Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bookviews - May 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.

Reading History

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

Bookviews - April 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.

Reading History

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.   

Friday, February 27, 2015

Bookviews - March 2015

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

A remarkable book about the roots of environmentalism, Nazi Oaks: The Green Sacrifice of the Judeo-Christian Worldview in the Holocaust, ($26.35, Advantage Inspirational, softcover, available on Amazon.com, by R. Mark Musser was first published in 2010 and is now just been updated and reissued in its fourth edition. It deserves a far wider readership than it has gained until now because in part it is not an easy read, but also because it is one of the few books to explain how the Nazi ideology evolved over the decades to reach a point where it initiated the deliberate extermination of Europe’s Jews. The most astonishing aspect of this is how interwoven its belief system was with the environmental “truths” we are still hearing and reading today. For example, Ernst Haeckel, the father of German Social Darwinism, was the man who coined the word “ecology” in 1896. The Nazi “science” that justified racism drew on German romanticism, existentialism, and nature worship. The Nazis incorporated environmentalism into their lives and beliefs, abandoning the Judeo-Christian God for “gaia”, the Earth god. Mark Musser came to his discovery of the inherently evil roots of environmentalism by way of a Master of Divinity in 1994 and missionary service in Belarus and Ukraine for seven years. He is a pastor by trade. I cannot recommend reading this book in strong enough terms because it is a warning that explains why so much of what passes for environmentalism today carries within it the seeds of evil that triggered the Nazi era. Having failed to carry off the “global warming” hoax thanks to the past 19 years of the planet’s cooling cycle, its advocates are now embarked on a “climate change” hoax, claiming it is “man-made.” It is not, but the evil that men do is.

In March 2014, in a commentary on my blog, Warning Signs, I wrote “Do you have the feeling that we no longer have government from the federal to the local level that is able to function because of vast volumes of laws and regulations that have made it impossible to do anything from build a bridge to run a nursing home? If so, you’re right. The nation is falling behind others who do a better job by permitting elected and appointed officials to actually make decisions. We are living in a nation where lawsuits follow every decision to accomplish anything. This is the message of Philip K. Howard in a book that everyone concerned for the future of America should read; “The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government.” Happily, a softcover edition has been published ($15.95, W.W. Norton) and, if you missed the opportunity to read it last year, I strongly recommend you do so this year. Howard explains why just changing leaders does not change a Washington which is drowning the nations in laws that often run to more than 2,000 pages in length. The result is a monstrosity of regulations that tell officials and citizens what to do and how to do it. A mammoth government renders decision-making virtually impossible and the result is that our schools, our health care system, and virtually every other element of life is paralyzed or unaffordable. There is, in a word, no accountability, no one who need take responsibility. Putting people back in charge of our government is the heart of this excellent, entertaining, and frightening book.

Have you always wished you had an opportunity to read the classics of literature when you were in school? These days entire generations pass through our schools without more than a brief introduction to Shakespeare or Chaucer. In contrast to that, for 28 years in Naples, New York, you didn’t go to college without passing Alan Griesinger’s Advanced Placement English class. And they loved it. You’ll understand why when you read his book, A Comic Vision of Great Constancy: Stories about Unlocking the Wisdom of Everyman ($29.95, Mascot Books). He provides insights drawn from a reading of “The Knight’s Tale” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” They serve as a literary framework for Griesinger’s side trips into politics, religion, psychology, and the general art of being human. His classes were a training ground for character development, good citizenship, and rigorous thinking. His book has the same effect and is very likely to make you the smartest person in the room after you’ve read it.

Improving Your Life

There has been one genre of books that has been around since books were first being published. They are books that impart advice on various aspects of one’s life to help the reader improve in some respect.

It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who You Are: Life Lessons from Winners by Pat Williams with Jim Denney ($16.99, Revell). With more than fifty years of professional sports experience and already an author of dozens of books on leadership, Williams shares how he found success in his family and career. He realized early in life that learning how to become successful meant learning from those who had. He never missed an opportunity to ask those at the top of their field what they felt was the key to their success. He has met more famous people than most of ever will. They include Martin Luther King, Jr., Billy Graham, John Wooden, Michael Jordan, Colin Powell, and George W. Bush, to name a few. And he kept notes on what they told him. This is a book about developing your own character and values because those are ultimately the keys to success. Williams is senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love after the Big Breakup by Susan J. Elliott ($14.99, Da Capo Press, softcover) may be just the book for women that you or someone you know needs to read. As she acknowledges, overcoming a breakup can be a real challenge and, often, to be successful in the next relationship, we must understand the parts of us that broke up, too. This involves learning to recognize, evaluate, and change the negative patterns that interfere with our relationships, but she says it can be done and her book teaches here readers to set appropriate standards in the dating world. She does not shy from the fact that exes, children, and boyfriends with kids are components of the modern dating scene. Getting back out there may be tough, but says Ms. Elliot, infinitely rewarding, if done right.

Romancing Your Better Half: Keeping Intimacy Alive in Your Marriage by Rick Johnson ($12.99, Revell, softcover) explains why romance and intimacy are so vital to marriage, how men and women differ in their intimacy needs, and what steps they can take to enrich their marriage and even bring back the excitement of when you first fell in love.  He encourages couples to rethink the way they communicate and interact to keep that excitement alive as a couple in a long-term relationship grows through shared experiences, sharing difficulties, and maintaining closeness to one another.

Many people, including church-goers, still yearn for a deeper experience of God in their everyday lives. A leading Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson, offers Greg Paul’s new book, Simply Open ($16.99, softcover) that offers a path to using your five senses, your mind and heart, to engage in the practice of prayer that can turn an ordinary workday into a deepening spiritual journey. Paul is a pastor and member of Sanctuary in Toronto, a ministry for the most hurting and excluded people in the city. He has authored three earlier books, one of which was a 2012 Non-fiction Christian Book Award winner. Though Christian in context it has a holistic approach that other contemplating religions employ.

All About Women

The role of women in modern societies has been changing for a long time. For example, the National American Woman Suffrage Association was founded in 1890 and a number of states had granted it in the first two decades of the last century, In 1919 Congress passed the 19th Amendment and a year later 36 states had ratified it. Remembering Inez: The Last Campaign of Inez Milholland, Suffrage Martyr ($14.95, Graphic Press. Softcover) tells the story of one of the lesser known suffragettes. Using her own words, edited by Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr., it takes you back to an era that was as dramatic as any that followed. Ms. Milholland was a dynamic New York attorney, a young activist who while on a tour of western states collapsed on stage in Los Angeles on October 23, 1916 and died a month later of pernicious anemia. She had just turned 30. History is filled with such remarkable personalities and, though it took nearly a century, it is good to know that Ms. Milholland is now recognized as well.

Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy by Dr. Melvin Konner ($26.95, W.W. Norton & Company) will surely cause male readers to feel uncomfortable. The author is a professor in the Emory University Department of Anthropology and the Program in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology. The author of several books, this one looks at the widespread debate about the future role of women (and men) in human society, taking a look at the animal kingdom in general and our current patriarchal ways in particular, predicting that women will increasingly take leadership roles. He asserts that women are biologically more adept at dealing with the challenges of the modern world. They are fundamentally more pragmatic as well as caring, cooperate as well as competitive, and generally more deft in managing people without putting them on the defensive. They are, he says, builders rather than destroyers. This is, to say the least, a fact-filled look at a highly charged topic and one that I am sure many readers will want to explore.

Behind Every Great Man: The Forgotten Women Behind the World’s Famous and Infamous ($16.99, Sourcebooks, softcover) takes its title from the cliché that behind every great man is a woman who contributed to his success. Marlene Wagman-Geller has taken a look at this and her book features forty women who were overshadowed by the males in their lives, yet merit their own place in history. She ranges from the wives of literally figures such as Oscar Wilde, Ian Fleming, and C.S. Lewis. There are Hollywood wives such Alma Reville, Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock and Jane Nebel, Mrs. Jim Henson. She notes the role played by Kasturba Kapadia, the wife of Mohandas Gandhi and Emilie Pelzl, Mrs. Osckar Schindler. There were some infamous ones as well such as Mrs. Julius Rosenberg, convicted along with her husband as a Soviet spy. Imagine, too, being Althea Leasure, Mrs. Larry Flynt. The short biographies salute the women who stood behind their men, for better or worse, and helped steer the course of history.

Getting Down to Business

How to Succeed with Continuous Improvement: A Primer for Becoming the Best in the World ($23.00, McGraw-Hill) by Joakim Ahlstrom, regarded as Sweden’s leading authority in creating a continuous improvement culture. His book is a step-by-step process for any organization that applies principles such as “keep it simple, stay focused, visualize the good examples and the program made, create ownership by asking instead of telling, and be systematic.” He has advised dozens of organizations around the world to include Coca Cola, Volvo, Ericsson, and IKEA.

From Worry to Wealthy: A Woman’s Guide to Financial Success Without the Stress by Chellie Campbell ($16.99, Sourcebooks, softcover) begins by noting that more than nine million U.S. businesses, generating $1.4 trillion in sales, are owned by women. A personal finance guru, Campbell, has offered “Financial Stress Reduction” ® workshops to help women win at work and in life. Her advice will prove very helpful to any woman as she teaches how to harness the four C’s of career success, confidence, charisma, clients, and cash.  She writes about earning support from spouses and loved ones while gaining business knowledge from everything you do. This includes poker as she is an avid tournament player. This is a book from which any woman business owner can benefit.

What to Do to Retire Successfully: Navigating Psychological, Financial and Lifestyle Hurdles ($15.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) by Martin B. Goldstein addresses some of the scary questions that occur such as whether you will have enough funds to maintain your lifestyle, will you be able to adjust to a slower pace, and how best to transition into retirement successfully. A neuropsychiatrist by profession, his book will prove quite useful to anyone approaching their retirement years and that includes the 77 million baby boomers that are slated to retire over the next twenty years. Retirement fears are common and this book addresses them and offers some good advice; the kind you need now, not ten or twenty years from now when it could be too late.

Reading History

I love reading history and one of my great favorites from American history is Thomas Jefferson. Addressing a group of scholars, John F. Kennedy said “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”  One of the enduring discussions about Jefferson involves his religious beliefs. Some say he was a deist unaffiliated with any particular religion.  Doubting Thomas? The Religious Life and Legacy of Thomas Jefferson by Mark A. Beliles and Jerry Newcombe ($29.99, Morgan James Publishing) will put to rest all the doubts raised in the past. For example, during his presidency, Jefferson attended church at the U.S. Capitol Building’s Supreme Court chambers where a public service was held. This is contradiction of the assertion that he believed in a strict separation of church and state. This book is based on extensive documentation, often providing little known facts based on his letters, as well as his relationships and activities with religious communities. It is an absorbing read and it is supported by The Selected Religious Letters and Papers of Thomas Jefferson ($29.95, America Publications) edited by Mark A. Beliles. It offers more than fifty Jefferson letters and other documents never before seen in print. The enemies of religious belief and expression in America will not want you to read either of these books.

Of course, the history of America has its darker moments and the treatment of the Native Americans is surely one of them. Terry Mort’s Thieves’ Road: The Black Hills Betrayal and Custer’s Path to Little Bighorn ($25.00, Prometheus Books) tells the story of General George Armstrong Custer’s expedition of some one thousand troops and more than a  hundred wagons into the Black Hills of South Dakota in the summer of 1874. A severe economic depression had spurred hordes of white prospectors to the Sioux Indians sacred grounds and the trampling of an 1868 treaty that granted the Black Hills to the Sioux. The discovery of gold was the beginning of the end of their independence and their resistance set the stage for the climactic Battle of Little Bighorn. The book’s title gets its name from the Sioux leader, Fast Bear, who called the trail cut by Custer the “thieves’ road.” It was a time when the settling of Indians on reservations was betrayed, a corrupt federal Indian Bureau existed, and the building of the western railroads was transforming the nation. The book makes for lively reading and considerable insight to this period of our national history.

One of the best series around is Visible Ink Press’s “Handy Answer” books. The latest is The Handy Military History Answer Book ($21.95, Visible Ink, softcover), by Samuel Willard Crompton, a captivating, concise, and extensive look at the way war has been a continual element of history and has often dramatically changed it. Indeed, one might call peace the brief intervals of time between wars. This book shows how war creates heroes, along with cowards, spies and patriots were made, how conflicts shaped borders, policies and politics, society and culture, always influencing the future. Answering more than 1,400 questions, you will learn how conquering armies to civil wars resulted in guerrilla warfare, terrorism, modern weapons, and so much more that fill the headlines of our times. To understand history, one must know about warfare from the days of the Roman Empire to the present. This book will do just that.

Reading About Science

Science is in the news all the time, but much of the time is devoted to those groups and organizations that lie about it in order to frighten people from taking advantage of the benefits it offer. The latest debate about vaccinating children to protect them from measles is one example. The battles fought to advance science go back to the earliest days of civilization.

In the Light of Science: Our Ancient Quest for Knowledge and the Measure of Modern Physics by Demetris Nicolaides ($19.00, Prometheus Books, softcover) examines the epochal shift in thinking that led pre-Socratic philosophers of the sixth and fifth centuries BCE to abandon the prevailing mythologies of the age and, for the first time, analyze the natural world in terms of impersonal, rationally-understood principles. This is a look at the vast sweep of history that led to the birth of science and its advancement by those unafraid to question tradition. Combining history and science, it makes for some very interesting reading. From the same publishing house comes Brilliant! Shuji Nakamura and the Revolution in Lighting Technology ($18.00, Prometheus Books, softcover), now updated. To celebrate the awarding of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics to Nakamura, author Bob Johnstone profiles the gifted Japanese engineer who is largely responsible for the coming revolution in lighting technology. The lighting revolution is likely to replace halogen lamps and have a profound impact on the world.

Astronaut Ron Garan has authored The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles ($27.95, Berrett-Koehler Publishers) that is enhanced by several pages of color photos. Garan tells of the transformative experience of living on the international Space Station and the lessons he gained that he believes holds the key to solving our problems here on Earth. He provides an excellent and interesting account of what it was like work with 15 different nationalities. At the same time, he addresses many of the problems that afflict people and what must be done to solve them. In his foreword to the book, Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Peace Laureate, recommends we “Use Ron’s idea of the orbital perspective as a way to erase obstacles, boundaries, and resistance to any problem.”

Kid Stuff

You may not know who Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946) was, but among his many accomplishments was being a co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America in addition to writing many children’s books that influenced an entire generation or more regarding life in the outdoors. The Storyteller ($24.95, Langdon Street Press) by Leila Moss Knox and Linda L. Knox is not only a wonderful tribute to Seton, but a wonderful way to get to know about him through excerpts of his writings that are richly illustrated. It has a foreword by the late songwriter and singer, Pete Seeger, who like many felt his life enriched by Seton’s books. This is a great way to introduce him to a whole new generation and I guarantee they will love this book.

Children’s books are a great way for them to learn U.S. history and I am happy to report that Alex Bugaeff’s new book, part of his “Grandfather” series, is American Amazons: Colonial Women Who Changed History ($14.95, available from Amazon) in which “Gomps” shares his historical tales with his grandchildren, Hannah and Carter. It’s good to see them get the attention they deserve. One of them, Deborah Sampson, fought on the front lines with the Continental Army for three years and there were others. These days women are part of the Israel Defense Force and trained for combat like the men. We had such women when it counted in our Revolution.

Wigu Publishing of Sun Valley, Idaho, has a series you can learn about at www.whenigrowupbooks.com such as When I Grow Up I Want to Be…in the U.S. Army or a Nurse! The series also includes Teacher, U.S. Navy, Veterinarian and Firefighter. They are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other major online retailers, and come in Kindle editions as well. Parents often hear their children express an interest in a particular profession and this series is well written as stories that a young reader, age 5 to 7 or so can read and identify with. They are both well researched and entertaining.

The odd thing about “Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children” when it was published in 2011 is that, although aimed at a younger audience of readers, ages 13 and up, it attracted so many older ones that it stayed on The New York Times Best Seller list for more than 80 weeks. In February its sequel, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs ($10.99, Quirk Books, softcover) was published and it picks up where the first left off as the reader follows the story of Jacob and his friends as they encounter a menagerie of odd animals, a band of gypsies, and more peculiar children. Jacob and friends are on the run from “wights” who have turned Miss Peregrine into a bird. They are hoping to find a cure in London. The book is illustrated with photos from earlier times, but it is the characters like Emma Bloom who can make fire with her hands, Millard, an invisible boy, and Olive who is lighter than air that are not only peculiar who inhabit a story that includes Alma LeFay Peregrine who is a shape-shifter and manipulator of time, as well as the headmistress of Cairnholm’s loop. It’s delightful. This one is headed for the best seller lists too.

Lauren Oliver has gained an international reputation for her five young adult novels as well as her other books. She is published in thirty languages and no doubt Vanishing Girls ($18.99, HarperCollins) will keep her on the bestseller list for those ages 14 and up with her story of Dara and Nick. The two sisters used to be inseparable, but that changed when Dara’s beautiful face was scarred by a car accident, leaving them estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. Another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished as well and Nick becomes convinced that the two disappearances are linked and feels compelled to find her sister before it’s too late. The readers, too, will feel compelled to see how this novel proceeds and how it ends.

Novels, Novels, Novels

March 8 makes the first anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that went down without a clue. I am a fan of Lior Samson, the pen name of the author of two dozen books that include seven novels like“Bashert”, “The Dome”, and “Web Games.” He is now back with Flight Track ($16.95/$2.99 Kindle, Gesher Press, an imprint of Ampersand Press, Rowley, MA), a novel that provides a scenario of what might have happened and why to flight MH370. In the novel it is the inaugural flight of Pacificano Transocean’s over-the-pole non-stop service from Singapore to Chicago’s O’Hare. It’s all celebrating and champagne until flight PT20 veers off the radar. This is the kind of thriller that fans of Samson have come to anticipate and enjoy. In this story, an elite team of brilliant young nerds is called upon to help find the missing plane and their high-tech pursuit of what happened turns into a life-or-death race to discover who is behind the disappearance, to understand what’s at stake, and to find a solution against seemingly invincible forces behind it. Like all his novels, it’s not one you will put down until you get to the last page.

Another novel straight out of the headlines is David Thomas Roberts’ A State of Treason($31.50, www.defiancepress.com) in which a President who hates the Tea Party sets in motion a confrontation with the Governor of Texas when he seizes a member of the Party in an unconstitutional way. The Governor authorizes a Texas Ranger to free him and his family. The confrontation escalates when the Governor puts the question of independence from the federal government on the ballot and the President declares martial law, sending in armed forces to deny Texans the right to decide whether they want to continue as part of a corrupt government, a do-nothing Congress, and an administration plagued by scandals.

A number of other softcover novels will provide hours of entertainment to rival anything on the TV and you don’t have to be bothered by commercials. Plucked from the headlines being generated by the Islamic turmoil of the Middle East, Lucy Ferriss, the author of A Sister to Honor ($16.00, Penguin) journeyed to northern Pakistan in 2012 to learn about their culture of honor. It is a novel about Pakistani people in America. Afia Satar is studious, modest and a devout Muslim. The daughter of a landholding family, she has enrolled in an American college with the dream of returning to her country to serve as a doctor, but when a photo of her holding hands with an American boy surfaces online, she is suddenly no longer safe, even from the family that cherishes her.  It is rising sports star Shahid Satar who has been entrusted by her family to watch over Afia and now he has been ordered to cleanse the stain of her shame. This is the classic clash of cultures and quite relevant to the issues and times in which we live.

The Eliot Girls by Krista Bridge ($22.95, Douglas & McIntyre, softcover) is set in the George Eliot Academy, a private school for girls that prides itself on being on the vanguard of learning. For years Audrey Brindle and her mother, Ruth, have wanted Audrey to get into the school where Ruth has taught for a decade, but when she is finally admitted, she discovers that the daily world of Eliot is a place of sly bullying, ferocious intolerance, and bewildering social standards. Her mother, Ruth, finds her own stability dismantled by the arrival of a new teacher. As both navigate the treacheries of their upended worlds, each finds her sense of morality slipping as unexpected possibilities ignite. Clearly a book that women will enjoy and identify with more than men, it is also clearly worth a read for being by turns comic and psychologically intense.

From Thomas & Mercer comes a mystery, The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley ($15.96, softcover), an atmospheric and richly detailed story that weaves together the stories of Beatrice Baker who begins work at the First Bank of Cleveland shortly before its mysterious collapse in 1978 and Iris Latch, a civil engineer hired to survey the abandoned but perfectly preserved bank building two decades later. As she toils amid the bank’s ransacked offices and forgotten safe deposit boxes, Iris is drawn into uncovering the dark secrets of the building’s sordid past; one that includes Beatrice’s mysterious disappearance shortly before the sudden collapse. This is a thoroughly engrossing mystery and a fine debut for its author.

That’s it for March. Come back in April for more news of the best new fiction and non-fiction. Tell your book loving friends, family and coworkers about Bookviews.com so they too any can learn about books that often do not get noted by the mainstream print media which in recent times is devoting less and less space to reviews. See you next month!