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The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.
The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of June 6 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Deadby Tom Stoppard, read by a full cast. For more Reviews of the Week and other exciting lists, check out the always freely available Booklist Blog.
Monday, October 17
★ David Smith: The Art and Life of a Transformational Sculptor, by Michael Brenson
Art critic Brenson’s exactingly researched, richly analytical, and steadfastly eloquent biography is the first comprehensive study of the radical sculptor David Smith. Born in Indiana in 1906, Smith loved to draw. A rebellious teen in Ohio, he was an ardent reader, yet ended up dropping out of college. He met artist Dorothy Dehner (who deserves her own biography) in New York and she steered him to the Art Students League. They married in 1927 and acquired 77 acres and a very old house in Bolton Landing in the Adirondacks, where Smith, who also had a studio in an ironworks on a Brooklyn pier, became a master welder and the driving force in the new realm of abstract sculpture.
Tuesday, October 18
★ Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’s Photographs Reveal about the Japanese American Incarceration, by Elizabeth Partridge, illustrated by Lauren Tamaki
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, he authorized the removal and imprisonment of over 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. Three photographers—two white and free; one Japanese and imprisoned, relying on contraband equipment—documented the forced removal and incarceration at Manzanar, one of 10 federal prison camps. The government hired Dorothea Lange, renowned for her 1930s Dust Bowl images, to photograph the “humane, orderly way” relocation orders were enforced; although “horrified,” Lange took the assignment “to show what the government was doing was unfair and undemocratic.”
Wednesday, October 19
★ Holy Ghost: The Life & Death of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler, by Richard Koloda
Innovative saxophonist Albert Ayler has been obscured by a nimbus of rumors and myths, much like the lights accompanying the UFOs that fascinated him. Koloda is the first to bring Ayler, a renegade and spiritual artist, into crisp focus, thanks to conversations with family members, including Donald, Albert’s trumpet-player brother, while also presenting a full accounting of Ayler’s controversial performances and recordings. Even as a boy in Cleveland, forced to practice by his father, Albert rejected melody for the “free” approach that later caused him to be banned from clubs and jam sessions even as he became a profound inspiration to John Coltrane and many others.
Thursday, October 20
★ README.txt, by Chelsea Manning
In 2010, Chelsea Manning, then a 22-year-old army military analyst, sent thousands of classified military documents to WikiLeaks. When this information started going public, some people called her a hero for exposing government actions that had been withheld from the American public; others called her a traitor and called for the death penalty. Manning covers these events in great detail in this engaging, brutally honest memoir, in which she eloquently describes her growing disillusionment with the military and the work-related PTSD that contributed to her ultimate decision. Manning also describes the inhumane treatment she experienced while awaiting trial before receiving her 35-year prison sentence, a sentence later commuted by President Obama. Perhaps even more compelling, however, are Manning’s descriptions of living as a transgender woman.
Friday, October 21
★ Creature: Paintings, Drawings, and Reflections, written and illustrated by Shaun Tan
Here is a figure, draped in an endearingly shabby overcoat covered with buttons, whose head is a spinning wheel spooled with thread. This not atypical creation by multiple-award-winning Australian illustrator Tan exemplifies the dichotomies he works with: the disconcertingly outlandish as affectionately familiar, the humanization of technology, the domestic neighboring the industrial. This gorgeously designed coffee-table survey of his picture book, comics, exhibition, and sketchbook work exposes readers to a 26-year panoply of off-kilter conceptions, in all their disquieting delight. Untethered from their narratives, the images are left “wonderfully unclear,” setting readers free to roam and invent, to fill in the generous blanks.
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