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

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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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Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy.

BONNIE AND CLYDE

THE MAKING OF A LEGEND

A portrait of two victims of the Great Depression whose taste for guns and fast cars led to short careers in crime but longer ones as legends.

Blumenthal (Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2016, etc.) makes a determined effort to untangle a mare’s nest of conflicting eyewitness accounts, purple journalism, inaccurate police reports, and self-serving statements from relatives and cohorts of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Though the results sometimes read as dry recitations of names and indistinguishable small towns, she makes perceptive guesses about what drove them and why they have become iconic figures, along with retracing their early lives, two-year crime spree, and subsequent transformations into doomed pop-culture antiheroes. She does not romanticize the duo—giving many of their murder victims faces through individual profiles, for instance, and describing wounds in grisly detail—but does convincingly argue that their crimes and characters (particularly Bonnie’s) were occasionally exaggerated. Blumenthal also wrenchingly portrays the desperation that their displaced, impoverished families must have felt while pointedly showing how an overtaxed, brutal legal system can turn petty offenders into violent ones. A full version of Bonnie’s homespun ballad “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” and notes on the subsequent lives of significant relatives, accomplices, and lawmen join meaty lists of sources and interviews at the end.

Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy. (photos, timeline, author’s note, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47122-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Salutary portraits in radicalism.

ROCKIN' THE BOAT

50 ICONIC REBELS AND REVOLUTIONARIES FROM JOAN OF ARC TO MALCOM X

A gallery of historical troublemakers starting with Hannibal and ending with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fleischer chooses figures who worked, with high visibility but varying levels of success, to overthrow governments, liberate countries from foreign rule or fight for the rights of the oppressed. He arranges his entries by birth date, opens each with an old or period image and spins out career portraits in an occasionally breezy idiom: Julius Caesar’s heir Octavian was “ticked off,” Guy Fawkes was a man “jonesing to fight” Protestantism, and Elizabeth Cady and Henry Stanton were “an activist power couple.” Snarky picture captions (“Emma Goldman is not interested in your nonsense”) and sidebar references to pop culture further lighten the overall tone. Still, the author does not soft-pedal the brutality to which some of his subjects turned, however idealistic they may have started out, or the violent ends to which many of them came. Though the cast is largely European and/or male, it includes such less-well-known male freedom fighters as Metacom (aka King Philip), Maori leader Hone Heke and Daniel Shays and such women as Boudica and New Zealand feminist Kate Sheppard. Suggestions for further reading, a discussion guide and relevant updates will be available online; alas, there are no bibliography or source notes as such, nor is there an index.

Salutary portraits in radicalism. (Collective biography. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-936976-74-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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