12 Booklist December 1, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
to champion insurrections as emancipatory
revolutions, not outbreaks of civil war. This
ambiguity looms large in a twenty-first-century world where wars between nations
have largely given way to wars within
nations—especially in Africa and Asia—
pitting religious, ethnic, regional, and political
factions against each other. And because
the United Nations applies international
law differently in conflicts officially recognized as civil wars, keen debates surround
such designation. Though the text suggests
that such debates are likely to continue, Armitage suggests that historically grounded
understanding of civil wars can help prevent their future occurrence, so ushering in
a Kantian era of “perpetual peace.” A profound contribution to political philosophy.
By Keggie Carew.
Mar. 2017. 432p. Atlantic Monthly, $24
During WWII, Tom Carew was a Jedburgh:
highly skilled military personnel used to coordinate and train guerilla forces. As a Jed, Tom
parachuted behind enemy lines in France and
Burma to fight the Germans and the Japanese, respectively. After escorting her aging
father to a Jedburghs’ reunion, author Keggie
Carew starts to piece together the history of
the man she has admired her whole life. Although much of the book details war exploits,
Keggie also shows the difficulties her father
had after the war, trying to live a “normal”
life. Snippets of Tom now, in his late eighties, suffering from dementia, and constantly
looking for a job to make him feel useful,
are heartbreaking. He seems a character out
of fiction, and Keggie tells his story and its
revelations beautifully. The rest of the family
loses out to Dad—Keggie’s siblings are rarely
mentioned in any detail—but this is Dadland,
where Keggie orbits the world of her father,
and that’s what you get. Fans of history and
memoir will enjoy this moving and compelling book. —Kathy Sexton
The Lost City of the Monkey God.
By Douglas Preston.
Jan. 2017. 380p. Grand Central, $28 ( 9781455540006);
e-book, $14.99 (9781455569410). 972.85.
For centuries a legend has been making the
rounds in Central America about a mono-
lithic lost Ciudad Blanca, or White City,
hidden deep in the primeval rain forests of
Honduras. So when Preston, a best-selling
crime-fiction and nonfiction author and fre-
quent National Geographic contributor, was
given the opportunity to join an archaeologi-
cal mission tasked with uncovering the truth
behind these rumors, he knew it would yield
a gripping true-life adventure story. Led by
nature-documentary filmmaker Steve Elkins,
the team included photographers, assorted
experts on pre-Columbian ruins, and a trio of
ex-military, jungle-warfare veterans. Buoyed
by tantalizing findings from a Honduran fly-
over using cutting-edge and classified lidar
mapping technology, Preston and company
trekked deep into treacherous, virtually un-
touched, jungle-shrouded terrain to verify the
stunning discovery of vast indigenous settle-
ments abandoned over 500 years ago. Replete
with informative archaeology lessons and col-
orful anecdotes about the challenges Elkins’
crew faced during the expedition, including
torrential rains and encounters with deadly
snakes, Preston’s uncommon travelogue is as
captivating as any of his more fanciful fiction-
al thrillers. —Carl Hays
The Meaning of Michelle: 15
Writers on the Iconic First Lady and
How Her Journey Inspires Our Own.
Ed. by Veronica Chambers.
Jan. 2017. 240p. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (9781250114969).
When Michelle Obama stepped on the na-
tional stage as the First Lady, she challenged
the view most Americans had about that
largely ceremonial position. She had been criti-
cized during the campaign
as an “angry black woman”
and scrutinized for every-
thing from her bangs to her
fist bumps. But all along,
Obama has had admirers
who applauded her sense of
authenticity as well as her
sense of style. Writer and
editor Chambers gathered essays from a wide
range of admirers who examine Obama’s indel-
ible impact on American culture as they explore
what her First Ladyship has meant to them as
artists, writers, social commentators, and jour-
nalists. The contributors recall Obama’s Bring
Back Our Girls campaign when 276 Nigerian
girls were kidnapped by terrorists, and her role
as mom-in-chief campaigning to fight child-
hood obesity. They also recall criticisms by
some feminists for her traditional role and
applause from black women delighted to see
a traditional black family on national display.
Many praise her accessibility, her combination
of success and a “home girl” quality that has
validated the ambitions of women, particularly
black women. Among the 16 contributors are
novelist Benilde Little; Tony-nominated actress
Phillipa Soo; film director Ava Duvernay; and
Charlene McCray, First Lady of New York
City. This is a glorious tribute to an incredible
woman. —Vanessa Bush
YA: This collection of incisive portraits of
a trailblazing African American woman
will inspire YAs. VB.
The Not-Quite States of America:
Dispatches from the Territories and
Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA.
By Doug Mack.
Feb. 2017. 320p. Norton, $26.95 (9780393247602). 909.
Most U.S. citizens think of their country
as 50 states, period. Yet the U.S. has sprinklings of islands in the Caribbean Sea and the
Pacific Ocean, territories that are under U.S.
ownership. Mack (Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a
Day, 2012) visited five major islands: the U.S.
Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the
Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.
These tiny landmasses played important roles
in U.S. history, but he went to find out what
function they serve today. Not all islands have
equal status, as Mack discovers that some are
commonwealths and some are unincorporated
territories, and these distinctions affect how
island citizens view their relationship with
the U.S. To be owned by a country, to have
some rights but not others, can create strange
(or strained) allegiances. Readers expecting a
travelogue will find less of that here; what they
will find are in-depth discussions of the history,
politics, and sociocultural realities that define
each island. One will never think about the
United States in quite the same way after this
enjoyable read. —Joan Curbow
A Very Expensive Poison: The
Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko
and Putin’s War with the West.
By Luke Harding.
Jan. 2017. 464p. Vintage, paper, $16 (9781101973998).
Prior to the death by radioactive poison of
Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in
2006 (see Alan S. Cowell’s The Terminal Spy,
2008), as award-winning journalist Harding
notes, “It might have seemed improbable verging on incredible that Russian assassins might
murder someone on the streets of London.”
Yet Harding’s tour de force account of Russian
murderous mayhem only starts with Litvinenko’s shocking death. He quickly moves on to
such suspicious deaths as Boris Berezovsky’s
locked-bathroom “suicide” and Alexander
Perepilichny’s post-jog “cardiac arrest,” noting
along the way that others, mostly those who
dared to oppose Putin and his minions, met
deaths mysterious or legal but brutal. Many of
those threatened or destroyed initially believed
that Putin was going to blot out corruption.
Instead, they discovered that “his aim was to
redistribute the state’s resources among his
KGB friends.” Harding’s exposé, shortlisted
for the CWA Nonfiction Dagger Award, could
not be more chilling or timely. As Berezovsky’s
daughter states, her father perceived Putin as a
“danger to the whole world. And you can see
that now.” A devastating and disturbing must-read. —Eloise Kinney
When Michelle Obama stepped on the national stage as the First Lady,
she challenged the view most Americans had about that largely ceremonial position.
—Vanessa Bush, on The Meaning of Michelle