Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bookviews - May 2010

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

For decades now Americans and others around the world have been subjected to the greatest hoax and fraud of the modern era. “Global warming”, the assertion that carbon dioxide (CO2) must be reduced by cutting back the use of all traditional sources of energy, was exposed in November 2009 when thousands of emails between the scientists creating or distorting false data about the climate were leaked. The event became known as “Climategate” and efforts are being made to cover-up the truth. Brian Sussman, an award-winning television meteorologist who is now a talk radio host on KSFO, has written Climategate ($24.95, WND Books) a brilliant expose. Drawing on two decades of knowledge about the climate, Sussman accomplishes something many other books disputing “global warming” often have not; he explains the science in terms anyone can understand and he exposes the connection between environmentalism and socialism, dating back to the days of Marx and Lenin. It is, for example, no accident that Earth Day is also the birth date of Lenin. I cannot recommend this book highly enough and urge anyone concerned about this fraud to read it.

While Brian Sussman explores the house of cards that is “global warming”, Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser has approached the subject from a scientific point of view in Convenient Myths: The Green Revolution—Perceptions, Politics, and Facts ($24.95/$19.95 hard and softcover, available from www.convenientmyths.com.) A chemist who has been conducting research in environmental chemistry for nearly forty years, Dr. Kaiser has authored nearly 200 publications in scientific journals, government and agency reports, books, trade magazines, and newspapers. He was a peer reviewer of numerous scientific papers and was Editor-in-Chief of the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada. Among his honors, he is a Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada. I cite all this for a reason. The first thing the Green fear-mongers do is challenge the credentials of anyone who offers the public real science in an unbiased fashion. A full range of issues stemming from the claims by environmentalists is covered in this fact-filled, no-nonsense book. Anyone trying to get passed all the claims about the environment, energy, climate, carbon dioxide, polar bears, and much more would do themselves a big favor to pick up a copy of this excellent book.

Another book you must read if you are to ever understand how “global warming” is being used to foist the largest tax on energy use on Americans, Cap-and-Trade, along with the torrent of lies about “green”, “clean” or “alternative” energy sources, solar and wind, is Christopher C. Horner’s Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America ($27.95, Regnery Publishing). Chris is a friend and one of the nation’s experts on energy and climate issues. He’s already authored several bestsellers and is a senior fellow with the Washington, D.C. think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. This book is, in many ways, very frightening for its revelations about the advisors (czars) President Obama has gathered around him, only a few of whom were subject to Senate approval, but his choices for cabinet secretaries are just as scary for their views. The role of unions and environmental groups is made clear as well. An artificial energy shortage is being created and with it a massive loss of jobs as manufacturing flees America to China, India and other nations. Another friend, Robert Bryce, an authority on energy issues, has written Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future ($27.95, Public Affairs) and it too should be on your list of books you must read. Wind and solar energy represents just over two percent of all the electricity generated in America and for good reason, they are unreliable, inefficient, and maintained by massive government subsidies despite their record around the world for failing to meet the needs of the nations that have invested heavily in them. All modern societies function as the result of abundant, affordable power and Bryce explains why the world’s largest economy, America’s, is being systematically deprived of it. You are likely to be amazed by this book’s revelations.

As of this writing some twenty U.S. States have joined together to challenge Obamacare, the massive piece of legislation that places one sixth of the nation’s economy under the control of the federal government. Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski have joined together to write The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency ($22.95, Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press). Blackwell brings three decades of experience in government to the task and Klukowski is a constitutional lawyer, scholar and journalist. Together they explain in detail why much of President Obama’s agenda is unconstitutional and why it can and likely will be struck down in court. The authors warn of strategic plans for a series of massive last-minute policy changes to overhaul the electoral process, including granting amnesty to more than ten million illegal aliens to make them voters and corrupting the census to impact reallocating and redrawing congressional districts. Blackwell was co-chairman of the 2000 census oversight board and former Ohio secretary of state. He currently co-chairs the Republican National Committee’s redistricting committee. During his 2008 campaign Obama said he intended to “transform” America. Now many people have come to understand that meant something far different from the Founding Father’s ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, economic opportunity, and Judeo-Christian morality. If you, like many other Americans, are having serious concerns about the man elected president in 2008, then you will find The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists by Aaron Klein with Brenda J. Elliott ($25.95, WND Books) of interest. The falling approval rates in all the current polls indicate a loss of confidence in the president, but you are likely to be astounded by this book’s revelations. This is not a political hit-job, but a thoroughly documented look at the president’s associations with people who had or have an anti-American and sometimes outright communist agenda. It will explain why legislation from Obamacare to Cap-and-Trade is being forced upon Americans who have expressed their opposition in huge numbers and why there has been a spontaneous creation of “Tea Parties” across the nation that includes people from both parties and independents.

The Cato Institute is a Washington, D.C. think tank that produces some of the best research and analysis of the issues of our times to be found anywhere. John Samples is the director of its Center for Representative Government and he has written The Struggle to Limit Government: A Modern Political History ($24.95, Cato Institute). Anyone who is following the present struggle to enlarge the government via Obamacare and other legislative initiatives will find this book of interest as Samples traces the 30-year struggle to limit government growth. He asserts that the 2006 and 2008 elections were a repudiation of the “failed Bush presidency” that, rather than reflect Republican principles of a smaller governor, expanded it, suggesting that similar efforts by the current administration will have the same result. The author focuses on spending and taxation as a measure of government’s scope. His review of the New Deal and Great Society programs from 1936 to 1968 set the stage for his analysis of contemporary growth from the era of Reagan to the present.

It is especially true of modern warfare that the American public is isolated from its reality both by distance and the lack of coverage an on-going conflict receives. For anyone wishing to gain some sense of what it is like to be a frontline soldier these days, Matt Gallagher has written Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War ($24.95, Da Capo Press). Based on his blog of the same name, during the first half of 2008 Gallagher enlightened, amused and horrified a large following of readers with observations on everything from what it is like to live with the constancy of danger to the ordinary tasks and aspects of life in the military. Gallagher was a platoon leader in today’s all-volunteer army which, as he puts it, fights for a nation, not with a nation because they become detached from life back home. His blog was eventually ordered shut down, but now we all can learn what it was like and will continue to be in what will surely be a very long war with the Islamists that want to kill us all. And we can all give thanks for men like Gallagher and his comrades in arms. Tea Time with Terrorists by Mark Stephen Meadows ($14.95, Soft Skull Press/Counterpoint, softcover) is not a travel odyssey about a great place to vacation. It is about a trip he took through Sri Lanka, an island nation off the southern tip of India. For three decades it has been caught up in a war by the Tamil Tigers, now famed for having invented suicide bombing, child conscription, and other nasty business. Armed with a map, a motorcycle, and more guts than brains, Meadows set out to understanding the conflict. An author by trade, he interviewed terrorists, generals, and heroin dealers, among others, armed with nothing more than a strong sense of humor. We used to call this kind of writer an adventurer and he takes the reader along on his quest and journey while we learn of Sri Lanka’s ancient culture and of how globalization, the media, and modern terrorism are all connected.

Nicholas A. Basbanes has been writing about books, authors, and the art of writing for years and always doing so with great style. His latest is About the Author: Inside the Creative Process ($27.95, Fine Books Press). He is a living encyclopedia of knowledge about authors having interviewed hundreds of them in his capacity as the literary editor of the Worcester, MA Telegram & Gazette from 1978 to 1991. This book collects more than forty of those interviews and essays. Among those in the book are Edna O’Brien, Joseph Heller, and Kurt Vonnegut, columnist and novelist Jimmy Breslin, along with the late critic Alfred Kazin, These days many newspapers have ceased publishing literary criticism or sections on new books. Basbanes’ era included some of the greatest authors of our times. Anyone who loves literature will treasure this excellent book and you might also want to read his Editions and Impressions: Twenty Years on the Book Beat ($27.95, Fine Books Press). It resonates with stories that reflect his passion for books and authors. He recounts stories of rare-book aficionados, others who built great personal libraries, and even a case of “bibliokleptomania”, an obsessive theft of books! Basbanes has a particular talent for catching the essence of people, especially if they, like him, love books. His stories about them make for wonderful reading. Flash forward to these times and, If the number of novels is any indication, there are a lot of people writing novels, and a lot of people who think they can and will write one. If that includes you, it would be a good idea to pick up a copy of The Secret Miracle: The Novelist’s Handbook edited by Daniel Alcaron ($16.00, Holt paperbacks) and learn what the world’s best contemporary writers from Michael Chabon to Amy Tan have to say about the art of writing fiction. This is a crash course provided by those who have been there and done that. More than fifty writers from more than 25 countries have contributed to this guide.

Ignorance of the law is no defense and, since America may be the most litigious nation, plus one with more people in prison per its population than any other, it’s probably a good idea to read But They Didn’t Read Me My Rights! Myths, Oddities, and Lies about our Legal System by Michael D. Ciccini, JD, and Amy B Kushner, PhD, ($19.00, Prometheus Books, softcover). It is amazing that we often believe things about the law that just are not true. Police do not have to read you your rights when they arrest you. They can, in fact, interrogate you without reading you without doing so. Not all contracts have to be in writing to be enforceable. In some states, you don’t have to return the ring your fiancĂ© gave you if you decide not to marry him. This book is hard to put down once you begin and very entertaining as well as informative. I also enjoyed The Young Conservative’s Field Guide: Facts, Charts and Figures by Brenton Stransky and Andrew Foy, MD ($16.91, www.NimbleBooks.com). This is the kind of intellectual ammunition a younger person needs to understand the fundamental principles and values on which the nation was founded. It disputes much of what is found in the mainstream media these days.

My Mother and Father were married for over sixty years and part of the secret of their success was my Mother’s desire to learn how to cook to please him. His parents taught her the cuisine of northern Italy as is found in Livorno and Milan. Mother went on to become an authority on European cuisines as well as wines, teaching classes for over three decades and writing several cookbooks. The highlight of our days together was always a delicious dinner. Flavors of Friuli: A Culinary Journey Throughout Northeastern Italy by Elizabeth Antoine Crawford ($29.95, Equilibrio, San Francisco, softcover) is a gem! It is filled with gorgeous photos of the places and the dishes, eighty traditional recipes, that explores the region’s history and intermingling of cultures that contributed to a fusion of taste delights. You can be a tourist without ever living home, visiting food festivals, favorite local restaurants, and local sites. More than 450 photographs grace this tour of its wine country and dramatic Adriatic coastline with cities that include Trieste and Udine. There’s just one word for this cookbook, fabulous!

Going Mental

Trying to figure out why people do anything is probably an exercise in futility. I have been on Earth for seven decades and every day I read about, watch on television, or just personally witness people doing and saying strange things. Some are genuinely crazy, some are just stupid, and some are just generally clueless. That seems to apply to every age. Why Normal People Do Some Crazy Things: Nine Fundamentals of Human Behavior by Kevin Davis, M.A., ($13.95, Hargrove Press, softcover) has arrived to help you decode the changes in the behavior of those around you, family, co-workers, and friends. Davis brings twenty years of counseling people to this book and the question he heard most was “Why did ---- do this to me?” As he points out in one of the chapters, “Genuine interest in and attention to others is a rare commodity.” Does that describe you? Even I felt a twinge of guilt reading that. That is a very good reason for you to read this excellent book that will open your mind to your own and other’s behavior, providing a way to decode and understand it. I am also happy to recommend The Pocket Therapist: An Emotional Survival Kit by Therese J. Borchard ($13.99, Center Street) as a great book for anyone trying to deal with anxiety and depression. Having endured 23 medications, seven psychiatrists, and two psych ward hospitalizations, this author has figured out how to achieve sanity and she shares her knowledge with good advice, inspiration, and humor. Her blog, Beyond Blue, is one of the highest trafficked blogs on Belief.net. The book is filled with short, pithy ideas that can spark anyone’s journey back to a calm, rational existence. It’s the perfect gift to oneself or to a friend.

Some books tackle some very “heavy” topics and My Brain Made Me Do It: The Rise of Neuroscience and the Threat to Moral Responsibility by Eliezer J. Sternberg ($21.00, Prometheus Books, softcover) is one of those titles that tells you this is not light reading. It is challenging and that is half the “fun”, right? The author raises some interesting questions about recent developments in neuroscience that address the question of free will. For example, is our feeling of self-control merely an illusion created by our brain? Are we “wired” for ancient responses to modern stimuli? Are we truly in control of our actions? If you wonder about such things, you will find this book very interesting reading. On a somewhat lighter, though serious vein, Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske, with Liz Neporent, have written The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds use to Achieve Success ($25.00, Da Capo Press), a combination science and business approach to enjoying achievement in your life. Brown is a clinical psychologist and Fenske is an assistant professor of neuroscience. Together they identify factors such as self awareness, motivation, focus, emotional balance, memory and others that, taken together, can underwrite a successful outcome no matter what obstacles may appear along the way. Sculptor Auguste Rodin was rejected from art school three times! Other examples include BB King, designer Donatella Versace, gymnast Kerri Strug, and artist Andrew Wyeth who persevered. If you are looking to unlock your own potential, you might want to start by reading this interesting book.

History: Because You Need To Know It

Regular visitors to Bookviews know I love to read history. I never fail to learn something new and interesting. These days throughout the nation there is a raging debate about the state of the republic and the future of democracy as our process for electing our leaders. In 1831-32, two young Frenchmen arrived in America, ostensibly to study the young nation’s penal system, but actually to have a great adventure. The result was the now classic “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville; an instant bestseller even in its own time. Historian Leo Damrosch had retraced his entire journey in Tocqueville’s Discovery of America ($27.00, Farrar Straus Giroux) and it is a great romp from Boston to New Orleans and back again as Tocqueville and his friend, Gustave de Beaumont, sought to find out what made America a new experiment in self-rule and whether there was something one could qualitatively identify as American. What they discovered in part was a nation barely forty years since its Constitution was ratified and just three decades away from a Civil War because of the slavery on which the southern state’s economy depended. In the north, they found class distinctions based on wealth, but throughout they also found themselves greeted with warmth whether it was a Boston Brahmin or a backwoods trapper. It’s just a great read!

I also greatly enjoyed The Revolutionary Paul Revere ($14.99, Thomas Nelson, softcover) by Joel J. Miller because it brought the man and his times to life, putting him in the context of the events leading up to the American Revolution and the whole of his life from boyhood to his death in his eighties as one of the new nation’s most respected leaders, a Bostonian who embodied the American values of hard work, self-reliance, and courage. The schools may teach the names of the heroes of the Revolution, but they rarely take the time to portray them as flesh-and-blood individuals, marrying, having children, suffering the pain of the loss of a wife or child, but Revere experienced all of this and yet made the time as well to throw off the chains of monarchy and give all succeeding generations the gift of liberty.

The Buck Stops Here: The 28 Toughest Presidential Decisions and How They Changed History ($19.99, Fair Winds Press, softcover) is a vivid reminder of how important it is to choose the right man to be president of the United States of America. Thomas J. Chraughwell and Edwin Kiester, Jr. have written a wonderful book of history ranging from Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and including the establishment of America’s national parks, the G.I. Bill to enable returning WWII veterans to get a college education, and so many others that transformed the nation in ways we now take for granted but which, for their time, were often hotly contested. In a comparable way, Jon Queijo has written Breakthrough! How the 10 Greatest Discoveries in Medicine Saved Millions and Changed Our View of the World ($24.99, FT Press, Pearson Education). The book begins with an Isaac Asimov quote, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny?” From the world’s first physician, Hippocrates, to the discovery of sanitation as a means to deter the spread of disease, the discovery of anesthesia, X-rays, and antibiotics, through to the discovery of DNA, and drugs to cure madness, it has been a long journey, but one that plays a role in the growth of the world’s population and the extension of life. The author has written an intriguing and often exciting story of how science has transformed our lives.

A very different story is to be found in Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East by David Hirst ($29.95, Nation Books) in which the Middle Eastern correspondent for British newspaper, The Guardian, has clearly “gone native” identifying completely with the Arabs of Lebanon and the region to the point of referring to Israel as “the Zionist entity” and generally blaming the problems of the Middle East on its existence. I have read other books about Lebanon and its history which were far more balanced and, as such, a superior explanation of a tiny country no bigger than Connecticut, but divided since its establishment in 1920 by religious strife and rivalry. It has such potential to be a secular example of governance and yet the refusal of Muslims to find common ground has turned it into a battleground over and over again. You should take a pass on this book. You will gain a far greater insight regarding the Middle East when you read Sami Albrabaa’s Veiled Atrocities: True Stories of Oppression in Saudi Arabia ($19.00, Prometheus Books, softcover. For women and for men, what passes for justice in Saudi Arabia is capricious and can be lethal. A deaf-mute woman waiting for her brother to pick her up in front of a shop is arrested by the Saudi “morality police”, charged with prostitution, and stoned to death within days. A German woman married to a Saudi makes the mistake of taking a taxi without a male escort. She is arrested, raped, and thrown into prison. Later her son is taken away and she is deported to Cyprus without a passport or money. A Syrian truck driver is accused of stealing a truck he’s driving. Both of his hands are amputated. This is life under Sharia/Muslim law and it is what the Islamic revolution wants to impose on the entire world.

An interesting book is The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly by Doug Stewart ($24.95, Da Capo Press) that takes the reader back to the late 1700s when Shakespeare’s genius had been recognized long after he had died in relative obscurity in 1616. In 1974, 19-year-old William-Henry Ireland, a lawyer’s apprentice, handed his father a heavily worn and creased sheet of paper purportedly signed by Shakespeare. It would earn him the dishonor of being among the greatest forgers in English history. So successful was the deception, he even wrote a play believed to be a lost masterpiece. He thought it would launch his own career as a writer. What it did was ruin his reputation, shame to his father, and made fools of some of England’s most esteemed men of letters. It would make a great movie! A more general book is History’s Mysteries by Brian Haughton ($15.99, New Page, division of Career Press, softcover) who has made a specialty of writing about some of the more controversial and under-explored events, places and people in history. He is a very entertaining storyteller in addition to be a good archaeologist who makes lost civilizations come to life. Instead of mindlessly watching some tired television documentary, pick up a copy of this book and dive in!

World War II has already produced a library of books devoted to it from those who fought it. It is likely to produce even more before all the participants pass on and thereafter as the historians continue to record and analyze it. Three new titles are No Need to Die: American Flyers in RAF Bomber Command by Gordon Thorburn ($34.95, Haynes Publishing) and Surviving the Reich: The World War II Saga of a Jewish-American GI by Ivan L. Goldstein ($26.00, Zenith Press), and The Wolf ($27.00, Free Press). “No Need” is the first book to be written about a group of remarkable men who left the comforts of America prior to WWII to volunteer as bomber pilots in the Royal Air Force. Americans are often unaware that Great Britain was already at war with Nazi Germany for several years before the U.S. entered the war. The story of the men who did not wait for that is an interesting page in history. The second book begins in 1997 where a battered symbol of the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, Belgium, sits in McAuliffe Square. The tank, nicknamed Barracuda, was one in which Goldstein was fighting in 1944 until he was taken prisoner and faced the challenge of surviving until Germany was defeated a year later. Throughout his service and during his time as a POW, Goldstein experienced the anti-Semitism of fellow Americans and his captors. He recounts that harrowing experience. His faith deepened as a result and Goldstein and his wife currently reside in Jerusalem. They have 4 children, 21 grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. The third book is the story of how one German raider terrorized the allies during World War One. For fifteen months, a disguised ship inflicted destruction on allied shipping. Richard Guilliat and Peter Hohnen teamed to tell the story of this dastardly ship that laid minefields and used torpedoes and cannon to destroy tons of needed supplies destined for England. Anyone with a taste for military history will find this book of great interest.

An interesting take on history is Leonardo’s Legacy: How Da Vinci Reimagined the World by Stefan Klein ($26.00, Da Capo Press). I would have liked to have known Leonardo. He was a painter, sculptor, scientist, inventor and writer; someone we would call a polymath these days, knowledgeable and skilled in many different areas of the intellect and technology. Klein has written a worthy book about this unique historical individual whose imagination leaped centuries ahead to an age when man would build flying machines, develop automation, and so much more that we take for granted. He took nothing for granted and sought to unlock the mysteries of natural science at a time when much of Europe was still in darkness and ignorance.

Getting Down to Business (Books)


Given that I have earned my living as a public relations counselor for some fifty years, I can be forgiven for taking a special interest in Robert L. Dilenschneider’s new book, The AMA Handbook of Public Relations ($35.00, Amacom). The acronym, AMA, stands for the American Management Association and, since I have also been a book reviewer for the same amount of time, I can assure you that the Association publishes some of the best business books in any given year. Dilenschneider’s is no exception. PR folk took to the Internet swiftly, realizing its potential to shape public opinion on goods, services, and issues. They learned, however, it can have its pitfalls as well. The Handbook is an excellent guide to combining traditional PR with the capabilities of the Internet while protecting one’s client or company from harmful attention online and off. The Handbook spans key topics from the nuts-and-bolts of good versus bad PR to practical advice on speechwriting, making presentations, penning op-ed pieces, and conducting market research.

Happiness at Work by Srikumar S. Rao, PhD ($22.95, McGraw-Hill) is subtitled “Be Resilient, Motivated, and Successful—No Matter What.” It’s a good book for these tough times and because the workplace is, for too many people, not a happy place. Dr. Rao has gained adherents for his pioneering course, “Creativity and Personal Mastery”, and this book discusses how your mental and emotional outlook can help you resist labeling situations as “bad”, but rather to see them as neutral by developing ways of looking at change and problem-solving that shift your perspective and improve your self-esteem and productivity in the ever-changing workplace of today and tomorrow. To further explore why some succeed while others do not, pick up a copy of The Risk Takers: 16 Women and Men Share Their Entrepreneurial Strategies for Success by Renee and Don Martin ($25.95, Vanguard Press). They were ordinary people with a good idea who, despite daunting challenges, started a business and built it into a multimillion dollar company. While it is true that many such new enterprises fail, it is also true that many succeed. Even failure has its lessons that can be applied to a new effort. The stories in this book are heartening, uplifting, and inspiring. Talking about women in business, there’s Damned If She Does, Damned If She Doesn’t: Rethinking the Rules of the Game That Keep Women from Succeeding in Business ($19.00 Prometheus Books, softcover). Lynn Cronin and Howard Fine got together to examine questions of gender equality as they affect the workplace. These are frequently time-tested such as being a team player, attract a mentor, show commitment, bond with coworkers, et cetera. In reality, say the authors, women rarely receive recognition comparable to men, women have a harder time finding a mentor, commitment to the job is often taken to mean she has no personal life, and trying to bond with male peers often alienates both men and women. If this no-win situation sounds and feels familiar, this book will prove helpful.

Last month I took note of a book that helps freelancers to managing their finances and this month there’s The Wealthy Freelancer: 12 Secrets to a Great Income and an Enviable Lifestyle ($16.95, Alpha, division of Penguin Group, softcover) by Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage, and Ed Gandia. This is a timely book when so many people have been laid off from 9-to-5 jobs and having difficulty finding a new one. For many the decision to go “freelance” is the right one, but how? This excellent book provides the answers and does so in a straight-forward, easily understood way. Packed between its covers is the kind of thing it took me years to learn on my own. Can you make a good living as a freelancer? Sure, lots have and do.

Now in softcover, you can read Fool’s Gold by Gillian Tett ($16.00, Simon and Schuster), subtitled “The inside story of J.P. Morgan and how Wall Street greed corrupted its bold dream and created a financial catastrophe.” The author is now the U.S. managing editor of The Financial Times who wrote many early warnings of the collapse that occurred in late 2008. At the heart of it were the complex new “credit derivatives” based on sub-prime mortgages that took down a number of banks and investment firms. J.P. Morgan, in fact, was one of the more successful survivors. Those who find the topic and timeline of interest will gain useful insights to what occurred. As yet unknown, however, was the sudden September 2008 drawdown of billions from banks that triggered the collapse. For the rest of us there’s Broke is Beautiful: Living and Loving the Cash-Strapped Life by Laura Lee ($12.95, Running Press, softcover). This book makes a case for living within one’s means, practicing what the author calls voluntary simplicity. It is a how-to manual for living on a tight budget despite the fact that we all live in a consumer culture that urges us to spend, spend, spend. That is exactly how we got here with the “help” of spendthrift politicians creating trillion dollar “entitlement” programs. Wallet a little thin these days? This may be the book for you.

Parenting in Challenging Times

Unleashing the Power of Parental Love: 4 Steps to Raising Joyful and Self-Confidence Kids by Gary M. Unruh, MSW, LCSW ($17.95, Small Press, softcover) addresses the most fundamental need of all children; the need to be truly loved. Raising a child or children is always a challenge and a parent is often distracted by their own needs. The author, a child and family mental health counselor, provides step-by-step, practical advice on how to focus on the fundamental good in one’s child, particularly if you are upset. My Mother used to say that “children are guests in the adult world” and the parent’s job is to teach them the skills and mental outlook to become part of that world. The author says you should expect to be frustrated, have realistic expectations, establish rules and respectful limits, and increase the bond while decreasing the frustration; all good advice, particularly for the new parent or one encountering problems. How Do You Tuck in a Superhero? And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys. Good question! Rachel Balducci ($12.99, Revell, softcover) is the mother of five boys and shares her often hilarious stories of how to deal with boys who have all kinds of energy and imagination, plus all the usual attitudes that require a strong hand to ensure they develop good attitudes and common sense. Any mother of boys will benefit greatly from this delightful book.

Give Teens a Break: A Positive Look at Teens
by John R. Morella, Ph.D. ($22.00, Millennial Mind Publishing, www.american-book.com) takes note of the fact that there are thirty million teenagers in America who are our children, our students, and our neighbors. They are not aliens and should not be viewed as troublesome and dysfunctional entities, says the author. He thinks we often provide teens with “a negative prophesy” as opposed to a positive self-fulfilling road-map. Dr. Morella maintains that most teens traverse to adulthood without the “storm and stress” predicted and that puberty is not a negative event for teens, nor are the majority of teens in conflict with their parents. For anyone who deals with teens, this book provides a host of insights and good advice that can make those years a rational transition to being an adult. Devoted: The Story of a Father’s Love for His Son by Dick Hoyt with Don Yaeger ($22.95, Da Capo Press) begins with a parent’s worst nightmare, complications during childbirth and a heart-wrenching life changing diagnosis. Their first son, Rick, had cerebral palsy with associated spastic quadriplegia. Doctors recommended they place their boy in a state institution and have other children. They chose to love and nurture their son and to give him every opportunity his capabilities would allow. With cutting-edge technology, Rick was able to “speak”, go to school, and eventually graduate from Boston University! This is an inspiring story worth reading.

Books for Kids and Teens

A friend of mine, Joseph D’Agnese, writes the most unusual and interesting books. One of his latest is Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci ($16.99, Henry Holt and Company). Beautifully illustrated by John O’Brien, it will appeal to young readers aged 7 to 10 or so. Based on the real life of Leonardo Fibonacci, a brilliant mathematician from an early age, it is an irony that many in those medieval times in Italy thought he was a blockhead and called him one. Early on he recognized how nature followed patterns and his travels as a youth introduced him to the Arabic numbers we use today. In time his genius would be recognized. This book is an excellent way to teach many lessons, not just about the essential role of mathematics, but the value of believing in oneself when others do not.

One of my favorite publishers of books is Kids Can Press. Three new books that can either be read to pre-school tots or enjoyed by early readers are Willow’s Whispers by Lana Button and illustrated by Tania Howells about a girl named Willow who whispered everything so softly nobody heard what she had to say. Discovering a “magic microphone”, a cardboard tube, she began to speak louder until she realized that she could be heard without it. C’mere, Boy! That’s the title of a book by Sharon Jennings and Ashley Spires that is a clever reverse on the boy wants dog story in which it is the dog that is looking for just the right boy. It is very funny. Looking Closely Around the Pond is written and illustrated with beautiful photos by Frank Serafini, an educator and nature photographer. The result are dazzling photos of water lilies, a tiger salamander, even green algae, and other things common to a pond. The book teases the young reader by showing close-ups that are then revealed on the following page as creatures or vegetation.

Photos by Kathy M. Miller, plus text, comprise Chippy Chipmunk Parties in the Garden ($19.95, Celtic Sunrise, distributed by Atlas Books) will delight any child age four and up to around eight or so. Frequent backyard visitors, a whole new appreciation for these frisky creatures will be acquired and the 86 photos are a treat. The story lends a continuity to the adventures of an Eastern Chipmunk. To learn more visit www.chippychipmunk.com. A Most Vivid Day by Justin Young ($16.95, Golden Tree Press) is also ideal for this age group as it tells the story of a bat that discovers the world of sunlight. Bats are creatures of the night and when a friendly caterpillar convinces one to stay up to see the sunrise, the bat discovers a world filled with color “painted” by the sun.

There’s tons of young adult fiction available these days. From Westside Books in Lodi, NJ, just out this month, are Change of Heart by Shari Maurer and Stringz by Michael Wenberg (both $16.95) and a great read for those aged 14 and up. The first poses a scary scenario as a young girl, just turned 16, learns she has a serious heart disease and will require a transplant if she is to live. The story poses a number of very adult questions and, I suspect, will inspire some readers to become physicians. The other story involves a young man who’s been in several different schools as his mom takes him from city to city. In Seattle, to raise some cash, Jace Adams begins to play his cello on the street and one day a man tosses a hundred dollar bill into his and a business card into his open cello case. It is an invitation to get instruction from a famed cello player and a chance to win a scholarship to a prestigious music school. Will he make the grade?

Two hardcover novels for teens age 12 and up will appeal mostly to girls. Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White ($16.99, Greenwillow/HarperCollins Books) tells of 14-year-old Laurel who is enrolled in a Virginia boarding school for girls, still grieving the loss of her mother. A mysterious bouquet of flowers appears at her door and she senses that the blooms hold a power that can affect people’s emotions. She puts together a tussie-mussie for her favorite teacher who then immediately finds love and as words gets out the other girls want her to make one for them as well. It is a book filled with romance and intrigue, all centered around the secret society of flower-speakers. Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban ($15.95/$8.95, Tanglewood Press, hard and softcover) features the strong-willed, independent 17-year-old Andrea who lives in the kingdom of Xaren-Ra. She must face raging battles between warring kingdoms, the pressure to be a proper lady, sibling rivalry, and a heaping dose of time-traveling. A bit fanciful, you say? Yes and no doubt gobs of good escapist fun as well.

Novels, Novels, Novels!

With June around the corner, the traditional time for reading novels at the beach or just in the backyard while soaking up the sun will begin. Obviously, one can enjoy a good novel any time of the year and the good news is that May will see the publication of several.

For the Irish among us and those who love them, Roddy Doyle has written a trilogy of novels that began with “A Star Called Henry”, followed by “Oh, Play That Thing”, and concludes now with The Dead Republic ($26.95, Viking) that displays the author’s imagination as it begins with the main character, Henry Smart, being saved from death in California’s Monument Valley by none other than Henry Fonda and befriended by the director John Ford who says he’d like to do a film based on his life. Smart works on the script for several years only to discover that the film has been turned into sentimental mush. Eventually he settles into a quiet life in a small village north of Dublin as a caretaker for a boy’s school. On a visit to Dublin in 1974, a bomb goes off, injuring him and a subsequent newspaper story reveals his previous life. This is a smart take on the years after World War II when Ireland and the world tried to piece together a new life. In The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel ($24.95, Unbridled Books) another life is slowly revealed after Anton Waker travels to the island of Ischia, off the coast of Italy, and waits. As his past is revealed, we learn he is not what he seems. Everyone with whom he grew up is corrupt, thieves in one fashion or another. Anton wants to reinvent himself as an honest and successful middle manager, but a security check interferes and his carefully constructed new life begins to disintegrate around him. This is a very intriguing story about how the secrets from one’s past have a nasty way of reemerging.

For a drolly funny change of pace, there’s This is Just Like You by Drew Perry, his debut novel ($25.95, Viking) about one of those well-meaning, hard-working, inherently decent, but otherwise clueless and self-defeating men who feel misunderstood and underappreciated by their wives and the world. The novel centers on Jack Lang who has a mulch business and a knack for making poor decisions. His wife, Beth, finally leaves him and moves in with his best friend. Jack tells everyone he’s okay, but he’s not. Without giving away more of the plot, I can assure you it just gets more complicated with every page. It is sheer madness, but the kind you just have to keep reading to the end.

Among the softcover novels, here are three to entertain you.

The Ex-Mrs. Hedgefund
by Jill Kargman ($15.00, Plume) is very timely given this era of he subprime mortgage crisis, trillion dollar bailouts, and mounting national debt. It is a witty, often hilarious novel that focuses on Manhattan’s most elite groups in the dizzying heyday right before everything began to fall apart. It is 2006 and Holly Talbot is married to the founder of Comer Capital, a major Wall Street player. When she discovers her husband is cheating on her, she decides to forego her former life and begin to live more honestly. Regaining her single status and taking on a new career. Rancho Armadillo by Judith Stephens, is a collection of stories set in a 1970s commune in New Mexico ($16.95, Livingston Press, available in hardcover as well). The author has lived a very active life that has resulted in three former novels and this collection is based on having formerly worked on a commune. Her sharp observations of those she encountered make for interesting reading. When Cold Earth was first published in the United Kingdom it met with considerable critical acclaim for its author, Sarah Moss ($14.95, Counterpoint) for the suspense she weaves about the threat of viral pandemics and climate change. It focuses on a team of six archaeologists from the U.S., England, and Scotland who assemble at the beginning of the Arctic summer to unearth traces of the lost Viking settlements in Greenland. They soon hear of an epidemic and their communications with the outside world fall away. Each begins to write final letters home which make up the narrative.

Just want to lay in the sun and listen to a good novel? Well, Scott Turow’s bestseller, The Burden of Proof, is now available, unabridged on 18 CDs! ($29.98, Hachette Audio). There are many twists and turns in this story of a brilliant defense attorney whose life is shattered amidst devastating revelations. It will keep you on the edge of your beach mat! If you want your suspense served cold, pick up I Can See You by Karen Rose ($19.98, 16 CDs, Hachette Audio) in which the test subjects of research into online Internet communities start turning up dead, all apparent suicides. She is aided by a homicide detective who believes they are victims of connected murders; scary and fun. Another bestselling novelist, Anita Shreve, serves up A Change of Attitude ($19.98, 8 CDs, Hachette Audio). The story involves a pair of newlyweds who set off on what they hope will be a big adventure. They move to Kenya where the husband practices medicine and the wife is a photojournalist. At the invitation of a British couple, they join a climbing expedition to Mount Kenya and there a terrible accident occurs and a life is claimed. This is a study of the inner landscape of a relationship and will hold your attention to the very end.

That’s it for May! Do tell your book-loving friends about Bookviews because word of mouth is our best way of reaching out to the many people who might not otherwise hear about books that deserve a wide audience. And come back in June when we shall share news of a host of new books!

1 comment:

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