Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bookviews - June 2010

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

Some works of history are so monumental that they are especially deserving of praise. This is the case of Norman Stone’s The Atlantic and Its Enemies: A History of the Cold War ($35.00, Basic Books). The Cold War that lasted from 1946 to 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed was an epic struggle that dominated the second half of the last century. Having lived through it, I have vivid memories of its milestones including the Cuban Missile Crisis when I was on the alert in the U.S. Army in the event we had to invade. Sadly, a new generation has little or no knowledge of this epic period in which freedom triumphed over Communism. Stone regards Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Charles de Gaulle and Helmut Schmidt to be four of the heroes of the Cold War. It was the military power and economic strength of the United States and a succession of American presidents, supported by Americans, who never wavered. Stone calls the United States a “great creative force” during the Cold War era. The book reflects three decades of research. Its 712 pages reflect the scope of the struggle which, at times, turned hot in proxy nations. To understand our present times, one must know what the Cold War was and did. We are no less challenged for the dearth of world leaders who replaced the giants of a former age. Having lived through the era, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 by H.W. Brands ($35.00, The Penguin Press), I was very impressed with the way the author captured the changes that occurred in America following the end of World War Two. The clichĂ© that America emerged as the only superpower in the world is true and so are the great societal changes that followed in its wake. Brands analyzes the changes in a way that brings clarity to someone like myself looking back or to someone born well into the second half of the last century who might not comprehend. It’s not always pretty because of the turmoil. The gradual distancing from long-held common values and beliefs is the most surprising aspect as the children of returned WWII veterans embraced a drug culture and rejected traditional sexual mores in the sixties. There followed both the end of segregation and the rise of feminism. If you love history you will love this book. I did.

As Americans discuss the latest in a long line of terrorist attacks on America, a new book, Terrorizing Ourselves: Why U.S. Counterterrorism Policy is Failing and How to Fix It, as edited by Benjamin H. Friedman, Jim Harper and Christopher A. Preble ($24.95, Cato Institute) has just been published. Cato is a noted D.C. think tank and this book offers practical analysis of current counterterrorism policies which, if the Times Square incident is any indication, are not working all that well. Based on the lessons and experiences of the past eight years, Friedman asserts that “Fear of terrorism is a bigger problem than terrorism and the defenses that we mount against terrorists often heighten our fears of them.” Anyone passing through an airport can attest to that. This book is not light reading, but it is worth the effort for the many insights and recommendations that it offers. One of the recommendations is that politicians and government organizations often have a stake in reinforcing excessive fears. Many different experts have contributed to this book and anyone seriously interested in this topic should read it. The recent scare concerning swine flu turned out to be far less threatening than projected, but is still important to track such outbreaks of diseases that can go global. Mark Pendergrast has written an interesting book, Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service ($28.00, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) that tells the story of the founding of the Epidemic Intelligence Service in 1951 for the purpose of saving lives when an epidemic occurs anywhere in the world. Given the history of such epidemics such as the Black Death that killed millions in Europe or the flu epidemic in the early years of the last century that took thousands of lives, the value of the EIS cannot be calculated, nor has the service been without controversy. One of the great contributions to modern life was the development of public health standards. You will learn much from this book and have a greater appreciation for the forces of disease and those who combat it.

The Internet has become so much a part of our lives that a whole new body of law has been developed. An estimated 45% of Americans generate their own online content, including videos, on blogs, websites, and social networking sites. It is becoming essential to know how to stay legal online and to protect your own online interests. Joy R. Butler is a business and media attorney who has authored The Cyber Citizen’s Guide Through the Legal Jungle: Internet Law for Your Professional Online Presence ($19.95, Sashay Communications, softcover). As a longtime professional writer and someone with two websites and a blog, I would certainly recommend this book for anyone who uses the Internet as a business tool, publishes an email newsletter, or offers original content. There is all manner of excellent advice to be garnered from this guide and it is the kind that can save you from making some costly mistakes as well as protecting against online predators. Want to help a young person graduating from college this month? Give them’s Guide to Life After College ($14.95, MG Prep, softcover). I wish I had had such a book when I graduated shortly after the last ice age ended! It is filled with excellent advice on finding work and career options, housing options, smart tips on credit card use, budgeting, buying versus leasing a car, and so much more. All the pitfalls that wait for grads (and everyone else) are addressed in this guide.

We use so many common expressions that we rarely stop to wonder where they originated. Phrases such as “Hell is paved with good intentions” or “Virtue is its own reward” are common wisdom and now Julian Baggini has written Should You Judge This Book by Its Cover? 100 Fresh Takes on Familiar Sayings and Quotations ($15.95, Counterpoint, softcover) in which the acclaimed philosopher challenges the reader to think again about well-worn sayings and phrases that we use every day. Is it always best to practice what you preach? Or to do in Rome as Romans do? Is it better to be safe than sorry? Not just a reference book, but an interesting collection of short, stimulating capsules of defiantly clear thinking that will energize your intellect while thoroughly entertaining you. A clever little book, Do Not Interrupt: A Playful Take on the Art of Conversation, by Stephen Kuusisto ($14.95, Sterling) examines the do’s and don’ts of conversation. Lovers of language and communication skills will greatly enjoy this examination of the difference between merely talking with someone else and actually having a stimulating conversation.

For all you “foodies”, here are two books you will love. India is one of the truly ancient civilizations. Its cuisine is unique and a real treat. If you combine its recipes with their history, you get Nani Power’s Ginger and Ganesh: Adventures in Indian Cooking, Culture and Love ($25.00, Counterpoint). It is in part the author’s journey of learning, being invited into the homes of strangers eager to teach her Indian cuisine. Along the way she learned much more. The book is filled with unique, often treasured family recipes from vegetarian homes in India. They range from cheese cubes in a rich cilantro and almond curry to coconut stuffed okra. It all makes for great reading and eating. In my home, there was always plenty of cheese to savor. Now, cheese enthusiast Eric LeMay has written the ultimate cheese-lover’s book, Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese ($25.00, Free Press). This is a world tour of cheese and he relates his travels from Cambridge, Massachusetts to a cheese festival in Bra, Italy, with plenty of other stops along the way as he shares his extensive knowledge. The book even has a comprehensive appendix on how to enjoy and pair cheese with beer, chocolate, coffee, fruit preserves, honey and other choices. Be advised; keep some cheese in the fridge when you start to read this delightful book. It will make you yearn for it.

In the past decade, Malcolm Gladwell wrote three groundbreaking books that have contributed to the way we understand the world. They were The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, and Outliers: The Story of Success. All three became audiobooks and now all three are gathered together in a slipcased edition ($79.98) by Hachette Audio, unabridged on 22 CDs) read by the author. If you are in a mood to expand your mind or want to give a remarkable gift, this collection is ideal.

A short, useful book for anyone who wants to learn about socialism is 10 Truths About Socialism available from Coral Ridge Ministries. As far back as 1848, Frederic Bastiat defined it as “legalized plunder.” Socialism/Communism advocates government ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. America fought Soviet communism for fifty years, but it has established itself here in the form of Social Security, Medicare (both teetering on financial collapse) and is manifesting itself in the actions of the current administration such as the government takeover of General Motors. The book by a Christian publisher has a conservative point of view, but it has its facts in good order. For a donation of $15.00, purchase it by clicking here.

Biographies, Autobiographies and Memoirs

Music lovers are in for a treat. Two biographies of music giants, Louis Armstrong and Stan Kenyon are in the bookstores. Terry Teachout has authored Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong ($30.00, Houghton Mifflin) is just a joy It captures Armstrong’s slow, but steady assent in to the highest orders of musical fame and success. Teachout is a gifted biographer and two of his previous books were devoted to George Balanchine, the ballet impresario, and a life of H.L. Mencken, the famed journalist and columnist. Armstrong literally lifted himself out of poverty as a child in New Orleans as the result of his talent. All his life he wore a Star of David to honor the Jewish family that gave him the money to buy his first trumpet and the values they imparted to him were worth much more. He was no angel, but he had innate good instincts and was blessed with a personality that, like his music, drew an ever widening circle of friends and fans. He became a great ambassador of good will for America. Years ago I attended a concert by Stan Kenton’s orchestra and the memory remains strong to this day. Stan Kenton: This is an Orchestra by Michael Sparke ($24.95, University of North Texas Press) tells the story of his great success leading musicians whose brass instrument wall of exciting sound made an indelible mark during the four decades he toured. Born in 1911, Kenton formed his first full orchestra in 1940 and thereafter they toured to enormous concert and recording success. His story is told through the words of those who composed and played the music. Kenton brought an unrelenting quest for his particular interpretation. It resulted in a whole new way to hear jazz and changed popular music. Few know the man and his music better than Sparke and we are fortunate to have this new biography.

Though they were a literary phenomenon of my youth and are now on their way to legend, I was never a fan of “the Beats”, writers that included Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jack Kerouac. I read Kerouac’s rambling novels without finding the stories that compelling and I thought Ginsberg’s poetry was not worth the accolades it received. Clearly I am in the minority with such views because Bill Morgan has written The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation ($28.00, Free Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster). In many respects, Morgan confirms my early reservations. It is in fact a quite fascinating series of revelations about the writers who came to be known as the Beat Generation. They were almost exclusively male and all shared a belief in personal liberation. They also all paid a personal price as it took a toll in varying ways on all of them. At the heart of the group was Kerouac who sought a circle of friends whose love affairs, straight and gay, whose drug use, whose search for spirituality, and whose battles over censorship contributed to a transformation of society. It makes for great reading. From the same publisher comes another biography from the world of literature, Sophia Tolstoy by Alexandra Popoff ($28.00, Free Press). She was the wife of the celebrated writer and cultural icon, Leo Tolstoy. She was also the mother of thirteen, a businesswoman, and a publisher. History portrays her as a shrill, small-minded woman who tormented her husband and actively tried to sabotage his endeavors, but Popoff believes that history has been unfair to her and has written this biography to set the record straight. She is, instead, portrayed as a strong, intelligent, and dedicated woman who participated in Tolstoy’s writings and causes, and shared his sense of mission and important values. Without question, Tolstoy modeled his memorable female characters after her. She emerges as having played an essential role in his life, one for which we can thank her service, encouragement, and management that left him free to write. Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds by Lydall Gordon ($27.95, Viking) explodes many of the commonly held beliefs and views of the extraordinary poetess, 1830-1886, the maid of Amherst, Massachusetts who never married, but produced poems of tremendous emotional depth and indelible beauty. He theorizes that she suffered from epilepsy which carried with it a social stigma. This would account for her reclusive lifestyle. There are other factors that those who love her work will find of great interest. The self-appointed editor of Dickinson’s poetry was Mabel Loomis Todd who had an affair with Austin Dickinson, her older (and married) brother. It set off a family feud. Previously untapped papers and access to the Dickinson and Todd archives illuminate the formerly unknown aspect of her life in ways that make this a provocative biography.

The first and only biography of Nobel Prize-winning novelist, William Golding, has just been published ($32.50, Free Press). It is a monumental piece of work by John Carey, a noted British literary critic. In 1953, Golding was a provincial school teacher whose novel, “Lord of the Flies” had been repeatedly rejected until an editor at Faber and Faber thought better of it. It would sell millions with its tale of original sin and our capacity for evil. Perhaps not surprisingly, Golding was not a particularly nice person, a depressive who regarded himself as a monster, but he was clearly a gifted novelist and for that he will be remembered. Now you can read the full story of his life. Genius is frequently not pretty.

The world of war always serves up stories of people who achieved much in life and Cataclysm: General Hap Arnold and the Defeat of Japan does that for one of World War Two’s great leaders and heroes ($24.95, University of North Texas Press). Japan’s defeat required extraordinary men and the strategic planning to bring about the destruction that yielded surrender. Herman S. Wolk has written of the General’s role during the Pacific War of 1944-1945. The retired Senior Historian of the U.S. Air Force, Wolk is especially qualified to share with the reader the thinking of its commanding general as he led those who crafted the weapons, organization, and command of the strategic bombing offensive against Japan. A lot preceded the dropping of the two A-bombs that ended the war in the Pacific. For those who love military history and lore, this book will prove to be a treat. For a personal story of triumph over cerebral palsy, John W. Quinn has written Someone Like Me ($16.96, History Publishing Company). Despite having been born with cerebral palsy, John wanted to be in the U.S. Navy, but the Navy didn’t want him. Even though every step he took was measured in pain, the Navy requirement for a “duck walk” initially disqualified him. He never made mention of his CP. Instead he put himself into a regimen of self-applied physical therapy for a year until he could fulfill the requirement. It meant learning to deal with a new level of pain and it led to a twenty-year career in the Navy! He retired as a senior chief petty officer and earned numerous citations and awards. This is not the story of an easy life at any point along the way, but it is one of great determination that can serve as an inspiration to those born with CP and anyone else inclined to feel sorry for themselves.

An icon of the labor movement, Mother Jones: Raising Cain and Consciousness, is the subject of a biography by Simon Cordery ($21.95, University of New Mexico Press, softcover). Mary Harris was born into a family of Irish radicals in 1837. Like thousands of others, the Irish potato famine forced them to immigrate to Canada. She married George Jones and settled with him Memphis, only to lose him and their four children to a yellow fever epidemic in 1867. She then lost her dressmaking business to the great Chicago fire in 1871. She found a home in the emerging labor movement after that, crisscrossing the nation to be an organizer. By all accounts she was a force to be reckoned with and in time she gained a national reputation in mines, factories, and workshops across the nation. There’s even a magazine named after her these days. If you have heard of her but never knew how she gained her reputation, this book will prove of interest as part of America’s history.

How to Survive Being Alive

Was it Yogi Berra who said you can learn a lot by just watching? Well, you can also learn a lot by reading books that explain how others survived their individual journey through life. They are frequently entertaining and often inspiring, but they always open a door to other’s experiences that can prove useful to your own life choices.

In America, we learn that everyone has a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Note that it is a pursuit, not a guarantee, but James D. Baird, PhD, and Laurie Nadel, PhD, have joined forces to write about Happiness Genes ($15.99, New Page, a division of Career Press, softcover) whose subtitle is “Unlock the positive potential hidden in your DNA.” An inventor-engineer, author and researcher, Dr. Baird has studied the subject of happiness for more than 20 years. He got an assist from Dr. Nadel, herself a bestselling author, a former New York Times columnist, and a radio host. Together they offer scientific research that proves the links between science, spirituality, and happiness. It turns out that compassion, acts of kindness, meditation, and prayer play a significant role in one’s happiness, just as we have been taught by parents and by observation. The authors offer a 28-day “natural happiness” program the reader can use to turn on their happiness genes and program their emotions, their beliefs, and their behaviors to create a steady stream of well-being. Another book that will prove helpful is Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies by Charles H. Elliot, PhD, and Laura L. Smith, PhD ($21.99, Wiley Publishing Co., softcover.) It is filled with excellent advice on how to get one’s fears and worries under control, identifying your anxiety triggers, and information about the latest treatments and medications. It is testimony to the fact that there is a book out there to help anyone with any problem and surely anxiety is high on the list these days given the economy and the threats of terrorism.

Last One Down the Aisle Wins
by Shannon Fox and Celeste Liverside ($16.95, Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Griffin, softcover) is subtitled “10 keys to a fabulous single life now and an even better marriage later.” The book is directed at young women. Ms. Fox is a licensed marriage and family psychotherapist and Ms. Liverside is an attorney specializing in family law. Together they bring considerable experience to the view that one’s twenties are not just a waiting period before marriage. They offer a wealth of statistics and other data that demonstrates that waiting until one is closer to one’s thirties increases their chances of having a healthy, long-lasting relationship more than double! They offer tips on how to develop and improve one’s emotional health, body image, and confidence. They also identify the ten top reasons women marry too young and why they should be avoided. Sometimes people’s memoirs offer the key to understanding one’s own life. Just Don’t Call Me Ma’am: How I Ditched the South, Forgot My Manners, and Managed to Survive My Twenties with (Most of) My Dignity Still Intact is an hilarious, truthful tale of one woman, Anna Mitchael, ($15.95, Seal Press, softcover) that details impulsive moves to new cities, domestic disasters, and even the occasional nervous breakdown. It is about growing up! She made her way as a copywriter in advertising agencies across the nation, but she has since returned home to her native Texas.

While women have many books to call upon that offer advice about dealing with life’s twists and turns, men often do not. What, for example can men do to cope with the loss of a wife? The Widower’s Toolbox: Repairing Your Life After Losing Your Spouse ($14.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) by Gerald J. Schaefer joined with Tom Bekkers, MSW, APSW, to provide an excellent guide for grieving men that sets them on the path to healing. Schaefer draws on his 26-year career experience managing people and dealing with many of the issues facing him and his young sons after the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Bekkers is a licensed psychotherapist and advanced practice social worker with twenty years experience in professional counseling. Together they provide a wealth of information and advice on such things as organizing household tasks, resolving issues that prevent healing, handling children’s special needs, and learning to love again. Robert Rodi has penned a hilarious and heartwarming memoir, Dogged Pursuit: How a Rescue Dog Rescued Me ($15.00, Plume, softcover). It is an account of a year in the dog show world that is filled with outsize personalities, lots of laughs, and the unforgettable bond that was forged between himself and an unlikely, loveable teammate. When he began training his Sheltie, Carmen, in canine agility, he had no idea what lay ahead. He soon caught the competitive bug and when Carmen was sidelined with a hip injury, he went looking for a new dog to take to the competitions. His choice was a surprising one; a scrawny, scruffy rescue dog that alternated between Cujo-like aggression at home and possum-like paralysis in the ring. Dusty had a talent for finding ways to do things wrong, but by then they have bonded in ways that taught Rodi some valuable lessons. The author owns three dogs and has authored seven novels. This may turn out to be his favorite book and, if you love dogs, is likely to become yours as well. Halfway to Heaven: My White-Knuckled—and Knuckleheaded—Quest for the Rocky Mountain High by Mark Obmascik ($15.00, Free Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, softcover) is the story of a man who joined the more than half million people who attempt to climb one of Colorado’s 54 mountains over 14,000 feet high. A stay-at-home father of three in Denver, he never thought he would become one of them, but when his 12-year-old son, Cass, called home from his Colorado summer camp, ecstatic about climbing Pike’s Peak, Obmascik found an activity they could enjoy together. He tells the story of his outrageous midlife adventure in this memoir of taking off for the mountains at the weekend’s early dawn to huff and puff his way toward climbing every one of the 14,000 foot mountains. Men will identify with this delightful story.

A debilitating disease that puts fear in the hearts of anyone approaching their senior years is Alzheimer’s. It has no cure and it does not appear that any new drug is on the horizon to offer one although some do offer some palliative use. Dr. Kenneth S. Kosik has teamed with Ellen Clegg to write The Alzheimer’s Solution: How Today’s Care is Failing Millions and How We Can Do Better ($19.00, Prometheus Books, softcover). As the Baby Boomer generation arrives to expand the elderly population the prospect of more cases is expected. This book offers a measure of hope and coping strategies for people facing Alzheimer’s now and in the future. Dr. Kosik is a neurologist and leading researcher on the disease. Ms. Clegg is a healthcare journalist. Together they outline a bold vision of one-stop centers for information about the care required, explaining why the current healthcare system is poorly equipped to deal with Alzheimer’s patients and how market economics stymies physician creativity. This is an extremely informative and provocative book on a subject that will loom larger and larger in the years ahead.

Getting Down to Business (Books)

The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz ($28.00, Free Press) takes a look at today’s workplace and finds it about as enervating as a salt mine. He points out that human beings aren’t designed to operate like computers—at high speeds, continuously, running multiple tasks at the same time, but as often as not that’s the kind of demand being put on today’s workers. The result is distracted, exhausted, and often demoralized workers in tough economic times. Written with Jean Gomes and Catherine McCarthy, PhD, the book offers a way for individuals to manage their energy more skillfully. It will help those in management positions by pointing out ways to ensure their co-worker’s energy levels are taken into account these days, creating organizational policies and practices that fuel rather than deplete human energy. It refutes the myths that people can get by with little sleep or that fear is a motivational device. It lays waste to the notion that multi-tasking is a good idea. As if the workplace wasn’t stressful enough, the process by which one selects a career path can also be a challenge. Work to Your Strengths by Chuck Martin, Richard Guare, PhD, and Peg Dawson, EdD, ($21.95, Amacom) puts forth a program on how best to identify one’s best skills and channel them into jobs that will prove satisfying over the long run. The authors say your brain is hardwired to function in certain ways and you have to match that to jobs where you will find the most success and satisfaction. It identifies specific executive skills that will enhance the work experience. This is not light reading, but it can ignite the kind of insight that you can use to make good choices.

Norlights Press in Nashville is a small press with a variety of eclectic titles, one of which is Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget ($15.00, softcover) by Maria Ross who brings 16 years of experience to her new book. We know how the big guys like Apple, Nike and Harley Davidson create a brand image that inspires countless consumers, but the author says a small business can do that as well and then provides the blueprint to do it. Branding effectively and connecting with customers is not about how much money you have to spend, she says, but how clearly, consistently and relevantly you can communicate your message. It’s about being authentic. Check out this title and others at In my lifetime I have seen the rise of women in the workplace. Iron Butterflies: Women Transforming Themselves and the World by Birute Regine ($19.00, Prometheus Books) examines the transition from the traditional roles to the revolution in which a society once based on domination and power over others is beginning to crumble as an era of cooperation and community emerges, founded on the principle that power should be shared with and for others. The author weaves together the stories of sixty successful women from all walks of life and throughout the world. She spent several years in eight nations interviewing dynamic, female role models from a Congresswoman to a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, and others whom she calls her “Iron Butterflies.” For those of a philosophical inclination, this book will prove quite interesting.

What do you do if you have built a successful business and want to sell it? The first thing is to purchase Built to Sell by John Warrillow ($24.95, Flip Jet Media, Toronto). The author started and sold four companies, becoming in the process an expert on how to get the most value out of a business when selling it. He is a small business expert who is widely quoted in publicans from Business Week and Inc Magazine to USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. In this book he reveals the secret of building a business to sell, offering eight steps to making a business sellable. “You can always run a company as if it will last forever, and yet you should also strive constantly to maximize its value, building in the qualities that allow it to be sold at any moment.” Good advice.

Books for kids and Teens

For the toddler set, there’s a book that’s out just in time for Father’s Day on June 20. Dad and Pop: An Ode to Fathers & Stepfathers by Kelly Bennett ($15.99, Candlewick Press) and illustrated by Paul Meisel is aimed at kids age 4-to-7. In an era when half the marriages end in divorce and often lead to remarriage and a new father figure, this book offers warm illustrations and a comforting text on how to look at a happily blended-family scenario. It reassures that the birth dad and the step-dad both love their child. Dance, Y’All, Dance is another Kelly Bennett book, illustrated in a delightful fashion by Terri Murphy ($16.95, Bright Sky Press) that celebrates country music and the way folks of all ages love to dance to it. It recreates the fun and excitement of Saturday nights at the dancehall for ages 4 to 8. Also among the books for this age group is a wonderful story taken from real life, Miles of Smiles: The Story of Roxey, the Long Island Rail Road Dog (17.95, Blue Martin Publications) by Heather Hill Worthington with warm and wonderful illustration by Bill Farnsworth. Roxey became a legend 1900s when he was granted complete access by the crews of the Long Island railroad system. When he jumped on board President Teddy Roosevelt’s private car Teddy was delighted to learn he had a railroad pass attached to his collar and let him stay for a while.

For the teens, there are new novels coming along at a rapid rate, but first let me recommend Aim High: 101 Tips for Teens by Brad Berger ($9.75, It is filled with short, easy to absorb points on how to speak, be helpful, acknowledge mistakes, forgive, maintain health, and lots, lots more. Any parent of a teenager, particularly the early teen years, will want to pick up a copy and just leave it around. It shortcuts the difficulties often encountered in communicating with this age group.

We know that teens will read a longer book from the Harry Potter series and Cory Doctorow has written a novel, For the Win, (17.99, a Tor Teen Book) that explores the world of labor politics and the free market economy in a worldwide post-economic collapse. Sounds timely, doesn’t it? The plot is about a movement that will draw opposing forces, Western corporations, the Chinese police, and organized crime into the ultimate struggle for freedom. Doctorow has won awards for his previous books with comparable adult themes and as co-editor of BoingBoing,net. It is set in the world of online gaming and is sure to intrigue any teen who picks it up.

Two softcover novels are worth a read for those ages 12 and up. Star Crossed: Taurus Eyes by Bonnie Hearn Hill ($9.95, Running Press Teens) and involves astrology, often an interest of teens. Logan is spending the summer at the camp of her dreams and is determined to secure a coveted writing spot in the camp’s anthology. It’s a summer of challenge and a bit of romance and Logan wonders if the stars can guide her through them. The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla ($16.95, WestSide Books) offers a serious theme when 17-teen-year-old Sam, instead of worrying about final exams and the prom is trying to save her best friend’s life. He has a form of cancer that does not respond to treatment, but Sam is there by his side as friendship ripens into love as time threatens to run out. I will not give away the ending, but will recommend this interesting novel.

Novels, Novels, Novels

Summer is a traditional time for reading at the beach or just the back porch and there is a surfeit of novels for those who enjoy fiction.

Allie Larkin has written a funny, romantic novel about a woman who watches the longtime love of her life marry her best friend instead. Stay ($25.95, Dutton/Penguin Group) is the story of how she drowns her sorrow initially in Kool-Aid-vodka cocktails and watches reruns of Rin Tin Tin. Then, impulsively, she buys a German shepherd over the Internet. Her new companion, Joe, is a clumsy, slobbering hundred-pound beast that only responds to commands in Slovak! But he helps her begin to mend her broken heart and it doesn’t hurt that Joe’s vet is a rugged sweetheart with floppy blond hair and a winning smile. This is a warm, witty, laugh-out-loud story and a very good debut. Another debut novel is by Brando Skyhorse. In The Madonnas of Echo Park ($23.00, Free Press), just published this month, he gives voice to a Mexican community in Los Angeles not far from Dodger Stadium. We are introduced to and come to know the story of Aurora Esperanza, a young girl caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting with a dozen other girls and mothers while acting out a scene from a Madonna music video. This is straight out of the life of the author, himself a Mexican-American, who knows these people well having been born and raised in Echo Park. This is a very timely story and a moving one that will provide a window into the world of Hispanics.

Andy Andrews takes the reader back to World War Two in The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances ($18.99, Thomas Nelson) when a German U Boat officer is betrayed for refusing to kill Americans while sinking supply ships destined for Europe in the Gulf of Mexico in 1942. Shot by a fanatical Nazi and left for dead at sea, he washed ashore in Alabama where he is found by a beautiful young woman whose husband has been in killed by Germans in the war. Torn between leaving him to die and saving his life, she elects to hide him until he recovers and tries to elude capture. The stage is set for an extraordinary emotional and action-packed journey as both explore their past lives and face a crucial decision together. It is a story of how people overcome anger and hate, and about the value of forgiveness; a gift to yourself and others. In The Wave ($18.95, Sherman Asher Publishing, softcover) author Tom Miller uses his degree in geology, his thousand dives as a recreational scuba diver, and a thousand hours piloting everything from a small Cessna to Lear jets, combining them the fact that the big island of Hawaii is surrounded by massive undersea landslides. An earthquake or volcano eruption could trigger staggering tsunamis. Combine that with a heart-pounding story filled with nail-biting events and you have one heck of a tale that will keep you turning the page.

Henry Roth (1906-1995) wrote novels that were always a literary event when published. He’s perhaps best known for Call It Sleep (1934), but he was always highly regarded. Now, fifteen years after his passing, another novel, An American Type, has been published ($25.95, W.W. Norton). Set in 1938, it tells the story of his alter ego, Ira Stigman, who at 32 years of age is standing, in his words, “at the portentous crossroads of maturity.” His first novel has been published to wide acclaim and he is doted upon and provided for by an older women, the alter ego of Eda Lou Walton who was Roth’s lover at the time. In the novel, Ira is experiencing the angst of initial success and keeps re-writing the first pages of a second novel. His relationship with his lover feels like a Faustian contract he’ll never escape, and he is terrified of what stretches out before him. Written in the years before his death, this is a wonderful look inside the life of authors to whom success has come swiftly and unexpectedly. Fans of Roth will enjoy this along with anyone who wants a look inside the life of novelists who must draw on their own lives for inspiration. It is funny, touching, and a lot of fun to read.

Among the softcover novels worth reading is Samantha Bruce-Benjamin’s The Art of Devotion ($15.00, Gallery Books), a haunting debut novel filled with secrets, love, betrayal, obsession, and deceit. It is a window into one family’s dark and complex history as told from the view of four women and tells the story of the emotional damage within a family led by a matriarch who was tragically widowed too soon, the almost inappropriately close relationship between her son and daughter, and the deceit of an outsider. Its plot is too intricate to describe, but that makes for a story that is hard to put down once begun. The More I Owe You by Michael Sledge ($15.95, Counterpoint) will please those familiar with the poet Elizabeth Bishop. In 1951 she boarded a ship bound for South America to visit friends in Rio de Janeiro for two weeks and stayed for seventeen years. In a mesmerizing debut novel, Sledge creates an intimate portrait of Bishop, her life in Brazil and her relationship with her lover, the aristocratic Lota de Macedeo Soares. Drawing on her lifelong correspondences and biography, he imagines the poet’s intensely private life, lived in conflict with herself as a writer and a woman. There is much to admire and enjoy in this novel that closely mirrors the reality of the poet’s life.

For the girls, Sophie Hannah serves up suspense in The Dead Lie Down (15.00, Penguin Books) in a story about Ruth Bassey to whom a man confesses a murder committed years ago, but Ruth knows a woman of the same name as the alleged victim and she is very much alive. Set against the background of the London art scene, this story has twists and turns for which the author has acquired a growing base of fans. Just out this month is Hurricanes in Paradise by Denise Hildreth ($13.99, Tyndale House Publishers) is set in a five-star resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Riley Sinclair has just settled into her new job as director of guest relations while putting her own life together again. With a hurricane headed straight for the resort, Riley and three women guests forge unlikely but powerful friendships as they each deal with varying fears. The result is laughter and lunacy, heartache and healing. The prolific novelist, Jane Green, has proven her writing chops and is back for some summer reading with Dune Road ($15.00, Plume). Set in a Connecticut town, Kit Hargrove has bounced back from her divorce with a new sense of freedom. She’s enjoying her life and can’t believe she had landed a job as the assistant to a dashing, famously reclusive novelist, Robert McClore. At a rare book event, Robert meets Kit’s friend, Tracy, who has a weakness for older men. Life begins to get complicated again and ties to friends and family become crucial. It’s an intriguing tale.

Finally, my friend, David H. Brown, has penned a classic mystery, Murder at 250 Center Street, ($15.99, Author House) with a plot that has so many twists and turns you will not want to stop reading. From abandoned newborn fraternal twins found in an apartment building basement after eight days, to their teenage mother being shot to death shortly after delivery, to a lapse of two decades when the murder weapon is found, the story just rockets along, buoyed by a great cast of characters, more deaths, a bizarre trial, and much more. They used to call such a novel a pot boiler because the lid was sure to blow at any moment. Treat yourself to this one.

That’s it for June! And do come back in July for still more news of the best of new non-fiction and fiction. Tell all your book-loving friends about Bookviews, too!

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 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, 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 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, 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 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!