Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New at Boswell: A Plot to Poison a Burgundy Vineyard, a Chronicle of Teaching Teachers to Teach, an Arctic Advenuture, and Several Takes on the Watergate Era.

I'm not sure what puts me in the mood to read about underhanded business dealings, but that leads me in the direct of Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine (Twelve). Here's the publishers take: "In January 2010, Aubert de Villaine, the famed proprietor of the Domaine de la RomanĂ©e-Conti, the tiny, storied vineyard that produces the most expensive, exquisite wines in the world, received an anonymous note threatening the destruction of his priceless vines by poison-a crime that in the world of high-end wine is akin to murder-unless he paid a one million euro ransom." Maximillian Potter covered the story for Vanity Fair, and the enthusiastic response led to this book. Stephen Meuse wrote in The Boston Globe "Potter’s effort for the magazine is a tightly-written and engaging story that hits all the right notes — a bit of the history of Burgundy and the development of its vineyards under centuries of monastic custodianship; a peek at the chain of ownership of the property from the time of the cunning, duplicitous Prince de Conti, confidante of Louis XV, to the present day."

Perhaps the highest profile nonfiction release this week, at least for our customers (because I think several know the author personally), is The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, from Rick Perlstein (Simon). Billed as the third in a history of modern American conservatism, Perlstein's eye turns from Goldwater to Nixon and now Reagsan. The book is today's front page feature in The New York Times Book Review. Frank Rich writes: "It says much about Perlstein’s gifts as a historian that he persuasively portrays this sulky, slender interlude between the fall of Nixon and the rise of Reagan (as his subtitle has it) not just as a true bottom of our history but also as a Rosetta stone for reading America and its politics today. It says much about his talent as a writer that he makes these years of funk lively, engrossing and on occasion mordantly funny." Being that the author is from Milwaukee, we're hoping to eventually somehow host the author, but alas, were not able to get onto the initial tour, but perhaps something will come together for later in the fall. Meanwhile, his detractors get their say in The New York Times.

I sense a theme coming, perhaps due to it being the fortieth anniversary of Watergate. From Viking comes The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It , written by John W. Dean, former White House counsel and one of the (per the publisher) last surviving figures of this historic event. Both books are rounded up in this Philadelphia Inquirer review, promoting both authors' appearances at the Philadelphia Free Library. Carolyn Kellogg reviews the book for the Los Angeles Times, noting that "Dean shapes those conversations into a readable, dense narrative." She also notes another book released in conjunction, The Nixon Tapes, 1971-1972 (HMH), by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter, an even more intense effort to digitize the entire Watergate tapes.  I think the world is screaming for a Watergate table. I might get to work on that tomorrow.

Shifting gears, August usually offers a nice selection of books on the state of education. One of this year's entries is Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone (Norton). The book appears to have its origins in this story that ran in The New York Times Magazine several years ago, which notes that in the history of teaching teachers to teach, the possible deviation from constructive training came when universities took over the Normal Schools, which made teaching conform to the theoretical constructs of social science. She notes a 2006 study where only 12% of faculty members in education departments had taught K-12.  The article follows one person, Doug Lemov, but the book opens up the scope of the issue, following a half dozen shaker-uppers. Paul Tough offers praise: "This beautifully written, defiantly hopeful book points the way to a better future for American teachers and the children they teach." It also has a quote from Amanda Ripley: "A must-read book for every American teacher and taxpayer." These are the two best-selling education books we've sold in the past few years, which is saying something.

I mentioned on our Sunday post that we always need new books to recommend to folks who liked Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat. Today is the release of In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette (Doubleday), Hampton Sides' new chronicle of a daring and dangerous 19th century mission. Our buyer Jason is a fan: "First thing not to do: Don't go on-line and look up what happened to this expedition. It is a breathtaking tale of the USS Jeanette, led by George De Long, as they attempt to find the North Pole. At the time of this adventure, the North Pole was another Manifest Destiny facet the U.S. wanted to get to first. And De Long had been struck by Arctic Fever and needed to make a valiant attempt. While the journey started out with extreme enthusiasm, it wasn't long before ice blocked their path and made life harrowing. Hampton Sides is unrelenting in his narrative approach, and I could not stop gripping this book during the last 100 pages!" If you don't want to take Jason's word, Howard Schneider also reviews the book in The Wall Street Journal.

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