
Michael Eric Dyson
February 2, 2016

In Michael Eric Dyson’s rich and nuanced book new book, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, Dyson writes with passion and understanding about Barack Obama’s “sad and disappointing” performance regarding race and black concerns in his two terms in office. While race has defined his tenure, Obama has been “reluctant to take charge” and speak out candidly about the nation’s racial woes, determined to remain “not a black leader but a leader who is black.” Dyson cogently examines Obama’s speeches and statements on race, from his first presidential campaign through recent events—e.g., the Ferguson riots and the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston—noting that the president is careful not to raise the ire of whites and often chastises blacks for their moral failings. At his best, he spoke with “special urgency for black Americans” during the Ferguson crisis and was “at his blackest,” breaking free of constraints, in his “Amazing Grace” Charleston eulogy. Dyson writes here as a realistic, sometimes-angry supporter of the president. View video >