Book Reviews
Books New to the Shelves of the CLUI Library

Spoil Island: Reading the Makeshift Archipelago by Charlie Hailey, Lexington Books, 2013
It’s exciting to see a book on the array of intentionally incidental landmasses that line our channels and dot our harbors. Focusing mainly on Florida–that most constructed and tenuous state–Hailey’s detailed histories of a few selected sites assert that the things we make without much thought give us a lot to think about.

Las Vegas Periphery: Views from the Edge by Laurie Brown, George F. Thompson Publishing, 2013
Epic, wide, panoramic views exposing the remarkable terraforming that is going on at the expanding and crumbling outward edge of the great city of Las Vegas. Hard to do Laurie Brown’s large images justice in book form, but if this book were any wider if would stick so far out of the shelf that it would become a hazard to navigation.

The Whole Earth: California and the Disappearance of the Outside by Anselm Franke and Diedrich Diederichsen, RAM Publications, 2013
This dense and rich tome is a catalog of the large exhibit shown in Berlin in 2013, curated by the authors. The show was a kind of contemporary re-manifestation of the encyclopedic ecotopic cornucopia of the original Whole Earth Catalog, at the same time as being a savvy assessment of its effects on the present. Dozens of projects were represented, by the likes of Eleanor Antin, Jordan Belson, Bruce Conner, Sharon Lockhart, Adrian Piper, Richard Serra, Bruce Yonemoto, and even the CLUI, which contributed images of landfills in Los Angeles.

Introduction to Energy in California by Peter Asmus, University of California Press, 2009
These new(ish) “California Natural History Guides” sometimes stretch beyond the edge of the genre, which is why they are interesting, like this one, about energy, which is more about industry than nature. Be fine with us though if the format grew to coffee table proportions, since it’s not really something you would put into your backpack and take into the field with your binoculars.

Sci-Fi CLOG, 2013
CLOG is a quarterly journal that publishes, defiantly, in a physical, printed book form. It has been doing so since the last quarter of 2011, each time on a different theme, and has been pretty great from the get-go.

Local Treasures: Geocaching Across America by Margot Anne Kelley, Center for American Places, 2006
Geocaching is a curious activity at the crossroads of the virtual and real worlds. It started in 2000 (when the government stopped scrambling the GPS signal) as a form of community gaming, using hand held-GPS and other way-finding means to find physical places described on the internet where little keepsakes are stored to be discovered. It’s a scavenger hunt with the landscape as a game board. But it is also a form of ground truthing and destination-making that is remarkably popular. The author, a geocacher and photographer, uses the randomness of geocaching locations to muse about places and her experiences as a geocacher.

Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century by Stephanie LeMenager, Oxford University Press, 2014
A self-described hard-left leaning, academic, feminist’s exploration of the role of oil in American culture, focusing mostly on the negative effects of the extractive side of the industry. Though this may seem like preaching to the choir while fishing for petroleum in a barrel of West Texas’ finest, the author covers a lot of interesting and physical ground. She even finds her way to the CLUI oil exhibit in an almost abandoned office trailer at a former junkyard in Houston.

The Western Town: A Theory of Aggregation by Alex Lehnerer, Jared Macken, Jayne Kelley, Lorenzo Stieger, Hatje Cantz, 2013
The idea and form of Western towns of the 1860s to 1890s, in reality, myth, and movies, is the subject of this large format, illustrated, architecty book, by a Swiss architecture professor and his students. Though the book focuses on places depicted in films by Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, John Ford, and Robert Altman, this is not a movie location book, but an investigation of the theoretical and physical structures of these places.

Internet Alley: High Technology in Tyson’s Corner by Paul E. Ceruzzi, MIT Press, 2008
Written by a curator at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum,  and looking at the history and development of this area near Dulles Airport in a broad and general way, this book holds the key for understanding the history of the Internet.

Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western Electric by Stephen B. Adams and Orville R. Butler, Cambridge University Press, 1999
For over 100 years, AT&T built and operated the nation’s communications system, capitalizing on its government-supported monopoly, until 1983, when it was finally broken up. Near the end, it was the biggest company in the world, with a million employees. Bell Labs was its R&D division, designing the technology, and Western Electric was the manufacturing division, building the equipment. While there are good books about AT&T and Bell Labs, this was the first corporate history of Western Electric, and is still the best.

Up on the Roof: New York’s Hidden Skyline Spaces by Alex MacLean, Princeton Architectural Press, 2012
The terrain of the aerial photographer is shifting as online imagery systems expand and improve, but there are still levels of resolution that remain outside Google and Bing’s range. This book of close-ups of rooftop spaces in Manhattan, from aerial photography legend Alex MacLean, shows that the tops of buildings are an architectural niche all their own, like sky islands in an urban sea.