Nonfiction on the Owl, Science, Financial Planning, the Fax Machine, and the Boss | Xpress Reviews

A gem for owl fans; an infographic guide to science; for those desiring a firm grip on their finances; a meticulously researched history of the fax machine; for those ready to stop slogging through life; Springsteen's is one of rock’s finest memoirs

Week ending October 28, 2016 starred review star

Bannick, Paul. Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls. Mountaineers. Oct. 2016. 208p. photos. index. ISBN 9781594858000. $34.95. NAT HIST

With so many owl titles, is another really necessary? Definitely, in this case. This selection from award-winning photographer Bannick (The Owl and the Woodpecker) excels with superb images of all 19 owl species found in the United States and Canada. The visuals are dramatic, depicting these birds in action and in unusual poses and manners of flight, such as diving, hanging upside down, and clutching prey, plus many portraits of nestlings. The outsize book dimensions, 11" x 9.5", showcase the photography effectively. Bannick also plays close attention to owl habitats, habits, and life stories. Readers are taken through a year in the life of the owl: courtship, nesting, rearing of offspring, winter survival, and more. The volume concludes with information on each species, such as distribution, habitat, nesting, vocalization, and conservation status. At a time when some wildlife photographers are criticized for disturbing their subjects or creating artificial scenes (e.g., baiting), Bannick adheres to the strictest ethical standards.

Verdict Most highly recommended for all levels: public, professional, and young adult; will appeal to those interested in nature, North American habitats, and conservation. A gem.—Henry T. Armistead, formerly with Free Lib. of Philadelphia


Cabot, Tom. The Infographic Guide to Science. Firefly. Nov. 2016. 256p. illus. index. ISBN 9781770857919. pap. $24.95. SCI

An infographic text is a fitting first book for British graphic designer, illustrator, and editor Cabot. The majority of science infographic titles currently available are directed at children, such as the output of Nadia Higgins and Steve Jenkins, but Cabot’s work is aimed at an adult audience. The content is mostly focused on life sciences, though physics and chemistry are represented, as are anthropological topics (for instance, there’s a stunning human language evolution wheel). Organized in four parts—“The Universe,” “Earth,” “Life,” and “Humans”—the book includes both a useful visual table of contents and a more traditional one. In the references and further reading section, readers will find links to cited Internet sources. Because the author relied quite often on Wikipedia, this offering should not be considered a definitive scientific text. It is, however, enlightening and accessible.

Verdict Readers from high school and up will learn a bit more about a wide range of scientific subjects from this visually appealing selection. Not authoritative, it is nevertheless an entertaining and informative volume that may spark more interest in science.—Sara R. Tompson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Lib., Pasadena, CA


Coleman, Aaron. Winning with Money: Simplify Your Financial Life. Elevate. Oct. 2016. 132p. ISBN 9781943425891. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781943425907. PERSONAL FINANCE/SELF-HELP

According to marketing professional Coleman, taking control of one’s finances means freedom, flexibility, and options. In a straightforward manner, complete with graphics and sample financial worksheets, he illustrates ways to understand cash flow, set up a budget, and manage daily spending. Coleman’s strategies include building an emergency fund, incorporating health-care expenses into a monthly account, and choosing investments. In terms of saving money, he asks pointed questions about the need for such things as premium cable service, bottled water, and takeout gourmet coffee. The final chapter concentrates on giving back and extending help to others.

Verdict This short, concise guide to an important topic is recommended for everyone who desires a firm grip on their finances.—Deborah Bigelow, Dexter Dist. Lib., MI


Coopersmith, Jonathan. Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine. Johns Hopkins. Aug. 2016. 320p. illus. ISBN 9781421415918. $54.95; pap. ISBN 9781421421230. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781421415925. TECH

Coopersmith (history, Texas A&M; The Electrification of Russia, 1880–1926) explores the history of the fax machine from its invention in 1843 to near obsolescence by 2010. Readers discover via six chronologically arranged chapters how the fax initially tried and failed to capture a significant market of the communications industry. In its early days, the fax competed against the telegraph and telephone and later against email and cell phones. Newspaper companies were early adopters, using the device to help transmit pictures, and later the military employed it to transmit maps. Coopersmith weaves a tale of push (technology) and pull (the market) forces that influenced and were shaped by the evolving device. He also salutes Japanese standardization, which improved the fax machine and made it more affordable. The strong focus on the economic and technological perspectives excludes a deeper dive into the social arena. Markets that fell victim to the fax (such as document overnight services) are barely mentioned.

Verdict Despite some shortcomings, this work is meticulously researched and the information astutely synthesized. Those with a strong interest in the history of technology will be richly rewarded.—Muhammed Hassanali, Shaker Heights, OH


Kennedy, Shannah. The Life Plan: Simple Strategies for a Meaningful Life. Lantern: Penguin Australia, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Oct. 2016. 240p. photos. index. ISBN 9780670078301. pap. $34.95. SELF-HELP

Advanced certified life coach Kennedy learned from her own burnout and recovery how to integrate stress-busting restorative strategies into her life to create routine and structure, build boundaries, maintain energy, and take responsibility. Through a series of questions, exercises, a bucket list, a vision board, and other fill-in-the-blank responses, her tips and tricks for well-being conclude every chapter. Beautiful sepia photographs and meaningful quotes permeate the text, offering incentive to do the required work.

Verdict Kennedy encourages motivation and provides valuable insights for those ready to amp up their current way of slogging through life. Libraries may consider this an optional purchase owing to the pages of fill-in-blank scenarios.—Deborah Bigelow, Dexter Dist. Lib., MI


starred review starSpringsteen, Bruce. Born To Run. S. & S. Sept. 2016. 528p. photos. ISBN 9781501141515. $32.50; ebk. ISBN 9781501141539. MUSIC borntorun102816

For over 40 years, Springsteen has chronicled the lives of myriad American characters as they face life, love, economic hardship, and the search for community and home, and now he limns his own life story to create an exuberant, sprawling, double album of a memoir. Springsteen writes eloquently about his youth, family, and hometown while detailing his complicated relationship with his father and the singer’s own quest to reconcile his past and explore the roots and meaning of what he does. Springsteen describes in abundant detail his musical coming of age with various bands, playing the clubs and bars of New Jersey as he finds his own voice, struggles with early success, and eventually records the 1975 masterpiece Born To Run with the E Street Band and reaches superstardom in the 1980s. Springsteen’s prose ranges from honest and self-deprecating to poetic and deeply analytical as he writes about his life, his music, his place in the world, and his movingly deep ties to his family, his band, and his audience.

Verdict Like a classic Springsteen and E Street Band show, the book takes readers on a rollicking ride from the glorious and the emotional to the fun and soaring; one of rock’s finest and most memorable memoirs.—James Collins, Morristown–Morris Twp. P.L., NJ

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