Jo D. Tanenbaum
Outskirts Press (2016)
Reviewed by Ben Green for Reader Views (12/16)
Jo D. Tanenbaum is the Dr. Sheldon Cooper of canes and crooks—his book, “Crooks & Canes: Bible, Bebop & Beyond” covers everything you would want to know about the history and future of both crooks and canes. It may even cover more than you want to know. It might also be the only book on the subject.
Before receiving this book, I did not really know what to expect. As someone who enjoys martial arts, history, and random knowledge about mostly meaningless stuff, the title and description of the book piqued my curiosity.
Upon receiving the book in the mail, the first thing I noticed was how small the book was. It is 58 pages with large font and if you want specifics, most of the book is pictures pulled from Wiki Commons and other free source image sites on the internet. In many ways, it appears to be written for children although it is hard to imagine this book holding the attention of many of today’s children. Given the unusual appearance of the book and its length, I dove right in and 15 minutes later knew more about canes than I had before. The book felt very nostalgic to me and if it were not for all the source citations on the images, it would have been the perfect reminder of my childhood. Remember those books you used to find at libraries as a kid or your grandmother bought from door-to-door salesmen—the ones with random information on a given subject like cars, computers, farm animals, etc? Well that is exactly the kind of book Jo D. Tanenbaum has written.
I personally enjoyed this book (even if that enjoyment only lasted 15 minutes). Even so, I cannot give it more than two stars, for several reasons. First, everything in the book is “Googleable.” Second, the images used are almost all free and available online. Third, this is just a really weird topic of choice, and while I found it mildly interesting, I question if many others will. Fourth, this book does not have enough information to use as a reference. For a book with such a singular focus, you would think it would go deeper. Again, I had a fun, brief time with this book, but I think it might only be interesting to a child who is for some reason fascinated with crooks and canes or needs to do a 6th grade book report, which is pretty much what this book is anyway.
In my opinion, Jo D. Tanenbaum’s “Crooks & Canes: Bible, Bebop & Beyond” is just not detailed or informative enough for adults, and not entertaining enough for today’s youth. Also, parts of the book cite Wikipedia, which I just cannot support since that is something every ninth grader knows not to do. Even so I found it an enjoyable short, quick read.