August2017 Booklist 13 www.booklistonline.com
scholarly information combined with brilliant
designs. —Barbara Jacobs
Ponchos to Knit: More Than 40 Projects
and Paired Accessories in Classic and
By Denise Samson.
Aug. 2017. 130p. illus. Trafalgar Square, paper, $22.95
Today, a poncho is not just a poncho as
worn by 1970s hippies. As Oslo-based knitter and author Samson ( The Cable Knitter’s
Guide, 2017) demonstrates, it’s a multipurpose garment, serving as a shawl, sweater,
neck warmer, even glamorous accessory. So
her 40-plus designs include not only the
over-the-head version but also accompanying accessories—scarves, headbands, boot
toppers. Though billed as both classic and
contemporary in design, styles lean toward
the traditional—cables, stripes, Fair Isle, and
the like—with muted colors the norm. There
is something for everyone, ranging from
novice to experienced (even though level of
difficulty is not indicated); each includes at
least one color photograph of the finished
garment in addition to good instructions.
The beginning introduces knitters (and crocheters, too) to the different poncho shapes
and features abbreviations, important to distinguish in this age of transatlantic patterns
(UK and U.S.). —Barbara Jacobs
Sports & Recreation
Electric October: Seven World Series
Games, Six Lives, Five Minutes of Fame
That Lasted Forever.
By Kevin Cook.
Aug. 2017. 304p. illus. Holt, $30 (9781250116567).
The year 1947 will always be remembered
for being Jackie Robinson’s rookie year
with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but the subway World Series that season between the
Dodgers and the Yankees was memorable in
its own right, as Cook makes clear in this
entertaining slice of baseball history. The focus is on six individuals who helped give the
series—the first ever to be televised—its luster: managers Burt Shotton (Dodgers) and
Bucky Harris (Yankees); pitcher Bill Bev-ens and the man who ruined his no-hitter
and won the fourth game for the Dodgers,
Cookie Lavagetto; Al Gionfriddo, whose
spectacular catch off Joe DiMaggio is still
replayed every year; and Yankees second-baseman Snuffy Stirnweiss, whose tragic
death in a train wreck is recounted sensitively. Cook capably sums up the early and later
lives of his subjects (none had distinguished
careers), along with tracing the year’s pennant races and the series games themselves,
relying on family reminiscences and the
quotations of others, most particularly announcer Red Barber, who penned the classic
1947: When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball
(1982). —Mark Levine
The Best of Us.
By Joyce Maynard.
Sept. 2017. 448p. Bloomsbury, $27 (9781635570342). 818.
In Erich Segal’s indelible novel Love Story
(1970), cancer tragically ends a great romance.
Maynard (Under the Influence, 2016) could
have used the same title for
her latest memoir. Previously
unlucky in love, the prolific
journalist and author falls
hard for a handsome, nice
lawyer named Jim Barringer
and, at 59, marries him. Both
are divorced parents with
three kids, and both share a
dark sense of humor. Unfortunately, they don’t
get to live happily ever after; soon after their
first wedding anniversary, Jim is diagnosed with
pancreatic cancer. Over 18 months, he wastes
away to 90 pounds. Still, he rallies to go to a
Bob Dylan concert with Joyce with help from
a team of old hippie nurses called Rock Medicine. Maynard isn’t afraid to tell the truth. At
one point, she gives Jim extra morphine, thinking he wouldn’t want to hang on this way, and
hospice reports her to the police. He keeps living, though, and Joyce keeps lying next to him
in bed every night. At 64, 1,647 days after they
met, he dies in his sleep. Expect Maynard’s
powerful descriptions to linger. This haunting
story, penned by a master wordsmith, is a reminder to savor every loved one and every day.
Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and
Heartbreak in the Stacks.
By Annie Spence.
Sept. 2017. 288p. Flatiron, $18.99 (9781250152930);
e-book, $9.99 (9781250113887). 818.
Public librarian Spence has something to say
to many of the countless books she’s known,
from categories good, bad, and other. A consummate reader, Spence
also considers being a kid,
mom, wife, and librarian
in this collection of letters
to titles ranging from Nikki
Giovanni’s Love Poems to the
weedable Principles of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis or the
more conceptual Book That
Jeffrey Eugenides May Have Owned and Written
Personal Notes In. Her letter to Roget’s Thesaurus
is a delight. Library lovers will dig the apropos
subject headings she gives each letter; fellow
bibliophiles will swoon at her well-articulated
feelings about her favorites; all will find the
breakup notes oddly cathartic (“I’m putting
you in a Little Free Library”) and appreciate
her book’s final, readers’-advisory-informed
section of superb reading lists of all sorts.
Readers need not share Spence’s likes and dis-
likes, or even have a familiarity with the books
she addresses, to appreciate this clever, heart-
felt, and often-funny exercise, and they will
hope that Spence has more in store. Someday,
somewhere, a book addressed in a loving let-
ter might be one of hers: Dear Dear Fahrenheit
451, thanks for the lovely reminder of the ways
we find ourselves in books. —Annie Bostrom
YA: Teen book lovers will appreciate
Spence’s uncensored approach. AB.
By Patti Smith.
Sept. 2017. 112p. illus. Yale, $18 (9780300218626).
Smith (M Train, 2015), a contemplative
writer of gratitude and reverence who names
her muses in poems, memoirs, and songs, deepens her inquiry into the nature of inspiration in
this slender, trenchant volume, the first in Yale’s
Why I Write series. In lyric essays, a story, poems, and photographs, Smith illuminates the
whirl of chance and choice that stokes a writer’s
imagination, recounting her fascination on the
eve of a trip to Paris with Simone Weil and an
evocative, accidentally discovered film about
Stalin’s mass deportation of Estonians. In
France, a gravestone, a televised figure-skating
competition, a meal, and a garden all converge
in what becomes “Devotion,” an exquisite and
devastating fairy tale about a young, displaced
Estonian skater and a solitary dealer in rare
objects and arms. This reverberating and tragic
fable about creativity and obsession, possession
and freedom is followed by a meditation on
how a work of art is, for other artists, “a call to
action.” Gracefully improvisational, as always,
Smith offers an unusually poetic, mystical, and
transfixing perspective on the mystery of literary creation. —Donna Seaman
The Dharma of The Princess Bride:
What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our
Time Can Teach Us about Buddhism and
By Ethan Nichtern.
Sept. 2017. 288p. Farrar/North Point, $26
The Princess Bride has been a cult classic since its debut in 1987. Kids love it for
the swashbuckling fights and silly humor.
Adults love it as a parody of fairy tales and
romance. Buddhist teacher Nichtern loves it
as an example of the dharma of relationships.
It doesn’t hurt that Christopher Guest, who
plays the Six-Fingered Man, is his father’s
best friend. Having watched the movie more
than 30 times, Nichtern examines the film
from three perspectives: friendship, romance,
and family. He cites examples of trust, inspiration, and generosity shown by the three
friends, Inigo, Fezzik, and Wesley. The villains portray delusion, hatred, and greed.
Nichtern describes the search for his own
Buttercup and the lessons he learned about
love. Finally, he looks at the grandfather character and the importance of finding one’s place
in one’s family. Examples from the author’s
personal life add warmth to this study of relationships and Buddhist philosophy. Fans
of the movie will want to see it again armed
with Nichtern’s insights. —Candace Smith
YA/S: Older teens who love the movie
will enjoy Nichtern’s interpretation. CS.