Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bookviews - September 2010

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

There’s a new book that should be essential reading for parents, educators, employers and others dealing with the new Generation Y and its subset, the title of Tim Elmore’s Generation iY: Our Last Change to Save the Future ($16.99, Poet Gardener Publishing in association with, softcover). They are the children of the late Baby Boomers and the early Gen-X’ers between 1984 and 2002. They have been called Millennials and the Digital or Internet Generation. They are stuck in a kind of extended adolescence, experiencing a lot of depression and disillusionment as they face adult expectations in college and in the workplace. They are also the generation we will look to lead the nation soon enough and they can barely cope with their own lives, having been told how great they were by their parents, having failed to develop interpersonal skills due to iphones, ipads, texting and hours before TV and computer screens in their own imaginary world. They have been raised to be consumers, but lack the skills to be contributors. Real life and real commitments overwhelm them easily. The result is that growing numbers drop out of high school, are unprepared for the rigors of college, are prone to quit jobs rapidly, whom an older generation must wait until they get past age 25 to show signs, if any, of anything deemed maturity. Elmore says today’s adults have to begin changing how they raise, teach, and train this generation for adult responsibilities because they will be the next generation of adults, for better or worse.

A growing number of Americans are deeply disappointed by the failure of the Obama administration’s solutions to the financial crisis and failure to turn the economy around with “stimulus” spending and other “quick fix” programs. The present mood reflects the ten years in the 1930s during the Great Depression when many current liberal programs were introduced and similarly failed. However, the legacy of the FDR administration is the “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and, later, Medicare. Both are essentially insolvent. Why don’t liberal ideas translate into any measure of success? And why are so many coercive with the intent of limiting people’s choices in a nation based on freedom? Terence P. Jeffrey, the Editor-in-Chief of, has written Control Freaks: 7 Ways Liberals Plan to Ruin Your Life ($$27.95, Regnery Publishing Inc) and, in the interest of full disclosure, I have been a contributor, a commentator for this news and opinion website for many years. Putting aside the book’s title is cleverly provocative title, Jeffrey does an excellent job of providing the historic context of how the role of the federal government has grown despite the specific and limited role for it that is spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. Since the 1930s, both Democrats and Republicans alike have deliberately ignored the Constitution and even the Supreme Court has reinterpreted it or perhaps one should say misinterpreted it. Jeffrey demonstrates how increasingly intrusive into everyone’s life the federal government has become and he documents it with 57 pages of citations of the facts presented. You will be appalled by the actual debt in which the nation is mired, not just for this generation, but the next and the one after that. This is a book I would recommend everyone read before the November 2nd midterm elections. The decline in President Obama’s approval ratings suggest that people of all political persuasions are increasingly concerned about his policies and programs.

While President Obama has been successful, thanks to a party-line vote, in forcing legislation through Congress, the opposition to much of it remains. That is why, if politics interests you, The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America, by Pamela Geller with Robert Spencer ($27.00, Threshhold Editions, an imprint of Simon and Schuster) will prove helpful in understanding the “transformation” Obama promised is resulting in high unemployment, a free-market system under attack, and the nationalization of large elements of the economy. This book is so thoroughly researched it takes 30 pages of small print to list all the footnotes cited throughout its text. This is a very close examination of the actual acts and statements of a president who is alienating Americans on a virtual daily basis.

Israel continues in the news, threatened by its neighbors, under attack in the United Nations, and the on-again, off-again trials of its relationship with changing U.S. administrations. How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or less Without Leaving Your Apartment by Gregory Levey ($25.00, Free Press) is the often hilarious and sometimes horrifying look at the inner workings of international government agencies. Also available in softcover is his previous book, Shut Up I’m Talking to You ($15.00, Free Press).The author relates his return to the United States after a stint in his mid-twenties writing speeches for the Israeli government. He discovered that everyone seems to believe they have the solution to the intractable Middle East’s conflicts and they all want to tell him about it. He concludes that he must find the answer for himself, sorting out the many different “answers” offered by White House officials, D.C. lobbyists, congressmen, advisers to presidential candidates, high profile journalists, and others. Unraveling the ancient claims and modern rivalries has yet to hit upon a formula for peace in a region filled with conflict. The author provides a window to the process. I recommend both books.

We are all so occupied with the daily headlines of events around the world, it is easy to forget that for millennia Europeans believed the world consisted of three parts; Europe, Africa, and Asia. The trade routes between these regions was well established in early times, but The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester ($16.99, Free Press, softcover) is the story of what was widely regarded as an inaccessible place, North and South America, that until 1507 wasn’t even on the maps of that era. The book is a thrilling saga of geographical and intellectual exploration that sweeps across continents and centuries. Early traders like Marco Polo and early Christian missionaries had trekked to Asia. The Portuguese were explorers of Africa and the Far East, but it took Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci to put a then unknown but rumored continent on the map. This is a piece of history worth visiting.

Writers frequently and understandably enjoy the companionship of other writers. It is a difficult and demanding craft. Memorable Days: The Selected Letters of James Salter and Robert Phelps ($25.00, Counterpoint Press) chronicles the correspondence between these two that began with a letter of admiration for James Salter’s novel, “A Sport and a Pastime” that developed into a long friendship spanning two decades. Phelps authored “Heroes and Orators” and “The Literary Life”, but is perhaps better known as the editior of “Earthly Paradise: Colette’s Autobiography.” Some two hundred letters examine the trials of writing and their mutually supportive relationship. Salter has written novels, essays, screenplays, and short stories, and divides his time between Aspen and Long Island. Phelps passed away in 1989.

If there is one thing that people who love to read have in common is the ambition to also write. Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob ($15.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) is subtitled, “The complete guide to writing cookbooks, blogs, reviews, memoir and more” and has proven so popular it is now in its second edition. Its focus is on writing about food and for anyone wanting to break into this arena it is filled with good advice about the various genres of food writing. I have been a professional writer for decades so I can confirm that this is the real deal that is based not only on her own successful career, but on interviews with other food writers, literary agents, cookbook editors, and others. It is an essential tool for every foodie hoping to put pen to page One of the most practical cookbooks I have seen in a while is the Gooseberry Patch Keepsake Cookbook ($27.95, Oxmoor House, an imprint of Time Inc). It’s 420 pages, filled with great recipes and great color photos, of which 50 are blank pages on which you can add your own recipes, but mostly it is its unique format, a three-ring binder, so the book can lay flat on the kitchen table while you sample Gooseberry co-founders, Jo Ann Martin and Vickie Hutchins’ collection of delicious, but sensible dishes perfect for any evening meal. Gooseberry began as a mail-order business and the recipes included in their catalogs quickly became such favorites customers were saving them. Today, the company is serving its third generation of customers. You will never be without great ideas for great dinners and other meals with this timeless and timely cookbook. Check it out at

I spent my college days driving from New Jersey to Florida on Interstate 95, so I have some memories of it. They have been awakened by Dianne Perrier’s delightful history, Interstate 95: The Road to Sun and Sand ($24.95, University Press of Florida) and, for those with similar memories of Interstate 81: The Great Warriors Trace, she has explored its history as well. Interstate 95 stretches along the East Coast from Maine’s Canadian border almost all the way to the Florida Keys, passing through fifteen states, plus the District of Columbia where Interstate 81 starts on Wellesley Island, New York and makes its way through the Appalachians to its southernmost point, Dandridge, Tennessee. Both were part of the great highway system envisioned by President Dwight Eisenhower and both created a whole new mobility for Americans, creating greater economic growth as well. If you love history as I do, you will enjoy either or both of these adventures on the highways and discover how they reflected trails blazed by Indians and early Americans.

Ever wonder why we say “God bless you” when someone sneezes? Or why hanging a horseshoe over the door is a good luck symbol? These and many other “old wives’ tales and superstitions” that are a daily part of our lives as we knock on wood to ward off bad luck or we avoid walking under ladders, are explained in Black Cats & Four-Leaf Clovers by Harry Oliver ($13.95, Perigee, softcover). I recommended his previous book, “Bubble Gum and Hula Hoops” and I recommend this one as yet another entertaining collection of information.

Relationships and Aging

Every so often one comes across a compelling title like Everyone Marries the Wrong Person: Turning Flawed in Fulfilling Relationships ($14.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) by Christine Meinecke, PhD. The author dismisses conventional viewpoints on relationships and shows how to transcend the initial infatuation called love in order to create a mature, lasting love because the two partners in the marriage change. Marriages fall apart for many reasons, but it often comes back to the expectations brought into the relationship and the simple fact that life imposes changes on both. The author offers a proven plan to salvage a marriage that is on the fast track to divorce. If this describes your own or a friend’s, than this book will likely prove helpful.

Raising Confident Readers is surely a subject close to my heart. J. Richard Gentry, PhD ($14.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) tackles a big problem insofar as studies have shown that four out of ten eight-year-olds cannot read independently, largely because of a lack of word exposure in their formative years. If you have a youngster returning to school with poor reading skills you need to step in and help. This book will show you how. The good news is that it doesn’t take long to improve a child’s reading skills and the author provides reading and writing exercises that any parent can use. There is little doubt that we live in stressful times and that our new age of technology and information access often contributes to that stress. A corollary to this is Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools, and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework by Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed ($14.95, Advantage Books, softcover. Kids are coming home with more and more homework these days and this poses a problem for them and their parents. The author, a former public school teacher with more than 20 years experience, offers lots of good advice for parents of children from age six to 18 and identifies six key types of children who struggle with school and homework. She spells out six study skills that need to be developed and the organization of time that help students master content and build self-confidence. In a very real way, this is homework for adults and well worth reading. For parents that have children exhibiting learning problems, I recommend The Learning Tree: Overcoming Learning Disabilities from the Ground Up by Stanley I. Greenspan, MD, and Nancy Thorndike Greenspan ($26.00, Da Capo Press). Whether one is a parent of a child who is behind in several academic areas or of a gifted child with subject-specific weakness such as math, they know the issue needs to be confronted and the authors provide an overview of problems children face in early development and beyond. They not only identify the symptoms of learning disabilities, but the missing developmental steps that cause the symptoms. This book will provide peace of mind along with a game plan to address problems.

Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness by Susan Smalley, PhD, and Diana Winston ($16.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) discusses the beneficial effects of mindfulness techniques that can improve attention and concentration, decrease addictive behaviors, boost performance, and help with challenging thoughts and emotions like depression and anxiety. A good companion volume is Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear by Dr. Srinivasan S. Pillay, MD ($25.99, Rodale). The World Health Organization calls stress “the health epidemic of the 21st century” and given the global financial crisis, rogue nations seeking or having nuclear capabilities, and the rise of Islamo-fascism, there is plenty about which to be anxious. Dr. Pillay’s book could be called “tough love” because he advises against making excuses for not turning positive ideas into action such as how to visualize success and make it happen, explains why powerful leaders engage in infidelity, dealing with a fear of commitment or fear of rejection, and how to cope with loneliness, among other common human experiences.

Not only are Americans in particular living longer lives, they are seeking ways to live longer and healthier lives. The Longevity Diet ($14.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) by Brian M. Delaney and Lisa Walford addresses how diet can ward off health problems, delay the aging process, and extend life expectancy. This is the second edition of the book that focuses on a calorie restriction diet that the authors say can help with weight loss and prevent common ailments such as type 2 diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure, among other health related concerns. I cannot attest to its recommendations, but for anyone interested in this subject, there is sure to be something of value to be found in this book. I am in my seventh decade and, for most of my life, I dined at the table with parents who were dedicated to eating well. Good food and good wine is probably the best antidote to aging there is. My late Mother taught haute cuisine, the secrets of gourmet cooking and baking for thirty years, was an internationally famed authority on wine, and an author of several cookbooks. She lived to 98. My Father lived to 93 and would probably have lived longer had a trip to a hospital not contributed to shortening his life. A large consort of Americans is aging. A whole generation of Baby Boomers from the 1950s is beginning to retire or at least receive Social Security. Thus, Aging Gracefully, Aging Defiantly by Norma Roth ($18.95, Author House, softcover) not only proved to be interesting and inspiring reading to me, but will no doubt find a large audience among my contemporaries. The expression is that old age is not for sissies and there’s enough truth in that for Roth to have developed “ten tips to keep people off your back” when family and others begin to wonder if you are having “senior moments”, occasional forgetfulness that, in someone younger, would be ignored. This book is so full of really good advice on making the transition to one’s sixties and beyond that I cannot say enough good things about it. If you have an aging member in your family or a friend possibly having a problem or two as they age, I recommend you give them this book.

The Lives of Real People

Every so often someone writes a memoir that is so unique that is quite compelling. That’s the case with Black & Bulletproof : An African-American Warrior in the Israeli Army (24.95, New Horizon Press) that is officially due out in December. It is the story of Marcus Hardie, a man who was raised in the gang-infested streets of Los Angeles, but who through intelligence and pure grit escaped to graduate from college and law school, and became a special assistant to a California governor. Religion had always played a role in his life, but he found himself increasingly drawn to Judaism and, because he always amerced himself in anything that interested him, he volunteered to help out at a Jewish home for the aged, learning about the Holocaust from its survivors, discovering the pleasure of the discipline that Judaism offers through study of its holy book, the Torah, and finding a welcome from Jews who saw passed his skin color. He not only converted, but journeyed to Israel where he worked in the offices of the Mayor of Israel who later became Prime Minister. His commitment went further when, at age 28, he volunteered to join its Defense Force despite being told it was largely composed of people a decade younger. His experiences in the elite anti-terrorism unit are worth reading as is the entire book as proof that real faith is colorblind.

The life of Howard Hughes, the billionaire who took a company that made oil drill bits and multiplied it into a life making films in Hollywood, developing aircraft, and owning a number of Las Vegas casinos. He eventually became famed for his reclusive ways, avoiding the media, conducting the business of his empire by phone, and ultimately becoming the focus of a fake autobiography that made international news when he exposed its author who went to jail. Now his story takes an even more extraordinary turn in Boxes: The Secret Life of Howard Hughes by Douglas Wellman ($10.95, softcover), available from WriteLife or via, Barnes and and other outlets. Wellman became friends with Eva McLelland and in the course of that friendship she confided to him that she and Hughes had been married for several decades before his passed away. When they met in Panama, he became smitten with her, but remained a mysterious figure, until they married and he revealed his true identity. With her help, Wellman delved into the way he literally enlisted a mentally ill, aging substitute to lead people to believe he was a man of bizarre behavior unable to function in society, a recluse. The real Hughes lived a quite normal life behind this clever ruse to avoid the Internal Revenue and an army of lawyers pursuing him. I have no doubt he was able to pull this off and this book documents how he did it. Another compelling story is told in Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber – The True Story of Leslie Ibsen Rogge, One of the FBI’s Most Elusive Criminals by Dane Batty ($15.95, Nish Publishing, Hillsboro, NC, softcover). For twenty years he robbed more than thirty banks without firing a shot. Caught and jailed twice, he escaped and went sailing around the Caribbean with his wife and dog! His life was filled with adventures that took him to Alaska, Antigua, and Cancun. For years the FBI tried to capture him, but it wasn’t until he turned himself in that his life of crime ended. In this book, he relates his successes, failures, robbery techniques, his passion for sailing and his love for his wife. If this interests you, then download the first chapter at You will want to read the whole book after that. A very different tale of life on the water is told by Rick Rinehard in Men of Kent: Ten Boys, a Fast Boat, and the Coach Who Made Them Champions ($14.95, Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, softcover). A private school in Kent, Connecticut and its rowing team became a sensation in 1972, meriting a banner headline in the New York Times’ sports section when it had a 46-0 winning streak, broke three course records, and claimed a national championship in the Royal Regatta in England. Rinehart was part of that team and he relates this extraordinary story of the team and its coach. The author now lives in Lafayette, Colorado, and he has written a story that is well worth reading.

World War Two has spawned enough books to fill an entire library. The greatest conflict in modern history, it continues to fascinate those whose interest is military history. Inside the Nazi War Machine: How Three Generals Unleashed Hitler’s Blitzkrieg Upon the World by Bevin Alexander ($26.95, NAL Caliber) is the story of how Rommel, von Manstein and Guderian turned the Blitzkrieg (lightning war) into a fearsome weapon of war in France in 1940 and elsewhere. The war began in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, drawing both Britain and France into it. America joined in 1941 after Pearl Harbor. Alexander, a renowned expert on military strategy and history, recounts how Hitler botched his best opportunity to defeat Great Britain. These generals changed the face of modern warfare forever. A later war in Vietnam produced a Medal of Honor winner for his role at Dai Do during a three-day battle in which the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, numbering only eight hundred men, victoriously fought back ten thousand North Vietnamese Army regulars. Noble Warrior ($28.00, Zenith Press) is told by that Medal of Honor recipient, James E. Livingston, along with Colin D. Heaton and Anne-Marie Lewis. He had been the commanding office of 2/4’s Echo Company. When you consider that 80% of all Medals of Honor are awarded posthumously, his story is even more inspiring because, despite wounds received, his service in the Marines was far from over after that battle. In 1975, he returned to Vietnam to help plan and execute the evacuation of Saigon. After the war he served in a variety of positions around the world, retiring as a major general in 1995. Our two most recent wars, ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan remind us of our need for such men.

Getting Down to Business Books

The Smart Swarm by Peter Miller ($26.00, Avery, an imprint of Penguin Group) is subtitled, “How understanding flocks, schools, and colonies can make us better at communicating, decision making, and getting things done.” Miller is a senior editor at National Geographic so it’s obvious where the idea for this interesting book originated. While not specifically a “business” book, it is a look at the basic principles behind how groups self-organize and tackle problems and how that applies to human activities in business, politics, and technology. Computer scientists studied ant colonies’ governing rules to write programs to streamline factory processes, telephone networks, and truck routes. Groups in nature have had millennia to develop their strategies and there is much to learn from them. The Connectors by Maribeth Kuzmeski ($22.95, Wiley) offers a pragmatic approach for many of today’s job seekers because the job market, such as it is, is flooded with competition and, in these days of online communication, it is essential to understand how to survive in a virtual world. It takes more than just a resume. The author says the key is networking, networking, networking, and then she tells you how. “You want to be the first person who comes to mind when someone in your network hears about a great job opening.” Good advice!

Competitive Selling: Out-Plan, Out-Think, Out-Sell to Win Every Time is one of those titles that tells you the author means business (no pun intended!). Landy Chase ($22.95, McGraw-Hill) discusses how the marketplace today offers many choices for consumers. As a result, today’s salesman or woman has to develop an attitude that says they are going to crush the competition. The author takes one through the gamut of obstacles to overcome in making the sale such as value versus price, how to evaluate client needs, the games people play, the need for face time, and the art of closing the sale, among many other aspects. Brian Tracy is the author of Time Power: A Proven System for Getting More Done in Less Time Than You Ever Thought Possible and now he has an audiobook version available ($39.98, Hachette Audio) in which he shares his system on how to make better decisions faster, set clear goals, overcome the people problems that sap your time, and the five tools and techniques you can use to make you more productive.

For anyone trying to understand what is happening to the U.S. economy Robert E. Wright’s Fubarnomics: A Lighthearted, Serious Look at America’s Economic Ills ($26.00, Prometheus Books) takes a stab at explaining it. “Fubar” is a WWII acronym for “fouled up beyond all repair.” The author is the Nef Family Chair of Political Economy at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. He formerly taught at NYU’s Stern School of Business for many years, so don’t let the small college credential fool you. I have one caveat and that is the style, not the content, of the book which tends to spend too much time explaining everything and trying to be clever in the process. Economics can be quite boring to everyone except economists and the author seems to be over-compensating for that. You will, however, if you hang in, learn why the nation experienced a financial crisis and what the author recommends we do to get out of the mess.

A Bounty of Books for Kids and Teens

September is traditional as the month the kids go back to school. Getting a child into the reading habit early in life is one of the greatest gifts any parent can give and Bookviews has received a bounty of books for ages from the very young (who must be read to) to those up through their teens.

Starting with toddlers, there’s a cleverly packaged group of four “early learning board books” with pop-up market and press-out characters called Market Day by Victoria Roberts and Tomislav Zlatic ($19.95, Kane Miller of Tulsa, Oklahoma. These books introduce them to colors, shapes, opposites, and numbers. They represent a great way to teach these concepts. Kane Miller is a major publisher of children’s books and the quality is always excellent. Here are a few more. The Gobble Gobble Moooo Tractor Book by Jez Alborough ($15.99) spins of tale of how, as Farmer Dougal sleeps, sheep and other animal friends board his tractor and take turns making noises. And what kid doesn’t love to do that? The illustrations are fun, too. For the very early, first readers there’s A Garden for Pig by Kathryn K. Thurman, illustrated by Lindsay Ward ($15.99). Pig lives on an apple farm and is frankly tired of apples for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He dreams of vegetables. His dream comes true after some fun adventures. Then there’s The Church Mouse by Graham Oakley ($16.99) in which Arthur the mouse invites the other mice to live there. It doesn’t take long for people to notice and Sampson the church case, Arthur’s friend, must confront the population explosion. When a burglar sneaks in to steal the candle holders, the mice and Sampson capture him and alert the townspeople and there is, of course, a happy ending. Based on a true story, Old Age, Eagle Hero ($15.99) recounts the story of an eagle raised and adopted by a northern army detachment during the Civil War as told by Patrick Young and illustrated by Anne Lee. A nice combination of animal and history story.

A great toddler and early reader series is the Howard B. Wigglebottom series for ages 4 to 8 by Howard Binkow and illustrated by Susan F. Cornelison. These are excellent teaching tools and includes Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen, Listens to His Heart, Learns about Bullies, Learns About Mud and Rainbows, and Learns It’s OK to Back Away. They are priced at $15.00 each and produced by a non-profit organization, the We Do Listen Foundation of Sarasota, Florida, in association with Lerner Publishing Group of Minneapolis, MN. Teachers love these books because they use humor and real situations with which children can identify. They have won tons of awards such as Best Home School Product of the Year for Children, Learning Magazine Teacher’s Choice for Children, Independent Publishers Annual Award of Excellence, and others. To check them out, visit

The children’s book author, Jane Yolen, has had her 300th book published this month. She has won every award there is for her stories and poems. She marks the milestone with Elsie’s Bird ($17.99, Philamel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group), illustrated beautifully by David Small. For those aged seven to ten, this is a beautiful story of a young girl and her father after his wife had died. He leaves Boston for life as a farmer in Nebraska and Elsie’s only friend is a canary that sings to cheer her. There is a bit of drama to this story when it escapes its cage, but it has a very happy ending.

Raindrops: A Shower of Colors by Chieu Anh Urban and illustrated by Viviana Garofoli is another book for the pre-schooler, aged 3 to 5, that teaches what the various colors’ names are in a “board” book that will stand up to handling ($8.95, Sterling Publishing). The author was born in Vietnam in 1975 and fled to the U.S. with 7,000 others. She grew up in Northern Virginia and now lives near Washington, D.C. with her three daughters. Another book about the rain is full of poetry. One Big Rain was compiled by Rita Gray and illustrated by Ryan O’Rouke ($9.95, Charlesbridge Publishing). It will light up the imagination of any youngster, ages 7 to 10, and prove a perfect book to read on a rainy day. Charlesbridge is one of my favorite children’s book publishers and Boo Cow by Patricia Baehr, wonderfully illustrated by Margot Apple, is a hilarious story of how the Noodleman’s discovered, after leaving city life, that their chicken farm came with a ghost, a Boo Cow, that they thought was scaring the chickens who they though were not laying eggs. Turns out there was an egg thief lurking around. Any pre-schooler will love having this read to them and any early reader will get a lot of laughs out of it.

I started with Kane Miller and there still others to recommend to readers aged 10 to 14, small, short novels. A series called “Extreme Adventures” by Justin D’Ath includes Shark Bait and Scorpion Sting and there are “Chloe & Levesque” mysteries, Double Cross and Over the Edge, both by Norah McClintock, a charming story Hooray for Anne Hibiscus who loves to sing and has some serious stage fright when chosen to sing at school in front of the president. A visit to will tell you more, but I can tell you these books, generally priced at $5.99, are just right to slip in a backpack or a pocket.

For parents who embrace a conservative philosophy and want to pass it on to their children, particularly those old enough to be asking questions of the direction the nation is taking, capitalism versus socialism, differences between Republicans and Democrats, then I would recommend Janie Johnson’s Don’t Take My Lemonade Stand: An American Philosophy ($24.95, Bascom Hill Publishing Group, Minneapolis, MN, softcover). This is one of the best books on these fundamental topics I have read in a very long time and it is written in a fashion that any teenager can understand (and smart pre-teens, too) and enjoy. As noted in my recommendation of “Generation iY” above, it is essential to get this new generation involved now if we are to have a future in which widely accepted American values continue to guide the nation.

Novels, Novels, Novels!

The fall is the season, along with spring, when publishers unleash an avalanche of new fiction and 2010 is no exception. I have stacks of hardcover and softcover novels to wade through and will do so this month and those ahead.

William Morrow, now an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, has been around the publishing scene a long time with many fine novels to its credit. If you like mysteries and thrillers, they have two, Judgment & Wrath by Matt Hilton ($24.99) and Bad Boy by Peter Robinson ($25.99). Hilton is already building a following as this is second novel starring Joe Hunter whom some would call a vigilante. When a father comes to him to help rescue his daughter from her abusive millionaire boyfriend, Hunter cannot say no. The problem is that the daughter does not want to be rescued and a psycho contract killer has been hired to kill her and her boyfriend. There are plenty of questions to be answers and plot twists to keep any guy turning the pages. The same holds true for Robinson’s novel in which Detective Inspector Alan Banks stars, as he has through a series of novels since 1987. He’s away on holiday in San Francisco when a distraught woman arrives at the Eastvale police station desperate to speak to him. His partner Annie Cabbot steps in. She has found a loaded gun in her daughter’s bedroom, a punishable offense under British law (did I mention both authors are British and their novels reflect that?) but the situation quickly spins out of control. It turns out that her best friend and roommate is Banks’ daughter who was last seen running off to warn the owner of the gun, a very bad boy. Things get very shocking, very quickly. The Brits seem to have a special talent for such stories.

Venom by Joan Brady is subtitled “a novel of suspense” ($26.99, Touchstone, a Simon and Schuster imprint) and it more than lives up to its title starring two characters from a previous novel and takes the readers from Illinois to an Alabama bee farm, and into the high-stakes world of industrial espionage in London while shadowing the lives of those affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Complicated? Oh yes, but it never stops from the moment an ex-con, David Marion, opens the door to a man sent to kill him. Shortly after, he calmly walks away from his house, gets into his beat-up Volkswagen, and drives away as a huge explosion leaves his home a burning pit. It is assumed the body that’s found is him. Suffice to say, you will not be able to put this book down because it is filled with twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages. Power Slide is part of the Darcy Lott mysteries series by Susan Dunlap ($25.00, Counterpoint Press). Darcy, a stunt double, is on location at the Port of Oakland, positioned for a power slide, a dangerous trick in which she falls off a bike and skids under an 18-wheeler. An injury ensues, making for trouble between her and her boyfriend, a stunt driver, Damon Guthrie. Meanwhile, Darcy’s siblings are pressuring her to search for Mike, their missing brother. Complicated enough for you? Women authors seem especially adroit at complex stories and either one of these will prove a very satisfying piece of fiction.

It is a time of great turmoil in America. The United States, operating under the Articles of Confederation, is on the brink of total collapse. The military has been reduced to near extinction, economic turmoil is everywhere, and world powers are circling like vultures to pick off parts of the new nation and largely unknown continent. To address this, a group of fifty-five men meet secretly in Philadelphia starting in May 1787 to replace the Articles with a Constitution. That is the heart of the novel by James B. Best, Tempest at Dawn, ($28.95, Wheatmark, Tucson, AZ, available via It took Best twelve years to research and write this novel, but it was worth it. While the story of the writing of the Constitution has been told many times, the novel captures the real drama that ensued behind closed doors as they hammered out what is now the oldest living constitution and the foundation of the nation. Read it for its historical value. Read it for its dramatic value. But read it!

Finally, there are two interesting novels about living in a different culture and nation than one’s place of birth. Cecile Garnst Berg is the author of Blonde Lotus ($15.00, Haven Books, softcover). When she ran away from her native Norway in the late 1980s in search of adventure, Berg knew little about China, but after a casual stop in Beijing she decided to visit for a while. That was over twenty years ago and she hasn’t left. The novel is reminiscent of “Lost in Translation” and “Sex and The City”, as her main character, Kat Glose, discovers a very different China while falling in love with it and its people. This is an interesting way to learn about the real China while being thoroughly entertained in the process. In a similar fashion, I Was an Elephant Salesman by Pap Khouma ($55.00/$18.95, Indiana University Press, hardcover and softcover) tells the story of an illegal immigrant, an African street vendor in Italy who has invented a life for himself as an itinerant trader of carved elephants, small ivories, and other trinkets. It is, in a larger sense, the story of a Europe coming to grips with multiracial, multi-religious, and multi-cultural realities while the main character struggles to hold on to his identity and dignity under very difficult circumstances. A bestseller in Italy, it has been translated by Rebecca Hopkins. It is a very rewarding reading experience in many ways.

That’s it for September! Remember to tell your friends about Bookviews so they too can learn about the many new books that can hold the key to their questions or just entertain with a lively story.

See you in October!