FULL STEAM AHEAD

THE RACE TO BUILD A TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD

Among the best storytellers writing history today, Blumberg (The Remarkable Voyages of Captain Cook, 1991, etc.) presents one of the most ambitious construction projects in modern times as a colorful tale of relentless cupidity and heroic, roughneck effort. Apparently everyone except teamsters, riverboat operators, and Native Americans agreed that a transcontinental railroad was a good idea, but sorting out the politics of its route and financing (plus the burden of a civil war) took five times as long as its actual construction. Blumberg introduces the main players, from Leland Stanford and other ruthless capitalists to the visionary engineers and tough foremen—especially Theodore Judah, Grenville Dodge and James Strobridge—who saw the work through; she pays tribute to the thousands of Chinese immigrants who carved a path through the Sierra Nevadas, paints a vivid picture of the wild life in Laramie and other railroad towns, and brings the story to a conclusion with the famous meeting at Promontory Summit, Utah (not miles-distant Promontory Point, as many accounts have it), where ceremonies ``neither dignified nor inspirational'' nonetheless touched off a national celebration. A generous selection of contemporary black-and-white photographs and enlarged engravings capture the rowdy town and work-camp life while underscoring the sheer number of people involved in the enterprise. Since Blumberg touches only on the specifics of railroad construction, working conditions, various financial scandals, and railroad lore and legend, pair this with Leonard Everett Fisher's Tracks Across America (1992) for a more complete picture. (map, notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-7922-2715-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1996

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Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of.

SCARED STIFF

50 PHOBIAS THAT FREAK US OUT

Part browsing item, part therapy for the afflicted, this catalog of irrational terrors offers a little help along with a lot of pop psychology and culture.

The book opens with a clinical psychologist’s foreword and closes with a chapter of personal and professional coping strategies. In between, Latta’s alphabetically arranged encyclopedia introduces a range of panic-inducers from buttons (“koumpounophobia”) and being out of cellphone contact (“nomophobia”) to more widespread fears of heights (“acrophobia”), clowns (“coulroiphobia”) and various animals. There’s also the generalized “social anxiety disorder”—which has no medical name but is “just its own bad self.” As most phobias have obscure origins (generally in childhood), similar physical symptoms and the same approaches to treatment, the descriptive passages tend toward monotony. To counter that, the author chucks in references aplenty to celebrity sufferers, annotated lists of relevant books and (mostly horror) movies, side notes on “joke phobias” and other topics. At each entry’s end, she contributes a box of “Scare Quotes” such as a passage from Coraline for the aforementioned fear of buttons.

Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of. (end notes, resource list) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936976-49-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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JAM!

THE STORY OF JAZZ MUSIC

A busy page design—artily superimposed text and photos, tinted portraits, and break-out boxes—and occasionally infelicitous writing (“Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie became . . . bandleader of the quintet at the Onyx Club, from which bebop got its name”) give this quick history of jazz a slapdash air, but Lee delves relatively deeply into the music’s direct and indirect African roots, then goes beyond the usual tedious tally of names to present a coherent picture of specific influences and innovations associated with the biggest names in jazz. A highly selective discography will give readers who want to become listeners a jump start; those seeking more background will want to follow this up with James Lincoln Collier’s Jazz (1997). (glossary, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8239-1852-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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