April 15, 2016 Booklist 11 www.booklistonline.com
environmental degradation, responsible for
eroding the fishing industry. In another, he
describes a yearly ritual in Hyderabad, where
tens of thousands of people come to swallow a
live fish stuffed with medicine, believed to be
a cure for all maladies. Unique and entertaining, Subramanian’s impassioned, well-written,
thoughtful quest will draw in even readers
who might not have the same tireless love
of fish. A cultural and culinary journey well
worth taking. —Sarah Grant
Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and
Famiglia from My Italian Mother-in-Law.
By Katherine Wilson.
Apr. 2016. 304p. Random, $27 (9780812998160); e-book
Vivid, candid, and oftentimes hilariously
honest, this memoir traces Wilson’s decision
to leave her uniquely quirky, well-to-do family in the northeastern U.S. to experience
the exquisite flavors of Neapolitan life. After
graduating college and unsure of what her
future should be, Wilson leaves her eccentric
family to study abroad in Naples. There she
almost immediately falls in love with the city,
its food, and the family of the man she will
later marry, Salvatore Avallone. In true Italian
fashion, his mother, Rafaella, expertly educates Wilson in key life lessons, one recipe at a
time, showing how culture, food, and love are
inextricably linked. Wilson’s own unhealthy
relationship with food is positively altered
as she strengthens her relationships with the
Avallone family and finds a new home in
Naples. The recipes included and the stories
of famiglia are studded with mouth-watering
meals, from the simple Neapolitan pizza to
the complex ragú. Each experience, each delicious meal is insightfully described as the
reader follows Wilson’s path toward carnale,
becoming confident and comfortable in one’s
own skin. —Becca Smith
Voyager: Travel Writings.
By Russell Banks.
May 2016. 288p. Ecco, $25.99 (9780061857676); e-book
Fans of Banks’ exceptional fiction (A Per-
manent Member of the Family, 2013) and
all readers enamored of travelogues will
clamor aboard this compact, gusto-filled,
Castro. He complicates an
assignment to the Carib-
bean with provocative scrutiny of his three
failed marriages. Banks takes blame for the
divorces yet suggests that his mother and
ex-wives wanted to control his life. Banks’
warm, probing intellect guides readers on
thoughtful journeys whatever the desti-
nation: a 1980s hippie reunion near the
University of North Carolina, the “Berke-
ley of the South”; a solitary paddling trip
in the Everglades; and visits to historic slav-
ery sites in West Africa and the Caribbean.
He treks the Andes and the Himalayas and
takes a cynical drive in a Humvee along the
Alaskan coast. Banks meets an oil-company
executive in the Eden-like Seychelles and is
unimpressed when he opines that it’s too late
to save the planet. Marriage comes a fourth
time, in Edinburgh, a match that has lasted
for almost 30 years. Readers will be hard put
to find a more engaging travel companion.
The 1916 Irish Rebellion.
By Bríona Nic Dhiarmada.
Apr. 2016. 240p. illus. Univ. of Notre Dame, $45
Scholar, documentary writer and producer,
and University of Notre Dame professor Nic
Dhiarmada spent five years leading a team of
researchers and creatives who spanned two
continents to create this ambitious history of
Ireland’s Easter Rising to bring the full story
forth on the 100th anniversary. Beginning on
July 8, 1911, in Dublin, when newly crowned
King George V made an ill-advised visit to Ireland, Nic Dhiarmada tracks the critical events
that led up to and were part of the Irish battle
for independence from Britain, assembling a
filmic time line matched by an intriguing narrative. Rich in fascinating historical photographs
and informative and poignant documents that
capture each phase of the struggle and its inevitable and tragic outcome, this striking volume
tells the complex tale of a singular chapter in the
long war against colonialism in plain and ringing language. The three-part PBS documentary
based on the book is narrated by Ireland’s
acclaimed native son actor Liam Neeson.
—Glendy X. Mattalia
The Audacious Crimes of Colonel Blood:
The Spy Who Stole the Crown Jewels
and Became the King’s Secret Agent.
By Robert Hutchinson.
June 2016. 352p. illus. Pegasus, $27.95
Hutchinson’s focus on the seventeenth-century Anglo-Irishman Thomas Blood, who
committed crimes and switched allegiances
and identities while coming, numerous times,
within a hair’s breadth of discovery during the
Cromwellian and Restoration eras, provides a
great lens onto this most perilous and outrageous of times. Historian Hutchinson, who
also wrote Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII
(2012), among other popular histories, refutes
Code Warriors: NSA’s Code Breakers and
the common view that the Restoration was an
era of peace, fashion, and hilarious social come-
dies by showing in detail how Charles II’s neck
and government were in continual peril from a
series of plots and uprisings (often spearheaded
by Blood). Some of Blood’s exploits beggar
belief. He successfully masterminded a plot
in 1671 to capture the crown jewels from the
Tower of London, made off with the crown
itself, was apprehended but not executed. He
was a favorite of Charles II, working as his spy,
but hiring himself out to others. The life of
Colonel Blood and the goings-on of the Crom-
wellian and Restoration eras are told here with
utter vivacity. —Connie Fletcher
the Secret Intelligence War against the
By Stephen Budiansky.
June 2016. 416p. Knopf, $30 (9780385352666). 940.54.
This history of the National Security Agency, filled with the intricacies of cryptology,
reads like a thriller. Budiansky, a cryptologist and former national correspondent for
U.S. News & World Report, is able to fill his
story with suspense because he focuses on
the actual men and women who struggled to
break enemy codes. The scope here extends
from the NSA growing out of Allied efforts
to crack Nazi and Japanese codes during
WWII through the Cold War (the book’s last
section is titled “Last Hurrahs of the Code-breakers, 1979”). The struggles grow murkier
in the Cold War, with intelligence expanding
not only to suspected spies but also to U.S.
citizens (Budiansky begins his work with a
reflection on Edward Snowden). Cryptology
is a complex subject in all its incarnations—
especially in the context of the NSA—but
Budiansky makes his material remarkably accessible for general readers. His appendixes
focus on advanced problems, like “Russian
Teleprinter Ciphers” and “The Index of Coincidence,” which, like the rest of the book, will
prove intriguing for expert and novice alike.
The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir.
By D. Watkins.
May 2016. 272p. Grand Central, $26 (9781455588640). 974.
The author of the acclaimed The Beast Side
(2015) inherited his brother Bip’s big-time
Baltimore dope business after Bip’s murder.
Watkins’ story, told in hip-hop style with
appropriate slang, is in large part a reclama-
tion saga, a kind of rap dream, as Watkins
transforms himself from drug dealer to
teacher and writer (he has a master’s from
Johns Hopkins). The book is in the tradition
of Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised
Land (1965), Sister Souljah’s No Disrespect
(1995), and numerous other up-from-the-
ghetto memoirs. It also evokes Jeff Hobbs’ The
Searching India’s coast from east to west, New Yorker food writer and
journalist Subramanian hunts down India’s finest fish cuisines. . . . A
cultural and culinary journey well worth taking.
—Sarah Grant, on Following Fish