Book Reviews
Books New to the Shelves of the CLUI Library and Bookshop

Interpretative Centers: The History, Design and Development of Nature and Visitor Centers
Michael Gross and Ron Zimmerman, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Foundation Press, 2002
An examination of the forms, techniques, and architectures of these increasingly common, single purpose, and sometimes sophisticated structures. Visitor Centers are so often considered with postmodern irony that much of their richness and artistry is missed. This book of mostly captioned photographs is written for the interpretive trade, and is meant to stimulate and encourage better design by highlighting a few dozen of the best recent work in the field, such as the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump interpretive center in Alberta.

In the Desert of Desire
William L. Fox, University of Nevada Press, 2005
Another surprising, idiosyncratic humdinger from left field that lands right on target from Bill Fox, the prolific poet and sage of the Big Empty. Here he looks at the current state of the arts in Las Vegas, from Steve Wynn’s art collecting practices, to the showmanship of Zumanity, and makes it seem important to the rest of the world. This is no outsiders fear and learning from Las Vegas, this is a smart dissection of this important like-it-or-not place, from someone who knows their way around. Contrary to popular belief, Las Vegas is NOT going away any time soon.

Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape
Brian Hayes, Norton, 2005
This book landed in our library like a bomb. Here are the main chapters: Out of the Earth, Waterworks, Food and Farming, Oil and Gas, Power Plants, The Power Grid, On the Road, The Railroad, Bridges and Tunnels, Aviation, Shipping, and Wastes and Recycling. 520 pages, and hundreds of color photographs by the author over the past 15 years. Its only problem is also its highest achievement: its broad scope and large size. If each chapter were a separate book, then maybe it really could be a “field guide” and not the encyclopedia that it really is. None the less, this book is a landmark, and should be absorbed by everyone, no matter how long it takes (we are still chewing).

LIC In Context: An Unorthodox Guide to Long Island City
Paul Parkhill and Katherine Gray, Furnace Press, 2005
A useful, surprising, and unconventional street guide to 54 points of interest in the urbanscape that lies in the shadow of Manhattan.

Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage
Heather Rogers, New Press, 2005
A history and analysis of the main channels of the waste stream - hauling, dumping, landfilling - and the reasons why we generate so much of it in the first place. Garbage is a fairly new invention, connected with mass production of things made out of paper, plastic, metal, and glass. In the last 30 years, Americans have doubled the amount of trash we collectively generate, and now packaging – not even really a product itself - takes up around 30% of landfill space. The author also argues that while recycling makes us feel better, the majority of the contents of those carefully sorted curbside bins ends up in landfills anyways. And making us feel better about our waste, even if it involves donations to Goodwill, actually supports and sustains our consuming behavior, rather than addressing it.

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash
Elizabeth Royte, Little Brown and Co., 2005
A personal journey of discovery along the waste stream, this one starts with a quantified study of the author’s own domestic waste habits, heads out the door into the DSNY truck route, to the transfer station in Red Hook, to the incinerator in Newark, and the landfills of Pennsylvania. Along the way, she tells the story of waste handling, solid and liquid, and the people she encounters along the way that operate the various parts of the disposal machine.

Greetings from the Salton Sea
Kim Stringfellow, Center for American Places, 2005
Like we say on the back cover, “Kim Stringfellow’s odyssey into the Salton Sea excavates cultural relics and treasures that surprise and astound. She weaves the fragments, tatters, and shards that she found into a salty tale that makes one nostalgic for the sea’s future, something that seems always around the bend. She has adds an eloquent new exhibit to this museum of Decay.”

Quonset Huts: Metal Living for a Modern Age
Julie Decker and Chris Chiei, Princeton Architectural Press, 2005
Its about time someone made a new book about this common and sensible architectural form, something that is found all over the nation, and is used in so many different ways (Quonsets may in fact be the closest thing to a “national” architectural form). This is the book on the subject. Another gem from Princeton Architectural Press.

Underground Buildings: More than Meets the Eye
Loretta Hall, Quill Driver Books, 2004
The most complete overview of the variety of underground building types, mostly in the USA. Includes pretty much every type of enterable architectural structure underground (but not infrastructure), from shopping concourses, libraries, to the Manhattan gold reserves. In its scope it covers the spectacular and the mundane, as some underground spaces are just like above ground spaces, but without windows.

The Works: Anatomy of a City
Kate Ascher, The Penguin Press, 2005
Clear, nearly child-like illustrations depict and describe a full range of urban infrastructure, using New York City as the example. Road, rail, subways, freight, ships, air cargo, power transmission, water supply, liquid and solid waste treatment and removal, and even a Manhattan-wide pneumatic tube network (in use until 1953) are discussed with great simplicity and clarity. Like a David Macaulay or Richard Scarry book, but purely for adults and with more clinical, digitally produced imagery.

River Days: Exploring the Connecticut from Source to Sea
Michael Tougias, Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2001
From the isolation of the Fourth Connecticut Lake, a beaver pond in northern New Hampshire, 300 yards from the Canadian border, to the Interstate 95 overpass at Old Lyme, Connecticut, near the river’s discharge into Long Island Sound, the Connecticut River is New England’s Mississippi. This book, written in the first person, is an account of the author’s segmented journey down the river in kayaks and canoes. It is replete with descriptions of the human and natural history of the regions along the river’s banks, and has practical information and maps of use to other canoists, kayakers, or other travelers floating through this wet and muddy New England corridor.

The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification, Julian Montague, Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2006
There is something innocent about shopping carts, these simple little creatures of commercial conveyance. They are designed for such a limited and single-mined function, to live their lives within one store, and out to a parking lot. But oh how they roam, when commandeered by renegades. They seem to end up all over the city, so common that they are often seen, but hardly noticed, an ethereal, nearly substanceless, ubiquitous urban form, like a pigeon. There is something tragic about the many ways they meet their demise, submerged in fetid urban drainage, or buried in the brush of brownfields. Many of us might have thought about something like this book, but the author, Julian Montague, thought about it the hardest, and then went and did it. Hundreds of images and a tight classification system to aid in identification. (“Class/Type B/20,” for example, is a “true stray” - as opposed to a Class A, a “false stray”- that is “marginalized” and buried by a bulldozer).