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PILSNER

HOW THE BEER OF KINGS CHANGED THE WORLD

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

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 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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THE BACKYARD BIRD CHRONICLES

An ebullient nature lover’s paean to birds.

A charming bird journey with the bestselling author.

In his introduction to Tan’s “nature journal,” David Allen Sibley, the acclaimed ornithologist, nails the spirit of this book: a “collection of delightfully quirky, thoughtful, and personal observations of birds in sketches and words.” For years, Tan has looked out on her California backyard “paradise”—oaks, periwinkle vines, birch, Japanese maple, fuchsia shrubs—observing more than 60 species of birds, and she fashions her findings into delightful and approachable journal excerpts, accompanied by her gorgeous color sketches. As the entries—“a record of my life”—move along, the author becomes more adept at identifying and capturing them with words and pencils. Her first entry is September 16, 2017: Shortly after putting up hummingbird feeders, one of the tiny, delicate creatures landed on her hand and fed. “We have a relationship,” she writes. “I am in love.” By August 2018, her backyard “has become a menagerie of fledglings…all learning to fly.” Day by day, she has continued to learn more about the birds, their activities, and how she should relate to them; she also admits mistakes when they occur. In December 2018, she was excited to observe a Townsend’s Warbler—“Omigod! It’s looking at me. Displeased expression.” Battling pesky squirrels, Tan deployed Hot Pepper Suet to keep them away, and she deterred crows by hanging a fake one upside down. The author also declared war on outdoor cats when she learned they kill more than 1 billion birds per year. In May 2019, she notes that she spends $250 per month on beetle larvae. In June 2019, she confesses “spending more hours a day staring at birds than writing. How can I not?” Her last entry, on December 15, 2022, celebrates when an eating bird pauses, “looks and acknowledges I am there.”

An ebullient nature lover’s paean to birds.

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780593536131

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

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

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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. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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