Book Review | Aroused : The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything by Randi Hutter Epstein

aroused cover.jpgI went into this book thinking that it might explain to me why certain people are attracted to each other, but that was not what it was about. Instead, Aroused consists of gathered scientific anecdotes and topical research on various hormones and their effects on humans. Each of the book’s chapters focuses on a different piece of the hormonal puzzle. This table of contents provides a clearer picture: 1. The fat bride 2. Hormones … as we may call them 3. Pickled brains 4. Killer hormones 5. The virile vasectomy 6. Soul mates in sex hormones 7. Making gender 8. Growing up 9. Measuring the immeasurable 10. Growing pains 11. Hotheads : the mysteries of menopause 12. Testosterone endopreneurs 13. Oxytocin : that lovin’ feeling 14. Transitioning 15. Insatiable : the hypothalamus and obesity. While a reader may still have questions, rest assured, Epstein will address them all.

This text is written for all audiences. While many of the topics covered are complex and scientific, Epstein has written about them in an approachable way, even for someone with little or no scientific background knowledge. By choosing interesting individual anecdotes to focus on, she draws the reader into each of the hormonal topics. Chapters are of reasonable length, making the book easy to pick up and put down. The reader is sure to gain new knowledge, while also finding herself laughing aloud from time to time. Check out this informative and entertaining read from a library near you.

*Fans of Aroused, may be interested in the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

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Book Review | Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson

endure cover.jpgEndure pulls together research that has been done on endurance in search of the answer to what keeps man going. Incorporating examples from various sports and research perspectives, Hutchinson addresses multiple parts of the endurance equation from fuel and thirst to oxygen, muscles, the brain and beyond. Whether ice climbing Denali, summiting Everest, deep sea diving, cycling the Hour, crossing the Arctic or striving for a sub 2-hour marathon, people press the limits of endurance. While Hutchinson had hoped to provide an answer for what allows someone to exceed the boundaries, his book shows there are still many moving parts to the equation.

This book serves as an excellent introduction to the topic of endurance. It is well written and organized, providing a summary of vast amounts of research that have been done in a very accessible manner. Anecdotes and scientific findings are interwoven in a way that allows the text to flow seamlessly. Section and chapter breaks are of appropriate length for the book to easily be picked up and put down. Highly recommended for those interested in endurance sport and the limitations of the human body. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | The Coast & the Sea: Marine and Maritime Art in America at the New-York Historical Society by Linda S. Ferber

Previously published by Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Reviews in January 2015.

the coast & the sea book cover In addition to serving as an exhibit catalog for part of “Sharing a National Treasure: The Traveling Exhibition Program of the New-York Historical Society”, The Coast & the Sea: Marine and Maritime Art in America at the New-York Historical Society aims to delve into the visually expressive customs of marine and maritime painting and to demonstrate the connections and relations between them. Works covered range from 1728 to 1904 and focus mainly on happenings at, and evolution of, the New York Harbor. Paintings and text also focus on Naval involvement in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

Author Linda S. Ferber is the Senior Art Historian at the New-York Historical Society and previously served as curator. She does a noteworthy job connecting all of the paintings through her guiding narrative. By drawing the reader’s attention to particular aspects of the pieces, Ferber ably links the objects’ artistic and historic backgrounds.

The text can be easily read as a book that recounts a factual series of events, or referenced intermittently as a research piece. It could also serve as an introduction to marine and maritime art, since Ferber concisely explains the concepts. An introduction to the Hudson River School painting movement is also provided.

Color reproductions of over sixty paintings form the core of the volume. Photographs of a handful of maritime objects are also a welcome addition to the text. Often figures and their descriptions are on subsequent pages, which requires the reader to flip back and forth to view the specific aspects of the painting that are being described.

Though the book has a table of contents, it is not very helpful since the main body of the text is listed as a single section without reference to the topical, titled subsections within it. A selected bibliography provides information on a number of sources for additional research. The book’s index is quite thorough and useful, as is the notes section. The thick, glossy pages of this book along with a solid stitched and glued binding make for a physically sound, high quality volume. The jacket and square shape are appealing and appropriate for the content included.

This book would be a suitable reference piece for anyone researching American marine or maritime paintings, New York coastal history or art related to Naval involvement in early American wars.

Film Review | The Normal Heart starring Mark Ruffalo & Matt Bomer

dvd cover the normal heart

Produced by HBO, The Normal Heart has a lot in common with the 2013 film Dallas Buyers Club. These films deal with the emergence and rapid increase of AIDS cases in the United States. The Normal Heart is an adaptation of a play by Larry Kramer that debuted in 1985. It places emphasis on both the gay men’s struggle happening in New York City and the personal life and relationship of an activist and New York Times reporter. The film starts out with Ned (Ruffalo) visiting his gay friends and the group learning about a new type of gay cancer (AIDS). They form a committee, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, with the intent to spread awareness, raise money and support those affected by the disease. Being the 1980’s, the men must tread a fine line with what is and is not socially acceptable and handle conflicts with those close to them.

The film does an excellent job showing how difficult things could have been at the time for gay men. The relationship between Ned and his lover (Bomer) is touching and tragic. The acting is well done and the film flows well. It may make you cry, but check it out from a library near you.

Book Review | The Last Magazine : a novel by Michael Hastings

last magazine book coverPublished posthumously, The Last Magazine introduces an aspiring, early 20’s employee at an in-print periodical in New York City. Narrated primarily in the first person by fictional Michael Hastings, the story gives a first hand view of the workings involved in putting out the Magazine. The power struggle between two top writers, the field reporting from an international correspondent in Iraq, and Michael’s daily deeds shape the book. The scoop goes beyond the simple day-to-day though, and is supported by racial tensions, sex and drugs and a human desire to stay afloat no matter the cost.

In the past I’ve found workplace fiction to be interesting, so I figured this was worth a try. Hastings’ writing style is conversational, informal and very readable. The book has a journal-like feel with short, dated chapters. The characters, thought not particularly likable, are appealing in their eccentricities. The story carries on smoothly, alternating focus between Michael and A.E. Peoria, an international correspondent. The hefty amount of blatant sexual encounters may put off some readers, but mostly they contribute to advancing the narrative. This novel was discovered and published after Hastings died in a car accident in Los Angeles in 2013. Some sources contend that book characters have real life counterparts with whom journalist Hastings worked. Check our The Last Magazine from a library near you. For an excellent workplace fiction read, try The Company by Max Barry.

Book Review | San Francisco Lithographer: African American Artist Grafton Tyler Brown by Robert J. Chandler

Previously published by Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Reviews in July 2014.

cover of san francisco lithographerMore than just a book about one man, San Francisco Lithographer: African American Artist Grafton Tyler Brown is about the emerging lithography scene in nineteenth-century San Francisco and Brown’s role in it as a mixed race artist and businessman. Author Robert J. Chandler, previously the senior research historian for Wells Fargo Bank, has done extensive research on the life and times of Brown. Though other scholars have written about Brown, Chandler’s work is the first comprehensive biography, which seamlessly references appropriate field literature to piece together Brown’s life from his birth in Pennsylvania to his death in Minnesota.

Though not entirely chronological, the book’s topical organization allows the reader to easily access information by subject. Interweaving of historical facts with the narrative provides an interesting read with welcomed section and chapter breaks. At times the amount of numbers, mostly dates and monetary values, may feel slightly overwhelming. Despite this, the ideas are clearly presented and developed in a way that makes the book accessible to all readers rather than only appealing to researchers or art historians. Some background knowledge of lithography would be helpful as the process is only explained briefly within the third chapter.

Chandler supplies a wealth of full color reproductions of Brown’s lithographic work and that of his competitors. Brown ventured into painting later in life and images of some paintings are also included. Captions fully explain each of more than 100 images. Chandler includes an index and a comprehensive bibliography that would be very helpful as a starting point for related research. The full checklist of Brown’s known works is an added bonus, since so many of the pieces he produced were ephemera that were discarded shortly after their intended use. The jacket, standard full-page size, stitched binding, and photo-quality paper make the book physically appealing.

This book is recommended for any libraries with a specific interest in lithography, Californiana, ephemera, post-Gold Rush San Francisco or African American artists.

Book Review | Virtuality and the Art of Exhibition: Curatorial Design for the Multimedia Museum by Vince Dziekan

Previously published by Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Reviews in September 2012.

cover of virtuality and the art of exhibitionThe use of digital media is greatly impacting curatorial design of exhibitions in museums and galleries. In Virtuality and the Art of Exhibition: Curatorial Design for the Multimedia Museum, Vince Dziekan attempts to foster an understanding of how the curatorial design process has evolved to incorporate digital technology. Dziekan surveys existing field literature and provides detailed descriptions of specific exhibitions that have implemented multimedial design.

Dziekan draws solid ties between relevant field literature and thoughtfully connects themes throughout the book. Though several of the articles cited seem slightly dated, they appear to be standard field works. As articles are being written frequently in this popular area, it would be nearly impossible for a published text to be able to include all of the most current literature. Though the author is clearly well-versed in his topic, his wordy and complicated prose made the text difficult to follow at times. Concise and clear explanations would have benefitted readers trying to understand new concepts and ideas.

The book’s organizational structure provides an easy path for the reader to follow and allows for jumps between sections without the need to read them in order. The end of each chapter has a detailed notes section, and the bibliography is very complete. The book does not include an index, but the table of contents serves the purpose adequately. The dimensions, texture, and paper quality make the format and physical characteristics of this book appealing, and the binding is solid.

Dziekan supplies visual examples in the form of grayscale images, mostly reproductions of photos, which work well with the text. It would have been helpful to have incorporated better quality reproductions of some images, with a few in color. Dziekan does not identify a specifically intended audience, but the book would be relevant for curators or other individuals involved in, or looking to learn about, the production of an exhibition involving digital technology. Academic libraries with museum studies programs or museum libraries that are new to incorporating multimedial pieces in their exhibits could benefit from this text.