Friday, May 29, 2015
By Alan Caruba
My Picks of the Month
A book I would recommend as “must reading” is Samuel Blumenfeld’s and Alex Newman’s Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians Are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children ($26.95m WND Books). It has been known for decades that America’s school children have been falling behind others worldwide in their ability to read and do math. In 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education said “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed I as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.” This book traces the deliberate effort to destroy the ability of students to learn to read back many years and reveals why, as a result, half of America’s adult population is functionally illiterate. Americans, through their government school system have been systematically dumbed down and today a national standard to maintain this is being imposed via Common Core. The result has been a rise in the number of parents who are home-schooling their children and the rise in tutoring. When you have read this book you will know why too many Americans think the others around them are dumb. They’re right.
January 1973: Watergate, Roe V. Wade, Vietnam, and the Month that Changed America Forever by James Robenalt ($27.95, Chicago Review Press) is a densely documented review of the title date’s month and the way so many events came together to alter the future. Just prior to January Harry Truman passed away and later in the month so did Lyndon Johnson. It was the month the Watergate investigation revealed the White House payoffs to its burglars and forced an end to Nixon’s second term. The Vietnam War was winding down due to Nixon’s decision to bomb the North over the Christmas period. Negotiations began again that would end it. The Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion would change our culture thereafter. This is strictly for the reader who enjoys reading the details but it demonstrates how, in a very short moment, history can take some dramatic turns. Disruptive Power: The Crisis of the State in the Digital Age by Taylor Owen ($27.95, Oxford University Press) is another challenging read. We have encountered new phenomena like WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden that reveal information about how the government is actually functioning in ways unrivaled before. Owen provides readers with a look at the way digital technologies are shaking up the working of the institutions that have traditionally controlled international affairs, including humanitarianism, diplomacy, activism and journalism.
For those whose passion is cinema, they will want to add John Hughes: A Life in Film ($40.00, Race Point Publishing) to their libraries. Kirk Honeycutt, its author, explores Hughes’s life and career, with behind the scenes stories and insights regarding the creation of each of his films. They include The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Home Alone, Uncle Buck, and many others. Honeycutt is a former film critic for The Hollywood Reporter and as this large format, extensively illustrated book demonstrates, other than Steven Spielberg, there was no other filmmakers of the late 1980s and early 1990s who was as influential and produced such a legacy of films that remain iconic and popular to the present day. Honeycutt notes that “Among his closest associates some felt his prolific output worked against his artistry…john never paid any attention. Perhaps he couldn’t.” That is the price and reward of genius. This book guarantees not only his life story and career, but hours of reading pleasure.
I’ve never been there, but it never surprises me to hear people speak of Paris in glowing terms. You’ll learn why when you read A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light by David Downie ($26.95, St. Martin’s Press. Downie sets out to get to the heart of the city’s magic and mystique. In a unique combination of memoir, history and travelogue, Downie weaves together the lives and loves of Victory Hugo, Georges Sand, Charles Baudelaire, Balzac, and other great Romantics, along with his own, delighting in the city’s secular romantic pilgrimage sites to find the answer. Abounding in secluded, atmospheric parks, artist’s studios, cafes, restaurants, and streets that have changed little since the 1800s, Downie finds romance around every corner, noting the art and architecture, the cityscape, riverbanks, and quality of daily life there. Downie, a native San Franciscan, lived in New York, Providence, Rome and Milan before moving to Paris in the mid-1980s. He divides his time between France and Italy these days.
The Future and Why We Should Avoid it: Killer Robots, the Apocalypse and Other Topics of Mild Interest ($22.95, Douglas & McIntyre, softcover) has been described as “a survival guide, part how-to manual, part product guide, part apocalypse and part sardonic observation to help us navigate through these troubled times.” But when weren’t the times troubled? Scott Feschuk, its author, muses on aging, death, technology, inventions, health and leisure. He is a satirist for lack of a better definition, but to his credit, he is never boring. Fans of MAD magazine have over the years enjoyed the writing of Frank Jacobs, credited over five decades with over 575 contributions, over 300 issues, to the human readers came to love.
The first installment of “MAD’s Greatest Writers” is devoted to Frank Jacobs: Five Decades of His Greatest Works ($30.00, Running Press) with a foreword by “Weird Al” Yankovic. As a special treat, the book features an exclusive interview conducted by former MAD editor Nick Meglin. This is a large format book with page after page of the artwork which is timeless.
It is curious how one of America’s greatest composers and writers of classic musicals is generally unknown. You would instantly recognize “Witchcraft”, “Big Spender” and “The Best is Yet to Come”. You may have enjoyed performances of “Sweet Charity”, “City of Angels”, and “Barnum” and still not be able to name Cy Coleman. That is about to change with Andy Propst new biography, You Fascinate Me So: The Life and Times of Cy Coleman ($32.99, Applause Theatre & Cinema Books). Propst, a music and theatre journalist takes the reader into the world and work of this amazing Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning talent. He was a child prodigy in the 1930s and was a jazz pianist and early television celebrity of the 1950s. This preeminent Broadway composer passed away in November 2004. In addition to the full cooperation of the Coleman estate, the book is further enhanced by interviews with performers like Michele Lee, Phyllis Newman, Chita Rivera, as well as others such as Hal Prince and Tommy Tune. Every major singer has performed his songs, from Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Steisand to Dame Shirley Bassey. If you love music, you will love this biography.
In the 1960s when the feminist movement was gaining momentum and spreading, we all became aware of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem who became icons of the movement, but at the same time there was an anti-feminist counterpart who, happily, is recalled and the subject of Helen Andelin and the Fascinating Womanhood Movement by Julie Debra Neuffer ($19.95, The University of Utah Press, softcover). She authored “Fascinating Womanhood” which sold more than two million copies, becoming a celebrity and spokeswoman for the point of view that the greatest role for a woman was as a wife and a mother. She preached family values and that the best career was homemaker. From an unknown housewife-turned-media-sensation, Andelin found herself appearing in magazines, on radio and with TV personalities, Larry King, Phil Donahue, and Connie Chung. Neuffer teaches 20th century American history and courses in American religion at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. Ironically, Neuffer grew up in a small town where Andelin’s views would be right at home, but still pursued her career. She would come to know Andelin, discovering she knew little about the feminist movement, but both she and Friedan were responding to the unhappiness and turmoil that many American women were experiencing during the 1960’s and 70’s.
Going further back in time, Dorothy U. Seyler tells us about The Obelisk and the Englishman: The Pioneering Discoveries of Egyptologist William Bankes ($26.00, Prometheus Books) who was a pioneer in the nascent study of the language, history, and civilization of ancient Egypt. Born in 1786, Bankes discovered the King List at the Abydos Temple, a wall of cartouches listing Egyptian Kings in chronological order which was vital to the decoding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. A homosexual, he lived in an era where he as persecuted for being gay and threatened with imprisonment. Despite that, his pioneering work on ancient temples and artifacts now enriches the knowledge of modern Egyptologists. His home, now a National Trust estate, can be visited to enjoy his art collection and it has an obelisk from Philae on its south lawn. A professor emerita of English who has authored ten college textbooks, but this departure is a special treat for its treatment of Bankes’ life and his work.
The Earth from Myths to Knowledge by Hubert Krivine ($29.95, Verso Books) takes the reader on a trip to the past as it tells the story of the thinkers and scientists speculated and discover how the Earth came to be and, while the planet’s elliptical orbit around the Sun and its billions of years of existence is taken for granted these days, it took a millennia for these truths to be achieved and known. Krivine introduces the reader to Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler, as well as Halley, Kelvin, Darwin and Rutherford among many others, demonstrating how they often had to get passed religious dogmatism to make their discoveries known, celebrating their courage while acknowledging that as often as not blind luck played a part! It was an epic struggle to overcome ideology and superstition from which the philosophy of science emerged. Krivine demonstrates that scientific progress is not a sufficient condition for social progress, but it is a necessary one. The Earth is not merely a history of scientific learning, but a stirring defense of Enlightenment values in the quest for human advancement.
The Earth is at the heart of Rare: The High-Stakes Race to Satisfy Our Need for the Scarcest Metals on Earth by Keith Veronese ($25.00, Prometheus Books). What would happen if the supply of tanalum dries up? While most have no heard of this unusual metal, but without it smartphones would be instantly less omniscient, video games would false, and laptops fail. This is the story of Rhodium, Osmium, Nioblum and other such rare metals and how they are the key components of many consumer products like cell phones and flat screen televisions. Rare delves into the economic and geopolitical issues surrounding these “conflict minerals” blending tales of financial and political struggles with glimpses into the human lives that are shattered by the race to secure them. This book has warnings of the future as China is the world’s largest supplier of these metals, and the U.S., Great Britain, and Japan race to find alternative sources.
You will gain a whole new insight as to human behavior when you read Richard H. Thaler’s Misbehaving: The Making of Behavior Economics ($27.95, W.W. Norton). Thaler is already acknowledged as one of the world’s most unconventional economist so his new book is no surprise in that regard. He distills a career’s worth of thinking about “dumb stuff people do” into a witty demolition of the more doctrinaire elements of economics. Thaler looks at the way people actually make their decisions to purchase things, to save nor not for the future, and countless other choices. Along the way he looks at economic misbehaving in financial markets, the NFL draft, to TV games, determining along the way which businesses thrive and which do not. This book will make you think far more seriously about the way you go about your economic life from buying tickets for a rock concert to picking out a new office and planning for retirement.
What drives the habit patterns that can be destructive to ourselves, to society, and the environment? That’s the question asked and answered in Dr. Peter C. Whybrow, MD’s The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived ($27.95, W.W. Norton). An eminent neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Whybrow weaves cutting-edge science, philosophy, history and personal experience to explore how the human brain is at odds with the enticements of the consumer society. He calls it the mismatch between who we are and the vibrant culture in which we live. Self-interest and the drive to overconsumption are relics of our evolution, from a time when competition for scare resources was essential to our survival. We are, in addition, creatures of habit, what Dr. Whybrow calls our auto-pilots that permit the brain to work efficiently and with speed—intuitively and without conscious attention. He offers a variety of changes he believes will produce a better society. For anyone interested in how we think what we think and how we act on it within the context of our society, this book has much to offer.
The Future and Why We Should Avoid it: Killer Robots, the Apocalypse and Other Topics of Mild Interest ($22.95, Douglas & McIntyre, softcover) has been described as “a survival guide, part how-to manual, part product guide, part apocalypse and part sardonic observation to help us navigate through these troubled times.” But when weren’t the times troubled? Scott Feschuk, its author, muses on aging, death, technology, inventions, health and leisure.
Advice! Advice! Advice!
I don’t know why, but I have been overwhelmed by a dozen books that have arrived offering advice on how to live one’s life, get on with one’s partner, be a good parent, et cetera! I have no doubt that one or more of them will prove quite helpful.
Now, briefly, here they are. Are you Fully Charged? The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life by Tom Rath ($22.95, Silicon Guild, an imprint of Missionday) With many endorsements, Arianna Huffington says it is “about renewing ourselves in the full est sense. Drawing on extensive research, Tom Rath, provides us with the three key pillars that can help create a life of more meaning and perspective; being part of something larger than ourselves, valuing people and experiences over mere stuff, and understanding that looking after our own well-being is the first step to doing more for others.” 360 Degrees of Success: Money, Relationships, Energy, time—the 4 essential ingredients to create personal and professional Success by Ana Weber ($17.95, Morgan James, softcover) is written for corporate professionals who want to dramatically improve their level of efficiency, effectiveness and enjoyment at work and in all other aspects of their life. The author of 17 books as a renowned corporate success coach, Weber has put a lot of knowledge and guidance into book that pulls together the kind of insight and advice that can make a big difference for the reader. Another book for the workplace that is well worth reading is Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes by Margaret Heffernan ($15.99, a TED original with Simon & Schuster, softcover). The author demonstrates that by implementing sweeping changes, businesses often think it’s possible to do better, to earn more, and have happier employees. That is often not the case and she draws on decades spent overseeing different organizations to conclude that small changes are often far better. They encourage listening, asking questions, sharing information. This is a short book with a big message.
For marriage and parenthood, you could start with Navigating Your Relationship: A Voyage for Couples by H. Laurence Schwab, M.F.T. ($16.95, Two Harbors, softcover) who brings nearly thirty years of experience as a marriage and family therapist in private practice, as well as clinic and hospital settings to this text that addresses the fact that everyone’s relationship sails through choppy waters as some point. If couples learn to see each other as co-captains, both needed to be in control of their emotional destinies, even the toughest storms can be weathered. This book has a perfect metaphor. This is about dialogue and destiny.
Live More, Work Better: A Practical Guide to a Balanced Life by Gayle Hiltendort ($12.95, Bascom Hill Publishing Group, softcover) After spending more than 20 years as an overworked professional pouring her heart and soul into her job, the author decided after sacrificing her health, marriage, and personal relationships for her job to reevaluate and take her life back. If this sounds like you, this is the book for you! Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success ($19.99, Harper Wave, in imprint of HarperCollins, softcover) by David B. Feldman and Lee Daniel Kravetz asks why do some people succumb to tragedy while others are able to use it as a springboard for extraordinary accomplishments? The book offers a blueprint for human resilience and a window into the science of achievement. It’s a book that Bloomberg Businessweek said was “one of the most valuable and interesting business books released this year.” The authors have given voice to individuals from all over the world who have managed to overcome significant hardship. If you or someone you know is encountering some setbacks, this is the book to read. “Unexpected inspiration from inside the nursing home” is the subtitle of Simple Lessons for a Better Life by Charles E. Dodgen ($18.00, Prometheus Books, softcover.) These are valuable life lessons from the unique experiences of nursing home residents. Dr. Dodgen, a clinical psychologist who has worked with this population for 18 years has discovered that when the surplus trappings of lifestyle are cleared away and lives are stripped to their most essential components, people discover new paths to happiness, peace and fulfillment. It is an inspiring book that is well worth reading.
For those with a spiritual approach to life there’s Life Unstuck: Finding Peace with your Past, Purpose in your Present, Passion for your Future by Pat Layton ($14.99, Revel, softcover). As she notes, womanhood is not an easy journey and everyone has felt stuck at some point in life. Layton reassures the reader that God has some much more than this planned for His daughters. The founder and president of the Life Impact Network, Layton has 25 years in full-time women’s ministry and has learned a lot about how women think, feel, respond and don’t respond. She shares her insight and encouragement as she delves deep into areas women seem to get stuck in the most—relationships, finances, ministry, career, and more.
Sand in My Sandwich and Other Motherhood Messes I’m Learning to Love by Sarah Parshall Perry ($14.99, Revell, softcover) is about a perfectionist, uptight lawyer, marry her to a small-town hero with no college degree and a very laidback outlook on life, and you have the recipe for some interesting challenges. Now add three children, two of whom are on the autism spectrum, and you know life is going to be filled with challenges to face and overcome. That’s Perry’s life and she pulls some universal truths of motherhood from it, addressing them with humajn, poignancy, and a naked honesty that will look and feel familiar to mothers everywhere. For today’s new mom’s this will prove to be very useful reading. Bruce and Caitlin Howlett have teamed to write Creating Capable Kids: Twelve Skills That Will Help Kids Succeed in School and Life ($15.95, New Horizon Press, softcover). Educators, they show parents how to guide, teach and incubate child development at home and in school. They offer fresh, effective ways to rescue children who are struggling in school and at home. Given the way today’s schools literally dumb down their students from the way they teach reading and math, this book could be the answer to many a frustrated parent’s questions on how to correct that problem. This is good advice on helping children become motivated, perceptive and resilient.
Stress-free Discipline: Simple Strategies for Handling Common Behavior Problems by Sara Au and Peter L. Stavinoha ($14.95, AMACOM, softcover) will solve a lot of problems that parents commonly face. From tantrum-throwing toddlers to eye-rolling teens, parents with children of all ages struggle with challenging behaviors at some point and while advice seems plentiful, it never seems to apply to your child at the moment. Sara is a mom and a journalist and Peter is a dad and pediatric neuropsychologist. Together they help the reader to understand why kids behave badly and how discipline can be applied, consistently and calmly, to not only alleviate stressful behavior issues, but also cultivate a positive parent-child relationship. As they say “behavior is communication” and “discipline is education.” Using flexible methods, both scientifically tested and parent-approved, the authors render the routine challenges less stressful, while strengthening a parent’s sense of purpose and peace of mind.
Kid Stuff for Younger Readers
To get the very young interested in reading, start them off by reading to them and Peter Apel’s book, Fred Pinsocket Loves Bananas ($7.99, Fred Pinsocket Productions) is a good example. First of all, it is small and very sturdy paperboard so it could take the handling of a two to three year old. Its colorful illustrations are easy to understand and its text is largely a repetition of the title, devoted to his love of bananas. Apel is a San Hose music artist, singer-songwriter, author, illustrator, magician and, yes, a dad. You can learn more about the book at www.PeterApel.com/bananabook and download a song to accompany it. By reading a delightful story like this, you will awaken an interest in pre-school children and create a memorable bond at the same time.
Two books from New Horizon Press have a message for specific groups of children. A Home for Ruby: Helping Children Adjust to New Families by P.J. Neer, PhD, ($9.95) was written for the 400,000 children who live in foster care, some of whom have a difficult time adjusting to their new home. Ruby is a beautiful horse but does not behave well and each of her owners send her off to new farms when she acts up. She is frustrated and scared, but when she arrives at Meadow Green, but her new owner sticks with her and Rudy finally realizes this would be a great forever home and behaves well. Maddy Patti and the Great Curiousity; Helping Children Understand Diabetes is by Mary Bilderback Abel and Stan Borg, illustrated by Lorraine Day ($9.95) and as the title makes clear, it is filled with information about diabetes that a younger reader needs to know. This is particularly true because if one parent has diabetes the child’s risk is 15% higher and, if both parents have it, the risk rises to 75% of falling victim of type 1 diabetes. It is a delightful story because Maddy’s grandfather is a retired doctor and Maddy has the gift of being able to communicate with the animals on his farm who instruct her on proper care and diet.
For sheer fun for those age seven and up, there’s Night Buddies Go Sky High by Sands Hetherington, illustrated by Jessica Love ($7.99, www.DuneBuggyPress.com) And the good news is that there’s also Night Buddies: Imposters and One Far-Out Flying Machine and Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare. Night Buddies is devoted to the nighttime adventures of a young boy named John, who is not ready to go to sleep, and a bright red crocodile named Crosley who turns up under John’s bed each night. With an imaginary language of their own and a unique set of technological gizmos, this unlikely pair sneaks out using Crosley’s I-ain’t-here doodad, which makes them invisible to John’s parents. The stories are imaginative and great fun to read.
For the young adult reader there’s a novel by Deirdre Riordan Hall, Sugar, ($9.99, Skyscape, softcover) about a Puerto Rican-Polish teenager who lives in a dead-end town somewhere in New Hampshire. And Sugar is very, very fat at the age of 17. She is the brunt of cruel jokes and ridicule everywhere she goes. To survive, she keeps her head down, does what she’s told, and tries to fill up the empty space in her heart with food. When she meets a young man who seems to like her for who she is, they grow close and a new future opens up for her as she sets herself free with her own determination, bravery, and strength of character. This one is well worth reading.
Novels, Novels, Novels
I never fail to wonder at the number of new novels being published every month. It is a torrent of fiction. Here are a few that arrived at Bookviews.
There’s The Organ Broker by Stu Strumwasser ($24.99, Arcade Publishing), a story about an underground black market organ dealing known as “New York Jack.” For eighteen years Jack has been a ‘transplant tourism director’, sending wealth Americans and Europeans in need of kidneys and other organs to third world nations where they would buy them from transplant centers on the take. The death of a client and a newfound relationship lead to a crisis of conscience as he is forced to choose between a two million dollar commission—and participating in a murder. Jack races to South America, Brazil and beyond, just one step ahead of his adversary and the FBI, in search of one small act of redemption. You will want to follow that race when you read this intriguing novel.
Good news for fans of Graig Johnsons’s Longmire series as Wyoming’s beloved lawman takes on his coldest case yet in Dry Bones ($27.95, Viking). When the largest complete T Rex skeleton ever found turns up—along with a dead rancher—in Absaroka County, Sheriff Longmire must solve a 66 million year old cold case. When Danny Lone Elk, a Cheyenne rancher is found dead and floating in a turtle pond, he also learns that a T Rex skeleton has been unearthed on his land. Everyone lays claim to it while Longmire seeks to find the rancher’s killer. Longmire is a successful television series on A&E. If you love a good mystery, you will love this latest addition to the series. Far from Wyoming there’s Manhattan Mayhem ($24.95, Quirk Books), new short stories from members of the Mystery Writers of America, edited by Mary Higgins Clark and featuring an original one of her own. From Wall Street to Harlem, these stories reflect that crimes and misdemeanors in a tour of neighborhoods with well over a dozen stories that will prove thoroughly entertaining from cover to cover.
Hillary Clinton is in the news these days having announced her candidacy for 2016. Dr. Alma H. Bond, Ph.D, a psychoanalyst for 35 years have read everything possible about Hillary and, as she did with her previous novels about Marilyn Monroe, Jackie O, and Michelle Obama, all “On the Couch”, her latest book is Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Couch ($22.50, Bancroft Press).
Some of the questions Dr. Bond seeks to answer is what her parents were really like and what lasting affects they had on her? How does she deal with a womanizing husband? Is she a genuine person or just acting a role? How effective was she as a U.S. Senator and as Secretary of State? If Hillary is on your mind, this book, billed as a novel, is fact-filled and ready to answer your questions. Rex Burwell takes the reading on a romp through a week in the 1920s in Capone, the Cobbs, and Me ($30.00, Livingston Press) as a baseball big-leader Mort Hart is suspected of knowing too much by a mob murderer who tries to kill him. Hot-headed Ty Cobb has a reason to kill him as well because he suspects Mort is having an affair with his wife. You are along for the ride as Mort uses his wits to save his skin and that of the woman he loves. You will get a feeling for the high-flying 1920s and some of its most flamboyant figures. It’s fiction, yes, but the suspense of what happens next is a lot of fun.
Seventh Street Books have published a number of novels. I’ll start with Stone Cold Dead by author James W. Ziskin ($15.95, softcover) who continues his “Ellie Stone Mystery” series. The date is December 21, 1960, the shortest day of the year as 15-year-old Darleen Hicks slips away from her school bus. It departs without her and she is never seen again. On New Year’s Day 1960 Ellie Stone receives a late-night caller—Irene Metzger, the grieving mother of Darleen Hicks who tells her the local police won’t help her because they believe she has run off with some older boy and will return when she’s ready. Ellie takes on the case and you join her as she begins a chilling journey to a place of uncertainty, loss, teenage passion, and vulnerability, a place where Ellie’s questions are unwanted and put her life in danger. Mark Pryor is back with a Hugo Marston novel, The Reluctant Matador, ($15.95, softcover). When a 19-year-ld aspiring model disappears in Paris, her father, Bart Denum, turns to Marston for help. Marston, the security chief at the US embassy, makes some inquiries and learns that the daughter was in fact an exotic dancer and she has left for Barcelona with a shady character she met at a seedy strip club. When Marston and a friend, a former CIA agent finally track the man in Barcelona, they find Bart Denum standing over his dead body. Spanish authorities arrest him and the question is whether Marston and his friend can find the real killer and locate the missing daughter. See Also Murder: A Majorie Trumaine Mystery by Larry D. Sweazy ($15.95, softcover) begins with a grisly killing in 1964 in Dickinson, North Dakota where Erick and Lida Knudsen are found murdered in their bed with their throats slit. Their two sons, ages 19 and 20, live in the same house but claim to have heard nothing while they were asleep. When Sheriff Hilo Jenkins finds a strange copper amulet clasped in Erik’s hand, he turns to Marjorie Trumaine, a skilled researcher, to help unravel this mystery. It just gets uglier, but in a way that will surprise the reader. One thing’s for sure, it’s never boring.
The author of Traitor’s Gate, Charlie Newton ($15.95, Thomas & Mercer, softcover) has already established himself among the top novelists around these days. His debut novel, “Calumet City”, was named a Best Debut in 2008 by the American Library Association and nominated for the Edgar, Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, And Thriller awards. The next, “Start Shooting”, generated similar praise. His newest novel is a gripping thriller that takes the reader to the tense days leading to the first shots of World War II. A survivor of a brutal massacre that left her family dead, Saba Hassouneh becomes “the Raven”, a freedom fighter hunted throughout the Middle East by the British colonial powers and the religious mullahs. As she plots a major attack on one of the British oil refineries, the plot of the story will keep you glued to the page and turning them to find out what happens next.
That’s it for June! Tell your book-loving friends, family and co-workers about Bookviews.com where a wide variety of unique non-fiction and fiction can be found every month, sure to provide you with news of a book you want to read. And come back in July!
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
By Alan Caruba
My Picks of the Month
It’s still early in the year, but by far one of the best books to have been published in 2015 is Senator Mike Lee’s Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America’s Founding Document ($27.95, Sentinel, an imprint of the Penguin Group). Lee (R-Utah) is the chairman of the Senate Steering Committee and an appointed advisor to Senate Majority Leaders Mitch McConnell. A former Supreme Court clerk, he serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee. When you read his book, you will give a silent prayer of thanks that someone so knowledgeable about the Constitution and so dedicated to it has been elected to defend it. Indeed, Senators and other U.S. officials take an oath to defend the Constitution, but it has long been honored more in word than deed. This book is especially important because we are living through a period widely understood to be one of lawlessness in the highest office of the land; a fearful situation in which the President has simply chosen to ignore the vital and stipulated role of the legislative branch in the creation of policy. If you have never read the Constitution or were only briefly taught that its first ten Amendments are our Bill of Rights, this book will provide you with an understand that opens your eyes to the great issue of our time that the way the Constitution has continued to serve all Americans even though it has been under duress since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt who created a huge federal government with asserted powers not found in the Constitution. Want to really understand what is happening at the highest levels of government in America today? Read Sen. Lee’s extraordinary and very interesting book on the subject.
I have been reading Larry Bell’s commentaries on the Forbes magazine site for a long time. He is a Professor of Architecture at the University of Houston, but he is known to his readers as one of the most perceptive writers about the global warming/climate change hoax with which we have been living since the late 1980s. He brings a host of facts along with his opinion, making him invaluable to those trying to sort out the lies. His latest book is Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom ($22.95, Stairway Press, softcover) and if you have been promising yourself you want to know the truth about the alleged threats to planet Earth, then this most certainly is the book to read. You will learn how and why billions have been squandered by our government and others on the apocalyptic myths that have been repeated endlessly in the mainstream media. There is no scientific basis to much of what is still being taught in our schools and presented as climate policy by the government and the many environmental groups that profit from keep everyone frightened. Bell’s book is easy to read which is a blessing when you consider the science it addresses and presents.
Everyone is African: How Science Explodes the Myth of Race by Daniel J. Fairbanks ($18.00, Prometheus Books, softcover) examines the research about DNA and the origins of the human race, all of which concludes that we are a single human race, sharing most of our DNA and differing only in terms of mutations that occurred after our ancestors migrated from Africa sixty to seventy thousand years ago. Fairbanks is the dean of the College of Science and Health at Utah Valley University, a research geneticist, and author. What he has to say will upset those who cling to race as an important “difference”, but what they are really addressing are cultural and social differences, not racial ones. The science presented is comprehensible even to someone without a background and the conclusions the book arrives at should be more widely known.
Few criminal acts and events evoke more fear and outrage than shootings at schools that take the lives of students and teachers. Two comes swiftly to mind, Columbine High School in 1999 and Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Peter Langman is a psychologist who has made an intensive study of the shooters in these and some 48 our incidents. His book, School Shooters ($31.00, Rowman and Littlefield) provides a wealth of information and insight regarding the gunmen, mostly younger and white, mostly psychotic and psychopathic. In general they lacked the normal constraints on such behavior being either narcissistic, lacking empathy, or seeking to empower themselves to offset feelings of inadequacy. The one thing I concluded from reading this book was that all were what we would call “losers” in some respect, failing in school, unable to hold jobs, in trouble of one sort of another. Langman to his credit says there is probably no way to identify the next school shooter or protect against the next shooting.
Science is one of those topics we hear about all the time, but unless you studied it in school or college, it is also one of those topics about which many of us have a very limited knowledge. You can improve yours by reading The Story of Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory by Susan Wise Bauer ($26.95, W.W. Norton). A best-selling writer and historian, Bauer introduces the reader to the development of great science writing as she walks you through thirty-six seminal scientific texts spanning 2,500 years, making them more approachable in a narrative of the human understanding of our world and beyond. This book connects the dots, positioning important scientific texts in both their historical and scientific contexts.
Over the years I have received many cookbooks and one of the best publishes of them is Pelican Publishing Company of New Orleans. Among their latest is Kit Wohl’s New Orleans Classic Celebrations ($16.95). Anyone who has ever visited New Orleans comes away with memories of the fabulous cuisine that its many restaurants offer. Wohl is an author, photographer, and artist. She works with chefs, restaurants, and hotels around the nation and this book is her tenth. It features a hundred color photos to illustrate its many fabulous recipes such as Le Petite Grocery’s blue crab beignets, onion soup from Arnaud’s, and Mosca’s Chicken Grande. They have easy-to-follow instructions for the home cook and the photos alone would make one want to head to the kitchen to prepare and share any one of the wonderful dishes. Pelican has a series devoted to classic recipes for desserts, brunches, seafood and appetizers, among others. A great gift for oneself or the “foodie” you know will love it.
I love a book that exists just to be fun. That is a perfect description of Find Momo Coast to Coast ($14.95, Quirk Books, softcover) by photographer Andrew Knapp and his border collie Momo who came to fame in 2012 when Knapp began sharing photos of him on Instragram. Together they made their literary debut in 2013 with “Find Momo” as that enjoyed playing hide-and-seek around the world. This new book chronicles a 15,000 miles tail-waggingly fun adventure across the U.S. and Canada. The photos are a splendid way for anyone old or young to get acquainted with both nations as both famed sites and those little known are visited and Momo peeks out at you after you finally find him in the setting. It never ceases to be entertaining.
Memoirs and Biographies
I have been a fan of Dana Perino from her days as the press secretary to George W. Bush and now as one of the Fox News show, The Five. It doesn’t hurt that she is simply quite beautiful, but I have always been impressed by, first, her ability to deal with the White House press during the Bush years and, now, for the unfailingly wise interpretation of events and personalities about which she is asked to comment. Her new book is And the Good News Is… ($26.00, Twelve) is a memoir as well as a sharing of lessons she has learned in her life. It would make especially good reading for any young woman who likewise admires her, but the book will surely please any reader because it is filled with good humor plus behind-the-scenes stories from her days in the White House and now at Fox News. We learn for example that her father expected her to pick out two news stories from the Denver Post or Rocky Mountain News and be prepared to discuss them a dinner. She credits that will learning how to articulate her thoughts and present her views persuasively. There is no doubt that she was hired for some very challenging jobs in her government career because others saw she had significant skills. She has had a full life to this point and one about which you will enjoy reading.
We all look at actors and actresses, especially during award shows, and think what fabulous lives they have. Lisa Jakub tells a very different story in You Look Like That Girl: A Child Actor Stops Pretending and Finally Grows Up ($24.95, Beaufort Books). From the age of four, she had a very successful career, appearing in forty movies and television shows over the course of 18-years in which she had appeared in blockbusters like “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Independence Day.” Her was indeed a life of red carpets, luxury, celebrity filled dinner parties, and all the things people think are fabulous. “However, like many actors I knew, I failed miserably at feeling successful. When we signed autographs we worried we would be failures if we never signed another one. When we were auditioning, we worried we would never work again. When we were working, we worried that the film might be terrible and could ruin our careers.” Sounds like fun? Hardly. In a chapter titled “Professional Pretender”, Jakub says “I think that there should be Oscars given for coal mining. There should be a red carpet night for 011 operators and orphanage employees.” These were real jobs that real people were living. Here is a completely candid, honest look at the life of a child actor and ultimately how and why Jakub walked away from it to have a life based in the pursuit of reality.
The Nazi Holocaust is fading into history except for those who survived it, their loved ones, and for the nation of Israel that rose from its ashes. It also produced many memoirs and each reminds us of the horrors of the 1930s and 40s. It also reminds us of the personal courage of people to survive a hatred we are seeing mirrored in today’s headlines of a comparable Islamic campaign to kill the Middle East’s Christians. An Improbable Journey: A True Story of Courage and Survival During World War II by Susan Schenkel, Ph.D. ($12.95, Brightfield Books, softcover) is based the lives of her parents, Leon and Siddi Schenkel. Siddi was only 16 when she was left on her own in Nazi Germany and, like Leon, she had found her way to Samarkand, Uzbekistan to escape the fate that before six million European Jews. That is where they met and fell in love. Together they faced starvation, homelessness, epidemics, and harassment from the Soviet police. Despite this, they had a baby. After the war they returned to Germany and a displaced persons camp from which they eventually made their way to America. This memoir is a small piece of history, but reading it will provide a unique window in those times and insights toward our present times.
We think of it as the mansion that overlooks Arlington National Cemetery, but for a very long time before it was known as the George Washington Parke Custis Mansion and it was one of the most recognized buildings in the region, visible from almost anywhere in Washington, D.C. It was built by the step-grandson of Washington. It would become the home of his daughter, Mary Anna Custis Lee and her husband, General Robert E. Lee who had lived there for thirty years. Mrs. Lee’s Rose Garden: The True Story of the Founding of Arlington by Carlo Devito ($17.95, Cider Mill Press) tells of its transition from a treasured Lee family home, to hallowed ground. Lee was already an acclaimed general at the time the Civil War broke out. Choosing the lead the South, it would also cause him the loss of the mansion. Its vast grounds were chosen as a national cemetery not just for their location, but as a rebuke to Lee. This is a short book, but it is filled with the drama of the lives most intimately involved with the mansion and provides a wonderful look at the pre-and-post Civil War era. They come alive as real people faced with their personal and the national dramas.
Wars are the punctuation marks of history and they generate much telling of it. Whole libraries could be filled with those about World War II and you can add Hell from the Heavens: The Epic Story of the USS Laffey and World War II’s Greatest Kamikaze Attack by John Wukovits ($25.99, Da Capo Press). In our times we have the Muslim suicide bombers, but during WWII the Japanese had their own suicide killers who flew aircraft loaded with explosives into war ships. The Laffey gain fame as “The ship that refused to die”, but not until thirty-two of its crew had died, over seventy were wounded, and the ship was gravely damaged. On April 16, 1945 he was attacked by twenty-two kamikaze aircraft, marking the largest single-ship attack of the war. Nine of the aircraft were shot down in the 80-minute battle and, despite the damage, the ship managed to return home. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the attack. The hero of the story is the Laffey’s commander, F. Julian Becton, who took an inexperienced crew—many just barely out of high school—and prepared them for battle with rigorous training drills. The whole crew were, of course, heroes and testimony to “the greatest generation” that faced a fanatical, determined enemy and defeated it.
Although they were on the wrong side of the law, we still have a strange sweet spot for the bad boys, the criminals who made history in their own way. That is why the Mafia became part of U.S. history after some of its members migrated from Italy. The era of Prohibition became a unique opportunity to make a lot of money providing the booze that a Constitutional Amendment had banned. Bill Friedman has written a massive tome, 30 Illegal Years to the Strip ($19.99, available from Internet book outlets, ebook $9.99. It looks at the careers of the most powerful gangsters in American history; men whose names like Al Capone, Charlie Luciano, and Meyer Lansky are well known thanks to the popular culture of films and television. The criminals of that era would go on to build 80% of the early Las Vegas Strip gambling resorts from the Flamingo in 1946 to Caesars Palace in 1966. This is an intensely researched book about three decades of organized crime starting with Prohibition and how these hoodlums changed course to set in motion the most famed gaming capital in America. Under different circumstances they might have been regarded as business leaders, but they also occasionally ordered the murder of those that threatened their lives and livelihood. During WWII, Luciano and Lansky would have been regarded as heroes for ordering dock workers to cooperation with U.S. Naval intelligence to thwart the German U-boat attacks on allied ships. Chapter by chapter this is fascinating history.
Getting Down to Business (Books)
If and when the nation encounters a financial meltdown, it won’t be because lots of well- informed people did not issue warnings. The latest is Michael D. Tanner’s Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis ($18.95, Cato Institute). Tanner is a senior fellow with the libertarian Cato Institute, an expert on health care reform, social welfare policy, and Social Security. His latest book points to a federal government that continues to grow and the overspending for which it has become famous. At this writing, we have an $18 trillion debt. In sum, Tanner warms could end up a financial basket case like Greece. The entitlement programs represent 47% of federal spending today. The addition of the Affordable Care Act only adds to deficit to the tune of a trillion a year. This book will be read by those who take such matters seriously, but its predictions will affect everyone. If Tanner’s book doesn’t keep you up at night, Philip Kotler’s Confronting Capitalism will ($26.00, Amacom). Kotler is a professor of International marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, but trained initially as an economist, being taught by the University of Chicago’s famed free-market evangelist, Milton Friedman, and later under Paul Samuelson at MIT. Suffice to say, he has terrific credentials, but he also has a host of reservations about the capitalist system that has made the USA the wealthiest nation on planet Earth and which has survived depressions and recessions once the government got out of the way and let it work. Kotler serves up a book filled with reasons, trends and predictions that suggests trouble ahead, but I have to say I have been reviewing books for over fifty years at this point and have seen this kind of thing before. Is he right? Maybe. Your move!
People love to read books by people who have achieved great success and that is a good description of John Sculley, the former CEO of Pepsi and Apple. If you would like to join that multi-millionaire club, you might want to read his book Moonshot! Game-Changing Strategies to Build Billion-Dollar Businesses ($27.95, Rosette Books). The book’s target audience are entrepreneurs, investors and young business leaders. Sculley, unlike the academics noted above, has been there first hand and his book says that all those high tech industries are going to disrupt virtually every industry in some fashion. Moreover, the traditional business plan has been irrelevant and is being replaced by the customer plant. Indeed, the best way in the future to success is to provide superb customer service and, best of all, this is the best time in history to build a billion-dollar business. Now this is the kind of book I like reading!
There is no end to books offering advice on leadership skills and for anyone in the world of business or any other activity they can often be very helpful. A Higher Standard was written by General Ann Dunwoody (U.S. Army, Ret.) and is subtitled “Leadership skills from America’s first female four-star general” ($25.99, Da Capo Press) and it is just that. She relates her 37 years with the military and what she learned along the way, sharing her view they men and women must pursue excellence, demonstrate integrity, and cultivate endurance. Best of all it is filled with practical business advice such as never ignoring a mistake and holding those who make them accountable. She says leaders aren’t invincible and should try to be, while at the same time learning to recognize your advocates, patronizers, and detractors. She advises on the best ways to form a winning team. And much more. She was the first woman to become a four-star general so she knows whereof she speaks. For those in the management ranks, you might consider reading Laurie Sudbrink’s Leading With GRIT: Inspiring Action and Accountability with Generosity, Respect, Integrity, and Truth ($35.00 Wiley). How do you know this is worth reading? Consider the publisher, Wiley, one of the top business book publishers. Then consider the author who brings twenty years of corporate experience in human relations, management, sales, marketing and training to this book. This is a practical leadership guide and, at the same time, will show you how to approach your job and life with a positive feeling about who you are and where you’re going. Those who master leadership skills and attitudes go onto to become leaders and this book is a good place to start.
When those big bucks begin to come in, you might want to read Paul Sullivan’s The Thin Green Line: The Money Secrets of the Super Wealthy ($27.00, Simon & Schuster). I will hold onto this one in case I hit the Lotto Power Ball. Sullivan is the “Wealth Matters” columnist at The New York Times and draws on his experience writing about today’s One Percent to show others how to make better financial decisions. Indeed, he makes a distinction between being wealthy and being rich, the former being having more money than you need to do all the things you want. Being rich, on the other hand, says Sullivan means being financial secure even in hard times. His book looks at how we think about money and wealth, and being honest with our fears and insecurities, as a way to arrive at rational decisions. He discusses both spending and saving money which is something to which we often do not give much thought. If you intend to get rich or already closing in on that level of security, this is a book worth reading.
Increasingly, people and industries here in the West are looking at doing business in Asia. Mark L. Clifford has lived in Asia for twenty-five years as a journalist, author, and policy advisor, witnessing and chronicling the ups and downs of Asia’s spectacular economic rise. His new book is The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency ($29.95, Columbia University Press) and it looks at the way, for example, China’s environment, its air and water, has suffered in the quest to embrace a free market economy and join the rest of the world in the pursuit of a growing, successful economy. Clifford is an advocate for “green” solutions to issues such as energy use and pollution, so his book, while celebrating the success Asian business is enjoying, also is filled with warnings about the price it will pay for it. The problem with that is that wind and solar energy cannot even begin to meet the needs of Asia or anywhere else for that matter. Europe is already divesting itself of these power sources and returning to coal and considering nuclear power to meet its growing needs.
There will never be an end to books on investing and that is because changes in the business community, new technologies that generate new investment options, and other factors all need to be addressed. Ken Fisher, a billionaire, best-selling author, and Forbes “Portfolio Strategy” columnist is well worth reading for his insights and advice. His new book, Beat the Crowd: How You Can Out-Invest the Herd by Thinking Differently ($29.95, Wiley) is the book anyone contemplating investing or already doing so should read because he explores our contrarianism as an investment strategy rather than following the herd is worth understanding. Wall Street’s definition of contrarian investing is simplistic and wrong, says Fisher, one of the most successful money managers in history. His firm controls nearly $65 billion in assets. He defines it as being smarter than the crowd by finding and leveraging valuable information that isn’t already priced into a stock. His book reveals how to train your brain to battle the media, the crowd, your friends, and your neighbors. Independent thought is the key to successful investing says Fisher. There’s nothing magical about this and he says that you just have to be right more often than wrong. “A 60% success rate keeps you well ahead of most.” It is filled with the most basic knowledge of the market to know whether you are a novice or serious investor. “Stocks are your long-term way to own” the benefits of the changes occurring thanks in large part to new and developing technologies shaping the economy. This is definitely the book to read on this subject.
Novels, Novels, Novels
David Ignatius is a prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post who has more than twenty-five year’s experience covering the Middle East and the CIA. He is also the author of several novels that have put him in the ranks of our best. He cements that reputation with The Director ($16.95, W.W. Norton, softcover) that begins when a disheveled youth walks into the American consulate in Hamburg and demands a private interview with the new CIA director. The consulate is dismissive until he tells them the agency has been hacked and that he has a list of undercover agents’ names as proof. At this point you will be reading a fast-paced thriller that feels like it was ripped from the headlines as we read about such hacks. The new Director has only been in office for a week when he receives word that the agency has been hacked and that no one is safe. What the young hacker wants is an exchange of the information he has for protection from the people trying to kill him. A young, tech-savvy agent is assigned to the case, but the Director begins to have suspicions of him. This is a cyber-espionage novel that guarantees a story you will not want to put down until the last page.
Another action-packed novel is Scott McEwen’s The Sniper and the Wolf ($24.99, Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster). McEwen is the coauthor with Chris Kyle of the huge bestseller of “American Sniper” which went on to become an Oscar-winning blockbuster film. This novel was co-written with Thomas Kolonair. Together they have created a heart-pounding military thriller, the third inspired by Special Ops missions. In this story, hero Gil Shannon joins up with an unlikely Russian ally in order to stop a terrorist plot bent on destruction across Europe. Shannon is hot on the trail of a Chechen terrorist when his mission is exposed by a traitor high up in the U.S. government and he must turn to a Russian counterpart. Together they discover his goal is to upend the U.S. economy and the stability of the Western world. The hunt takes Shannon from Sicily to the Ukraine to Russia and you get to go along as he must get to the one sniper who might be his equal and who wants to kill him. The fact that the story is based on events from real life makes it a page-turner. Thrillers abound and Charlie Newton’s Traitor’s Gate ($14.95, Thomas & Mercer, softcover) takes the reader to the days just before the first shots of World War II. A survivor of a brutal massacre that left her family dead, Saba Hassouneh becomes The Raven, a freedom fighter hunted throughout the Middle East by the British colonial powers and religious mullahs alike. When she meets Eddie Owen, a petroleum engineer, their attraction is immediate, but their goals are diametrically opposed because she is eyeing British refineries as a point of attack. The must resolve their personal issues and, in doing so, determine who will own the skies of World War II.
Victoria Shorr intended to write a non-fiction account of the life of a beloved Brazillian legend, the one-eyed bandit Lampiao and his lover, Maria Bonita, but instead she opted to tell their story In Backlands ($25.95, W.W. Norton), bring to life the story of this Robin Hood hero whose gang avoided capture for a long time by living in the Sertao, the name which translated into the title of this story. They did indeed steal from the rich and give to the poor in the early decades of the 20th century, outwitting the authorities for twenty years. They were regarded as heroes by poor farmers and struggling merchants. The author devoted ten years to researching the story, concluding that the lives of Lampiao and Bonita lent themselves better to a fictional format. The facts remain true, but her lyrical telling of them makes this a story well worth reading.
Mystery and murder combine in The Fatal Sin of Love ($11.50, Back Bay Press, softcover). Somebody’s killing chocolate lovers in Boston and China. When a wealthy Back Bay widow dies in her sleep, nobody suspects that it’s just the beginning of a carefully laid out plot to hijack the multimillion dollar inheritance that the Chinese American dowager left to members of her far-flung family. Well, nobody but amateur detectives Ann Lee and Fang Chen. Written by G.X. Chen, who was born in Shanghai and raised in Hong Kong. A trip back to the mainland China in 1965 trapped her there for decades under Communist rule. After the Cultural Revolution, she became a best-selling author. These days she has a master’s degree from the University of New Mexico, having left China in 1989. She is now an American citizen, this is her fourth American novel. The good news is that there are more to come. This is a great way to learn about another culture while enjoying a great mystery as well.
That’s it for May! Come back next month for more news of books you may not hear or read about elsewhere. Tell your book-loving family members, friends and co-workers about Bookviews.com so they too can benefit from its eclectic news about the latest in non-fiction and fiction.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
By Alan Caruba
My Picks of the Month
Does it seem like all we hear about these days is how fat Americans are? Most surely that accounts for the dozens of diet books I receive. Imagine then how pleased I was to read Harriet Brown’s Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight and What We Can Do About it ($25.99, Da Capo Press). In its introduction she says, “We’re in the midst of an epidemic, one that’s destroying both the quality and the longevity of our lives. I’m not talking about overweight or obesity. I’m talking about our obsession with weight, our never-ending quest for thinness, our relentless angst about our bodies.” Her book tackles the myths and realities of the “obesity epidemic” and exposes the biggest lies driving the rhetoric of obesity. How nice it would be to have a day in which we are not constantly warned about eating sugar or wheat when candy and freshly baked items are among life’s greatest pleasures. Her book offers ways to think about weight and health with more common sense, accuracy, and respect. You are not likely to read or hear about this excellent book in the mainstream press because of the billions that the diet craze represents in advertising and revenue for physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and diet programs. All the more reason to read it and learn the truth.
A CNN poll whose results were released in March showed that nearly half of Americans believe race relations have worsened over the course of the presidency of Barack Obama, the first half-black man elected to the White House. The poll found that 39% believe relations between blacks and whites have gotten worse, not better, since Mr. Obama took office in January 2009. Just 15% say relations have improved. It found that 45% of whites think relations have worsened while just 26% of blacks think so. If race relations in America is a subject of interest and concern to you, then you will want to read Colin Flaherty’s new book, ‘Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry’ (available from Amazon.Com and other Internet book outlets, $19.72, softcover, $6.99 Kindle.) I reviewed Flaherty’s first book, “White Girl Bleed A Lot: The return of racial violence in America” which caused a sensation became a bestseller as it documented and revealed how the nation’s press consistently failed to report a trend in attacks on whites by blacks that were based entirely on racial bias. His new book looks how Americans are being led to believe that it is “white racism” that is causing comparable attacks, but not being told about the attacks such as a thousand Asian immigrants were brutalized for five years before the local newspaper took notice or the 40,000 blacks that rampaged through a Virginia beach town with little media coverage. A thousand such events are reported in his new book by this award winning reporter. At a time when all we read and hear about are black youths being shot by local police, barely being told they attacked the officers who acted in self-defense, this book has much to say and explain the state of race relations in America today.
The global warming hoax is finally beginning to give up the ghost thanks to 19 years in which the Earth has been in a cooling cycle based on the Sun’s reduced radiation, also a natural cycle. Al Gore got the hoax going bigtime with his book, “An Inconvenient Truth”, that was filled with absurd claims that the north and south poles would be melted by now, that polar bears would be extinct and all manner of weather-related events would produce chaos. Philip M. Fishman has written A Really Inconvenient Truth: The Case Against the Theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming ($19.95, MPS Publishing, softcover) that is intended to be read by those who may not have the scientific background or knowledge to make sense of all the claims. Fishman explains all the basics you need to know from the way the scientific method works to the aspects of climatology, the study of long-term trends that confirms that, yes, there were warm cycles, just as there were cold ones. These are the facts the “Warmists” who are still making claims about global warming don’t want you to know. The surprising thing about this highly readable book is the breadth of knowledge it covers without requiring you to read hundreds of pages. At 114 pages it is a breeze to read. Fishman makes no predictions, the common trait of the “Warmists.” Instead, he lays out the science-based information you need to know to refute “the convoluted logic that Theorists have used to spread their ‘Gospel.’”
If all the headlines these days have you concerned about the future of America, you are not alone. Fortunately, James Langston has taken a careful look at what is occurring in his new book, America In Crisis ($11.46 at Amazon.com, softcover). “Lumbering through a moral wilderness of incivility and unreason we are losing the best of ourselves to fear and uncertainty,” says Langston as he asks if we have lost our sense of right and wrong, but notes that, as a nation, “we have gone from fear to faith countless times.” Langston offers some inspirational analysis of the issues and challenges of our times. Younger readers in particular would benefit from reading Langston’s book that cites our nation’s history throughout, providing a sense of clarity and insight regarding our present problems.
Our headlines are filled with news of barbaric acts perpetrated by the Islamic State (ISIS) in its quest to create a new caliphate from which to conquer and dominate the world. Beheadings, crucifixions, kidnappings and slavery are its stock-in-track. A genocidal attack on Christians throughout the Middle East makes one ask why are they doing this and Hector A. Garcia, PhD provides an answer in Alpha God: The Psychology of Religious Violence and Oppression ($19.00, Prometheus Books, softcover). The author, a clinical psychologist, examines religious scriptures, rituals, and canon law, highlighting the many ways in which our evolutionary legacy has shaped the development of religion and continues to profoundly influence its expression. The author focuses on the image of God as the dominant male in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This is not light reading, nor does it provide much comfort, but it does provide an interesting look at the way religions reflect early human societies and affect our present ones.
Bookviews is generally a boost-don’t-knock report on new books. I am going to make an exception to that regarding Coal Wars: The Future of Energy and the Fate of the Planet by Richard Martin ($28.00, Palgrave Macmillan) because, while it acknowledges that coal provides 45% of the world’s electrical power, it also embraces the totally debunked environmental claims that it is causing or will cause “global warming” by putting too much carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. The fact is that CO2 levels have been increasing but the Earth has, at the same time, been in a cooling cycle of some 19 years. It is not warming and, more importantly, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was far higher centuries ago and its vegetation and animal life thrived. At present it represents a miniscule 0.04% of the atmosphere. We could use more, not less CO2 for healthier forests and increased crops. The fact that Martin is the editorial director of Navigant Research, “the premier clean energy (solar and wind) and analysis firm” reveals his bias and the flawed theme of this book. My suggestion is that you ignore it and all the other claims of so-called climate change. The Earth’s climate has been changing for 4.5 billion years and coal has nothing to do with it. What does? The Sun!
Only received one children’s book this past month, but it is well worth recommending. Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking ($18.95, Owlkids Books) by Elin Kelsey is, says the publisher, aimed at youngsters age 4 and up, but the earlier ages will need a parent to read it aloud to them because its vocabulary is for older readers at least 7 and up. A picture book, it is illustrated in ways to stimulate the imagination while its text features examples of how various animals from birds to whales solve problems. It generates respect for other species at the same time it teaches the young reader how to solve their problems. Its artwork makes it fun and its text is imaginative and inspiring.
On the subject of teaching, if you are a teacher or know one, Caroline Alexander Lewis has penned a short, pithy book, Just Back Off and Let Us Teach ($16.99, Dog Ear Publishing, softcover) asserting that if America wants to reform public education and regain its status in the world if must begin to value the good teachers and find ways to remove the poor ones from the classroom. Or as she puts it, unions should not provide job security for bad teachers. Both descriptive and motivational, her book defines five skills effective teachers must either have or acquire. For 22 years she was a teacher and a school principal before moving on to develop new programs in other fields. I would call this book “must reading” for any teacher.
A collection of quotations by Russ Kick is aptly named Flash Wisdom ($14.95, Disinformation Books, softcover) as his selection from poets, philosophers, scientists, and others provides pages of instant insight regarding all aspects of life. This is one of those books you keep handy to energize your mind with quotes that open doors on the best way to live one’s life. Keep it bedside or on your desk.
Memoirs and Memories
We live in a culture that thrives on celebrity news of their lives. This has been true throughout history when the royalty were fair game for discussion. In the Company of Legends by Joan Kramer and David Heely, with a foreword by Richard Dreyfus ($24.95, Beaufort Books) who together have won five Emmy Awards in addition to the twenty Emmy nominations they received, as the producers of many television programs. Their book focuses on the famous folk about whom they produced TV profiles. They included Katherine Hepburn, Johnny Carson, Frank Sinatra, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart and Bette Davis, among others. Noted film history, Robert Osborne, said of their book that it is “a king’s ransom of fascinating stories about colorful, bigger than life people we know, but didn’t know…told by people who actually knew the celebrities they write about…” If you love Hollywood and its legendary actors and actresses, you will love this book.
If you’re a fan of Cindy Williams, one half of the comedic duo, Laverne & Shirley, you will have to wait one month to pick up a copy of Shirley, I Jest! A Storied Life ($22.95, Taylor Trade Publishing, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield) by Cindy with Dave Smitherman, relating her life from her blue collar roots to unexpected stardom. She went from waiting tables at Whisky a Go Go to starring in one of the most iconic shows on television. This is an almost quintessential American story of success and she earned it. Like many bitten by the acting bug, she loves it and still loves her theatre roots, performing in many shows across the nation in addition to starring on Broadway in The Drowsy Chaperon. What makes her book so delightful is that she never took herself or her fame that seriously, demonstrating throughout her wonderful sense of humor while sharing amusing anecdotes about some of the most famous actors in Hollywood.
Not everyone is famous, but that doesn’t mean they have interesting stories to tell. Binoculars: Masquerading as a Sighted Person by Philip F. DiMeo ($24.95, New Horizon Press) is an example. For more than 17 years he pretended to be a fully-sighted person and, despite his growing loss of sight, he drove a car, went to college, became a social worker, a cartoonist, and a coach for two sports teams. As he vision grew worse, a physician diagnosed him as having retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease with no known cure. This is his first person account of what it was like to finally come to deal with that harsh reality, but he had the help of a loving wife and, with his guide dog, Ladonna, a yellow Labrador, became what he calls “a perfect match.” His blindness closed some doors in his life, but opened others. This is a truly inspirational book.
Missing Persons: A Life of Unexpected Influences by Bruce Piasecki is self-described as “a memoir of past, present, and future” ($17.95, Square One Publishers, softcover). Piasecki says “This book is a product of memory and creativity, not of chronology and fact.” He regards memory as an “art form that is accessible to us all. It is through memory that we triumph over loss, and it is memory that renders the impossible probable—and the dead merely missing.” Piasecki takes us from his impoverished childhood to his success as an internationally renowned businessman, as well as a husband, father, friend, and writer. It’s been an interesting life for him and you can read along for an interesting journey through it.
If there is one thing I love to read it is history. I never come away without having gained a new or renewed insight to the state of humanity. Understanding the present is impossible without know the past.
Thomas Fleming is already regarded as one of our nation’s preeminent historians and with good reason. In his latest book, The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation ($27.99, Da Capo Press) he grabs your attention by pointing out that that Washington and Jefferson had dramatically different backgrounds and differing opinions that left their imprint on the presidency. As Fleming notes, Jefferson was an avid bibliophile who attended the College of William and Mary, and went onto study law in his twenties as America inched toward rebellion against British rule. Washington, by contrast, was Jefferson’s senior by eleven years and had spent his youth as a land surveyor and began his military career in the French and Indian War. While Jefferson avoided military service in the Revolution, Washington relentlessly led America to victory. Suffice to say there was much disagreement between the two. Washington came to see him as an enemy and with good reason. Jefferson was all about his love for the French revolution—a bloodbath—and his own ambitions. Suffice to say this is a totally fascinating insight into the two men and their colleagues who brought about a new nation.
Knowing the past of Afghanistan as well as its present is the subject of Abdullah Sharif’s book, Sardar: From Afghanistan’s Golden Age to Carnage ($12.95 @ Amazon.com and other Internet book outlets, softcover), a personal account of his return to his former home after joining the U.S. State Department in 2009. He had been back in 2007 and was horrified by what he saw. In his absence of thirty years, his birth nation was in ruins, the result of invasion by the Soviet Union and the struggles with the Taliban after it withdrew. This is his memoir of his memories of the nation he left in 1976, the golden age to which he makes reference, to its present times. As he notes, his book is not that of an “expert”, but rather of a U.S. diplomat speaking for himself, unofficially of the devastation and corruption he found and an effort to explain the nation’s culture so that the U.S. can take steps to help Afghanistan became an independent nation. For his efforts, he was awarded an Expeditionary Service Award and Meritorious Civilian Service Award. The Governor of Kandahar Province, Tooryalai Wesa, Ph.D, described his book as filled with priceless observations and you will come away with a far better understanding of the nation than from reading official or academic writings on this subject.
America may be a young nation by comparison with others, but it has a long, rich history and The Lost World of the Old Ones: Discoveries in the Ancient Southwest by David Roberts ($27.95, W.W. Norton) begins with his discovery in 2005 with two of his mountaineering friends of what turned out to be a settlement beneath an overhanging cliff a thousand feet above a Utah ranch. It was an enormous granary and, given its location, raised the question of how the ancient natives could have lugged a ton and a half of corn up a sheer cliff. The region around the Four Corners is filled with such mysteries, including why the natives abandoned their homeland in the 14th century. In 1996, Roberts authored “In Search of the Old Ones”, which became an instant classic and this one is likely to be regarding in the same way. Here’s a way to enjoy the mountain climbing and exploration without having to do more than turn the pages of this interesting and entertaining book.
Douglas & McIntyre is a Canadian publisher that quite naturally publishes books about Canada. I suspect most Americans know very little about Canada other than it forms our northern border and that its hockey team is one of the most valuable franchises in the NHL. You can repair that gap in your knowledge, for example, with Allan Levine’s Toronto: Biography of a City ($36.95). It starts on the packed streets of today, whose 2.79 million residents makes it North America’s fourth largest city and a far cry from its earliest days as ”Little York”, comprised of the lieutenant governor’s muddy tent which he shared with his wife and six children. For anyone who is interested in the development of a dynamic city this book will prove very entertaining. I’ll bet most Americans are unaware that there have been three Canadian astronauts. In Canadian Spacewalkers ($29.95) Bob McDonald tells us the story of Chris Hadfield, Steve MacLean and Dave Williams, all of whom stepped outside to confront the universe in zero gravity. A science journalist and commentator on CBC News Network, he has received many honors for his work and when you read his book you will understand why as he takes you along on a trip that explains what it takes to be a spacewalker. The book is greatly enhanced by a hundred color photos. If space and science is your interest, this book is ideal.
University of Oklahoma Press
University presses are often overlooked as sources of interesting books that you might not find in a bookstore or on the site of one of the Internet book outlets. The University of Oklahoma Press is a good example.
We usually think about the “wild West” in terms of the many movies and television shows filled with cowboys and villains, bank robbers and sheriffs, but that period in our history, from between 1800 and 1920 also represents one of extraordinary invention, innovation, entrepreneurship and business. The names of many of the men who shaped our history are well known, from Buffalo Bill Cody to Levi Straus, famed for the slacks we loved to wear. There’s the banker J.P. Morgan, the brewmaster Adolf Coors, religious leader Brigham Young, and inventor Cyrus McCormick whose reaper transformed the task of harvesting crops. Out Where the West Begins: Profiles, Visions & Strategies of Early Western Business Leaders by Philip F. Anschutz ($34.95) brings together a montage of men who believed they could enrich themselves at the same time they contributed to a still young nation. Many, once they made their fortunes, helped build libraries, parks, and other cultural institutions. You will read of fifty men whose lives opened up the nation to growth and wealth.
There could hardly be a more timely book, Religious Freedom in America: Constitutional Roots and Contemporary Challenges ($45.00, hardcover, $24.95 softcover) as edited by Allen D. Hertzke, a professor of political science and a faculty fellow in religious freedom with the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage at the University. Nine writers contributed to this examination of an issue that is being argued in the courts over issues of same-sex marriage and contraception mandates in ObamaCare, as well as other aspects of the practice of religion. The many perspectives of the issues are well served in this book written from the point of view of historians, social scientists, and jurists who examine the laws, often described as “messy” and you will understand why and learn about the tug of war between the free exercise of religion and the government’s need to apply the Constitution and laws equally and fairly. I thought that Do Facts Matter? Information and Misinformation in America Politics by Jennifer L. Hochschild and Katherine Levine Einstein ($29.95) would provide some answers to the nation’s current state of politics, but what I found, unfortunately, was an academically dense examination of what occurs and why when voters are uninformed or misinformed. Both are professors specializing in government and politics, Hochschild at Harvard University, and Einstein at Boston University. This could have been a far more lively examination of the issues to which it is devoted, but it is so concentrated on its own facts that it never provides a larger, more comprehensive presentation or maybe the topic just defies that?
Novels, Novels, Novels
Allan Topol has penned yet another bestselling novel, The Washington Lawyer, ($16.95, Select Books, softcover). A lawyer by profession, it is a wonder he still found the time to pen eleven novels of international intrigue, plus a two-volume legal treatise on the Superfund law. This novel, unlike many written by lawyers, is not about some courtroom drama. It’s about a lawyer, Andrew Martin, who is a long-time friend with Senator William Jasper who needs help. A sex tryst at Martin’s beach house in Anguilla has gone awry and a congressional staffer and former model, Vanessa Boyd, is dead. Martin must decide how best to protect his reputation and the Senator’s. What unfolds are hairpin plot turns as human vice and political power collide and race toward catastrophe for both men. Here’s is an intriguing and entertaining look inside the circles of power with which the author is familiar and includes the element of Chinese spying because that is as critical today as Soviet spying was during the Cold War. If you’re looking for a great read, you will find it in this novel.
I think the ladies will like Chasing Sunsets ($22.99, Howard Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster) more than the guys. Karen Kingsbury has more than 25 million copies of her books in print. This one features Mary Catherine, the only child of married parents but generally neglected by them. She brings meaning to her life through charity work in Los Angeles and finds herself attracted to one of her co-workers and begins to think of their life together until she gets devastating news about her health. I won’t give much away except to say that she is faced with serious decisions and she ops for an inspirational one. William Hazelgrove is the author of ten best-selling novels, Jack Pine is his latest. It has strong environmental themes. When the sixteen year old daughter of a prominent attorney is raped in a woodshed and a logger found shot the next morning, Deputy Sheriff Reuger London becomes embroiled in a war between environmentalists, the Ojibwa Indians fighting for their timber rights, and the ruthless son of a powerful logger. Needless to say the logger is the villain in this story, but it has plenty of plot twists and turns to hold your attention. It is officially due out next month.
There are two new novels from Thomas & Mercer. David Corbett’s talents as a crime writer have earned him award nominations and The Mercy of the Night ($15.95, softcover) is likely to do the same with its story of Jacquelina “Jacqi” Garza who was one of two nearly identical girls abducted at age eight by a child predator in the northern California town of Rio Mirada. After escaping and enduring a very public trial, he life spiraled out of control until, a decade later, she vanishes once again, determined to cross the border and start over. Phalan Tierney, a former lawyer and part-time investigator is recovering from trauma in his life and is determined to find Jacqi and help her get back on track. Just as he has located her, he is drawn into a case that threatens to tear the town apart. Suffice to say there are circles within circles in this densely plotted story that is sure to please those who love crime fiction. Threshold by G.M. Ford ($14.95, softcover) is a police thriller that will add to a reputation based on his previous novels. Still smarting from the very public breakup of his marriage and facing conduct complaints, Detective Mickey Dolan catches a case that might turn things around for him. It involved the disappearance of the wife and daughters of a powerful city councilman. Assisted by a young woman who may know the terrible truth about the missing family, Dolan soon finds that he must choose between helping his career and protecting innocent lives. It’s a page-turner.
Lawyers and cops seem to dominate the novels arriving of late. Gun Street Girl: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel by Adrian McKinty ($15.95, Seventh Street Books, softcover) and it will take you to Belfast, Ireland in 1985 where Detective Duffy is a Catholic cop in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary is struggling with burn-out as he investigates a brutal double murder and suicide. Did Michael Kelly really shoot his parents at point blank range and then jump off a nearby cliff? A suicide note seems to confirm this, but Duffy has his doubts and he soon discovers that Kelly was present at a decadent Oxford party where a cabinet minister’s daughter died of a heroin overdose. The story explodes with gun runners, arms dealers, the British government and a rogue American agent with a fake identity. Sound interesting? It is! McKinty has authored sixteen novels and has been called the best of the new generation of Irish crime novelists. Adam Mitzner is an attorney and a novelist and his latest is Losing Faith ($26.00, Gallery Books) in which Aaron Littman, the chairman of one of the country’s most prestigious law firms has just been contacted by a high-profile defense attorney whose client is Nikolai Garkov, a Russian businessman widely believed to have pulled the financial strings behind a recent terrorist bombing. Gorkov is a thorough evil villain and he has evidence of a torrid affair Littman had with the presiding judge, Faith Nichols, in the case against him. He threatens to ruin Littman’s career if he doesn’t influence Faith. Legal thriller fans will love this one.
Finally, what if William Shakespeare had written the Star Wars stories? Well, now you can find out what it would have been to read The Phantom of Menace: Star Wars ® Part the First as rendered by Ian Doescher ($14.95, Quirk Books). It is an ideal Shakespearean drama filled with sword fights, soliloquies and doomed romance. The School Library Journal said “Doescher’s pseudo-Shakespearean language is dead-on; this is one of the best-written Shakespeare parodies create for this audience and it is absolutely laugh-out-loud funny for those familiar with both the Bard and Star Wars.” I can’t add anything to that.
That’s it for April! Come back in May and don’t forget to let your book-loving friends, family, and co-workers know about Bookviews.com and its wide selection of the latest non-fiction and fiction books.