Friday, February 28, 2014
By Alan Caruba
My Picks of the Month
When the U.S. Justice Department announces it will not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act you know that same-sex marriage has the full support of the White House. An interesting new book by William Tucker, Marriage and Civilization: How Monogamy Made Us Human, ($27.95, Regnery) takes a look at monogamy and how its adoption by societies in the West made all the difference in their development as opposed to those that retained polygamy. Monogamy contributed to less aggressive societies, ones with less crime, less internal friction, and humanity benefitted from men who took a greater role in raising children. Spousal relationship benefitted because they were more devoted to one another. The story of humanity has been one of growing trust and cooperation between the sexes and this has led to more stable communities and nation. Every human society has created some form of marriage. Not only do a couple pledge fidelity to each other, it draws the line between the bonded couple and the group. Tucker says that everywhere polygamy is practiced, it creates conflict. There is much to be said for traditional marriage and its history and practice is presented in this book.
Craig R. Smith has written seven books individually and, with Lowell Ponte, another five. These books look at economic and governmental issues with a particular emphasis on the way progressivism has undermined the dollar and the ability of the nation to achieve and maintain our remarkable leadership in manufacturing and in finance. That is beginning to falter and you will want to read The Great Withdrawal: How the Progressives’ 100-Year Debasement of American and the Dollar Ends ($19.95, Idea Factory Press, Phoenix, AZ). Far from being a dry analysis, it is a dramatic examination of what is happening in America today and why. The book opens with a look at Detroit, the largest American city to declare bankruptcy and why decades of bad management and corruption have led to its debasement. This is happening in many cities across the nation led by progressives. These cities build huge ranks of government workers with ample pension and other benefits that thrive off of the middle class until it begins to move to the suburbs to escape the ever rising taxes and other costs. In addition to the $17 trillion in debt on the books, the U.S. has off-the-balance-sheet federal liabilities estimated to be at least $87 trillion. The trillions pumped into the economy in recent years have largely been wasted via crony capitalism or simply failed to “stimulate” growth. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Your life and that of your children and grandchildren are being affected.
In a nation that appears to be seriously divided, we owe Dr. Wayne Baker, the author of United America ($15.25, Spirit Books, @ Amazon.com, softcover) a debt of appreciation for a book about “The surprising truth about American values, American identity, and the 10 beliefs that a large majority of Americans hold dear.” Dr. Baker is the chair of the Management & Organizations area at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and his book is based on his research over several years. The values American share include respect for others, freedom, security, self-reliance and individualism, justice and fairness, among others. They are shared by a vast cross-section of Americans of differing political outlooks, gender, and other elements. These values are strongly held. The book is not some boring academic study, but a lively examination of the values and one that will be of use to individual readers as well as educators and groups devoted to preserving the nation that is suffering the deliberate effort to divide Americans by class, sex, and other attributes. I recommend this book for anyone concerned about the current divisions we hear and read about daily.
Fans of Hillary Clinton with an eye on the 2016 elections will find HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes ($26.00, Crown Publishing) of interest as these two journalists, the former who covers the White House for Bloomberg News and the latter for The Hill, look back over the past years since 2008 when her political ambitions took a hit from an unknown Illinois Senator when he was became the Democratic Party nominee for President and won. In the six years since then, she has reemerged on the world stage as one of its most influential figures. She is now regarded as the front-runner for the Democratic ticket in 2016 and this book provides a look at what they regard as a master strategist at work. She would become Obama’s Secretary of State and one of his greatest allies and advocates. While the authors report both her successes and stumbles, based on numerous interviews, take the reader behind the scenes. Both hold her in high regard and this book provides readers with their coverage and views of the decisions she made and their likely effect on the next national elections.
A book that is likely to generate a lot of discussion is The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business by Christopher Leonard ($28.00, Simon & Schuster). I must confess I was astonished to learn that when you’re buying beef, pork or chicken, it turns out that four beef companies control 85% of the national market while four companies control 65% of the park. As Leonard points out, forty years ago there were 36 companies that produced chicken, but now there are two that provide half of the chicken we eat, controlling every aspect of the process from the egg to the chicken to the chicken nugget. The result is that meat prices relentlessly increase while the share of every dollar that goes to farmers is falling. The profit margins of the nation’s biggest meat packers continue to rise even as the national economy is lagging in other sectors. The Big Four, Tyson, Cargill, JSB, and Smithfield saw their average profit margin double between 2008 and 2009, and then double again between 2009 and 2010. Why the federal government felt it necessary to send millions to these and other farmers in “farm aid” begins to raise serious questions for consumers and 80% of the farm bill was devoted to funding food stamps. Anyone interested in how this sector of the economy functions will find this book very interesting and just a tad scary.
One of my enduring childhood memories was riding the train to the New Jersey shore where my grandparents lived and, since it was the war years, I recall visiting with the many young soldiers who were on the train, all destined for combat. At my grandparent’s home, the trains came by every day and it was a treat to wave at the engineers and have them wave back. Trains in those days belched huge clouds of black smoke. These memories were evoked by Tom Zoellner’s book, Train, ($32.95, Viking) in which he tells of his rail travels around the world, starting in the birthplace of the locomotive in England. He shares the history of trains in the various nations he visits from Russia, China, India, in South America and, of course, the U.S. where the train transformed and expanded the nation to the West. Along the way he talked with many others on those trains and gains a glimpse into their lives. He does so with a gift for prose that borders on poetry. He is a very good writer and that greatly enhances the trips he invites the reader to take with him.
Readers are just as frequently writers and many wish to polish their skills. A book that will help them is Natalie Goldberg’s The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language ($16.00, Atria Books, softcover) in which she draws on her four decades as a teacher and writer to share her practical experience. She has written twelve books and this one will prove helpful to anyone who wants to learn how to tap into their own life. For anyone headed for college this fall or attending one, Halley Bondy has written an entertaining book, 77 Things You Absolutely Have to Do Before You Finish College ($14.99, Zest Books, softcover). A great gift for high school grads and college students, it is filled with ideas that will surely enhance the experience beyond the classroom. Among her tips are starting an on-campus club, learn how to prepare a perfect meal, and learn self-defense. There’s bound to be a recommendation in the book that a student will find worth trying out.
Getting Down to Business (Books)
For those coming out of college and looking toward a career in the world of business, Robert L. Dilenschneider provides a lot of good advice in The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life ($15.00, Citadel Kensington, softcover). The author made his name in the field of public relations, but has found time to author a dozen advice books. This one includes a foreword by TV business news host, Maria Bartiromo, who notes that “Mobility, personal and professional, has dramatically increased” and that “Technology has created new opportunities for advancement in the world of work.” Dilenschneider recalls an era when mentors helped the newcomer learn the ropes. His book “substitutes for all those generous men and women who would have helped you in an earlier era.” If you or someone you know is just starting out, make sure they read his book. It will give them an advantage of those who do not.
These are nervous times for investors, but there are some fundamentals and Timothy F. McCarthy, a former president of Charles Schwab & Company before leading overseas asset management companies. His book, The Safe Investor: How to Make Your Money Grow in a Volatile Global Economy ($30.00, Palgrave Macmillan) should be your first investment whether you are just starting out or whether you are questioning your present investment program. Despite the plethora of investment information available, most people feel uncomfortable to some degree these days. This book shows the reader how to mesh three dimensions of investing, asset classes, countries, and time to create a strategy that will ensure they have enough to get them through their retirement years. Since many have others manage their investments, McCarthy tells readers what they need to know to make a good choice and what to expect. There are so many choices an investor can make that it is surely helpful to understand one’s own psyche before putting money on the line and that is what Brian Portnoy’s new book is all about. The Investor’s Paradox: The Power of Simplicity in a World of Overwhelming Choice ($27,00, Palgrave Macmillan) is the work of a man who has been advising hedge funds and mutual funds for the past 14 years. Portnoy is currently the Head of Alternative Investments and Strategic Initiatives for Chicago Equity Partners, a $10 billion asset manager and he came to them with an impressive resume so the reader can be confident he really knows what he is writing about. He addresses how to select the right money managers and investment vehicles and how to avoid the losers. With literally tens of thousands of investment choices, his advice and insights regarding what he calls behavioral finance, he demystifies the opaque world of financial entities, providing practical tools for investment success.
All of us have sat through too many meetings that had no structure and did not lead others in the room toward successful cooperation. In Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations that Accelerate Change ($32.00, Simon and Schuster) authors Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon are on a mission to eradicate time-sucking, energy-depleting meetings and workshops, and replace them with high-engagement strategic conversations that foster better cooperation. Their book offers a few core principles on the best ways to get an organization facing a high-stakes challenge to address it despite conditions of uncertainty using inter-active problem-solving sessions that engage participants, not just analytically, but creatively and emotionally as well. This book will help leaders at all levels achieve this whether it is a business challenge, educators and healthcare practitioners mired in slow-to-change sectors, or enterprising business school students with ambitions to tackle the big challenges.
For those who have to make a presentation, the first problem to overcome is the “jitters”, the fear of not being able sell ideas by using visual thinking. In Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations Dan Roam ($27.95, Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin) presents a powerful guide to give everyone the confidence they need to share their story with any audience. Roam has previously authored two international bestsellers and this book is relatively short, but goes right to the core of how to help others see what we see. Filled with page after page of illustrations, he demonstrates how to entertain, educate and motivate an audience. He has worked with major corporations and his book will show you how to achieve the success that he has had.
There isn’t an industry, business or enterprise of any kind that doesn’t have associations. There are an estimated 100,000 professional and trade societies that can help anyone open the doors to their personal success. Robert Skrob, CPA, CAE, is an expert and he has written Your Association Shortcut: The Definitive Guide for Generating Customers Through Associations ($7.86, Association Marketing, softcover). This book, officially published in April, but available now via Amazon.com, will teach you how find associations in your field and to select the best ones for your brand. Then he teaches how to get the most value from your association. He has coached a diverse range of associations including some of the largest in the world in fields that include medical, manufacturing, chambers of commerce, from the local to the state and national levels. And he has helped thousands of companies tap into the power of associations to generate customers for their own business. “Associations are the affiliate partner you never knew you had, promoting your company as a member benefit” says Skkrob, “Plus association marketing gives you more credibility as everything you do carries the implied endorsement of the association.” As someone who has provided public relations services to associations over the years, this is a book you definitely should read.
To Your Health
We now live in times when you’re not old until you have gotten passed 70 or so. Maintaining one’s health to ensure that the senior years are not beleaguered by ill health has become a significant concern. That’s why books like Robert Moroney’s book, Total Body Detoxification: The Way to Healthy Aging ($16.95, Swing-Hi Press, softcover) is well worth reading even if you are still in your early years. The author details his own battles with lung cancer and hepatitis that causes stress and addictions to alcohol and drugs. Then he shows, step by step, the research, modalities, and healing regimens he employed to help himself and others recover from physically and mentally debilitating conditions. He’s been in private practice for 16 years as a nutritionist and peak-performance coach. As someone who has taken vitamins and minerals to enhance my own health, there is much in this book that will benefit any readers. You can avoid the toxins and you were learn which ones and why.
Healthy Joints for Life by Dr. Richard Diana, MD, ($17.95, Harlequin, softcover) an orthopedic surgeon and a clinical instructor at the Yale School of Medicine was a former National Football League player and he uses that experience and his later profession to learn how to deal with problems involving inflammation, a common joint ailment. He has put his plan to reduce pain and inflammation, how to avoid surgery, and to get moving again into his book. Having been named a Top 100 Doctor, he has been an orthopedic consultant to several collegiate athletic programs, as well as the Boston Red Sox. His book provides a proven 8-week program that can help any reader with joint-related physical ailments.
Biographies and Memoirs
Reading about the lives of real people, past and present, is an excellent way to not only learn the lessons of history, but to learn how others coped with the challenges of their times.
A new look at James and Dolly Madison is provided by Bruce Chadwick in a biography of the same name, America’s First Power Couple: James & Dolly Madison ($24.95, Prometheus Books) regarding the fourth President’s service and the role that his wife played. Historians have tended to regard Madison, credited with much of the creation of the Constitution, as a boring, average President, while others have regarded him as a vibrant, tough leaders and a very successful commander in chief during the War of 1812. A new portrait emerges as the result of recently uncovered troves of letters at the University of Virginia, among other sources. He credits a lot of Madison’s success to the political savvy of his much younger wife whose social skills created a dynamic role for the position of First Lady with parties and backdoor politicking. This makes for lively reading about a couple whose life together contributed much to the future course of the nation.
We remember F. Scott Fitzgerald for his book, “The Great Gatsby.” In Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby, ($29.95, Penguin Press) Sarah Churchill takes us back to the autumn of 1922 when he was at the height of his fame for “Tales of the Jazz Age.” His return to New York that year coincided with another event, the discovery of a brutal double murder in New Jersey, an unsolved case that is all but forgotten today. The news coverage of the event, however, would influence Fitzgerald who began writing “Gatsby” in the autumn of that year. He would write of his fictional characters, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
An interesting memoir by Tony Cointreau, Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa…And Me: My Improbable Journey from Chateaux in France to the Slums of Calcutta ($24.95, Prospecta Press) is the story of a life of a man who was an heir to the French liqueur family who enjoyed a successful international singing career and, after several years on the Cointreau board of directors, found himself seeking something more meaningful for his life. Despite the wealth and success, his youth was impacted by an emotionally remote mother, an angry bullying brother, a cold and unprotective Swiss nurse, and a sexually predatory school teacher, all of which led him on a lifelong quest for unconditional love and for a mother figure. Initially he found her in the internationally acclaimed beauty, Lee Lehman, and then the famed Broadway diva, Ethel Merman, who became his mentor and “other mother.” His memoir addresses his close family relationships with both women and, then in quest of more meaning to life, his years of work and friendship with Mother Teresa as his “last mother.” He speaks of the value of sharing even a small part of oneself with others.
Ethel Merman was a legendary Broadway musical star and Nothing Like A Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theatre by Eddie Shapiro ($39.95, Oxford University Press) will delight anyone who loves the musical theatre with its interviews of twenty of the greatest leading women of Broadway. Among them are Carol Channing, Chita Rivera, Angela Lansbury, and Patti LuPone, along with some of the younger stars such as Audra McDonald and Kristin Chenoweth. Shapiro’s encyclopedia knowledge enhances the conversations. He is a longtime critic who has covered the arts for several publications.
The man who conceived of the method of saving the life of someone choking on something is told in Heimlich Maneuvers: My Seventy Years of Lifesaving Innovation by Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, MD ($19.95, Prometheus Books, softcover). His memoir tells of his best known procedure as wll as his other life-saving inventions. He is the inventor of the Heimlich Chest Drain Valve that saved thousands of lives during the Vietnam War and the MicroTrach which provides a remarkably efficient way to for people to take oxygen. Anyone interested in medicine will find this memoir of interest as he describes his research, as well as the controversy and resistance he encountered. A very different memoir is found in The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return ($16.00, Penguin Books, softcover) by Kenan Trebincevic and Susan Shapiro who brought her journalist skills to bear on the story that begins when Tebincevic was age eleven, living a happy life in the quiet Bosnian town of Breko. In the spring of 1992, war broke out and his friends, neighbors, and teammates all turn on him because he was Muslim. He relates his family’s final terrifying year in Bosnia and their miraculous escape from the brutal ethnic cleansing that ravaged the former Yugoslavia. Though he swore he would never return, after two decades in America he honored his father’s wish to visit their former homeland. The visit in which he wanted to revenge the treatment his family received tells a story of redemption for the horrors to which they and others were subjected.
Books for Young Readers & Teens
One of my favorite publishers of books for young readers is Charlesbridge of Watertown, MA. In February they published for the very young, Feathers—Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen, ($17.95) that provides a glimpse into the real lives of birds in the wild and the role their feathers play for flight and camouflage or to line a nest. It’s educational and entertaining. This month Wild About Bears by Jeannie Brett ($17.95) will also appeal to those aged 6 through 9. They author introduces them to all eight species of bear and via some great watercolors, takes them around the world where they live including a map of where they can be found, as well as interesting information about bear traits and behavior, how they raise their young, and how they find food. This book, too, is both educational and entertaining. For those aged 4 to 7, there’s Music Everywhere! By Maya Anjera, Elise Hofer Derstine and Cynthia Pon, ($17.95) published in February as a celebration of music and the joy it brings. It is filled with photos of children around the world singing, dancing, and playing instruments. It will inspire some youngsters to explore their own musical passions. Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle by Cheryl Bardoe and illustrated by Alan Marks ($16.95) is aimed at those age 5 to 9 and they might find fascinating to learn about a beetle that loves to feed on dung. Sounds disgusting, but it isn’t. It is filled with amazing facts and compelling images that will appeal to the very young. Older readers, age 10 and up will find Ocean of Fire: The Burning of Columbia, 1865 by T. Neill Anderson ($16.95) an insight into the Civil War as the author tells of Sherman’s march on Atlanta that included the destruction of southern cities like Columbia in South Carolina. The story is told through several characters, both real and imagined. This is historical fiction that makes such events come alive for younger readers.
Tony Tuso Faber has teamed up with Benton Rudd, an illustrator, for a series of books in “The Poodle Tales” series and book one is Poodlemania ($15.99, Mindster Media) that readers from age 4 to 9 will enjoy for both the artwork and the delightful story of a boy and girl poodle who get together and share various growing up skills, life lessons that readers will learn as well. The stories are light, comical, heartfelt, and educational. You can check out this book and the series at www.thepoodletales.com. The author is a very talented lady who began her modeling career at age 13, published a California magazine, and pursued many other interests. She and her husband, Bruce, live in Orange County with their three poodles. Find Momo ($14.95, Quirk Books) is filled with photos by photographer Andrew Knapp of his border collie. He began posting photos of Momo in Instagram hiding out in all kinds of settings from Central Park in New York as well as fields, snow banks, and toy stores. They became an Internet sensation and young readers age 4 to 7 will surely enjoy them in this delightful book.
From Blue Martin Publications, there’s Sofia’s Stoop Story: 18th Street, Brooklyn by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson ($17.95) that is set in the 1960s as Uncle Frankie begins telling Sofia and her counsins a story about the day he met the baseball geat, Carl Furillo. Sofia is called away by her Nana to do some errands and when she returns the story is over, but Uncle Frankie shares the whole story with her and he gives her a keepsake that he has saved since 1947. It is evocative of the era and locale, and beautifully illustrated. A series of books from Wigu Publishing is devoted to the theme of “When I Grow Up I Want to Be…” and the latest is A Teacher ($12.99) that begins with a girl named Carlee who wants to become one. Her own mother is a new teacher at her school and readers journey with Carlee on first day there as she learns about her own independence and identity. This series is quite inspiring.
For readers age 9 to 13, two books from Capstone will provide some reading pleasure. Sherlock, Lupin & Me: The Dark Lady by Irene Adler which draws on the original Sherlock stories and offers a romp through 1870s France in pursuit of both a murderer and a thief. The twist is that the characters are introduced as children, making the story more accessible to a young audience as they find themselves caught up in a web of crime they must investigate. It is the first in a new series. Secrets & Spies: Treason by Jo Macauley delves into the world of England’s Reformation era as a young spy unravels dangerous plots against the kind. A second book in this series is title Plague and features a 14-year-old Beth Johnson, a talented and beautiful young actress. The year is 1664 and she becomes embroiled in a perilous adventure to unravel a plant to kill Charles II. Both books are priced at 12.95 and are a good investment in encouraging a young reader to discover the pleasures of fiction.
Novels, Novels, Novels
Fans of J.A. Nance is back with her 50th book. Moving Target ($25.99, Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster) is yet another detective novel in which a police academy-trained former reporter, Ali Reynolds, embarks on a trip to England with her longtime household assistant and right-hand man, Leland Brooks. Her greatest concern is helping her friend face his long-estranged family, but Ali soon finders herself investigating violent crimes spanning two continents and eras as vicious attacks unfold in Texas and an unsolved murder from the 1950s Bournemouth, Leland’s hometown resurfaces. Though they seem unconnected, they are and readers will not put this book down until they get to the last page.
Some years ago I reviewed Cynthia Hamilton’s novel, “Lucky at Love” and since then she has published three more, the latest of which is Spouse Trap ($14.00, Woodstock Press, softcover) in which Madeline Ridley, a Santa Barbara fundraising socialite sees her perfect life collapse in a swirl of blackmail, sabotage, and deceit after she awakens in a hotel room—alone, naked, and with a splitting headache and no idea how she got there. A group of lurid photos has been sent to her husband. She is in for the battle of a lifetime, but she discovers who her real enemy is. This is the first installment in a new series and provides lots of provocative, interesting reading.
Just out this month is Bobby Cole’s novel, The Rented Mule ($ 14.95, Thomas & Mercer, softcover). It is a tough, clever caper about a businessman who has been set up by a mysterious criminal to take the fall for his wife’s kidnapping. Behind what seems a good life, Cooper Dixon has been caught up in a never-ending cycle of arguments with his wife and his cocaine-addicted business partner is scheming to sell his business out from under him. When his wife is kidnapped his face is all over the television news and Dixon must depend on an unlikely ally to rescue his wife and clear his name.
Robyn Carr has won a number of awards for her previous novels and you will find out why when you read Four Friends ($24.95, Harlequin MIRA) that debuts in April. It is a gripping story of four forty-something women whose lives hit the marital skids, but they find the strength and courage to face the difficult challenges they face. Set in the San Francisco neighborhood of Mill Valley, friends and neighbors think Gerry has the perfect marriage with her husband Phil. It is a relationship that is more comfortable than passionate after 25 years, three children and demanding careers. She discovers an affair her husband had years before and he is committed to do to make up to her, but she finds it difficult to forgive him. With her friends she must come to terms as they too must cope with marital problems. The shifting relationships make for interesting reading, one they many will see in their own lives and around them.
That’s it for March! Tell your friends, family, and coworkers about Bookviews.com, a monthly report on books that include nonfiction and fiction that may not receive the attention in the mainstream media they deserve.
Friday, January 31, 2014
By Alan Caruba
Mastering the Art of Quitting: Why It Matters in Life, Love, and Work by Peg Streep and Alan Bernstein ($24.95, Da Capo Press) runs counter to what we are told about never giving up and thinking positively. Sometimes those negative thoughts about our habits, our relationships, or our jobs are the right ones and should be acted upon. As the authors say, “Quitting is a healthy, adaptive response when a goal can’t be reached or when a life path turns out to be a blind alley. Simply putting quitting on the table—seeing it as a possible plan of action—is a necessary first step to changing your perspective.” They argue that the most satisfied people have mastered the art of disengaging from unproductive goals and creating better ones to move them in a new direction. Grounded in the latest research, the book examines why people persist when they shouldn’t and how to fully disconnect from unproductive goals, cope with emotions caused by quitting, and form, prioritize, and implement better objectives to move people forward.
My Picks of the Month
The new “hot” book of 2014, debuting last month, and likely to remain newsworthy through the November 2014 midterm elections is Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M. Gates ($35.00, Alfred A. Knopf). As one reads this book, what becomes evident is that he writes, not just about Iraq and Afghanistan, but about the various “wars” he fought as he became the only Secretary to serve two Presidents, Bush and Obama, both with very different personalities and policies. One of the wars was a political war with Congress every day he was in office. He describes “the dramatic contrast between my public respond, bipartisanship, and calm, and my private frustration, disgust, and anger.” Gates arrived at the job having served for more than two decades in the Central Intelligence Agency where, under President George H. W. Bush, he was its director. Under George W. Bush, he had to direct the latter years of a conflict in Afghanistan that continues to this day as efforts were made to introduce democracy, Western values regarding women, education, and the training of an Afghan military almost from scratch. If this wasn’t enough, Bush43 undertook a war with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein that led to his removal, but also led to fierce fighting ably led by General Petraeus. While the media has emphasized what appeared to be conflicts with Obama, he points out that he fulfilled Obama’s objectives that included a surge in Afghanistan and the coming withdrawal by the end of this year. The withdrawal from Iraq when it refused to agree to ways in which the U.S. forces were to be treated has led to a renewed conflict as al Qaeda has returned to seize portions of the nation. What impressed me was the candor with which Gates wrote of his experience, providing insight into the incredible challenges of the job. What is most inspiring, though, is the reason he shouldered these responsibilities and endured so much political conflict. Simply put, it was his love for the troops and his sense of a personal responsibility for them. On his last day in office in 2011, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. He earned it!
A new book takes a look at Vladimir Putin, the Russian republic’s version of Stalin. Kicking the Kremlin by Marc Bennetts ($16.99, Oneworld Publications, softcover) takes a look at Russia’s new protest movement composed of those who want to see Putin removed from power, but it is also an excellent look at the way he came to power, his biography before that occurred, and how he has exercised it. As 2011 came to a close, 100,000 took to Moscow’s freezing streets to protest his election victory. A few months later, Pussy Riot, a girl band, was arrested from their anti-Putin demonstration in a Russian orthodox cathedral. As the book makes clear, opposing Putin can get you arrested and even killed. A series of assassinations of Russian journalists and protest leaders is far more than just a coincidence. Despite his protestations that the Russian constitution which protests free speech and public protests, doing so has become hazardous at best and Russia has no history of such activity, having been run by dictators from the czars to the communist dictators who replaced them. It is a good book to read as we get ready for the Winter Olympic Games, but it is worth reading to understand more about Putin and Russia whose economy is heavily dependent on its exports of oil and natural gas. Bennetts is a British journalist who has reported from Russia, Iran and North Korea for many years and, from late 2011 through early 2013, he worked for RIA Novosti, the now dissolved Russian state-run news agency. Suffice to say Putin controls the media.
The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class by Fred Siegel ($25.99, Encounter Books, imprint of the Perseus Books Group) may sound like some boring political or historical treatise, but, if you want to understand how we have reached this point in our society where Socialism has given us the disaster called Obamacare, then this will prove to be an interesting, easy-to-read re-write of history of much of what you may have come to believe about Socialism. For example, it did not begin with Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressivism or Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Siegel tells how it began after World War I in the 1920s when a group of writers and thinkers—intellectuals—disillusioned with American society began to call themselves liberals as they adopted the hostility to the bourgeois—the masses—that was already in vogue among European intellectuals. Liberalism was born among a new class of politically self-conscious intellectuals who were critical of mass democracy and middle-class capitalism; you know, the values that made the U.S. the greatest economic power the world has ever seen! Well worth reading!
An interesting book about an aspect of history that is generally unknown is Nicholas Johnson’s Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms ($19.95, Prometheus Books). A professor of law at Fordham Law School where he has taught since 1993, Johnson chronicles the underappreciated black tradition of bearing arms for self-defense that reaches back to the pre-Civil War era. From Frederick Douglass’s advice to keep “a good revolver” handy as a defense against slave catchers to the armed self-protection against the KKK, it is clear that owning firearms was commonplace in the black community. He also addresses the issue of young black men with guns and the toll that gun violence takes on many in the inner city.
The Home Book: The Complete Guide to Homeowner and Homebuilder Responsibilities ($49.95, Building Standards Institute, Sacramento, softcover) is intended to show homeowners what to expect with any new or remodeled home. It covers every possible condition referencing homeowner and homebuilder maintenance, providing 380 residential workmanship guidelines that are presented in are easy-to-read. Most homeowners don’t know where to find answers when they discover a defect in their new or remodeled home and this is particularly true if they aren’t detected right away. What, for example, are homeowners to do when the roof of their new home springs a leak? Or kitchen cabinets sag? Or they smell mold in the bathroom? The book was vetted by more than 70 industry professionals as well as government building officials, trade organizations, and consumer interests groups. It is the real deal and will no doubt save homeowners a lot of grief if they read it and keep it handy.
I enjoy what even I admit are “silly” books, but that is because many are written to entertain as well as inform. A good example is Scared Stiff: Everything You Need to Know About 50 Famous Phobias by Sara Latta ($12.99, Zest Books, softcover). We are generally aware of common phobias such as fear of heights, acrophobia, or confined spaces, claustrophobia, but there are others that include fears of insects, dogs, cats, mice or rats, to name a few. And let’s not leave out fear of germs. The book helps readers understand that they are not alone in have extreme fears. Ms. Latta comes from a science background so the fears noted in the book are treated seriously and she includes helpful information on how to cope with phobias, although some must surely require professional counseling when they interfere with living a normal life.
The baseball season is around the corner and for fans of the Boston Red Sox, Lew Freedman has authored The 50 Greatest Players in Boston Red Sox History ($17.95, Camino Books, softcover) that takes a look at its 110-year history that had it share of great players like Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Carlton Fisk and David Ortiz, to name some of those that come to mind. Freedman has authored more than sixty popular sports books and this one will be a must-read for fans of this ball club. In addition to examining the personal stories of the best-known players, Freedman studies the careers of some of the excellent athletes who represented the club so long ago as to be nearly forgotten.
Getting Down to Business Books
In addition to having been a business and science writer for decades, I have largely earned my living as a public relations counselor, so I know something about PR. It is an essential element of success for entrepreneurs, corporations, the government, associations and individuals seeking to call attention to their causes and achievements. That’s why I am happy to recommend Christina Daves new book, PR for Anyone, ($14.95, Morgan James, softcover). Proof of the good advice she offers to small business owners is the fact that she has appeared on more than fifty media outlets in less than one year! It is filled with easy, actionable tips that would make that possible for anyone who reads her book. Public relations is an essential element of marketing one’s products and services, but many are unaware how to put it to work for themselves. Her book will open doors and create the “buzz” that lifts one’s business into public view, the kind of thing that can increase sales and achievement. It’s also a good reason to consider hiring a PR professional if you lack the time to do it yourself. Knowing the process helps you judge their success.
Another excellent book for entrepreneurs is Tom Panaggio’s The Risk Advantage ($14.95, River Grove Books, softcover). We all approach risk from our personal point of view and clearly some people are greater risk-takers than others. For those less inclined to take a risk, this book will prove very helpful as it explores our inclination to do so or not. As the author says, “The unexpected edge for entrepreneurial success starts with identifying a worthy risk and then having the courage to take it. It is the story in part of how Pannagio and his partners created a thriving American business and he uses his amateur racing exploits as a metaphor. “By viewing risk as just another challenge when opportunity presents itself, you’ll grab that edge—and win!” That’s true, but he also addresses how to deal with the failure than might occur from taking a risk and that’s an important part of being ready to risk again. This is fundamentally a book about the choices and judgments that anyone engaged in business must make and, after reading it, you will be better prepared to do so.
Advice on How Live More Wisely
There is virtually no aspect of life that someone has not written about to provide advice on how to cope, how to succeed, and how to make it better in some respect. As 2014 begins, here are some of the latest.
The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success by Megan McArdle ($27.95, Viking), a Bloomsberg columnist, examines how to find success by how quickly and nimbly we learn from our mistakes. A Libertarian, she makes a case for the way America is unique in its willingness to let people and companies fail, but also in the determination to help them pick themselves up afterword. She argues effectively that we have become too risk averse and that it is bad for ourselves and our children, as well as for enterprises that fail to compete effectively. The nation is in an era of “bailouts” that tap taxpayer dollars and may not serve as well as a trip to the bankruptcy court. Drawing on new research in science, psychology, and behavioral economics and insights from many who have experienced failures, she offers good advice on how to learn to make better decisions and break bad habits in business and life.
Another book about transforming our lives is I Like Giving: The Transforming Power of a Generous Life by Brad Formsma ($14.99, WaterBrook Press, softcover). If you feel that you’re not as generous as you should be, you’re not alone. We have been told that it is better to give than receive and Formsma is on a mission to change the way we see generosity as he challenges us to give wherever they are and in whatever manner they can. He wasn’t always that way, but a number of experiences convinced him of the truth of this. He is a successful entrepreneur and a philanthropist who, in 2007, sold his business to helping others.
Two problems that some encounter are addressed in Cheating Parents: Recovering From Parental Infidelity ($14.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) and Facing the Finish: A Road Map for Aging Parents and Adult Children (15.95, Bascom Hill Publishing Group, softcover).The former, written by Dennis Ortman, PhD, a clinical psychologist, reflects his more than 35 years of counseling experience working with individuals suffering from the trauma of parental infidelity and examines how that affects their lives, especially when they too become adults. It affects their ability to have intimate relations, often cheat on their partners or marry those who cheat on them or are emotionally disengaged in their relationships. In a society where nearly forty percent of men and twenty percent of women in all economic stratus admit to having affairs during marriage, this is a very big problem. Their children often end up as walking wounded. Like so many others these days when parents are living longer lives and encounter the problems of old age, I could have used Sheri L. Samotin’s book on how adult children and their parents can address those problems. No one wants to think of their parent’s death and this includes the parents as well. Her book tackles the issues involved, offering advice on choosing the right caregiver, choosing to live at home, with family, or in the perfect senior housing community, as well as the fear of outliving one’s money or living on a fixed income when the cost of everything is rising. If this book reflects your present situation, I would strong recommend reading it.
We all have concerns about our health and fitness, and Ken Blanchard, the co-author of the bestseller, “The One Minute Manager”, and Tim Kearin, a fitness coach, have teamed up to write Fit at Last: Looking and Feel Better Once and For All ($24.95, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco). It has been lauded by both fitness experts and those in the business world, but Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen summed it up saying, “In the Army, teamwork and discipline are key to building successful teams and leaders.” In their book, “Ken Blanchard and Tim Kearin team up to deliver a disciplined holistic formula laced with personal challenges and successes that many of us have experienced in our quest to maintain physical fitness. This book will inspire you to not only begin but persevere toward the sheet job of being fit—at last.” The book is filled with excellent advice and I agree that it will change your life for the better after you have read it. And, for those with a big tummy, pick up a copy of 21-Day Tummy: The Revolutionary Diet that Soothes and Shrinks Any Belly Fast by Liz Vaccariello ($25.99, Readers Digest). Based on the latest research on the importance of eating anti-inflammatory and carb-light foods, the book is enhanced by more than 50 recipes that are delicious recipes to make weight loss easier, as well as inspirational stories and advice from those who found success with its recommendations. It’s about healthy eating and we all can benefit from that.
For many, the desire to set down the details of their lives and what they have learned from them results in writing a memoir. We can often gain some insights from them.
The Hero Among Us: Memoirs of an FBI Witness Hunter by Jim Ingram with James L. Dickerson ($19.95, Sartoris Literary Group, Brandon, MS, softcover) is filled with Ingram’s personal experiences with some of the events of his career. Ingram passed away in 2009 after having served as well as Mississippi’s Public Safety Commissioner. It sheds light on some of the notorious cases of the modern era such as the assassination of President Kennedy, the “Mississippi Burning” civil rights murders and bombings, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the murder of Federal Judge John H. Woods, the FALN bombings by Puerto Rico separatists, and the FBI counterintelligence operation known as COINTELPRO. It is about the remarkable career of a remarkable man.
Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir by Penelope Lively ($26.95, Viking) has an intriguing title as one might expect from a successful author of many books for both adults and children, including the Man Booker Prize-winning novel “Moon Tiger” and others. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012. It is a reflection on old age and, if that describes you, then you may find it of interest. It spans many years of her life from a childhood spent in Cairo and later at an English boarding school when her family was forced to leave due to the turmoil that occurred in Egypt and led to the seizure of the Suez Canal. I must confess I was unaware of the author’s career and books, but it must be said that she tends to ramble at length throughout so I suspect it will be of greater interest to those who are fans of her books and interested in the subject of old age.
The Most Beautiful Girl: A True Story of a Dad, a Daughter, and the Healing Power of Music by Tamara Saviano ($16.95, American Roots Press, softcover) has a foreword by Kris Kristofferson, the singer and actor. Saviano has achieved remarkable success and happiness in the music industry as an award-winning producer of albums. In 2012, she won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year award for tribute albums, but growing up she lived in fear as the frequent victim of her father’s abuse when he was under the influence of alcohol. When he wasn’t drunk, he was an adoring father who was her staunchest ally. The title of the book comes from the famous song of the same name. Now a 52-year-old woman, she shares her story and anyone who loves country music and may have experienced a similar childhood will find it of interest and value.
Antoinette Tuff put her life and her faith on the line when she confronted a young school shooter and talked him back from the brink of killing students at the school in Atlanta. She tells her story in Prepared for a Purpose ($24.99, Baker Publishing Group). This memoir will inspire those who share her faith in God. She averted a tragedy while demonstrating courage. This is a story as well of how she faced up to and overcame tragedies in her own life. The account of her confrontation with the shooter is worth reading as is her life.
Novels, Novels, Novels
The deluge continues. For every novel mentioned there are many others, but since reading fiction is a great way to relax or gain insights that may not be addressed in a non-fiction book, I am happy to recommend a few of those that have arrived.
I have been reading and reviewing Lior Samson’s novels now for several years and enjoying each one. He has a special talent for taking issues and events from real life and turning them into fictional suspense and action. This is true of his latest novel, Gasline ($14.95. Gesher Press, an imprint of Ampersand Press, Rowley, MA, softcover). Samson is comfortable addressing science and technology, but they are the background to the plot which, in this case, involves a safety engineer for a company that owns natural gas pipelines. Kat Gaudet in the field and Len Bergen, a technician in the company’s control center are drawn into events that involve a cyber-attack that could set off a huge explosion. It is so real because the events in the book reflect those that have occurred and, as he says in the author’s afterword, “The threat is real. Many parts of our natural gas transmission pipeline system are controlled by networks that are wide open to intrusion and to sabotage by relatively simple methods. Having written “Web Games” Samson knows his way around the technical aspects involved, but this new novel takes it to a new level of riveting storytelling.
Novels reflect real life or potential risks and Todd M. Johnson addresses what would happen if a nuclear facility that turned out plutonium during the Cold War suddenly has a huge explosion. Critical Reaction ($14.99, Bethany House) focuses on the fictional Hanford Nuclear Facility’s poisoned buildings that must be guarded by men from sabotage as they monitor the building which they have been told the dangers are under control. The main character, Kieran Mullany, survives the blast, but is met with threats and silence when his attempts to discover what really happened are raised. He reconnects with an old friend, an inexperience lawyer, Emily Hart, and both are convinced that those in charge are hiding something, concluding they will not get far in the courts. Emily’s estranged father, Ryan, has the courtroom experience they need and, together, he digs for answers and, as he does, the court case gets stranger and more dangerous for them. This is an excellent debut novel.
I liked “Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs when it was published in 2011 as a unique fantasy story paired with haunting vintage photography. Though a “young adult” novel, it could be equally enjoyed by older readers and it spent more than 60 consecutive weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Film rights were sold to Twentieth Century Fox with a release date of July 2015. A sequel arrived in January, Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregine’s Peculiar Children ($17.99, Quirk Books) and begins where the first book ended, opening as Jack and the other peculiars are on the run from “wights” posing as soldiers. Desperate to reach London before it’s too late, the children hope to find a cure for their beloved Miss Peregine who is trapped in a bird form! Along the way they encounter a menagerie of peculiar animals. The story doesn’t let up until the end and the sequel is likely to be another bestseller. One has to wonder what Riggs has in store for book three.
We can welcome the debut novelist, K.C. Woodworth who has authored Cutting Off A Whale’s Head ($14.95, Page Publishing, softcover) whose intriguing title is just the start of a fast-paced story that introduces us to Cree Quinn, a victim of the recession that has wreaked havoc on his adult-novelty business and other investments. He finds himself facing a vast financial loss that threatens to take away the family home and the fund for his young son’s college years. Suffice to say he is desperate until he learns of a decomposing carcass of a killer whale near the Golden Gate Bridge and, even though it is against the law, decides to cut off its head and sell it. Sounds bizarre? Yes, but that’s just where the fun begins. This novel will make you laugh and make you root for Quinn right up to when he is arrested and becomes a public hero of sorts. I won’t tell you how it ends. Along the way you will encounter a variety of wonderful characters.
I am a bit late in taking note of To Sleep…Perchance to Dream, an October debut novel by Donald A. Grippo ($24.00, Turn the Page Publishing) as a sexy, psychological thriller starring an Eurasian beauty, Mai Faca, who plots to marry Jake Warden, a successful oral surgeon forbidden to her because of family honor. In a bizarre scheme a fellow surgeon falls victim to Mai’s seduction as she and Jake play a cruel game in order to be together. Jake acts with surgical precision to clear the path to Mai’s happiness that threatens lives, including his own. The novel has a dense plot that will keep you turning the pages.
William F. Nolan, the author of “Logan’s Run”, notes that there have been more than 450 books written about the Kennedy assassination, but that John A. Gaetano’s novel, America’s Deceit ($23.40, WD Murray, softcover) “is the only one to explore the full truth regarding the death of our thirty-fifth president” noting that it is backed by thirty years of research that dismantles the “lone gunman” theory. Gaetano is convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald did not kill JFK! At close to 700 pages, it is a novel “that conspiracy buffs have been waiting for”, calling it “a mind-blower.” It fully fits the description of being an epic novel and it is one whose author is convinced that the government has engaged in a cover-up. That catch is, of course, this is a work of fiction about a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist whose life is changed by his investigation into the assassination. Gaetano was an active member of the Screen Actors Guild from 1977 through 1988 and is a skilled story-teller.
Two softcover novels from Langdon Street Press debuted in December. The Last Ferryman by Gregory D. Randle ($14.95) is set in Millerville, Minnesota, a ferry town and Buck Shyrock is certain it will stay that way. A local ferryman, his livelihood, like his father’s and grandfather’s before him, depends on it, but there are rumors that a bridge is coming to cross the Wabash River, though he dismisses them as gossip. It isn’t and as the construction begins, his family tried to help the old man accept the unstoppable progress. This isn’t just a story about progress, but also its impact on people’s lives and that of the community in which he lives. Randle grew up on the Wabash River in southeastern Illinois. This is his debut novel and a very good one. Here By Mistake: The Secret of the Niche by David Ciferri ($14.99) is about Brandon and his friends, Stephen and Sarah, who sneak into his Aunt Faye’s basement that is filled with antiquated treasures. They find more than they were looking for. It is a trove of gold coins, a knight’s armor, a stuffed grizzly bear on a pedestal and a mysteriously decorated niche. As they read the Latin inscription they leave New York 2005 and are transported back to another time and place, New Orleans 1965. They find the niche again, but gain a new perspective, not only about their history, but about the lives of people they think they know best. It is an intriguing story.
That’s it for February! Tell your book-loving family, friends, and co-workers about Bookviews.com so they too can enjoy its eclectic report on books, some of which are bestsellers, but which focuses on books that may not receive the attention they deserve.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
By Alan Caruba
My Picks of the Month
The one book you must read as the new year begins is Murray Holland’s A Nation in the Red: The Government Debt Crisis and What We Can Do About it ($28.00, McGraw Hill) for its chilling message about the economic collapse of America and the steps that must be taken to avoid it. In recent years I have received a number of books on this subject, but Murray’s stands out, not only for the facts it cites, but for the way it can be easily comprehended by someone who has little to no grasp of our economic system. “The national debt can never be paid off. It is like a cancer we will have to live with for the rest of the life of the nation,” says Holland and the facts about the size of our debt, the matrix of socialist programs that contribute to it, and the explosion in spending and borrowing that is driving the nation to collapse. The debt stands at $19 trillion and may be over $33 trillion in just ten years. The nation’s Gross Domestic Product—how much we take in for the sale of goods and services—is less than what it is paying out for its many socialist programs (Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, unemployment, student loans, and housing). The financial problems that European nations that embraced socialism are a clear warning sign that it can and will happen here without a significant reduction in the federal government’s spending and borrowing. Murray calls it a Debt Trap and the implications for Americans, now and generations to come, are frightening. For eighty years since the Great Depression, Americans have been adopting socialist programs precisely as its enemies have wanted. The bill is coming due. Another recent book, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure, by John A. Allison ($28.00, McGraw Hill) is also worth reading.
It’s hard to believe that the U.S. has been engaged in a military conflict in Afghanistan since 2001. For most Americans it has been a war to which little attention was paid unless one had a son, daughter or loved one stationed there. Now the noted photographer Robert Cunningham, along with Steven Hartov, has captured the lives, the dedication, the sacrifices, and service of our military that served there in Afghanistan on the Bounce: Boots on the Ground with the U.S. Military and the International Security Assistance Force ($40.00, Insight Editions), a large format book that will fill your heart with pride. Cunningham was embedded with our troops over the course of 132 missions, photographing all aspects of the military operation there, including photos of Afghans old and young. The book is a real treasure and beautifully produced as page after page testifies to their courage, humor and humanity.
A book you are not likely to hear about in the vast leftist media of the nation is by a former CIA espionage officer, Kent Clizbe. It is Willing Accomplices: How KGB Covert Influence Agents Created Political Correctness, Obama’s Hate-America-First Political Platform, and Destroyed America ($18.99, softcover, $5.99 Kindle, and $21.95 audio, Andemca Publishing, available from Amazon.com.) Clizbe tells how, shortly after Lenin was able to seize control of Russia and establish communism there, he instituted a program to undermine America under the direction of the KBG, its security service. While historians have written about Russia and its massive espionage program, they lack Clizbe’s background and thus have not made the connection between its program of political correctness, the infiltration of the media, academia, education and entertainment. The result is an educational system that falsely depicts our Founders, our history, and our values of individualism and, of course, capitalism. In these major factors of our society, America is constantly depicted as racist, sexist, and imperialistic. The result is generations of Americans who have been encouraged to loath the greatest nation in the world. Clizbe documents who the major players in this effort have been and are. His book explains much of Obama’s agenda. We are dangerously close to being destroyed as a nation by at least half the population that has been corrupted by political correctness, a hatred of America.
The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty by Timothy Sandefur ($$24.95/$12.99 ebook, CATO Institute) combines law, history and political philosophy for a powerful defense of the Constitution. Like many Americans, I came late to reading the Declaration, response to the arrogant actions of the British crown and parliament to colonies that had ruled themselves for a century and had grown weary of taxation without representation. Sandefur notes that the word “democracy” does not appear in the Declaration, but “liberty” does and that it should set the framework for interpreting the Constitution, a governing instrument notable for putting limits on a central government while ensuring that the states and citizens retain their rights, not granted but acknowledged by it. “Liberty comes first, and order arises from it. We have gone astray in our constitutional understanding because we have upended that relationship.” As the current administration demonstrably limits our liberties—Obamacare is a prime example, requiring Americans to purchase something they may not want or need—current polls indicate that they have begun to awaken to the danger and are swinging back to a more conservative interpretation and practice. This book will interest anyone who takes a serious interest in the subject.
In an era in which we are all constantly being manipulated by government, special interest groups, and others, Push Back! How to Take a Stand Against Groupthink, Bullies, Agitators, and Professional Manipulators by B.K. Eakman ($14.95, Skyhorse Publishing, softcover) examines scenarios of mass indoctrination and demonstrates how to recognize and counter them effectively. An educator and international and national human rights advocate, Eakman
, provides a guide to spotting how professional
manipulators exert power over a room and steer discussions back to their
agendas without ever answering audience questions or addressing their concerns.
They often employ techniques to ostracize those who challenge their assertions,
questioning or criticizing them. This is an extremely useful book when hoaxes
and deceptions are advanced by such people.
For anyone who loves films, both old and new, there is a special treat to be had in The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies by David Thomson ($18.00, Farrar Straus Giroux, softcover) because this British-American film critic and historian has written a fat volume based on his encyclopedic knowledge of movies. It is a sweeping history of cinema that an enthusiast will enjoy in every respect. One cannot talk of film history without noting the legendary director John Ford ($22.95, Lake Street Press, softcover) by Joseph Malham who takes us into the life of the six-time Oscar winner for classics such as “The Grapes of Wrath”, “How Green Was My Valley”, and “The Quiet Man.” He is perhaps best known for his Westerns, “Stagecoach”, “The Searchers”, and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, all made with his longtime friend, John Wayne. The book is subtitled the “Poet in the Desert” and Malham provides interesting insight into Ford’s faith and Irish roots, that both contributed to his portrayals of families, communities, and history.
I am born and bred in New Jersey, so when I received Lynda L. Hinkle’s new book, Breaking Up: Finding and Working with a New Jersey Divorce Attorney ($12.44, Amazon.com, softcover), which, though it is focused on New Jersey law, is filled with excellent advice even if you live elsewhere. As she makes clear, divorce is one of the most stressful situations one can encounter. What I found notable was the tone of the book. It is clear-headed, the kind of advice one needs to receive. Hinkle is a divorce attorney and has been through her own divorce. If I were getting a divorce, I would want her in my corner. Her book will put her there for you.
Getting Down to Business (Books)
There are a number of books devoted to achieving success in business and we can count on many more to come in the year ahead.
A lot of people are stuck in jobs they don’t like or battling hopelessness as the seek employment these days. For them, Sander A. Flaum’s book, written with Michele Flaum, The Best Thing That Could Ever Happen to You: How a Career Reversal Can Reinvigorate Your Life ($16.95, Big Shoes Publishing, softcover) should be at the top of their reading list. With a foreword written by former astronaut, Senator John Glenn, it is an easy-to-read, how-to guide that moves readers out of their no-win employment rut and gets them back in charge of their job search. Flaum, who is chairman of the Leadership Forum at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business Administration, shows how to work harder and smarter to come out on top in the interviewing process. The bottom line is that the book teaches readers how to deal with their fears and shortcomings, get passed their inhibitions, and find the job that is right for them. The author really knows what he is talking about and, if you’re seeking a new job, this is the book for you.
An interesting book about a classic case of what happens when a corporate leader plunders his corporation is found in Taking Down the Lion by Catherine S. Neal ($28.00, Palgrave Macmillan) as she examines the rise and fall of Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski. He had grown a little known New Hampshire conglomerate into a global giant, but in a stunning succession of events, he suddenly lost his job and was indicted during the post-Enron era. He was convicted of wrongfully taking $100 million from Tyco to engage in a lifestyle that put him in jail. He is due for release soon.
The 25th anniversary edition of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey ($30.00/$17.00, Simon & Schuster, hard and softcover) is widely regarded as one of the most inspiring books ever written and been read by leaders of business and industry, as well as students preparing to enter the employment marketplace. More than twenty million copies have been sold. Covey presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. This is a book devoted to fairness, integrity, honesty and human dignity. In sum, no matter your age or status, this book can give your life a boost.
Totally beyond anything I understand or know about is data science, so I will trust those who recommend John W. Foreman’s Data Smart: Using Data Science to Transform Information Into Insight ($45.00, Wiley, softcover). The book shows you the significant data science techniques, how they work, how to use them, and how this will benefit your business, no matter if it is large or small. And the best part says the author is that anyone can learn how to do this. The author is the Chief Data Scientist for MailChimp.com where he leads a data science product development project. As an analytics consultant, he has created data science solutions for the Coca-Cola Company, Royal Caribbean International, the Department of Defense, the IRS and the FBI, among others. Sergiusz Prokurat, an economist and historian, takes a look at the way work is changing and, in some cases, disappearing as robots replace people, in his book, Work 2.0: Nowhere to Hide ($9.99, Kindle $4.99, softcover). It is an intellectual examination of how the introduction of new technologies, particularly the computer and the Internet, has begun to transform the way work has been defined in the past and, in addition to the skills required to be connected to the world, how work is increasingly about knowledge and the provision of services needed to convey it in the digital age. Gone are the days one gets hired by a corporation and stays there for his career. Mobility, flexibility and other traits will play an important role in the new age. This is a book that anyone involved in organizations large and small as well as a young man or woman coming out of college will benefit from reading.
Some publishers specialize in various topics because it interests them and presumably might interest a lot of other people. The world of the mind is a topic about which Prometheus Books has a number of titles that, if you find yourself thinking about what you’re thinking, you might want to read.
Let’s start with Think: Why You Should Question Everything by Guy P. Harrison ($16.95. softcover) which challenges everyone to think like a scientist and embrace the skeptical life. This book will help you improve your critical thinking skills, see through most scams at first glance, and learn how your own brain can trip you up. It shows you how to navigate through the maze of biases and traps that are standard features of every brain. As a result, we often trick ourselves into thinking, remembering, and believing things that are not real or true. It is an upbeat book that’s fun. Are you moody? Who isn’t? Maybe you should pick up a copy of Patrick M. Burke’s Mood: The Key to Understanding Ourselves and Others ($18.95, softcover). The author is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona and his book is a comprehensive developmental approach to understanding mood and the role that it plays in determining our outlook on life and our ability to cope with its challenges. We all know people who are generally happy and others who always seem to be in a bad mood. Most of us fit in somewhere between the two poles. Mood, says the author, is the way we are tuned into the world and begins early in our lives as relationships play a central role in shaping our moods. Security or insecurity, loss or the fear of loss of key relationships, especially in childhood can have lasting effects on the way we view the world. If you’re in a mood to learn more, this book will prove of interest.
Believing: The Neuroscience of Fantasies, Fears, and Convictions by Michael McGuire ($19.95/$ll.99, softcover or ebook) asks and answers the question what are beliefs and how have evolution and culture led to a brain that is seemingly committed to near endless belief creation? Once established, why are most beliefs difficult to change? The author is professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavior sciences at the University of California, LA. He takes the novel approach of focusing on the central and critical role of brain systems and the ways in which they interact with the environment to create and maintain beliefs. This is fairly heavy duty reading, but for the inquiring mind, it will prove quite satisfying. It seems like “fairness” is the being spoken of all the time these days, particularly in a political context. Fairness has intrigued philosophers and social thinkers in both Eastern and Western societies for millennia. L. Sun, a professor of biology at Central Washington University, trained initially at East China Normal University in Shanghai before pursuing further studies in the United States. The result of that is The Fairness Instinct: The Robin Hood Mentality and Our Biological Nature ($24.95/$12.99, hardcover and ebook). Sun examines the innate sense of fairness displayed by human beings in all kinds of societies throughout history and argues that it is an emotion and behavior rooted in our DNA rather than a product of ideology or convention. He cites studies that show that even monkeys react negatively to patently unfair treatment. While we generally regard fairness as a good thing, Sun shows that there’s a down side when it plays too great a role in leveling inequalities, producing rigid social structures where only mediocrity is condoned. Well worth the time to read.
Many books on the subject of leadership have crossed my desk in the many years I have been a reviewer. The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed by Mark Divine, Commander, U.S. Navy SEALs (retired) with Allyson Edelhertz Machate ($21.99, Reader’s Digest) examines those attributes of military life that can be translated to the civilian world with exercises, meditations, and other techniques to train your mind for mental toughness, emotional resilience, and uncanny intuition. Divine served in the SEALs for twenty years and has led a number of multimillion-dollar business ventures since his retirement. His book distills the fundamentals of success into eight powerful principles that impart his experience to teach you to think like a SEAL in order to take charge of your life at work, at home, and in life.
Moving on from Prometheus Books, there’s Happily Ever After: The Life-Changing Power of a Grateful Heart by Trista Sutter ($24.99, Da Capo Books). Twenty-six million viewers watched ABC’s first Bachlorete get swept away in a fairytale romance and many wished they could be as lucky as the author. Courted by a handsome, poetry-writing firefighter in some of the world’s most luxurious destinations, the match was for read, Trista and Ryan celebrated their ten-year anniversary in December of last year. They now have two children, a dog, and a fulfilling family life. In her book, she shares her thoughts on the importance of living a thankful life while chronicling her personal journey and including stories from friends as well as experts. I have no doubt this book could help someone hoping their dream of lasting love come true and wondering, perhaps, why it hasn’t yet.
Alan C. Fox’s People Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity ($16.95, SelectBooks, softcover) is filled with good advice on how to deal with many of life’s many problems such as having the same argument with a sibling, parent or child, deciding whether to end a relationship, determining if it’s time to make a career change or whether a business partner is trustworthy, to name just a few of the topics addressed in this book. At age 72 Fox has university degrees in accounting, law, education and professional writing. Along the way he has had his own law firm and founded a commercial real estate company in 1968 that manage more than seventy major income-producing properties in eleven states. With more than seventy years of experience, he shares it in a way that can help the reader avoid life’s pitfalls and develop successful relationships.
To Your Health (Books)
Americans more be more obsessed about their health than any other people. The books devoted to it keep coming and here are some of the latest that have arrived.
The media is filled with images of beautiful bodies, but in real life, a lot of the people we encounter are overweight or just not the “hard bodies” we’re told should be a goal. If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to lose weight and get gorgeous, then you should consider Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto ($27.00, Harmony) who has worked in the fitness industry since 1989, including 14 years as a personal trainer. He promotes all-natural, healthy strategies. The book is not about becoming a fitness model or a body-builder, but rather how to use the same techniques they employ to improve your own health and fitness. It’s a big book and it has plenty of advice that answers pretty much the answer to every question one might have and lots of information you may have encountered. He makes sense on every page. I
If you’ve been wondering about the reason you are seeing more gluten-free foods for sale and wondering if it is just the latest trend, you should read Toxic Staple: How Gluten May Be Wrecking Your Health—and What You Can Do About It by Anne Sarkisian ($17.95, Max Health Press, LCC, New London, NH, softcover). The author notes that true celiac disease, the body’s inability to process the wheat protein known as gluten, is only found in a small percentage of the world’s population, but she regards them as just the tip of the gluten iceberg, estimating that at least 10%, but perhaps as many as 40%, of Americans may be sensitive to gluten. That sensitivity results in chronic health conditions from arthritis to zits, asthma, cancer, fatigue, migraines, memory loss, and osteoporosis. The test for such sensitivity, however, is rarely used in the U.S. Since I lack the knowledge to verify or dispute the author’s assertions, the best I can suggest is that, if the subject interests you, this book will surely prove helpful. As she says, “Eliminating it from the diet is the easy part. The hard part is getting doctors to take gluten sensitivity seriously and test for it adequately.” Judging from the praise the book has received from health professionals, she is clearly onto something.
What to Do When You Can’t Get Pregnant by Dr. Daniel Potter with Jennifer Hanin ($18.99, Da Capo Press, softcover) is now in its completely revised and updated second edition as “The complete guide to all the options for couples face fertility issues.” For those couples struggling with fertility issues, navigating the clinical medical jargon while trying to communicate with partners, doctors, friends and family can be a challenge. Dr. Potter was named one of 2012’s top reproductive endocrinologists by the U.S. News and World Report. Team with Ms. Hanin, a freelance journalist and the mother of twin girls conceived through in vitro fertilization, their book walks the reader through the various aspects of fertility procedures. For those couples dealing with the issue, they will take comfort in known they are not isolated and without direction in facing their problem.
At the other end of the spectrum, postpartum depression, This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression by Karen R. Kleiman, the founder of The Postpartum Stress Center, and Dr. Valarie Davis Raskin, a psychiatrist ($17.99, Da Capo Press, softcover) us also in its second edition, revised and updated. It is a condition that affects in in five women and the authors who both spent two decades working with women who experienced it have written a book that anyone encountering it or who knows someone encountering it should definitely read. The healing process involves combatting negative thoughts and taking the time to take care of oneself, including if needed medications and therapy. The good news is that one can recover if they take the right steps. Another aspect of motherhood is discussed in The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock ($19.95, Prometheus Books, softcover) by Tanya Selvaratnam as she confronted the biological clock that determines childbirth and, as she points out, biology does not bend to feminist ideals and science does not work miracles. A self-described feminist, the author learned this the hard way. Part personal account, part manifesto, Salvaratnam dispels myths about women’s biological clocks, the difference between being child-free versus childless, and the many other aspects of fertility and infertility involved. She wants a wider discussion about delayed motherhood and she has filled her book with valuable information to advance that goal.
Greg S. Pergament is a clinical associate at the Las Vegas Recovery Center and an ordained Zen Buddhist and Taoist priest who has written Chi Kung in Recovery: Finding Your Way to a Balanced and Centered Recovery ($14.95, Central Recovery Press, softcover). Chi Kung is the art of cultivating life force energy and the book describes a selection of exercises that are designed to boost health, enhance vitality, and increase mind-body-spirit consciousness. An ancient Chinese health care system, it integrates physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused attention. Westerners are more inclined to want to pop a pill or embark on some strategy to quickly get to recovery. If that’s not working for you or someone you know, this book unlocks the ancient secrets that may ensure that recovery becomes a long term solution.
Novels, Novels, Novels
Every day novels arrived here at Bookviews and, while they provide a bit of entertainment, one wonders what compels their authors to write them. This is particularly true of the self-published ones which have been a growing trend in recent years. My job is just to let you know about some of those that have been received.
The husband and wife team of Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini have authored the second installment in a lighthearted historical mystery series set in the early days of San Francisco’s nineteenth century. It is The Spook Lights Affair ($24.99, Forge) and it stars a former Pinkerton operative, Sabrina Carpenter and her partner, ex-Secret Service agent, John Quincannon. It is a sequel to “The Bughouse Affair.” Each is pursuing a case, one of which involves a socialite’s mysterious suicide while another is the pursuit of a bank robber. The reader is treated to a tour of the city’s gaming houses and brothels, taking them back to that era. It is a lively, entertaining read.
Jason Porter makes his debut with Why Are You So Sad? ($15.00, Plume, softcover) whose main character is Raymond Champs, an illustrator of manuals for a home furnishings corporation. Raymond is unhappy. He can’t sleep. He can’t communicate with his wife. And his job provides no inspiration beyond a paycheck. No one seems to understand him, including himself, which surely explains why he is sad. Raymond concludes that everyone he knows and maybe everyone on the planet is suffering from severe clinical depression and is equally convinced that something major has gone wrong. This may not sound like an amusing story, but Porter brings a lot of talent to examining Raymond’s problem and, in the process, will make you laugh as you join in a search for why life in America today provides “things” but not purpose. J. Alec Keaton makes his debut as a novelist with When Love Never Ends ($16.00, Two Harbors Press, softcover). Sam has never gotten over his one true love, Sara, but he walked away amidst racist threats from her bigoted father. They went their separate ways. Sara got married and Sam threw himself into work, becoming a successful lawyer for a prestigious firm. A decade later they meet again when Sara seeks legal help and they spend three whirlwind days today, but her jealous husband ends the reunion with a single shot. Wild with grief Sam seeks consolation with a grief-ridden college professor who lost his wife four years earlier and who has been obsessed with time travel, trying to help him give up his fantasies while he seeks to cope with his own loss. It is a mix of romance and science fiction.
For a story filled with different characters involved in triangular love, art and its future of the Jazz Age. It is 1924 in New York and Lillian Moore, a painter, and Leon Shaffer, an accountant, narrate The Bohemians ($14.95, Black Heron Press) and take you back to an era of early cars and telephones, silent movies, sham medical cures, speakeasies, gangsters, and jazz. Lillian’s desires and needs, as well as Leon’s attraction to her form the plot. Published in July of last year, it got lost in the stacks, but is well worth reading if you enjoy a historical novel.
Seventh Street Books is an imprint of Prometheus Books and has sent along three softcover novels that offer some interesting reading experiences. Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery ($15.95) by James W. Ziskin is built around a comment by Sgt. McKeever, “If you were a man, you’d make a good detective.” Ellie is sure he meant it as a compliment, but she bridles at the thought that she is a woman trying to do a man’s job as a reporter. She is adrift in her career, living in New York City when she receives news that her estranged father, a renowned Dante scholar, is near death after a savage bludgeoning in his home. The police suspect a routine burglary, but Ellie has her doubts. When a second attempt on his life is made when he is in the hospital, she embarks on her own investigation that holds the prospect of redemption in her father’s eyes and the risk of loving him forever. White Ginger by Thatcher Robinson ($15.95) introduces the reader to Bai Jiang who combines Buddhist philosophy with wicked knife skills. When a girl goes missing in San Francisco’s Chinatown, she is called upon to track her down. The trail leads to wannabe gangsters, flesh peddlers, and eventually to those who have marked Bai for death. It is a cocktail of wit, charm, sex, and violence. In E. Michael Helms novel, Deadly Catch: A Mac McClellan Mystery ($15.95), the recently retired U.S. Marine hooks a badly decomposed body while enjoying a leisurely fishing vacation in the Florida panhandle and then discovered a bag of rare marijuana is found stashed aboard his rental boat. He realizes someone is setting him up to take the fall for murder and drug smuggling. Along with Kate Bell with whom he has struck up a promising relationship, the two must butt heads and match wits with local law enforcement officials, shady politicians, and strong-armed thugs. It’s a story you won’t want to put down until the last page.
Three novels are written for young adults and will evoke a keen enjoyment of reading. Phoenix Island is by John Dixon ($19.95, Gallery Books) and is the inspiration for the CBS-TV show “Intelligence” that premieres this month and introduces the reader to a world where orphans are sent to boot camp and forced to fight for their lives. When 16-year-old boxing champ Carl freeman jumps in to defend a helpless stranger, he is sentenced to a two-year sentence at an isolated boot camp for troubled orphans. He is determined to tough it out, earn a clean record, and get on with his life. But then kids start to die. Realizing that Phoenix Island is really a Sparten-style mercenary organization turning “throwaway kids” into super-soldiers, Carl risks everything to save his friends and stop a madman bent on global destruction. The book is based on real-life stories in his home state of Pennsylvania. In Jennifer Walkup’s Second Verse ($15.95/$11.95, Luminis Books, hard and softcover editions) Lange Crawford’s move to Shady Springs, Pennsylvania, lands her in a group of awesome friends, a major crush on songwriter Vaughn, and life in a haunted 200-year-old farmhouse. It also brings The Hunt, an infamous murder mystery festival where students solve a fake, gruesome murder scheme during the week of Halloween. Well, supposedly fake. It is a mix of suspense and romance with a supernatural element that is sure to entertain readers from age 12 and up. Lastly, there’s How to Lose Everything by Philipp Mattheis that is “a mostly true story” ($14.99, Zest Books) about a summer in 1994 in which a group of four teenagers find a small fortune hidden inside a mysterious abandoned house and what starts out as a blessing soon turns into a curse as stress, drugs, criminal behavior, dwindling funds and even death raise serious questions about their choices and their futures.
That’s it for January and the year ahead promises to be filled with many new non-fiction and fictional books that are sure to inform and entertain you. Tell your book-loving friends, family and coworkers about Bookviews.com, a unique, eclectic report. And come back in February!