August2017 Booklist 17 www.booklistonline.com
ing their experiences during the early days of
the war with those of less fortunate British citizens. This personal history makes for a striking
backdrop to the account of, first, the run-up to
war; then the German blitzkrieg into France;
finally, the evacuation of 300,000 mainly British troops from the beach at Dunkirk, aided
by the now-legendary “little boats,” pleasure
craft piloted by British citizens. Korda brings
a smooth, flowing style to the familiar story
but also shifts at least some of the typical
emphasis, noting that “celebration of the
evacuation and immortalization of the ‘little
boats’ has tended to draw attention away from
the savage fighting that preceded it.” Equally
fascinating is his analysis of how Hitler’s decision to divert his tanks from Dunkirk allowed
the British to turn defeat into a strange kind
of victory. In all, Korda succeeds in infusing
straight history with the accessible tone of
narrative nonfiction. —Bill Ott
At the Strangers’ Gate: Arrivals in
By Adam Gopnik.
Sept. 2017. 288p. Knopf, $26.95 (9781400041800).
When Gopnik (The Table Comes First, 2011),
an award-winning New Yorker staff writer and
author, arrived in New York with the love of
his life in 1980, he was all set
to earn a graduate degree in art
history and write “wry essays”
and “witty lyrics” à la Gershwin. His academic and creative
dreams collided, inevitably,
with fiscal realities, setting up
a classic template for a “how I
survived and succeeded memoir.” But Gopnik takes it further. By virtue of
his exceptional observational and analytical
powers, acute emotional and moral exactitude,
and charmingly rueful sense of humor, he turns
in a riveting and incandescent chronicle of
personal evolution vividly set within the ever-morphing, cocaine-stoked crucible of ferocious
ambition that was 1980s Manhattan. He tells
tales of the forging of a marriage; of nightmarish apartment battles with verminous hordes;
of fortuitous jobs at museums, men’s fashion
magazines, and a book publisher; and of bonds
developed with critic Robert Hughes, artist Jeff
Koons, and, most profoundly, photographer
Richard Avedon. Arabesque, captivating, self-deprecating, and affecting, Gopnik’s cultural
and intimate reflections, in league with those
of Alfred Kazin and Joan Didion, are rich in
surprising moments and delving perceptions
into chance, creativity, character, style, conviction, hard work, and love. —Donna Seaman
The Death of an Heir: Adolph Coors
III and the Murder That Rocked an
American Brewing Dynasty.
By Philip Jett.
Sept. 2017. 320p. St. Martin’s, $27.99
Founded by German immigrants Adolph
A Disappearance in Damascus:
Coors and Jacob Schueler in 1873, the Gold-
en, Colorado-based Coors brewery is still the
largest of its kind in the world. Yet few of the
popular pilsner beer’s millions of consumers
are probably aware today that in 1960 the kid-
napping of Adolph’s grandson, Adolph “Ad”
Herman Joseph Coors III, an avid sportsman
and father of four, set off one of the biggest
manhunts in American criminal history. Jett,
a former corporate attorney, brings this sad
chapter in the Coors family archives to vivid
life here, complete with crackling dialogue and
a colorful cast of real-life characters, includ-
ing the kidnapper himself, the surprisingly
well-educated career thief, Joseph Corbett Jr.
Reveling in the case’s details, Jett describes how
Ad went missing for months while his grand-
father enlisted FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s
help and the family anxiously waited for news.
The author puts his legal experience to good
use with behind-the-scenes insights into inves-
tigative legwork while crafting a suspenseful
true-crime narrative that reads like an edge-of-
the-seat detective story. —Carl Hays
Friendship and Survival in the
Shadow of War.
By Deborah Campbell.
Sept. 2017. 352p. Picador, $27 (9781250147875).
In 2007, Campbell meets Ahlam in Damascus while reporting on Iraqi refugees in Syria.
Ahlam is a highly recommended and well-educated fixer: an interpreter and guide who can
help journalists find sources and make connections. A refugee herself, Ahlam fled Iraq after
she had been kidnapped and threatened for her
work with American soldiers.
In Damascus, Ahlam sets up
a school for young girls and
continues working with foreign journalists. Her work
is risky, as the government
fears American interference
in Syria. During Campbell’s
return to Damascus for a
new story, Syrian authorities arrest Ahlam.
Campbell struggles to find where Ahlam is being held and on what charges, but there seems
to be no way for her to help. A Disappearance
in Damascus, winner of Canada’s 2016 Hilary
Weston Writer’s Trust Prize for Nonfiction,
tells Ahlam’s remarkable story of tragedy and
resilience while situating her experience within
the larger context of the war in Iraq. Campbell’s captivating writing allows readers to see
inside the life of a foreign correspondent and
the bonds forged and broken through investigative reporting. —Laura Chanoux
YA: Young adults interested in the human
side of war will appreciate Campbell’s
nuanced, thoughtful writing. LC.
Fantasyland: How America Went
Haywire, a 500-Year History.
By Kurt Andersen.
Sept. 2017. 480p. Random, $30 (9781400067213). 973.
We have elected a President who regularly
The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap
spews out “alternate facts” and conspiracy
theories. According to writer and popular
broadcaster Andersen ( True Believers, 2012),
this isn’t an aberration but a logical culmi-
nation of an evolving trend in our national
DNA. America was founded on the freedom
of the individual, a laudable concept with a
dark side: everyone has license to believe and
propagate a personal version of reality. That,
combined with the dramatic acceleration of
information-sharing over the Internet, has
given rise to a segment of our society that
is living in a fantasy land in which verifiable
facts are forbidden. To support this assertion,
Andersen takes readers on a long, chrono-
logical tour, beginning with the religious
certainty and intolerance of sixteenth-century
Protestants. He then proceeds to savage colo-
nial witch scares, Mormonism, fake medicinal
cures, and a wide variety of contemporary po-
litical delusions. Andersen paints with a broad
brush, and his efforts to connect dots seem
flawed at times. Still, this disturbing examina-
tion of how fringe and crackpot ideas enter
the mainstream makes worthy, provocative
reading. —Jay Freeman
Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap
By Bryant Simon.
Sept. 2017. 320p. New Press, $26.95 (9781620972380);
e-book (9781620972397). 974.7.
Simon, professor of history at Temple University, uses the horrific event of a devastating
accident at a chicken-processing plant in rural
North Carolina to examine the consequences
of the modern American convenience diet,
where everything is expendable. Numerous
interviews with survivors put the reader at
the scene, and Simon incorporates the works
of many other scholars to place the Imperial
Food Products factory directly into the larger
economic and social landscape—where relentless cost cutting provides low-wage workers
with inexpensive food laden with fat, sugar,
and salt. Simon discusses the ideology of cheap
as a return to the Gilded Age, where dangerous and fatal working conditions, low wages,
and government indifference produced the Triangle Shirtwaist fire 80 years earlier. This is not
a happy story, nor does it have a happy ending
in the way outrage at the Triangle fire helped
spark the New Deal, but it is engaging and humanizing. In a time in which so much cruelty
is tolerated, this book will be a strong addition
to any history or social sciences collection, and
well worth the reader’s time. —James Pekoll
The Last Castle: The Epic Story of
Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the
Nation’s Largest Home.
By Denise Kiernan.
Sept. 2017. 400p. Touchstone, $28 (9781476794044).
From the Gilded Age to the present, Kiernan ( The Girls of Atomic City, 2013) traces
the history of Biltmore, the estate of George
Vanderbilt in what was then the sleepy town
of Asheville, North Carolina. At a leisurely