Though sometimes repetitious, Acitelli’s confident, precise approach produces an entertaining narrative.

PILSNER

HOW THE BEER OF KINGS CHANGED THE WORLD

The stealthy rise of humble Bavarian-style pilsner as the world’s everyday beer. Acitelli, a James Beard Award finalist who has written widely about beer, wine, and whiskey, shrewdly connects the story of the quintessentially plebeian tipple to time and place, starting with early European experiments in fermentation. By 1900, he writes, “barely fifty years old, [pilsner] was the ascendant beer style and one of the bestselling alcoholic beverages ever.” In a humorously meandering narrative, the author ties pilsner’s popularity to Europe’s cycles of violence and upheaval, which spread it to America alongside immigration, even as the beer barons embraced innovation. For example, although Louis Pasteur originally intended to aid European winemakers, “Pastuerization instead proved much more popular and durable among brewers.” When backlash threatened, “brewers hardly noticed. They were in the midst of a remarkable run of growth.” Yet, temperance advocates harnessed the World War I–era anti-German hysteria to propel their agenda. The resulting Prohibition “all but killed off the American brewing industry and its favored style.” Although the large brewers roared back following the repeal of Prohibition, writes Acitelli, “it was as if [beer] had been run through a decontextualization machine.” Such watersheds as the 1935 introduction of canned beer by a smaller brewer contrasted with the dominance of the giant brewers Anheuser-Busch and Pabst, which increasingly snapped up smaller concerns, as well as competition for market share by foreign entities like Heineken. After World War II, brewers continued to pursue consolidation and new technologies even as their signature product declined in consumer cachet beginning in the 1950s. As Acitelli notes, “so many breweries…had unwittingly set themselves up to fail in the 1960s [once] the positioning of pilsner as a lifestyle choice did not work.” This would only change decades later, as better-marketed beers like Anchor Steam returned via foodie culture and the microbrew explosion. Though sometimes repetitious, Acitelli’s confident, precise approach produces an entertaining narrative.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64160-182-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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