8 Booklist October 1, 2015 www.booklistreader.com
as a specially focused—and unquestionably
riveting—ride-along with three friends. Expe-
rienced automotive writer Cotter, car-collector
Brian Barr, and photographer Ross embarked
on a successful 2,700-
mile, 14-day trip
through Virginia, West
and Pennsylvania in
Cotter’s restored 1939
Ford woody station
wagon, in search of
old cars. “We had been
challenged by [the publisher] to find and doc-
ument all the old cars we could in 14 days.”
They wondered as they wandered, Does that
old barn house a vintage automobile? Is be-
yond that thicket of trees and brambles a field
packed with old Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs, and
even—as the men did indeed find—a breath-
takingly beautiful (and classic) 1937 Cord?
Underscored by the infectious sentiment that
“discovering an old car is a very special oc-
casion,” Cotter and his buddies adhere to a
cardinal rule of such a pursuit: ask! Taking fre-
quent stops, they asked around for clues as to
where they might find old cars, and their inqui-
ries paid off (made easier and more productive
because people responded to Cotter’s lovely
Ford woody). As far as to whether the cars
they found were actually for sale or not, Cot-
ter says this: “Cars featured in this book might
have been for sale when I wrote it in the fall of
2014. These for-sale references were meant to
be interesting tidbits about how very ancient
cars are actually still out there and available
for purchase.” Regardless, the nonbuyers—but
car enthusiasts nevertheless—among us will
live, for a couple of hours at least, vicariously
through the men’s excitement in such a splen-
did endeavor. —Brad Hooper
Health & Medicine
The Brain Electric: The Dramatic High-Tech Race to Merge Minds and Machines.
By Malcolm Gay.
Oct. 2015. 288p. illus. Farrar, $26 (9780374139841).
The Six Million Dollar Man, a popular mid-
Saving Gotham: A Billionaire Mayor,
1970s TV show, featured the astounding
exploits of an injured astronaut who was “re-
built” with bionic implants—an eye, an arm,
and both legs. What seemed far-fetched and at
times cartoonish back then is now on the verge
of reality. Journalist Gay reports on dazzling
research involving a brain-computer interface
and a brain-controlled robotic arm. Readers
are introduced to both ambitious scientists and
patients with daunting neurologic problems,
including physical paralysis and recurrent sei-
zures. Technology, in the form of implants and
electrodes, that seemingly melds machine with
the human body is already in use: cochlear im-
plants for deafness, deep-brain stimulation for
Parkinson’s disease or tremor, and retinal im-
plants with microelectrodes countering severe
vision loss. One neurosurgeon declares, “Ma-
chines are becoming more and more enmeshed
in our personal sense of ourselves.” Once
implanted, these devices are indeed “us.” The
Brain Electric convincingly illuminates the ways
current biomedical research and breakthroughs
in neuroprosthetics are steadily gaining
ground on what was once wild science fiction.
Activist Doctors, and the Fight for Eight
By Tom Farley.
Oct. 2015. 304p. Norton, $27.95 (9780393071245).
Imagine trying to save eight million people
from themselves. Well, from making some bad
choices, anyway. That was the task author and
current New York City Department of Health
and Mental Hygiene commissioner Farley
stepped up to undertake when he signed on to
help former mayor Michael Bloomberg clear
the city’s air of cigarette smoke. Even though
Bloomberg had thrown down the gauntlet, the real driver was Farley’s predecessor,
Thomas Frieden. According to Farley, when
Frieden took the department’s reins, in 2001,
it was accomplishing little more than issuing
birth and death certificates. The latter showed
that most were dying of what Farley calls
noncommunicable diseases—cancer, heart
disease, diabetes, and stroke. Frieden’s vision
included rewriting the definition of public
health to include combating diseases brought
on by poor life choices such as smoking and
consuming unhealthy trans fats and sugary
foods. Although this reads somewhat like an
apologia in an effort to offset massive media
criticism and food-industry lawsuits, Farley
does offer plausible justification for widening the boundaries of public health’s reach.
The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book about
By Neil Strauss.
Oct. 2015. 448p. Harper/Dey Street, $29.99
(9780060898762); e-book (9780062355584). 326.29.
The author of the notorious tell-all The Game
(2005) checking into sex-addiction rehab?
Strauss, a writer for Rolling Stone who not only
wrote about, as the subtitle of The Game puts
it, “penetrating the secret society of pickup
artists,” but who also became a pickup artist
himself, turns out to be unhappy that he cheat-
ed on his girlfriend and is seeking to find a way
to be true to himself. The result is The Truth, a
brutally honest and emotionally exhaustive ac-
count of his search for sexual freedom. Strauss
skewers many of those he meets on his journey,
from his hapless fellow sex addicts and their
domineering group leader to the New Age
polyamorists who have a marked preoccupa-
tion with extraterrestrials. But he reserves his
most searing insights for himself. Yes, there are
orgies and swinger parties, but there are also far
more intense discussions about the meaning of
intimacy and the underlying causes of sexual
behavior. Strauss struggles to learn a hard les-
son—that there are rules in any relationship,
and to play the only game that matters, you
need to find rules that both partners can follow.
Counting Down The Rolling Stones:
Their 100 Finest Songs.
By Jim Beviglia.
Nov. 2015. 260p. Rowman & Littlefield, $35
(9781442254466); e-book, $34.99 (9781442254473).
The third in Beviglia’s Counting Down
series (after books about Bob Dylan and
Bruce Springsteen) enumerates the Rolling
Stones’ 100 best songs, as determined by
the author. It’s a book for hard-core Stones
fans, especially those with a fairly extensive knowledge of music. For each song,
the author tells us which album it’s from,
comments on the themes and writing of
the song, and provides a capsule analysis of
the musical performance. As with all lists of
“bests,” the point here is for readers to make
their own lists, disagreeing with gusto. Still,
Beviglia includes lots of the Stones’ classics
(“Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Gimme Shelter,”
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “You Can’t
Always Get What You Want,” and “Get Off
of My Cloud,” among them), but the order
in which they appear is sure to spark debate
(as will the author’s choice for number 100,
which many will believe doesn’t belong on
the list at all). Definitely not a book for those
who don’t follow classic rock, but just as definitely a must for devoted Stones fans, who
cross multiple generations. —David Pitt
Dirty Blvd: The Life and Music of Lou Reed.
By Aidan Levy.
Oct. 2015. 416p. illus. Chicago Review, $28.95
Lou Reed had nearly a decade’s experience
under his belt as lead singer and songwriter for
the cult favorite Velvet Underground before
he went solo in the early 1970s, but somehow
he was reborn as a solo artist, able to find his
own voice. Taking its title from one of Reed’s
songs, this skillfully written and respectful biography takes us through Reed’s life and career.
Author Levy, a fan of Reed’s music, was planning the book before Reed’s death in 2013 and
has clearly cast this finished work as both a
life story and a tribute to an iconic musician.
Gathering information from a variety of sources, including interviews with people who knew
and worked with Reed, previously published
material, archival footage of Reed performing,
and various bootleg tapes, Levy has produced
an informative and insightful look at a rock star
and songwriter whose work always cut a little
deeper than that of his peers. —David Pitt
How to Watch a Movie.
By David Thomson.
Nov. 2015. 256p. Knopf, $24.95 (9781101875391). 791.43.
Per film-critic and author extraordinaire