Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bookviews - January 2014

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

The one book you must read as the new year begins is Murray Holland’s A Nation in the Red: The Government Debt Crisis and What We Can Do About it ($28.00, McGraw Hill) for its chilling message about the economic collapse of America and the steps that must be taken to avoid it. In recent years I have received a number of books on this subject, but Murray’s stands out, not only for the facts it cites, but for the way it can be easily comprehended by someone who has little to no grasp of our economic system. “The national debt can never be paid off. It is like a cancer we will have to live with for the rest of the life of the nation,” says Holland and the facts about the size of our debt, the matrix of socialist programs that contribute to it, and the explosion in spending and borrowing that is driving the nation to collapse. The debt stands at $19 trillion and may be over $33 trillion in just ten years. The nation’s Gross Domestic Product—how much we take in for the sale of goods and services—is less than what it is paying out for its many socialist programs (Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, unemployment, student loans, and housing). The financial problems that European nations that embraced socialism are a clear warning sign that it can and will happen here without a significant reduction in the federal government’s spending and borrowing. Murray calls it a Debt Trap and the implications for Americans, now and generations to come, are frightening. For eighty years since the Great Depression, Americans have been adopting socialist programs precisely as its enemies have wanted. The bill is coming due. Another recent book, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure, by John A. Allison ($28.00, McGraw Hill) is also worth reading.

It’s hard to believe that the U.S. has been engaged in a military conflict in Afghanistan since 2001. For most Americans it has been a war to which little attention was paid unless one had a son, daughter or loved one stationed there. Now the noted photographer Robert Cunningham, along with Steven Hartov, has captured the lives, the dedication, the sacrifices, and service of our military that served there in Afghanistan on the Bounce: Boots on the Ground with the U.S. Military and the International Security Assistance Force ($40.00, Insight Editions), a large format book that will fill your heart with pride. Cunningham was embedded with our troops over the course of 132 missions, photographing all aspects of the military operation there, including photos of Afghans old and young. The book is a real treasure and beautifully produced as page after page testifies to their courage, humor and humanity.

A book you are not likely to hear about in the vast leftist media of the nation is by a former CIA espionage officer, Kent Clizbe. It is Willing Accomplices: How KGB Covert Influence Agents Created Political Correctness, Obama’s Hate-America-First Political Platform, and Destroyed America ($18.99, softcover, $5.99 Kindle, and $21.95 audio, Andemca Publishing, available from Amazon.com.) Clizbe tells how, shortly after Lenin was able to seize control of Russia and establish communism there, he instituted a program to undermine America under the direction of the KBG, its security service. While historians have written about Russia and its massive espionage program, they lack Clizbe’s background and thus have not made the connection between its program of political correctness, the infiltration of the media, academia, education and entertainment. The result is an educational system that falsely depicts our Founders, our history, and our values of individualism and, of course, capitalism. In these major factors of our society, America is constantly depicted as racist, sexist, and imperialistic. The result is generations of Americans who have been encouraged to loath the greatest nation in the world. Clizbe documents who the major players in this effort have been and are. His book explains much of Obama’s agenda. We are dangerously close to being destroyed as a nation by at least half the population that has been corrupted by political correctness, a hatred of America.

The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty by Timothy Sandefur ($$24.95/$12.99 ebook, CATO Institute) combines law, history and political philosophy for a powerful defense of the Constitution. Like many Americans, I came late to reading the Declaration, response to the arrogant actions of the British crown and parliament to colonies that had ruled themselves for a century and had grown weary of taxation without representation. Sandefur notes that the word “democracy” does not appear in the Declaration, but “liberty” does and that it should set the framework for interpreting the Constitution, a governing instrument notable for putting limits on a central government while ensuring that the states and citizens retain their rights, not granted but acknowledged by it. “Liberty comes first, and order arises from it. We have gone astray in our constitutional understanding because we have upended that relationship.” As the current administration demonstrably limits our liberties—Obamacare is a prime example, requiring Americans to purchase something they may not want or need—current polls indicate that they have begun to awaken to the danger and are swinging back to a more conservative interpretation and practice. This book will interest anyone who takes a serious interest in the subject.

In an era in which we are all constantly being manipulated by government, special interest groups, and others, Push Back! How to Take a Stand Against Groupthink, Bullies, Agitators, and Professional Manipulators by B.K. Eakman ($14.95, Skyhorse Publishing, softcover) examines scenarios of mass indoctrination and demonstrates how to recognize and counter them effectively. An educator and international and national human rights advocate, Eakman, provides a guide to spotting how professional manipulators exert power over a room and steer discussions back to their agendas without ever answering audience questions or addressing their concerns. They often employ techniques to ostracize those who challenge their assertions, questioning or criticizing them. This is an extremely useful book when hoaxes and deceptions are advanced by such people.

For anyone who loves films, both old and new, there is a special treat to be had in The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies by David Thomson ($18.00, Farrar Straus Giroux, softcover) because this British-American film critic and historian has written a fat volume based on his encyclopedic knowledge of movies. It is a sweeping history of cinema that an enthusiast will enjoy in every respect. One cannot talk of film history without noting the legendary director John Ford ($22.95, Lake Street Press, softcover) by Joseph Malham who takes us into the life of the six-time Oscar winner for classics such as “The Grapes of Wrath”, “How Green Was My Valley”, and “The Quiet Man.” He is perhaps best known for his Westerns, “Stagecoach”, “The Searchers”, and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, all made with his longtime friend, John Wayne. The book is subtitled the “Poet in the Desert” and Malham provides interesting insight into Ford’s faith and Irish roots, that both contributed to his portrayals of families, communities, and history.

I am born and bred in New Jersey, so when I received Lynda L. Hinkle’s new book, Breaking Up: Finding and Working with a New Jersey Divorce Attorney ($12.44, Amazon.com, softcover), which, though it is focused on New Jersey law, is filled with excellent advice even if you live elsewhere. As she makes clear, divorce is one of the most stressful situations one can encounter. What I found notable was the tone of the book. It is clear-headed, the kind of advice one needs to receive. Hinkle is a divorce attorney and has been through her own divorce. If I were getting a divorce, I would want her in my corner. Her book will put her there for you.

Getting Down to Business (Books)

There are a number of books devoted to achieving success in business and we can count on many more to come in the year ahead.

A lot of people are stuck in jobs they don’t like or battling hopelessness as the seek employment these days. For them, Sander A. Flaum’s book, written with Michele Flaum, The Best Thing That Could Ever Happen to You: How a Career Reversal Can Reinvigorate Your Life ($16.95, Big Shoes Publishing, softcover) should be at the top of their reading list. With a foreword written by former astronaut, Senator John Glenn, it is an easy-to-read, how-to guide that moves readers out of their no-win employment rut and gets them back in charge of their job search. Flaum, who is chairman of the Leadership Forum at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business Administration, shows how to work harder and smarter to come out on top in the interviewing process. The bottom line is that the book teaches readers how to deal with their fears and shortcomings, get passed their inhibitions, and find the job that is right for them. The author really knows what he is talking about and, if you’re seeking a new job, this is the book for you.

An interesting book about a classic case of what happens when a corporate leader plunders his corporation is found in Taking Down the Lion by Catherine S. Neal ($28.00, Palgrave Macmillan) as she examines the rise and fall of Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski. He had grown a little known New Hampshire conglomerate into a global giant, but in a stunning succession of events, he suddenly lost his job and was indicted during the post-Enron era.  He was convicted of wrongfully taking $100 million from Tyco to engage in a lifestyle that put him in jail. He is due for release soon.

The 25th anniversary edition of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey ($30.00/$17.00, Simon & Schuster, hard and softcover) is widely regarded as one of the most inspiring books ever written and been read by leaders of business and industry, as well as students preparing to enter the employment marketplace. More than twenty million copies have been sold. Covey presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. This is a book devoted to fairness, integrity, honesty and human dignity. In sum, no matter your age or status, this book can give your life a boost.

Totally beyond anything I understand or know about is data science, so I will trust those who recommend John W. Foreman’s Data Smart: Using Data Science to Transform Information Into Insight ($45.00, Wiley, softcover). The book shows you the significant data science techniques, how they work, how to use them, and how this will benefit your business, no matter if it is large or small. And the best part says the author is that anyone can learn how to do this. The author is the Chief Data Scientist for MailChimp.com where he leads a data science product development project. As an analytics consultant, he has created data science solutions for the Coca-Cola Company, Royal Caribbean International, the Department of Defense, the IRS and the FBI, among others. Sergiusz Prokurat, an economist and historian, takes a look at the way work is changing and, in some cases, disappearing as robots replace people, in his book, Work 2.0: Nowhere to Hide ($9.99, Kindle $4.99, softcover). It is an intellectual examination of how the introduction of new technologies, particularly the computer and the Internet, has begun to transform the way work has been defined in the past and, in addition to the skills required to be connected to the world, how work is increasingly about knowledge and the provision of services needed to convey it in the digital age. Gone are the days one gets hired by a corporation and stays there for his career. Mobility, flexibility and other traits will play an important role in the new age. This is a book that anyone involved in organizations large and small as well as a young man or woman coming out of college will benefit from reading.

Mental States

Some publishers specialize in various topics because it interests them and presumably might interest a lot of other people. The world of the mind is a topic about which Prometheus Books has a number of titles that, if you find yourself thinking about what you’re thinking, you might want to read.

Let’s start with Think: Why You Should Question Everything by Guy P. Harrison ($16.95. softcover) which challenges everyone to think like a scientist and embrace the skeptical life. This book will help you improve your critical thinking skills, see through most scams at first glance, and learn how your own brain can trip you up.  It shows you how to navigate through the maze of biases and traps that are standard features of every brain. As a result, we often trick ourselves into thinking, remembering, and believing things that are not real or true. It is an upbeat book that’s fun. Are you moody? Who isn’t? Maybe you should pick up a copy of Patrick M. Burke’s Mood: The Key to Understanding Ourselves and Others ($18.95, softcover). The author is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona and his book is a comprehensive developmental approach to understanding mood and the role that it plays in determining our outlook on life and our ability to cope with its challenges. We all know people who are generally happy and others who always seem to be in a bad mood. Most of us fit in somewhere between the two poles. Mood, says the author, is the way we are tuned into the world and begins early in our lives as relationships play a central role in shaping our moods. Security or insecurity, loss or the fear of loss of key relationships, especially in childhood can have lasting effects on the way we view the world. If you’re in a mood to learn more, this book will prove of interest.

Believing: The Neuroscience of Fantasies, Fears, and Convictions by Michael McGuire ($19.95/$ll.99, softcover or ebook) asks and answers the question what are beliefs and how have evolution and culture led to a brain that is seemingly committed to near endless belief creation? Once established, why are most beliefs difficult to change? The author is professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavior sciences at the University of California, LA. He takes the novel approach of focusing on the central and critical role of brain systems and the ways in which they interact with the environment to create and maintain beliefs. This is fairly heavy duty reading, but for the inquiring mind, it will prove quite satisfying. It seems like “fairness” is the being spoken of all the time these days, particularly in a political context. Fairness has intrigued philosophers and social thinkers in both Eastern and Western societies for millennia. L. Sun, a professor of biology at Central Washington University, trained initially at East China Normal University in Shanghai before pursuing further studies in the United States. The result of that is The Fairness Instinct: The Robin Hood Mentality and Our Biological Nature ($24.95/$12.99, hardcover and ebook). Sun examines the innate sense of fairness displayed by human beings in all kinds of societies throughout history and argues that it is an emotion and behavior rooted in our DNA rather than a product of ideology or convention. He cites studies that show that even monkeys react negatively to patently unfair treatment.  While we generally regard fairness as a good thing, Sun shows that there’s a down side when it plays too great a role in leveling inequalities, producing rigid social structures where only mediocrity is condoned. Well worth the time to read.

Many books on the subject of leadership have crossed my desk in the many years I have been a reviewer. The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed by Mark Divine, Commander, U.S. Navy SEALs (retired) with Allyson Edelhertz Machate ($21.99, Reader’s Digest) examines those attributes of military life that can be translated to the civilian world with exercises, meditations, and other techniques to train your mind for mental toughness, emotional resilience, and uncanny intuition. Divine served in the SEALs for twenty years and has led a number of multimillion-dollar business ventures since his retirement. His book distills the fundamentals of success into eight powerful principles that impart his experience to teach you to think like a SEAL in order to take charge of your life at work, at home, and in life.

Moving on from Prometheus Books, there’s Happily Ever After: The Life-Changing Power of a Grateful Heart by Trista Sutter ($24.99, Da Capo Books). Twenty-six million viewers watched ABC’s first Bachlorete get swept away in a fairytale romance and many wished they could be as lucky as the author. Courted by a handsome, poetry-writing firefighter in some of the world’s most luxurious destinations, the match was for read, Trista and Ryan celebrated their ten-year anniversary in December of last year. They now have two children, a dog, and a fulfilling family life. In her book, she shares her thoughts on the importance of living a thankful life while chronicling her personal journey and including stories from friends as well as experts. I have no doubt this book could help someone hoping their dream of lasting love come true and wondering, perhaps, why it hasn’t yet.

Alan C. Fox’s People Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity ($16.95, SelectBooks, softcover) is filled with good advice on how to deal with many of life’s many problems such as having the same argument with a sibling, parent or child, deciding whether to end a relationship, determining if it’s time to make a career change or whether a business partner is trustworthy, to name just a few of the topics addressed in this book. At age 72 Fox has university degrees in accounting, law, education and professional writing. Along the way he has had his own law firm and founded a commercial real estate company in 1968 that manage more than seventy major income-producing properties in eleven states. With more than seventy years of experience, he shares it in a way that can help the reader avoid life’s pitfalls and develop successful relationships.

To Your Health (Books)

Americans more be more obsessed about their health than any other people. The books devoted to it keep coming and here are some of the latest that have arrived.

The media is filled with images of beautiful bodies, but in real life, a lot of the people we encounter are overweight or just not the “hard bodies” we’re told should be a goal. If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to lose weight and get gorgeous, then you should consider Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto ($27.00, Harmony) who has worked in the fitness industry since 1989, including 14 years as a personal trainer. He promotes all-natural, healthy strategies. The book is not about becoming a fitness model or a body-builder, but rather how to use the same techniques they employ to improve your own health and fitness. It’s a big book and it has plenty of advice that answers pretty much the answer to every question one might have and lots of information you may have encountered. He makes sense on every page. I
 
If you’ve been wondering about the reason you are seeing more gluten-free foods for sale and wondering if it is just the latest trend, you should read Toxic Staple: How Gluten May Be Wrecking Your Health—and What You Can Do About It by Anne Sarkisian ($17.95, Max Health Press, LCC, New London, NH, softcover). The author notes that true celiac disease, the body’s inability to process the wheat protein known as gluten, is only found in a small percentage of the world’s population, but she regards them as just the tip of the gluten iceberg, estimating that at least 10%, but perhaps as many as 40%, of Americans may be sensitive to gluten. That sensitivity results in chronic health conditions from arthritis to zits, asthma, cancer, fatigue, migraines, memory loss, and osteoporosis. The test for such sensitivity, however, is rarely used in the U.S. Since I lack the knowledge to verify or dispute the author’s assertions, the best I can suggest is that, if the subject interests you, this book will surely prove helpful. As she says, “Eliminating it from the diet is the easy part. The hard part is getting doctors to take gluten sensitivity seriously and test for it adequately.” Judging from the praise the book has received from health professionals, she is clearly onto something.

What to Do When You Can’t Get Pregnant by Dr. Daniel Potter with Jennifer Hanin ($18.99, Da Capo Press, softcover) is now in its completely revised and updated second edition as “The complete guide to all the options for couples face fertility issues.”  For those couples struggling with fertility issues, navigating the clinical medical jargon while trying to communicate with partners, doctors, friends and family can be a challenge. Dr. Potter was named one of 2012’s top reproductive endocrinologists by the U.S. News and World Report. Team with Ms. Hanin, a freelance journalist and the mother of twin girls conceived through in vitro fertilization, their book walks the reader through the various aspects of fertility procedures. For those couples dealing with the issue, they will take comfort in known they are not isolated and without direction in facing their problem.

At the other end of the spectrum, postpartum depression, This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression by Karen R. Kleiman, the founder of The Postpartum Stress Center, and Dr. Valarie Davis Raskin, a psychiatrist ($17.99, Da Capo Press, softcover) us also in its second edition, revised and updated. It is a condition that affects in in five women and the authors who both spent two decades working with women who experienced it have written a book that anyone encountering it or who knows someone encountering it should definitely read. The healing process involves combatting negative thoughts and taking the time to take care of oneself, including if needed medications and therapy. The good news is that one can recover if they take the right steps. Another aspect of motherhood is discussed in The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock ($19.95, Prometheus Books, softcover) by Tanya Selvaratnam as she confronted the biological clock that determines childbirth and, as she points out, biology does not bend to feminist ideals and science does not work miracles. A self-described feminist, the author learned this the hard way. Part personal account, part manifesto, Salvaratnam dispels myths about women’s biological clocks, the difference between being child-free versus childless, and the many other aspects of fertility and infertility involved. She wants a wider discussion about delayed motherhood and she has filled her book with valuable information to advance that goal.

Greg S. Pergament is a clinical associate at the Las Vegas Recovery Center and an ordained Zen Buddhist and Taoist priest who has written Chi Kung in Recovery: Finding Your Way to a Balanced and Centered Recovery ($14.95, Central Recovery Press, softcover). Chi Kung is the art of cultivating life force energy and the book describes a selection of exercises that are designed to boost health, enhance vitality, and increase mind-body-spirit consciousness. An ancient Chinese health care system, it integrates physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused attention. Westerners are more inclined to want to pop a pill or embark on some strategy to quickly get to recovery. If that’s not working for you or someone you know, this book unlocks the ancient secrets that may ensure that recovery becomes a long term solution.

Novels, Novels, Novels

Every day novels arrived here at Bookviews and, while they provide a bit of entertainment, one wonders what compels their authors to write them. This is particularly true of the self-published ones which have been a growing trend in recent years. My job is just to let you know about some of those that have been received.

The husband and wife team of Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini have authored the second installment in a lighthearted historical mystery series set in the early days of San Francisco’s nineteenth century. It is The Spook Lights Affair ($24.99, Forge) and it stars a former Pinkerton operative, Sabrina Carpenter and her partner, ex-Secret Service agent, John Quincannon. It is a sequel to “The Bughouse Affair.”  Each is pursuing a case, one of which involves a socialite’s mysterious suicide while another is the pursuit of a bank robber. The reader is treated to a tour of the city’s gaming houses and brothels, taking them back to that era. It is a lively, entertaining read.

Jason Porter makes his debut with Why Are You So Sad? ($15.00, Plume, softcover) whose main character is Raymond Champs, an illustrator of manuals for a home furnishings corporation. Raymond is unhappy. He can’t sleep. He can’t communicate with his wife. And his job provides no inspiration beyond a paycheck. No one seems to understand him, including himself, which surely explains why he is sad. Raymond concludes that everyone he knows and maybe everyone on the planet is suffering from severe clinical depression and is equally convinced that something major has gone wrong. This may not sound like an amusing story, but Porter brings a lot of talent to examining Raymond’s problem and, in the process, will make you laugh as you join in a search for why life in America today provides “things” but not purpose. J. Alec Keaton makes his debut as a novelist with When Love Never Ends ($16.00, Two Harbors Press, softcover). Sam has never gotten over his one true love, Sara, but he walked away amidst racist threats from her bigoted father. They went their separate ways. Sara got married and Sam threw himself into work, becoming a successful lawyer for a prestigious firm. A decade later they meet again when Sara seeks legal help and they spend three whirlwind days today, but her jealous husband ends the reunion with a single shot. Wild with grief Sam seeks consolation with a grief-ridden college professor who lost his wife four years earlier and who has been obsessed with time travel, trying to help him give up his fantasies while he seeks to cope with his own loss. It is a mix of romance and science fiction.

For a story filled with different characters involved in triangular love, art and its future of the Jazz Age. It is 1924 in New York and Lillian Moore, a painter, and Leon Shaffer, an accountant, narrate The Bohemians ($14.95, Black Heron Press) and take you back to an era of early cars and telephones, silent movies, sham medical cures, speakeasies, gangsters, and jazz. Lillian’s desires and needs, as well as Leon’s attraction to her form the plot. Published in July of last year, it got lost in the stacks, but is well worth reading if you enjoy a historical novel.

Seventh Street Books is an imprint of Prometheus Books and has sent along three softcover novels that offer some interesting reading experiences. Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery ($15.95) by James W. Ziskin is built around a comment by Sgt. McKeever, “If you were a man, you’d make a good detective.” Ellie is sure he meant it as a compliment, but she bridles at the thought that she is a woman trying to do a man’s job as a reporter. She is adrift in her career, living in New York City when she receives news that her estranged father, a renowned Dante scholar, is near death after a savage bludgeoning in his home. The police suspect a routine burglary, but Ellie has her doubts. When a second attempt on his life is made when he is in the hospital, she embarks on her own investigation that holds the prospect of redemption in her father’s eyes and the risk of loving him forever. White Ginger by Thatcher Robinson ($15.95) introduces the reader to Bai Jiang who combines Buddhist philosophy with wicked knife skills. When a girl goes missing in San Francisco’s Chinatown, she is called upon to track her down. The trail leads to wannabe gangsters, flesh peddlers, and eventually to those who have marked Bai for death. It is a cocktail of wit, charm, sex, and violence. In E. Michael Helms novel, Deadly Catch: A Mac McClellan Mystery ($15.95), the recently retired U.S. Marine hooks a badly decomposed body while enjoying a leisurely fishing vacation in the Florida panhandle and then discovered a bag of rare marijuana is found stashed aboard his rental boat. He realizes someone is setting him up to take the fall for murder and drug smuggling. Along with Kate Bell with whom he has struck up a promising relationship, the two must butt heads and match wits with local law enforcement officials, shady politicians, and strong-armed thugs. It’s a story you won’t want to put down until the last page.

Three novels are written for young adults and will evoke a keen enjoyment of reading. Phoenix Island is by John Dixon ($19.95, Gallery Books) and is the inspiration for the CBS-TV show “Intelligence” that premieres this month and introduces the reader to a world where orphans are sent to boot camp and forced to fight for their lives.  When 16-year-old boxing champ Carl freeman jumps in to defend a helpless stranger, he is sentenced to a two-year sentence at an isolated boot camp for troubled orphans. He is determined to tough it out, earn a clean record, and get on with his life. But then kids start to die.  Realizing that Phoenix Island is really a Sparten-style mercenary organization turning “throwaway kids” into super-soldiers, Carl risks everything to save his friends and stop a madman bent on global destruction. The book is based on real-life stories in his home state of Pennsylvania. In Jennifer Walkup’s Second Verse ($15.95/$11.95, Luminis Books, hard and softcover editions) Lange Crawford’s move to Shady Springs, Pennsylvania, lands her in a group of awesome friends, a major crush on songwriter Vaughn, and life in a haunted 200-year-old farmhouse. It also brings The Hunt, an infamous murder mystery festival where students solve a fake, gruesome murder scheme during the week of Halloween. Well, supposedly fake. It is a mix of suspense and romance with a supernatural element that is sure to entertain readers from age 12 and up. Lastly, there’s How to Lose Everything by Philipp Mattheis that is “a mostly true story” ($14.99, Zest Books) about a summer in 1994 in which a group of four teenagers find a small fortune hidden inside a mysterious abandoned house and what starts out as a blessing soon turns into a curse as stress, drugs, criminal behavior, dwindling funds and even death raise serious questions about their choices and their futures.

That’s it for January and the year ahead promises to be filled with many new non-fiction and fictional books that are sure to inform and entertain you. Tell your book-loving friends, family and coworkers about Bookviews.com, a unique, eclectic report. And come back in February!
 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful and amazing post. Every word of this book was so true.

    ReplyDelete