Monday, March 31, 2008

This Week in Reading March 30 - April 5

It's finally April this week. College basketball wraps up and the baseball season begins. It is time many will let go of old disappointments and begin new hopes. But it is also a month for poets, librarians, writers, and readers to clean the dust off of the old and look upon it with new eyes. The authors born this week are mostly among the old. Only Al Gore and a children's author are relatively new, and that's just relatively . From Descartes and Hobbes to Milan Kundera and Donald Barthelme, the rest are names from the past. At least one has won the Nobel Prize, the Chilean poet and story writer, Gabriela Mistral.

If you haven't taken home a classic lately come into the library and find one; we'll help you choose. We have plenty. If you want to find a new author, browse our New Book shelves for a new genre or style of book you haven't tried before. It will be good for your brain fitness.

This Week's Question: April is also National Poetry Month in America. Who is your favorite poet? What is your favorite poem? Comment on the blog and tell us. We will post the results, if we get any, throughout the month. No prizes will be awarded, but sharing the joy of poetry with others will make you and the people you may turn on to your favorites very happy.

Answer to Last Week's question: It was Charlotte and Emily's younger sister, Anne Bronte, who, in 1848, wrote a reply to the romanticist critics who wanted everything written about to be nice rather than to reflect reality, in her introduction to the second edition of her second and last novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: "To represent a bad thing in its least offensive light, is, doubtless, the most agreeable course for a writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest?" She went on to offer another phrase we often hear, and one which speaks for a good many things these days as well as nearly two hundred years ago: "Oh, reader! if there were less of this delicate concealment of facts - this whispering, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace, there would be less of sin and misery .." Sigh. It is ever thus in some circles of life, in love, in politics, and in war.

Library's Most Wanted Books

Here's a quick look at some of our most requested books at this time.

Click on the book cover images to find them in our library catalog. There you can read summaries and reviews, find other books by the same authors, or place a hold of your own

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tempting Titles - Nonfiction 600s - 700s

Here, in usual Dewey Decimal system order from your librarian book selectors, are some Tempting Titles of recent nonfiction books the library has either ordered or received in the past few months. Click on any title or image link to go to the online catalog and place a request for the book to be held for you when it becomes available.

600s Health, Technologies, Home Economics

Charlatan: America’s most dangerous huckster, the man who pursued him, and the age of flimflam by Pope Brock

He truly had cojones: Dr. John Brinkley became fabulously wealthy in the 1920s and ‘30s by inserting goat testicles into herds of men anxious about their manliness. Easily outfitted with a diploma from the "Bennett Eclectic Medical College," Brinkley had more than a decade of quackery behind him when he was forced by poverty to settle down temporarily with a desultory practice in Milford, Kan. Then one day an exhausted farmer, concerned about the working order of his privates, expressed a fancy for "billy goat nuts." Eureka! The doctor fulfilled his wish. It was the genesis of the age of rejuvenation by gonad implantation. The testicular repairman had his finger on the pulse of America's organic members, and he made a splendid fortune. Imitators multiplied at home and abroad. Brinkley ran for governor of Kansas and began to notice "the resemblance between himself and the Son of God." To spread the good news, particularly of his profitable nostrums and medical manhandling, the bunkum medico operated a radio station just south of the Texas border, conveniently beyond the reach of the Federal Radio Commission and its "fuddy-duddy regulations." No matter what all those on-air testimonials claimed, the results were not good. Rejection and infection made Brinkley a mass murderer. His license was revoked and he lost the ball game. The winner was the AMA's redoubtable Dr. Morris Fishbein, associate of notables like Sinclair Lewis, Eugene Debs and H.L. Mencken, and himself a force of nature. With sprightly style, Brock (Indiana Gothic: A Story of Adultery and Murder in an American Family, 1999) exposes the randy rise of a master huckster and his fall at the hands of a relentless quack hunter. It's a fine account of medical fakery, congenital scientific stupidity and the habitual human appetite for being fooled and exploited. Wonderful American social history and lots of fun. (Kirkus Reviews)

The Game of My Life: a true story of challenge, triumph, and growing up autistic by Jason McElwain & Daniel Paisner

Slight but inspiring book about four minutes and 19 seconds in basketball that touched millions of lives. In the weeks following February 15, 2006, you couldn't turn on SportsCenter or a random TV-news magazine without seeing video clips of blonde, slender, smiling high-schooler Jason "J-Mac" McElwain sinking one bucket after another. Basketball-obsessed teenager McElwain, the autistic manager of the Greece Athena Trojans, got his chance to play on the final day of his team's season, with less than five minutes left in the game. Coach Jim Johnson led Jason to the scorer's table, and the sympathetic crowd went nuts. Most everybody in the stands would have been happy if McElwain made even a free throw, but he had bigger goals. He kept hurling up a shot virtually every time he got the ball. And they kept going in—to the tune of 20 points, 18 of which came from three-pointers. Next thing you know, the affable, unflappable Jason is doing the talk-show circuit, charming everyone within viewing range. As an inspirational and family-aid tool, his memoir is pitch-perfect. McElwain lucidly explains how he survived and ultimately thrived with autism, and the interjections by friends and family are properly gushing and moving. (Kirkus Reviews)

Your Inner Fish: a journey into the 3.5 billion-year history of the human body by Neil Shubin

For his first book, Shubin (anatomy, Univ. of Chicago) has written a lively little volume for a general readership on the evolutionary legacy, bequeathed to us by our ancestors, of our bodies. The author is especially qualified to address this topic: an evolutionary developmental biologist with groundbreaking research programs in both paleontology and developmental genetics, Shubin also teaches human anatomy to medical students. One of the main players of the book is Tiktaalik , a 375 million-year-old fossil fish from the Arctic that Shubin and his research team discovered in 2004. This fish, the fish of the book title, had fins but also is the earliest known creature to have a neck and wrists, features usually associated with land vertebrates such as ourselves. Other chapters on the hand, the head, general body plans, the teeth, the sense organs, and various ailments address their evolutionary origins and the evidence of their beginnings within our bodies. This book is a wonder-filled introduction to our evolutionary history. (Library Journal)

The Writing Diet: write yourself right-size by Julia Cameron

Unlike so many diet books, this cheery addition to the self-help shelves wasn’t written by a nutritionist or a fitness pro, but rather by a "creativity expert" who "accidentally stumbled upon a weight-loss secret that works" while teaching a creative "unblocking course." While this might sound like so much snake oil, the optimism and common-sense attitude of author Cameron (The Artist’s Way) are winning. Her system is both simple and inexpensive, promoting exercise, food journaling, and something called "morning pages," which are stream-of-consciousness passages dieters record after getting out of bed: "A day at a time, a page at a time, we become mindful, acutely attuned to our personal feelings." The second half of the book is filled with exercises, some more goofy than practical ("if your museum has a gift shop, buy yourself five postcards glorifying the body type you’ve got"), and stories detailing chronic overeaters paths’ to weight loss success. These stories are sometimes inspiring, sometimes repetitive, but should motivate dieters to give writing a try. (Publisher Weekly)

Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart and Wendy Kromer

WENDY KROMER’S cakes regularly grace the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, where she is a contributing editor, and have also been featured in many other publications and on television. In 2004, Wendy returned to her hometown of Sandusky, Ohio, and opened Wendy Kromer Confections, where she produces wedding and special-event cakes, decorated cookies, and custom-made sugar decorations. (Publisher supplied information)

Ruiz (Building an Affordable House) shares his 30 years of building and remodeling experience, showing how to renovate a house cost effectively. Using before, during, and after photographs; floor plans; and detailed drawings, he discusses planning and work involved in upgrading electrical and plumbing systems, replacing doors and windows, and updating every room of the home, including the exterior, with particular emphasis on bathrooms and kitchens. The thoroughness of Ruiz's information will allow the amateur to decide when to do the actual work and when to hire a professional, where to spend money and where to save. (Library Journal)

Krupp, style expert for the Today Show and former beauty director for Glamour, offers easy-to-follow, tried-and-true fashion advice for women well beyond their 20s. Presented in eye-catching, highly skimmable, fashion-magazine style, here's how to trade in the things that scream old lady (simply OL in the book) for a look that's younger and hipper (Y&H). Krupp is straightforward about the physical shortcomings of older age. Aptly (and sometimes rather brutally) she steers readers away from these OL pitfalls. She is quick to point out that fashion that works on 20-somethings looks ridiculous on older women (i.e., bare midriffs, go-go boots and tattoos). As much about what to do as what not to do, some of the tips are as easy as wearing pink lipstick, a bra that fits properly and hair with bangs. Others take more thought, time and money—like Botox shots, chemical peels and hair extensions. Whether high or low maintenance about their beauty routine, women of a certain age who want to compete in our youth-obsessed culture will treat this easy read with interest. (Publisher Weekly)

700s Art, Music, Sports, Entertainment

The house that George built: with a little help from Irving, Cole, and a crew of about fifty by Wilfrid Sheed.
Sheed (The Boys of Winter; Office Politics) has produced a loving, idiosyncratic look at the classic era of American popular song from the "piano era" of Irving Berlin and George Gershwin to the post-World War II era. In chapters focusing on individual composers, Sheed discusses (among others) Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers. The essays are delightfully witty, perceptive portraits—certainly not full biographies. Sheed's love for the music shines on every page, yet he can also write in a slightly acerbic vein …it is a valuable commentary on an essential slice of Americana. (Library Journal)

Rostropovich : the musical life of the great cellist, teacher, and legend by Elizabeth Wilson.

London-based cellist Wilson, author of Shostakovich and Jacqueline du Pré, studied with acclaimed cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich (1927–2007) at the Moscow State Conservatory from 1964 to 1971. Noting that the Russian-born Rostropovich dominated the international concert scene for more than half a century, she adds, "For nearly as long as this, he has seemed to me like a personification of the cello itself." Her key source is Rostropovich, as she interviewed him in nine cities across Europe over a span of 10 years. Writing with an exacting precision and exhaustive research, she has succeeded in documenting all aspects of his life as a musician and teacher in meticulous detail, taking the reader on a soaring journey that highlights his days with Britten, du Pré (a voyage of discovery by equal masters, an inspired dialogue between two extraordinary artists), Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Other chapters cover his influence and teaching methods and include an insightful analysis of the metaphysical aspect of sound in his music. With arpeggios of anecdotes punctuating her personal memories, Wilson has composed a symphony of sentences, a definitive portrait of the master cellist certain to be greeted with a crescendo of applause from both book lovers and music lovers. (Publisher Weekly)

In analyzing the development of his stand-up comedy career, Martin considers to have written a biography of someone he used to know. With a preteen passion of becoming a master magician, he escaped domestic turmoil by working at a magic shop in Disneyland. Once he gained confidence in performing live, his eclectic brand of humor was honed at coffee clubs and in local theater productions. Along the way, Martin studied philosophy, which allowed him to observe comedy as social commentary. Within a few years, he stumbled into television writing, working for the controversial Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. He was a regular guest on the Tonight Show, but it was his exposure on Saturday Night Live that catapulted Martin to success. In the early 1980s, he decided to leave stand-up comedy and become the film star we know today. Martin has always taken his life and the art of comedy seriously; his wonderful catchphrases (e.g., "Excuuuuse me"; "I'm a wild and crazy guy") will live on forever in our vocabulary. An intelligent biographical assessment. (Library Journal)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tempting Titles - Nonfiction 400s - 500s

Here, in usual Dewey Decimal System order from your librarian book selectors, are some Tempting Titles of recent nonfiction books the library has either ordered or received in the past few months. Click on any title or image link to go to the online catalog and place a request for the book to be held for you when it becomes available.

First published in London in 1852, Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases became popular in America with the 1920s crosswords craze and has sold almost 40 million copies worldwide. According to freelancer Kendall in this Professor and the Madman wannabe, Peter Mark Roget (1779–1869) compiled the thesaurus as a means of staving off the madness that pervaded his family—the classification of words was a coping mechanism for his anxiety. (Publisher Weekly)

Bastard Tongues: a trailblazing linguist finds clues to our common humanity in the world’s lowliest languages by Derek Bickerton

A novelist, professor emeritus of linguistics at the University of Hawaii and self-proclaimed street linguist, Bickerton chronicles his studies of creoles—the bastard tongues of the title—isolated languages with dubious and disputed parentage spoken by the lower classes. Bickerton seeks to explain creoles' linguistic anomaly: all creoles, though isolated from one another, have similar grammatical traits. This chatty, humorous memoir, laced with lucid analyses, shows how a creole initially seems to be a mishmash of nonsensical words (e.g., She mosi de bad mek she tek he), but is later revealed to be linguistically lush (translation: She could only have married him because she was completely broke). Most creoles, the author says, were created out of necessity due to the language divide that existed between imperialist states and their colonies, and Bickerton theorizes that creoles are evidence of humans' innate language bioprogram that enables them to construct a new language out of [linguistic] bits and pieces. Creating a multifaceted, immersive approach to the study of linguistics, Bickerton explores the miraculous human capacity for language and how the emergence of creole languages represents a triumph of the human spirit. (Publisher Weekly)

A dip into The Reverend Guppy's Aquarium will answer these and many other questions you forgot to ask about the heroic individuals who made our language what it is. (Book jacket)

Have you ever found yourself irritated when a sine qua non or a mea culpa is thrown into the conversation by a particularly annoying person? Or do distant memories of afternoons spent struggling to learn obscure verbs fill you with dread? Never fear! (or as a Latin show-off might say, Nil Desperandum!) In this delightful guided tour of Latin, Harry Mount wipes the dust off those boring primers and breathes life back into the greatest language of them all. Using Latin lovers from Kingsley Amis to John Cleese, from Evelyn Waugh to Donna Tartt, and even Angelina Jolie's stomach, Mount breathes life into Latin. Read this book and you will know Latin. Know Latin and, mirabile dictu, you will know Wilfred Owen's misery, Catullus's aching heart and the comedy of a thousand bachelor schoolmasters. (Book summary)

500s Sciences

Super Crunchers: why thinking-by-numbers is the new way to be smart by Ian Ayres

Gone are the days of solely relying on intuition to make decisions. Today, number crunching affects your life in ways you might never imagine. Economist Ian Ayres shows how today's organizations are analyzing massive databases at lightning speed to provide greater insights into human behavior. From Web sites like Google and Amazon that know your tastes, to a physician's diagnosis or your child's education, to boardrooms and government agencies, this new breed of decisionmakers are calling the shots. And they are delivering staggeringly accurate results. How can a football coach evaluate a player without ever seeing him play? How can a formula outpredict wine experts in determining the best vintages? Super crunchers have the answers. In this brave new world of equation versus expertise, Ayres shows us the benefits and risks, who loses and who wins, and how super crunching can be used to help, not manipulate us. (Publisher description)

Starred Review. In these eloquent essays, naturalist and adventurer Childs (House of Rain) describes some of his extraordinary experiences with creatures—from wasps, red-spotted toads and hummingbirds to grizzly bears, coyotes and jaguars. Seeking entrée into animal societies, he interprets messages left in marks on the ground and in scents on leaves and trees, and communicates with animals directly using their own language of stares, gestures, postures, sounds, scents and gaits. He goes looking for animals alone in hazardous wilderness areas—tracking mountain goats in Colorado's Gore Range or surprising a secret society of ravens in a canyon in Utah. Always longing to be at one with animals, he is not afraid to climb an aspen to see the world from a porcupine's perspective, run with a herd of elk or wonder how it would feel to jump from a plane and fly with a bald eagle. Childs's captivating essays, rich in sensuous imagery (the porcupine looks like a mop, a bundle of ponderosa pine needles, a mobile hairstyle), are hauntingly beautiful and replete with evocative observations of animal life. (Publisher Weekly)

Life of the Skies by Joshua Rogen

Starred Review. New Yorker contributor and novelist Rosen (The Talmud and the Internet; Joy Comes in the Morning) writes engagingly of his philosophy of how bird-watching in its broadest sense influences and fits into the fabric of Western and Judeo-Christian heritage. He draws examples generously and convincingly from the works of such major figures as Henry David Thoreau, Charles Darwin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Vladimir Nabokov, Alfred Tennyson, and John James Audubon, as well as Robert Frost, D.H. Lawrence, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, E.O. Wilson, Alfred Russel Wallace, and many others. Beautifully structured, Rosen's book ties these disparate authors and thinkers together in surprising ways. In addition, he cites ancient Persian poetry and contemplates the importance of birds and nature in the Holy Land. But much of his experience transpires at New York's Central Park and, with searches for the mythic ivory-billed woodpecker, in the Southeast. The psychology of our ties to nature and differences between the sexes are also touched upon. A sort of book-length essay, this is a most thoughtful, literate, and entertaining work. The interplay between religion and science, especially evolution, comes in for much scrutiny. (Library Journal)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tempting Titles - Nonfiction 200s - 300s

Here, in usual Dewey Decimal System order from your librarian book selectors, are some Tempting Titles of recent nonfiction books the library has either ordered or received in the past few months. Click on any title or image link to go to the online catalog and place a request for the book to be held for you when it becomes available.

200s Religion

Few of the recent books on atheism have been worth reading just for wit and style, but this is one of them: Paulos is truly funny. Despite the title, the Temple University math professor doesn't actually discuss mathematics much. In this short primer (“just the gist with an occasional jest”), Paulos tackles 12 of the most common arguments for God, including the argument from design, the idea that a “moral universality” points to a creator God, the notion of first causes and the argument from coincidence, among others. Along the way, he intersperses irreverent and entertaining little chapterlets that contain his musings on various subjects, including a rather hilarious imagined IM exchange with God that slyly parodies Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations with God . “Why does solemnity tend to infect almost all discussions of religion?” Paulos asks, clearly bemoaning the dearth of humor. This little book goes a long way toward correcting the problem, and provides both atheists and religious apologists some digestible food for thought along the way. (Publishers Weekly)
In this thought-provoking study, Bard College professor Chilton (Rabbi Jesus) asks how the Abrahamic faiths have understood Genesis 22, the story of the binding of Isaac. All three religions include a strand of interpretation that reads the binding of Isaac as valorizing the sacrifice of human life. Some rabbinic texts, for example, suggest that Abraham did in fact nick Isaac’s neck, shedding the boy’s blood, and that Isaac offers a model for “the necessary readiness for martyrdom.” Christianity has seen Isaac as prefiguring Jesus’ crucifixion, and Christians, too, find in both these sacrificial stories an approval of martyrdom. In Islam, Chilton finds a range of interpretations, some of which gradually make Ibrahim “more and more aggressive, to the point that Allah could only prevent the slaughter... by miraculous means.” These interpretations appear to underwrite violence, but Chilton also finds within Jewish, Christian and Islamic sacred texts a corrective: a clear insistence that God does not want human beings to sacrifice ourselves or our children. Today’s violent fundamentalists, Chilton claims, overlook those correctives and take their cues from readings of Genesis 22 that seem to favor human sacrifice. Chilton produces yet another creative and very relevant historical account. (Publishers Weekly)

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: what’s so good about the good news by Peter J. Gomes.
Once again, we are graced with a delightfully reflective volume by renowned preacher Gomes (Christian morals, Harvard; The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart ), who here deftly and elegantly weaves a spiritually rich narrative examining the nuances of Jesus-centered thinking and biblical understanding in the contemporary American landscape. In 11 chapters divided into three parts—"The Trouble with Scripture," "The Gospel and the Conventional Wisdom," and "Where Do We Go from Here?"—he creates a finely crafted statement about Jesus's role in a modern world rife with social, political, and economic problems. Personal vignettes, early American history, and current events accent the text. Gomes's relaxed yet intellectual style promotes the progressive message upon which he strikes in his later chapters (e.g., in "A Gospel of Hope"). (Library Journal)

New York Times best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Wills (history, emeritus, Northwestern Univ.; What Jesus Meant ) provides another splendid book for the educated general public. Here, he analyzes the four Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, insisting that the church deliberately "gives us four different takes on the central mystery" of Christ, which remains inexhaustible. He observes that Mark emphasizes Jesus's role as sufferer; Matthew systematically presents his teachings; Luke stresses the healing aspects of his mission; and John keeps always in mind his divinity. Wills also explains the parallelism between biblical Jewish and Christian Scripture and the use of symbolic language in the Gospels to reveal the meaning of biblical events ... (Library Journal)

Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine spirituality for Protestants by Dennis L. Okholm

Readers might not think that poverty, chastity and obedience would be attractive to the common Protestant, but Okholm, a theology professor at Azusa Pacific University, will make them think twice. ... He finds in Benedictine monasticism a helpful path to holiness, and he avoids idealizing or romanticizing the monastic life. ... The author invites readers to integrate some monastic practices into their daily lives and stresses that this does not involve cloistering themselves—these practices are both ordinary and sacred. He also provides an excellent example for Catholics and Protestants alike to dig deeply into the Christian tradition and find how both can spiritually benefit from the other. (Publishers Weekly)

Head and Heart: American Christianities by Garry Wills

In this learned, impassioned jeremiad, Pulitzer Prize–winning Wills (What Jesus Meant, 2006, etc.) traces two styles of Protestantism throughout American history and sounds the alarm about evangelicalism. During the Revolutionary era, the Enlightenment religious culture, which made possible the disestablishment of churches and gave birth to Transcendentalism, valued reason and tolerance. Evangelical emotionalism, on the other hand, which came to prominence in the religious revivals of the early 19th century, emphasizes feeling and teaches people to know God with their hearts rather than to scrutinize religion with their brains. The history of American Christianity, suggests Wills, can be viewed as a tug of war between those two impulses. Some of the freshest material here is the author's discussion of the mid-20th-century "great truce between the religious communities," in which different religious groups adopted an ecumenical friendliness and the nation seemed to settle into a comfortable state of being politely "Judeo-Christian." ... Despite his pessimism about the current administration, the author concludes on a hopeful note. Evangelical passion and Enlightenment intellectual rigor are not mutually exclusive, he says. Indeed, they are often present in the same church. (Kirkus Reviews)

300s Social sciences, economics, law, rights, education

Zoom: the global race to fuel the car of the future by Vijay Vaitheeswaran and Iain Carson

Cars and oil wrote the history of twentieth-century American capitalism. After a century of prosperity and power, the industries that shaped America more than any others are now at a crossroads. The age of oil and cars is giving way to something new. (First chapter excerpt)
"A stirring call to arms urging Americans to demand that the government act now to meet the challenges of global warming and to tackle the country's addiction to oil. ... A timely, authoritative book written in a punchy, easy-to-read style." – (Kirkus Reviews)

The Wall Street Journal Complete Identity Theft Guidebook: how to protect yourself from the most pervasive crime in America by Terri Cullen

Introduction: it could happen to you -- Preventing identity theft -- What is identity theft, anyway? -- Thinking like a thief -- Vigilance is the best protection -- The vital document : your credit report -- A closer look at an excellent, bad and average credit report -- The tech wars -- Life after identity theft -- Getting your identity back -- Easing the emotional pain -- Identity theft in pop culture -- Appendix One: Sample letters -- Appendix Two: Identity theft logs -- Appendix Three: The laws that protect you (Book's chapters)

Never Enough by Joe McGinnis

McGinniss (Fatal Vision) has produced another page-turning true-crime blockbuster. This surreal story of successful investment banker Robert Kissel and his compulsive-shopper wife Nancy living the seemingly perfect "expat" life in Hong Kong with their three children features plenty of money, sex, and greed. In 2003, Nancy and the kids spent time in Vermont during the SARS scare in Hong Kong. Rob suspected that she was having an affair there with a stereo installer, which he confirmed via a hired detective. He ordered her and the kids back to Hong Kong and then suspected that Nancy was poisoning him. His body was found soon after. Nancy was tried and convicted of his murder in Hong Kong, where she awaits appeal. Family squabbles ensued over custody of the children and their $20 million trust fund. In a bizarre subsequent chapter to this story, Rob's brother Andrew was found murdered in his home shortly after his own wife and kids had moved out. ... While the book's title may refer to the Kissel family's approach to life, it could also be the cry of McGinniss fans who love his way with such stories. (Library Journal)

The Associates: four capitalists who created California by Richard Raynor

"...a first-rate look at the little-known story behind the creation of America's first continental railroad-the story of Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins and Leland Stanford, founder of the university that bears his name...The associates were unscrupulous, savvy profiteers, whose motives were driven solely by a lust for riches and whose success usually came at the expense of others. After usurping engineer Theodore Judah's campaign to connect the Atlantic with the Pacific, the foursome capitalized on anti-Chinese sentiment, hiring desperate Chinese to do hazardous work in inhumane conditions for substandard wages. They later sanctioned murder yet successfully painted themselves as philanthropists thanks to the journalists and historians in their pockets. Amid a story of greed and ruthlessness, Rayner offers a fascinating glimpse into the growth of the U.S., illustrating how these determined if ruthless men revolutionized transportation and greatly influenced the expansion of California. ...Entertaining and well written, Rayner's book will appeal to readers interested in history as well as business.." (Publishers Weekly)

Search the Book Talk archives!