Nonfiction: Dog Behavior, a Sailing Journey, "Weird Math," Words from Kaku, Stagecraft | Xpress Reviews

For everyone who owns a dog, breeds or trains dogs, or works with dogs; will appeal to readers who enjoy the details of living on the water; for those interested in mathematics and its connections to life’s routines; an inspiring treatise on humanity that incorporates solid physics; all collections serving actors should acquire both monolog titles

Week ending February 9, 2018


Bekoff, Marc. Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do. Univ. of Chicago. Apr. 2018. 256p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780226433035. $26. PETS

Bekoff (emeritus, ecology & evolutionary biology, Univ. of Colorado Boulder) writes of canine behavior based on both research and his years of observation of dogs and their people at dog parks. His goal in explaining dog behavior is to provide people with the knowledge to allow their dogs to live their best possible lives. Dogs are as individual as humans, notes Bekoff. He emphasizes that each human should observe their own dog carefully and not rely on breed stereotypes or generalizations. He discusses dog play extensively, as it is a vital part of a dog’s social life and physical health. When dogs are at play in the dog park, he maintains, their humans should give them space. Actions that may appear to be aggressive rarely lead to actual fights but are simply a part of play behavior. Other chapters cover the myths and misunderstandings surrounding dominance in dogs and what those mean for training; scent marking; canine intelligence (there are no “smart” or “dumb” dogs); anthropomorphism and the emotions dogs feel; and a “Dog Companion’s Guide” to providing dogs with their best experiences based on their needs, not ours.

Verdict Everyone who owns a dog, breeds or trains dogs, or works with dogs should read this informative book.—Rachel Owens, Daytona State Coll. Lib., FL


Clark, Liz. Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening. Patagonia. Apr. 2018. 320p. illus. ISBN 9781938340543. $35. SPORTS

Clark, a lifelong sailor and surfer, chronicles her decade-long sailing journey. The book itself is beautiful, with each chapter beginning with a unique illustration, and many colorful photographs intertwined with the narrative. Swell begins with Clark’s story of how she grew up sailing with her family. Later, the narrative transitions into how she was able to sail her own boat around the globe. The beginning of the book is captivating, but as the work progresses to her journey, the writing is often scattered, making it difficult to follow. The book would have been more accessible to a wider audience if it were written as a coffee-table book with photographs to accompany shorter stories about her sails and how she became content living on the water, which she continues to do.

Verdict This photo-heavy book is a cross between a work for display and a memoir. It will appeal to readers who enjoy the details of living on the water, embracing nature, and experiencing outdoor adventures.—Pamela Calfo, Baldwin Borough P.L., PA


Darling, David & Agnijo Banerjee. Weird Math: A Teenage Genius and His Teacher Reveal the Strange Connections Between Math and Everyday Life. Basic: Perseus. Apr. 2018. 320p. illus. index. ISBN 9781541644786. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781541644793. MATH

As its title suggests, Weird Math is a collection of mathematical topics but not those that one usually encounters in school. Specifically, this is not a mathematics book; it is a book about mathematics. Science writer Darling (Equations of Eternity) and his protégé Banerjee treat readers to some of the amazing facts that fascinate students of the subject. The material is organized into 13 chapters, each with a central theme that occasionally branches off into seemingly unrelated fields. Reflecting the growing importance of computers, much space is devoted to current investigations into game theory, computability, solvability, and mathematical logic. There are also sections on the notational uses of large numbers, transfinite arithmetic, and the difference between very large and infinite. The book contains some formulas but only a few proofs. Thus, the exposition may leave readers eager for more details and examples.

Verdict A solid read for the student or educated layperson who is interested in mathematics and its connections to life’s routines.—Harold D. Shane, Mathematics Emeritus, Baruch Coll. Lib., CUNY


Kaku, Michio. The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth. Doubleday. Feb. 2018. 368p. notes. index. ISBN 9780385542760. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385542777. SCI

Physicist Kaku (Henry Semat Professor of Physics, City Coll. of New York; Physics of the Future), cofounder of string field theory, has written a bold prediction on the survival of our species that includes both reflections on history and a road map toward the future. While Kaku agrees with fellow theorist Stephen Hawking that humans will need to leave Earth to survive, he is much more positive about the prospect. The author admirably accomplishes his goal of discussing visions on how to leave the planet, drawing on contemporary and past interviews and research. Along the way, he covers many details about the solar system and space technology, incorporating parts of the latest research (e.g., new information on Jupiter from the Juno spacecraft). Kaku’s treatment spans near-future concepts such as the Deep Space Transport to far-future notions, including laser porting digitized human consciousness throughout the multiverse. He verges into the mystical with his space-time theory of consciousness, but his clear prose will easily hold readers’ interest.

Verdict This inspiring treatise on humanity incorporates solid physics in the impressive discussions and is sure to enthrall YA and adult readers attracted to topics about science and space.—Sara R. Tompson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Lib., Archives & Records Section, Pasadena, CA


The Best Men’s Stage Monologues 2017.
156p. ISBN 9781575259147. pap. $14.95. The Best Women’s Stage Monologues 2017. 166p. ISBN 9781575259130. pap. $14.95. The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2017. 465p. ISBN 9781575259154. pap. $24.95. vol: Smith & Kraus. Jan. 2018. ed. by Lawrence Harbison. THEATER

Since 1990, the dynamic drama publishing duo of Marisa Smith and Eric Kraus, aka & Kraus Publishers, have been attending to the comprehensive dramatic literature needs of every level of student, amateur, working, and professional actor with an extensive catalog of some 600 titles covering acting, auditions, design, theater history, Shakespeare, directing and producing, monologs, and plays. Monologs and plays are the concerns of this latest troika of releases. A common auditioning prerequisite and acting class exercise is the preparation of a one- to two-minute monolog, which can be classical or contemporary, dramatic or humorous. Actors are insatiable in their constant search for pieces that showcase their strengths during the audition. S&K senior editor Harbison has compiled two companion contemporary monolog anthologies, with material selected from a diverse assemblage of plays produced and/or published over the course of the 2016–17 season. Over a third of the plays represented are common to each volume and some plays feature multiple pieces. The playwrights range from the well known, such as Steven Dietz and Theresa Rebeck, to less familiar but buzzworthy notables such as Graham Techler and Kim Davies. The ten-minute format encourages experimentation in style and substance that both new and established playwrights have found fun and creative. In his foreword, Harbison delineates his criteria for a good ten-minute play thusly: “a full length play which runs about ten minutes.” The collection is composed mostly of less familiar writers, although selections from virtuosos of the ten-minute take such as C.J. Ehrlich and Mark Harvey Levine are included. Plays are arranged by cast size (two or three or more), and each is prefaced with brief original production data and, as with the monolog collections, a narrative synopsis.

Verdict All collections serving actors should acquire both monolog titles. The quirkier ten-minute volume will probably be a better fit for more specialized dramatic literature holdings.—Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX

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