Category Archives: Books

Have no fear of the dark with “Iron Maiden: Album By Album”

Required reading for all Iron Maiden fans, Album By Album is a compendium of in-depth, entertaining and profusely illustrated conversations about all sixteen of the legendary metal band’s studio albums.

Now ready: Iron Maiden: Album By Album (Voyageur Press, $30), from prolific rock journalist Martin Popoff, pays tribute to the Iron Maiden’s studio discography through a series of in-depth, frank, and entertaining conversations about all 16 of the legendary heavy metal band’s studio albums. Inside, the author gathers together metal journalists, authors, and musicians, who offer insights, opinions and anecdotes about every release.

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Maiden’s fan base is large, diverse and enduring, and that goes for the line-up Popoff assembled to break down each Maiden studio release. Among those weighing in are musicians Marty Friedman, Mike Portnoy, Matt Heafy, Nita Strauss, Ahmet Zappa and former Maiden singer Blaze Bayley. Rocker and pro wrestler Chris Jericho is here, along with journalists “Metal” Tim Henderson, Rich Davenport, Jimmy Kay and other metal and Iron Maiden experts.

Together, the conversations comprise a unique historical overview of the band, covering everything from early albums with original lead singer Paul Di’Anno; the songwriting of founder and bassist Steve Harris; the impeccable talents of drummer Nicko McBrain and guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers; mega tours undertaken in support of the albumss; fights and drama within the band; and much more.

The resulting insights, opinions and anecdotes explore it all, starting with the band’s debut at the vanguard of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal to breakthrough iconic releases like The Number of the Beast and Powerslave. Popoff also includes loads of sidebars that provide complete track listings, details on album personnel, and information on where and when the albums were recorded. Every page is illustrated with thoughtfully curated performance and offstage photography, as well as rare memorabilia.

“HELP!: The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration” is the fascinating story of how creative cooperation inspired two of the world’s most celebrated musical acts

The Beatles and Duke Ellington’s Orchestra stand as the two greatest examples of collaboration in music history. Now, Duke University musicologist Thomas Brothers delivers music to our ears (and eyes):  HELP!: The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration (W. W. Norton & Company, $27.95), the fascinating story of how creative cooperation inspired two of the world’s most celebrated musical acts. It’s a portrait of the creative process at work, demonstrating that the cooperative method at the foundation of these two artist-groups was the primary reason for their unmatched musical success.

While clarifying the historical record of who wrote what, with whom, and how, Brothers brings the past to life with photos, anecdotes, and more than thirty years of musical knowledge that reverberates through every page, and analysis of songs from Lennon and McCartney’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” to Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge.” HELP! describes in rich detail the music and master of two cultural leaders whose popularity has never dimmed, and the process of collaboration that allowed them to achieve an artistic vision greater than the sum of their parts.

What was really behind The Beatles’ “White Album”? Read “Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru”

Susan Shumsky spent 20 years travelling the world with The Beatles’ spiritual guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (who inspired many of the songs) and lived in the Indian Ashram where The Beatles wrote theie White Album.

With The White Album’s 50thanniversary approaching, it’s also time to welcome Shumsky’s Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru. The book not also reveals the unknown meanings and inspiration behind the album’s lyrics, but is bursting with new material on the scandals, rows and breakdowns that erupted during this dramatic episode.

Maharishi & Me is a strikingly candid memoir of a young girl’s journey to an Indian ashram, where she became part of the spiritual movement led by famous Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Shumsky exposes the fascinating, at times disturbing, truth behind the Transcendental Meditation movement–one of the most famous spiritual movements of the twentieth century–and its leader, spiritual guru to the stars, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Maharishi first set foot in America in 1959, kick starting the spiritual revolution that brought meditation to the West. By 1968, the world’s press were at the gates of his Indian ashram, hunting the ultimate scoop on the Beatles’ spiritual adventure there.

Shumsky reveals the inside truth behind the sex scandals, drug smuggling and mental breakdowns that were reported in one of the most dramatic episodes in the Beatles’ history.

From staying in spooky, abandoned Nazi hotels to dealing with fellow meditators’ suicidal episodes, rumors of the great “celibate” leader’s sex scandals, and accusations that Maharishi poisoned his own guru, Shumsky exposes the truth. She also offers a hard-hitting glimpse into the impact of the often bullying, intimidating and threatening behavior of the movement.

In a moving, highly insightful way, the book depicts how it feels to enter yourself into a master-disciple relationship–the ecstasy and the dangers–as well as what eventually made her decide to break away from this.

 

Donna VanLiere’s “The Christmas Star” is a warm, wonderful gift

Prolific New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Shoes, Donna VanLiere has another incredible story to wrench and warm reader’s hearts. Published to coincide with the Hallmark Channel production of VanLiere’s previous title, The Christmas TownThe Christmas Star (St. Martin’s Press, $17.99) is a moving and uplifting story about repairing the fragile pieces of a broken heart with the help of a child and a little Christmas magic.

Thirty-two-year-old Amy Denison volunteers at Glory’s Place, an after school program where she meets seven-year-old Maddie, a precocious young girl who has spent her childhood in foster care. Unbeknownst to Amy, Maddie is a mini-matchmaker, with her eye on just the right man for Amy at Grandon Elementary School where she is a student. Amy is hesitant–she’s been hurt before, and isn’t sure she’s ready to lose her heart again–but an unexpected surprise makes her reconsider her lonely lifestyle.

As Christmas nears and the town is blanketed in snow and beautiful decorations, Maddie and the charming staff at Glory’s Place help Amy to see that romance can be more than heartache and broken promises.

A wonderfully warm gift.

Wake up America! Jeff Nesbit’s “This is the Way the World Ends” paints a call-to-arms

Adolph Frump doesn’t believe in life.

Yet we are facing down the end of the world as we know it. Previous director of public affairs for two federal science agencies and current executive director of Climate Nexus, Jeff Nesbit offers a “nonpartisan call-to-arms” (Publishers Weekly) to face the environmental challenges humans have created with This is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves, and Hurricanes Are Converging on America (Thomas Dunne Books, $29.99).

This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America

The world itself won’t end, of course. Only ours will: our livelihoods, our homes, our cultures. And we’re squarely at the tipping point. Longer droughts in the Middle East. Growing desertification in China and Africa. The monsoon season shrinking in India. Amped-up heat waves in Australia. More intense hurricanes reaching America. Water wars in the Horn of Africa. Rebellions, refugees and starving children across the globe. These are not disconnected events. These are the pieces of a larger puzzle that environmental expert Jeff Nesbit puts together, check this out: Facts from TIHTWE

Unless we start addressing the causes of climate change and stop simply navigating its effects, we will be facing a series of unstoppable catastrophes by the time our preschoolers graduate from college. Our world is in trouble . . . right now. This Is the Way the World Ends tells the real stories of the substantial impacts to Earth’s systems unfolding across each continent. The bad news? Within two decades or so, our carbon budget will reach a point of no return.

But there’s good news. Like every significant challenge we’ve faced—from creating civilization in the shadow of the last ice age to the Industrial Revolution—we can get out of this box canyon by understanding the realities, changing the worn-out climate conversation to one that’s relevant to every person. Nesbit provides a clear blueprint for real-time, workable solutions we can tackle together.

How good is the book? Says Senator John Kerry:  “With This is the Way the World Ends Jeff Nesbit has delivered an enlightening—and alarming—explanation of climate challenge as it exists today. Climate change is no far-off threat. It’s impacting communities all over the world at this very moment, and we ignore the scientific reality at our own peril. The good news? As Nesbit underscores, disaster is not preordained. The global community can meet this moment—and we must.”

 

“Queen: Song By Song” proves why the music and magic lives on

There must be more to life than this. There is. Welcome Queen: Song By Song ( Voyageur Press, $30), the thoughtfully curated and gloriously illustrated retrospective of Queen’s studio releases, with a diverse cast of musicians, journalists and more, discussing and dissecting the making of each album. Perfect timing indeed: The book is hits shelves just in time for the 45th anniversary of their debut LP and the upcoming feature film biopic.

Queen Album by Album

Formed in 1970, Queen went on to become one of the most popular—and most successful—rock bands of all time. Even following the untimely death of beloved and magnetic frontman Freddie Mercury, and nearly 50 years after their formation, interest in the band has continued, evidenced by scores of reissues, arena tours with surviving members, and the upcoming feature-film biopic.

In this new installment in Voyageur Press’s Album by Album series,  Martin Popoff convenes a cast of 19 Queen experts and superfans to discuss all 15 of the band’s studio albums (including their soundtrack for the 1980 film Flash Gordon). Among the cast of musicians, journalists and music industry pros exploring Queen’s recorded output are Paul McCartney, Dee Snider, Dave Ellefson, Queen producer Mack, Derek Shulman, Jeb Wright, Daniel Nester and many other experts. The results are freewheeling discussions delving into the individual songs, the circumstances that surrounded the recording of each album, the band and contemporary rock contexts into which they were released.

The engaging text of this beautifully designed book is illustrated throughout with rare live performance and candid offstage photography, as well as scads of rare Queen ephemera.

The Album by Album series is a unique approach to the rock bio, injecting the varied voices of several contributors. The results have even the most diehard fans rushing back to their MP3 players (or turntables) to confirm the details and opinions expressed.

Patti Callahan writes the epic tale of Joy Davidson, writer and poet . . . and the only woman C.S. Lewis married

From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis, the exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, a 1940-50s writer and poet and the only woman C. S. Lewis ever married. In the vein of popular exploratory novels that uplift and uncover brilliant women forgotten to the past,  comes the untold story of the woman who helped inspire some of  Lewis’ best known works.

“Joy Davidman has been portrayed as the dying woman in Shadowlands,” explains Callahan, “but in researching Joy, I came to believe that she’d like to be understood as more than a woman who died well on a movie screen. She was a fiery woman who lived bravely and was alert and curious to the mysterious world she wanted to understand.”

When Joy began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known to close friends and family as “Jack”—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage to her abusive, alcoholic husband William Lindsay Gresham, a well-regarded author during the era.

“There were conflicting narratives about her and I wanted to know this woman,” adds Callahan. “I wanted to understand her and how she changed not only her life but also the life and work of one of our most beloved authors of the twentieth century—C.S. Lewis.”

Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy.

In this masterful exploration, we meet a fiercely independent mother and a passionate woman who lived during a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had.

“Joy matters today because we are just now seeing these fascinating women dredged from the mud of the past. Joy is rarely given credit for the muse, best friend, co-author, love and wife she was to C. S. Lewis, and I hope this book helps to right that. Let’s meet the woman beside the man.”

 

Gas emits light! Make “hot” ice! Sean Connolly delivers a STEM bang in his new book

Sean Connolly is called “the master of daring STEM books.” We can see (and read) why.

His latest tome, The Book of Ingeniously Daring Chemistry: 24 Experiments for Young Scientists (Workman Publishing, $14.95,) turns questions like “Why does helium make balloons float?” and “How does fluoride protect teeth?” into learning opportunities. It’s a journey through the periodic table of elements with Connolly.

The Book of Ingeniously Daring Chemistry: 24 Experiments for Young Scientists (Irresponsible Science)

Ingeniously marrying science and fun, it is a perfect introduction to chemistry for curious kids as well as those who might prefer a more engaging approach to science. It’s like having a miniature science lab between two covers.

The book puts knowledge into action using household ingredients to conduct 24 awesome, hands-on experiments, including:

  • Sodium: Make “hot ice” by crystallizing vinegar and baking soda into sodium acetate.
  • Neon: See how this gas emits light by powering a light bulb with static electricity.
  • Iron: Submerge steel wool in vinegar to see how this metal oxidizes.
  • Phosphorus: Play cat detective by using ultraviolet light to locate bad cat smells!

A trio of great new releases from W.W. Norton & Company

Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories ($19.95, on sale now)is a mesmerizing interpretation of fourteen iconic Kafka stories. Long fascinated with the work of Franz Kafka, Kuper began illustrating his stories in 1988. Initially drawn to the master’s dark humor, Kuper adapted the stories over the years to plumb their deeper truths. His style deliberately evokes Lynd Ward and Frans Masereel, contemporaries of Kafka whose wordless novels captured much of the same claustrophobia and mania as Kafka’s tales.

Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories

Kuper has reimagined these iconic stories for the twenty-first century, using setting and perspective to comment on contemporary issues like civil rights and homelessness. Longtime lovers of Kafka will appreciate Kuper’s innovative interpretations, while Kafka novices will discover a haunting introduction to some of the great writer’s most beguiling stories, including “A Hunger Artist,” “In The Penal Colony,” and “The Burrow.” Kafkaesque stands somewhere between adaptation and wholly original creation, going beyond a simple illustration of Kafka’s words to become a stunning work of art.


In End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World’s Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals ($35, on sale November 13) paleomammologistRoss D.E. MacPhee a look into the fascinating lives and puzzling demise of some of the largest animals on earth. Until a few thousand years ago, creatures that could have been from a sci-fi thriller roamed the earth. These great beasts, or “megafauna,” lived on every habitable continent and on many islands. With a handful of exceptions, all are now gone. What caused the disappearance of these prehistoric behemoths?

End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals

MacPhee explores that question, examining the leading extinction theories, weighing the evidence, and presenting his own conclusions. He shows how theories of human overhunting and catastrophic climate change fail to explain critical features of these extinctions, and how new thinking is needed to elucidate these mysterious losses. Gorgeous four-color illustrations by Peter Schouten bring these megabeasts back to life in vivid detail.


Silicon City: San Francisco in the Long Shadow of the Valley($26.95, on sale November 13) is an intimate, eye-opening portrait of San Francisco transformed by the tech boom that asks: Can a city lose its soul? The tech boom of our time is changing San Francisco at warp speed. Famously home to artists and activists, and known as the birthplace of the Beats, the Black Panthers and the LGBTQ movement, the Bay Area has been transformed by Silicon Valley. But the richer the region gets, the more unequal and less diverse it becomes, and the cracks in the city’s facade begin to show. Writer and filmmaker Cary McClelland has spent several years interviewing people at the epicenter of the Bay Area’s rapid change: tech innovators, venture capitalists, coders, homeless advocates, pawn brokers, prosecutors and public defenders, tattoo artists, and tour guides.
Silicon City: San Francisco in the Long Shadow of the Valley
Silicon City masterfully weaves together their voices and unforgettable stories to create a dynamic portrait of a beloved city and a cautionary tale for the entire country.

A Chat with Ken Starr, whose book “Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation” is now out

Two decades after the release of the Starr Report that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, former independent counsel Ken Starr presents for the first time his full and candid perspective on one of the most contentious episodes in American history, in Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation (Sentinel/Penguin, $28.00).

Here, he chats about the book and then some.

Why did you decide to write this book now?
The time was right, both personally and historically. I was no longer serving at Baylor University, and in my new-found freedom was moved to write–at long last–the story from my perspective of the President’s abuse of power and crimes against our justice system.

What is the significance of the book’s title? Why do you say “contempt” is the dominant quality of the legacy of Bill and Hillary Clinton?
The title literally applies to the former President. Bill Clinton is the only president in American history to have been found in contempt by a court of law. That courthouse judgment pointed to a larger truth–the contempt with which both the President and Hillary treated our foundational value of the rule of law and the human beings with whom they dealt.
Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation
How did you come to be appointed as Independent Counsel in the investigation of the Clintons?
Under the independent counsel law, a three-judge court – the Special Division of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit–appointed me. I definitely did not volunteer for the job. To the contrary, I was asked to serve  I was asked to serve.

As Independent Counsel, you were under continuous attack by the Clintons and their surrogates. They tried to portray your investigation as a politically and personally motivated witch hunt intended to bring down a president. Of course, your book is largely a point-by-point rebuttal of this view. But briefly, why was it wrong?
The unrelenting attacks from the White House were, by definition, politically inspired. They were clearly intended to erode the principles of the rule of law and the fair administration of justice. Our record of professionalism and integrity is demonstrated by the fourteen criminal convictions in Arkansas, and the universal acceptance of the factual accuracy of the so-called Starr Report.

What toll did your vilification by much of the media and the public take on you personally, as well as your family?

The years-long attacks as to my personal and professional integrity were not only profoundly unpleasant, but they took a toll on the investigation itself. In all too many quarters, the Whitewater investigation came to be characterized as a personal and political vendetta. In the process, my family members suffered grievously–most dramatically by the fact that our daughter, Carolyn, had to have round-the-clock security protection due to death threats.

In fact, you were such a lightning rod for controversy that you kept a very low profile throughout the investigation, staying mostly behind the scenes. But when the House considered impeachment, they
wanted only one witness to appear before them—you. What was it like to testify for twelve hours in a single day? What did you think of your performance then, and how do you think it stands up now?
That “longest day” shortly before Thanksgiving was the most difficult single day of my professional life. It profoundly tested my patience, when I had to listen–respectfully–to tirades by Judiciary Committee members such as Maxine Waters and Chuck Schumer.

What disappointed you about the way the House of Representatives handled the Clinton impeachment proceedings?
The House saw fit not to have real witnesses–those who knew the facts from their participation. I was the sole witness before the Judiciary Committee. I was put on trial, but I was simply the custodian of the facts. More fundamentally, I regretted that the House was not willing to consider a lesser sanction, namely a resolution of censure, rather than the ultimate sanction of removing a President from office. The debate would have been
more balanced, and less politicized, if that alternative sanction would have been seriously considered. But I respect the constitutional view that, as to the President’s misconduct, it has to be impeachment or nothing.

Were you surprised when the Senate failed to convict Bill Clinton and remove him from office after he was impeached by the House?
No, I wasn’t surprised at all. First, the House had seen fit not to move forward on our Count 11, namely the President’s abuse of the powers of his office. I describe that in detail in the book. We felt that all ten counts led up to, crescendo-like, his misuse of his powers of office for reasons of self-preservation. Second, impeachment
and conviction represent the ultimate weapon in the arsenal of our representative democracy. The American people would see their considered judgment–rendered at the polls overturned through an inherently political–and highly politicized–process where a President would be stripped of the power granted to him through the election process. That would be inherently destabilizing. The American people want the President to serve out his term, and to be able to get his job done without this sword of Damocles having over his head.

Many people continue to believe that Bill Clinton was impeached for “lying about sex.” What is your response?
That bumper-sticker takeaway ignores the undisputed evidence that he obstructed justice, intimidated witnesses,
encouraged witnesses to lie under oath, and profoundly misused the powers of his office to, among other things,
invent a non-existent privilege to try to hide the truth.