Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bookviews - November 2010

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

Are you still wondering why America and its economy are in decline? Then you must read Selling Out a Superpower: Where the US Economy Went Wrong and How We Can Turn It Around by Ronald R. Pollina ($26.00, Prometheus Books). Economics may make your eyes glaze over or even just sound boring, but this extraordinary book by a man who has worked for decades with companies seeking to relocate or find a State congenial to their growth will prove to be a shocking explanation of what is wrong with the economy. I guarantee you that it is not boring. For example, I bet you do not know that in 1968 there were 62 lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and that today there are 34,000! They outnumber member of Congress and their staffs by a margin of two to one. By 2008 they were spending approximately $8.2 million for influence every day. Few represent the majority of Americans in the middle class. And that is why the real median household income in America has stagnated for more than a decade. The farther the nation has drifted from the constraints of the Constitution, the greater the central government has grown, strangling the economy with massive regulation, rising levels of taxation, and literally driving companies and the jobs they provide offshore. No single book I have read this year comes close to explaining what has occurred and what must be done to avoid a bad, sad future for the next generation of Americans.

Portraits of Success: Candid Conversations with 60 Over-Achievers by Burt Prelutsky ($25.95, WND Books) is a delightful way to learn about many people whose names have been in the news for a long time as a result of their talents, skills, intelligence, and courage. Among those on whom the author shines his spotlight are syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, actor-director Carl Reiner, Joseph Wambaugh, singer Pat Boone and pollster John Zogby. This is a wonderful collection of short, entertaining, and insightful question-and-answer sessions in which these and others talked candidly with long time Hollywood writer and columnist, Burt Prelutsky. It doesn’t matter where you open the book, you will learn about actors, singers, ambassadors, authors, some departed, but most still on the scene, discovering surprising things about these remarkable, inspiring people. I heartily recommend this eclectic reading experience.

There’s more fun to be had reading Writers Gone Wild by Bill Peschel ($14.95, Perigee, an imprint of Penguin, softcover) if you, like many readers, find the lives of authors as entertaining as their works. The book is subtitled, “The Feuds, Frolics, and Follies of Literatures Great Adventurers, Drunkards, Lovers, Iconoclasts, and Misanthropes.” Writers behaving badly never fail to entertain and, from drunken binges to public humiliation, from plagiarism to murder, this book serves up a lively collection of true stories. Years ago I wrote an article for Publishers Weekly on the famed Bread Loaf Writers Conference and was regaled by a story of one famous writer who got so drunk he had to be hustled into a cab and sent home, but before he departed, he said, “God did not intend that many writers to all be in the same place.” You will not find me using a Kindle or any other device to read a book. I want to hold it in my hands, flip the page, and put it on a shelf when I am done. Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Treasured Book is testimony to the pleasures of having a favorite book at hand to re-read and re-visit ($15.95, Da Capo Press, softcover). Edited by Sean Manning with a foreword by Ray Bradbury, the book featured essays by renowned authors such as Joyce Maynard and others from around the world that pay homage to a favorite book. For bibliophiles it will provide some delightful reading.

There are two large “coffee table” books that will make super gifts come December. This first is Sinatra: Hollywood His Way by Timothy Knight ($35.00, Running Press) that pays tribute to the fifty-nine films in which he appeared from the 1940s to the 80s. Best known as a singer, Sinatra was also a very good actor as his performance in “From Here to Eternity” demonstrated, as well as others such as “The Manchurian Candidate.” Musically, he co-starred in the classic “Anchors Aweigh” with Gene Kelly, appearing as well with Hollywood greats that included Rita Hayworth, Dean Martin, and Sophia Loren. For a certain generation, Sinata defined everything that was hip and cool. This book is filled with photos and for any fan of the man and that era of films, it will be a treasure. If you’re a fan of Mad magazine (and who isn’t?) then you will want to add Sergio Aragones: Five Decades of his Finest Works to your list of books you must have ($29.95, Running Press). Aragones is more than a cartoonist. He is an illustrator who has earned a place for himself for his visual gags, some drawn quite simply while others are extraordinarily elaborate. More than 500 of his favorite “Marginals”, the popular tiny cartoons found in Mad magazine’s margins are included In black and white, and in color, this book provides laughter on every page. Aragones has won many prestigious awards over the years including the Comic Art Professional Society’s Sergio Award, named for him!

The Great Penguin Rescue by Dyan DeNapoli ($26.00, Free Press) tells a story that began on June 23, 2000 when an oil tanker en route from Brazil to China foundered off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, spilling 1,300 tons of oil into the ocean and contaminating the habitat of tens of thousands of penguins. Without help an estimated 41% of the species of African penguins would perish, but when the alarm was sounded 12,500 people, most of them lay volunteers, rushed to South Africa from around the world to aid in a massive rescue operation. The author was one of a hundred penguin and wildlife specialists brought in to supervise and virtually all of the penguins were saved and returned to the wild. It took three months and thousands of hours to achieve a truly happy ending. Someone at Free Press likes birds because they have also just published A Year on the Wing: Journeys with Birds in Flight by Tim Dee ($15.00, softcover) who has been enthralled with birds since his youth. He relates following bird migrations for a year, from peregrine falcons to migrant woodcocks. Naturalists and fellow bird lovers will thoroughly enjoy this tribute to the creatures that fill the skies about us.

Some books are just works of art in themselves. This is the case of Star Guitars: 101 Guitars that Rocked the World by David Hunter ($35.00, Voyageur Press, imprint of Quayside Publishing Group). It is a large format book with 288 pages filled with 600 color photos and 100 black and white. The author is a musician and journalist, co-author of the Totally Interactive Guitar Bible, and a couple of other books on the subject, so his knowledge is encyclopedic. This book is an illustrated history of the actual guitars of the stars that made the music; people like B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and many others. Jimi Hendrick’s 1968 Stratocaster sold at auction in 1993 for $1,300,000, so we’re talking some very serious guitars here. If there is someone you know who loves guitars, this one is a Christmas-keeper!

There’s a gadget for people who do not want to use traditional bookmarks. It’s called the PageKeeper® and it slides onto the back cover of whatever book you’re reading and has a thin metal extension that keeps track of the page you’re on as you read through the book. When you need to put the book down to answer the phone or some other task, the device automatically remains on the last page you’ve been reading. It is the clever invention of Scott Capamaggio, founder of The Piedmont Group, located in Greensboro, NC. If you want to ensure you will never lose your place again, check it out at

Getting Down to Business (Books)

Is there anyone who is not concerned with their finances these days? Part of the problem for many is what some call “financial literacy” and it is the subject of Claudio M. Ghipsmann’s new book, Making Bank: The Personal Finance Lessons They Never Taught Us in School, ($15.95, Bridgeway Books, softcover). The author, a former Wall Street executive, believes that part of the present U.S. economic crisis is due to a lack of education regarding the conduct of one’s financial affairs, whether it involves securing a mortgage, deciding on a retirement plan, or just establishing a weekly or monthly budget to confirm with one’s earnings. This can be seen in the many cases of personal debt reflected in TV commercials offering to reduce it or to create a payment plan. The author says that financial literacy means economic stability, can improve your personal financial future, show you how to manage debt, and to avoid real estate traps. This is, to say the least, a very timely book. While on the subject of money, you are likely to find Lars Kroijer’s book very entertaining. It’s Money Mavericks: Confessions of a Hedge Fund Manager ($36.99, Financial Times Prentice Hall) just out this month. As the founder and CEO of Holte Capital, the author took a fledgling London-based hedge fund from nothing to investing about $1 billion within five years. It took a combination of ambition, courage, naivety, hubris, perseverance, hard work, and luck. What makes this book appealing is the way he explains both the simple and complicated truths about hedge funds, including why they have gotten an unsavory reputation. For anyone seeking some real insight regarding hedge funds, specialists in asset management, this book does an excellent job. This is a peek inside the often turbulent world of investing.

Business people are always trying to stay ahead of the curve to ride a wave to profit. Peter Gloor explores this process in Coolfarming: Turn Your Great Idea into the Next Big Thing ($29.95, Amacom). Instead of chasing after ideas that have already happened, the author provides entrepreneurs and business people with a practical, step-by-step process that will help them cultivate the kind of “swarm creativity” that generates not new trends and then how to push them over the tipping point to commercial success. Gloor has written two previous books as an “innovation expert” so one assumes he knows what he’s talking about based on a twenty-year career working with some top financial companies. These days he divides his time between the MIT Sloan School of Management, Helsinki’s Aalto University, and the University of Cologne. There is no end to books about management, but that is because it keeps changing with each new generation and new technologies. Management? It’s Not What You Think! Says Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand, and Joseph Lempel ($22.95, Amacom) and what these three don’t know about the subject is probably not worth knowing. Mintzberg is an esteemed McGill University scholar that the Wall Street Journal ranks as one of the world’s top ten most influential business thinkers. Ahlstrand is a professor of management at Trent University, Ontario, and Lampel is a professor of strategy at Cass Business School, City University, London. Put them together between two covers and you have a world of knowledge regarding the subject of business management. It is unconventional, provocative, and an exceptionally sensible collection of articles, commentaries, poems, blog bits, rants, and more! This book goes way beyond the standards advice on analyzing and planning.

Surely the hottest trend these days is social media, Facebook, Twitter and such. Barry Libert has written Social Nation ($24.95, Wiley) that is subtitled “How to harness the power of social media to attract customers, motivate employees, and grow your business.” This is surely worth exploring before you rush headlong into creating a profile and start tweeting and blog posting. This book will teach you how to avoid the pitfalls and to make a strong online impact. Hardly a day goes by without news of someone getting into trouble for a blog post or tweet. Stories of how social media has generated success are also common. Libert is the CEO of Mzinga, a company that provides social software to businesses. It is his job to be social media savvy. Another excellent book about making money on the Internet is Jim F. Kukral’s Attention! This Book Will Make You Money—How to Use Attention-Getting Online Marketing to Increase Your Revenue ($24.95, John Wiley & Sons). And with a title like that, what more do you need to know about the book? Actually, the title tells you a lot about the marketing moxie of Kukral, but he can back it up and does in a book that can help anyone starting a business, expanding or revamping an existing one, or hunting for the latest marketing techniques. Over the past fifteen years, the author has help big businesses and small. The book is filled with no-nonsense advice and guidance that anyone can use as the nation and the world transition to the Web as an extraordinary marketing tool.

Long before there was any technology at all, successful people learned how to read the body language of others to determine if they were telling the truth or not. Now you can too, but first you will need to read Sharon Sayler’s What Your Body Says (And How to Master the Message) ($22.95, John Wiley and Sons). People are most certainly “reading” your body message and this book will teach you to be aware of the signals you are sending, intentionally and unintentionally. You will learn how to use gestures to convey intention, relationships, information, influence and expectations. I know that sounds mysterious, but we do it every day. It strikes me this book would best benefit someone new to the business world and someone who wants to ensure they are making a good impression and the right one. How to Rule the World from Your Couch by Laura Day ($15.00, Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, softcover) is all about intuition and Ms. Day has been teaching people how to tap into it for more than twenty years. Intuition, she says, can help you find love, heal yourself, communicate better and make better decisions. My intuition tells me that somebody is going to find this book very useful. The Laws of Charisma by Kurt W. Mortensen ($21.95, Amacom) purports to teach you how to become that person in the room who has a magnetic personality and, as a result, becomes a success. Mortensen defines charisma as “the ability to easily build rapport, effectively influence others to your way of thinking, inspire them to achieve more, and in the process make an ally for life.” Oh that it was that easy. A lot of what we commonly define as charisma is taught at a very early age in terms of respect for others, the value of hard work, and a sense of optimism. You can, I suppose, learn about such things from this book and others, but you have a head start if your parents provided the right guidance from the gitgo.

Finally, there’s The Law of the Garbage Truck: How to Respond to People Who Dump on You, and How to Stop Dumping on Others ($19.95, Sterling). The author, David J. Pollay tells the story of how, twenty years earlier, he was in a cab when it almost crashed into a driver who started yelling at the cabby who stayed calm, smiled and wished him well. When he asked how he did that, the cabby replied, “Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment…And, if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally…move on.” This was the initial spark for the author’s excellent book on how to promote your own and other’s happiness, remain civil, and increase workplace productivity. This may seem obvious, but for many it is not and, if you see yourself as needing some advice or being in a position to offer it to others, this is a good book with which to begin.

The Lives of Real People

All history is made, in one fashion or another, by real people and, while we know the names of those made famous, we tend to forget that it took a lot of people to make, for example, America. Thus, America: The Story of Us ($29.95, A&E Television Networks, softcover) celebrates the events and trends from pre-Colonial times to today. Based on the Emmy® Award nominated series, it features lots of historic photographs and excellent graphics, charts, maps and drawings. It is filled with interesting facts that will enhance anyone’s knowledge of the nation’s history. It is a reminder of how America has led the way as a republic, as a technological leader, and as a defender of freedom.

One of the Founding Fathers became known almost exclusively for a single phrase, “Give me liberty or give me death.” I always wondered why he never seemed to merit a decent biography, but now that has been answered with Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a New Nation by historian Harlow Giles Unger ($26.00, Da Capo Press). Henry was raised in the frontier hill country of Virginia, barely passed the exam to become a lawyer and was a delegate to the Continental Congress before being elected Virginia’s first governor. He was passionate about liberty and, as you might imagine, a first class orator. Neither Madison, nor Jefferson were fans, both seeing him as a continued obstacle to their vision of a new nation. Even so, though offered many positions in the government of the new nation, he declined them all, including a fifth term as governor. Along the way, he found time to father eighteen children! There are reasons why he never rose to a level of regard during and since his days on the national scene. To understand those early years and the role that Patrick Henry played, this biography adds to our further knowledge of the men who were are Founding Fathers.

Some people alter history in terrible ways and the assassin of Lincoln surely did that. The story of John Wilkes Booth is told by Nora Titone in My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth that Led to an American Tragedy ($30.00, Free Press). The historian spent five years working with the letters, papers and diaries of the Booth family to uncover the story of this eccentric and dysfunctional clan. The Booths were a family of actors and Edwin was one of the biggest stars of the 19th century stage as the Civil War began. John lacked his famous father’s and brother’s talent and never achieved their fame. The book does much to explain how John came to the decision to kill the president, but also provides much to reveal the times in which he lived.

The life of young British boy and his band called The Beatles left an indelible mark on the times and is told in Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney by Howard Sounes ($29.95, Da Capo Press). Born in 1942 while England was in the midst of war, few would have predicted McCartney would become one of the most successful songwriters, starting a musical revolution with fellow band members. There have been few written accounts detailing his life after The Beatles. This is an exhaustive biography that will more than satisfy any one of his fans. Jazz aficionados will enjoy Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original ($18.00, Free Press, softcover) by Robin D.G. Kelley. Monk broke the rules of musical composition along the way to creating a body of work and a sound that was distinctively his own. As a composer, his songs, “Round Midnight”, “Straight, No Choice”, and “Ruby, My Dear”, are now standards whenever musicians get together to jam or play in jazz clubs. He was a bit of a mystery in life, but his goatee, dark glasses, and beret became the icon for hipster cool. The author has performed a great service to his devotees and a new generation discovering him. The jazz legend lives in this thoroughly researched presentation of a unique life.

The “father of the H-bomb” was to his supporters a hero of the Cold War and to his detractors, the personification of the mad scientist. Between these extremes, an intriguing biographer emerges in Judging Edward Teller by Istvan Hargittai ($32.00, Prometheus Books). Teller was no shrinking flower. In addition to his prodigious intelligence he was, as one observer noted, “a monomaniac with many manias.” He gained fame or infamy depending on one’s point of view, when he denounced J. Robert Oppenheimer who led the team that created the A-bomb that ended the war with Japan, but was seen as a communist sympathizer. He is recalled for his fierce opposition to nuclear test bans during the Cold War and, toward the end of his life, as an advocate for the Strategic Defense Initiative. In retrospect, his excesses may well have contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union. He became the prototype for “Dr. Strangelove”, but in truth Teller was a patriot who was totally devoted to the defense of the United States. Anyone with an interest in science and this history of the turbulent times of his life will find the book an excellent, absorbing biography.

If you are a fan of Jeff Dunham, the marvelous ventriloquist, you will want to read his biography, All By My Selves: Walter, Peanut, Achmed, and Me ($25.95, Dutton) Dunham credits his very understanding parents for letting him pursue his hobby and tells of his long road to fame. Not since Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy has a ventriloquist become so famous and so well liked. The book is filled with wit, honesty, and lots of great show business detail. These days he takes his act all over the world to the delight of audiences everywhere and, of course, he is a great hit on the Comedy Channel. Also from the world of show business comes proof that anyone can write a book and publish it himself. I was sufficiently impressed with Adam Schwartz’s chutzpah to take a look at Finding Howard Stern: A Summer Intern’s Story ($16.99, marked down to $11.55 via Frankly, since I loath Howard Stern I was looking for some further reason to indulge this pastime, but Adam’s version of “what I did at summer camp” provided little insight. This is not a “bad” book, but it also proved to be scant reason to have caused some tree an untimely death. The 2009 internship was, to put it gently, uneventful. If anything, this book argues against internship because the first lesson in life is always get paid, preferably in advance. Adam will, no doubt, go on to become hugely successful in show business. That’s the way these things always turn out.

The 1960s were turbulent times and for those whose youth was spent in that decade, After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties—a Memoir by Catherine Gildiner will ring many familiar bells. It begins with her starting high school and the youthful adventures common to that era. She is a natural storyteller who grew up to become a clinical psychologist in private practice. Her earlier memoir “Too Close to the Falls” drew wide acclaim.

Law and Disorder

Let us begin with a serious constitutional issue and move on to the murder and mayhem. Ironically, the issue, Liberty of Contract: Rediscovering a Lost Constitutional Right, by David N. Mayer ($21.95, Cato Institute) will have more impact on your life and business than other legal matters that will affect you. This book, by the way, will not officially be available until January 2011. The question is, is economic liberty the same as personal liberty? It has been the subject of a number of Supreme Court decisions over the past century. The author argues that the right of Americans to bargain over the terms of their own contracts has been continuously diminished by court decisions and by the nation’s growing regulatory and welfare state. Granted, this may not seem all that important at first glance, but what if, as in the case of Obamacare, the law requires you to purchase something you don’t want or face a fine for not doing so? What if you can’t bargain over the terms of your own contracts, maximum or minimum wage laws, business licensing laws? That means you’ve lost a big chunk of freedom. Interested now? If so, this will prove to be a very interesting book to read.

War In The Woods: Combating the Marijuana Cartels on America’s Public Lands ($16.95, Lyons Press, softcover) was written by Lt. John Nores Jr. of the California Department of Fish and Game, with James A. Swan, PhD. It is about the real war going on to eradicate the illegal pot plantations that are turning areas of America’s state and national parks, national forests, and wildlife reserves into war zones. Nores, a 17-year veteran of California Fish and game has led anti-marijuana actions in the North Coast District and, from June 2005 to the present, has been Patrol Supervisor for three counties in the Central Coast of California. Under his leadership 600,000 marijuana plants have been removed from Santa Clara County since 2003. Such drug busts usually get about a minute or so on the TV news, if that, but this book reveals how widespread the problem is and the risks involved in trying to control and eliminate it.

Do you recall the “DC sniper” who terrorized the Washington, D.C. metro area in 2002? There were all kinds of theories concerning John Allen Muhammad who, along with a younger man, randomly killed people until finally being caught. In Scared Silent ($15.00, Atria Books, softcover) his former wife, Mildred Muhammad, reveals that the killings were part of his plan to ultimately kill her and make it appear she was just one of the sniper’s random victims despite the fact she was the mother of three of his children. This is on one level a story of domestic violence, but it is also a look at the twisted mind of a man who could have lived a normal life and threw it away as his rage overtook him. And it is a story of a woman unable to secure the help she needed from law enforcement authorities until too many people were dead. Criminal Minds: Sociopaths, Serial Killers & Other Deviants ($17.95, Wiley, softcover) is not light reading. Jeff Mariotte has written an authorized companion to the hit TV series, providing the stories behind serial killers such as David Berkowitz and Henry Lee Lucas, sexual predators, killers with famous victims, cannibals like Jeffrey Dahmer, traveling killers such as Ted Bundy, and a whole cast of quite loathsome lunatics. If that’s your cup of tea, this book will more than satisfy your interest. In A Peculiar Tribe of People: Murder in the Heart of Georgia ($24.95, Lyons Press) Richard Jay Hutto takes a close look at Chester Burge, described as a slumlord, liquor runner, and black sheep of a wealthy family. In early 1960 when his wife was murdered, suspicion fell on Chester and in the ensuing trial the quiet community of Macon was treated to a story of totally grotesque dimensions in which every social and sexual taboo was broken. The South of that era is the backdrop to the story. It makes for very compelling reading.

The Mob and Me: Wiseguys and the Witness Protection Program by former U.S. Marshal, John Partington with former Rhode Island attorney general, Arlene Violet, ($26.00, Gallery Books) takes the reader behind the scenes with one of the founders of the Witness Protection Program and a personal protector to more than five hundred informants. The program is one of the most successful in law enforcement. Back in 1967, at the request of Senator Bobby Kennedy, Partington was asked to create a program to get bad guys to testify against worse guys. They were offered lifelong protection in exchange for the conviction of the upper echelons of organized crime, including a permanent identity change for every member of the witness’s family. In this way, the Mafia code of “emerta” was broken. Protection would also be provided to other high-profile witnesses. It makes for some very interesting reading. Over the years we have seen how attorneys have become skilled at trying their cases in the court of public opinion as well as in the halls of justice. Kendall Coffey has written about this trend in Spinning the Law ($26.00, Prometheus Books), pulling back the curtain to reveal how and why it’s done. Coffey has been a frequent legal commentator for CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. He discusses the behind-the-scenes media strategies in major courtroom battles to include publicity, press conferences, television interviews, and carefully orchestrated Internet exposure. All, says the author, have become an integral part of the legal art of convincing jurors, judges, and members of the public regarding the defendant’s innocence or guilt. Need I remind anyone of a certain former Illinois Governor who beat every rap except one in a recent highly publicized case? With a foreword by Alan M. Dershowitz, this will make for “must” reading by a legion of lawyers and anyone interested in the judicial process.

Coping With Life

From the earliest days of the nation, Americans have shown an enthusiasm for books that can help them improve their lives, to cope better with the challenges thrown at them. That theme remains alive and well today.

Psychologist Kevin Fauteux, Phd, MSW, has authored Defusing Angry People: Practical Tools for Handling Bullying, Threats and Violence ($14.95, New Horizons Press, softcover) and, since we all know people like this, it will no doubt come in handy if you have to deal with them. We live in times when a lot of people are angry for one reason or another and knowing how to disarm those who target you can do much for your sanity, if not your life. The author provides proven step-by-step guidelines to safeguard yourself, describing the seven stages of anger, helping readers to recognize the traits at each stage, judge how serious they are, and safely manage unstable and fuming confrontation. Another common problem is procrastination. Psychologist Joseph R. Ferrari, Phd, a professor at DePaul University, has authored Still Procrastinating? A No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done ($15.95, Wiley, softcover) and his twenty years of research can be put to work for you. Contrary to popular wisdom, chronic procrastination is not about poor time management, but rather stems from self-sabotaging tendencies that can prevent you from reaching your full potential. In Small Acts of Resistance: How Courage, Tenacity, and Ingenuity Can Change the World by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson, with a forward by Vaclav Havel, pay tribute to the human spirit as they tell the story of more than eighty acts of resistance, spanning the world and the 20th and 21st centuries. Their theme is that there is no oppressive force so strong that it can repress people forever. Crawshaw is Director of Advocacy at Amnesty International in London and Johnson is Vice President of Social Responsibility for MTV Networks International. This is a very encouraging book.

On a more personal level there’s Have a New You by Friday, a guide to accepting yourself, boosting your confidence, and, according to Dr. Kevin Leman, changing your life in five days ($17.99, Revell). The author has enjoyed success with this formula that he has written about in “Have a New Kid by Friday” and “Have a New Husband by Friday.” This is commonsense psychology and will prove useful to anyone who has not paid attention to the good advice offered by one’s parents, family and friends over the years. If you don’t like the “you” you are, pick up a copy. One of the ways some people express unhappiness with themselves is anorexia, a mental disorder that involves avoiding food. Answers to Anorexia: A Breakthrough Nutritional Treatment That is Saving Lives by Dr. James M. Greenblatt, MD, ($16.95, Sunrise River Press, softcover) is the author’s breakthrough new treatment for addressing and preventing the disease. “Anorexia nervosa,” says the author, “is not just an eating disorder. It’s the most lethal psychiatric disorder on the planet. One out of every five patients dies within twenty years of diagnosis, predominantly from suicide.” Sadly he concludes that the medical profession has failed the millions, primarily young women, though increasingly men, whose self-imposed starvation is unleashed by the disorder. Need it be said that if you know someone with the symptoms, you should put the book in their hands or those close to them.

On the lighter side, there’s From Heartbreak to Heart’s Desire: Developing a Healthy GPS (Guy Picking System) by Dawn Malsar, MS ($14.95, Central Recovery Press, softcover). There’s nothing light about heartbreak, but a lot of women want to stop wasting time, energy, and emotion falling for the wrong man, but have a record of dating disasters that attest to their inability to find Mr. Right. If this describes you or a friend, the author provides a program to get out of the rut of unfulfilling relationships that addresses how to put an end to frustrating relationships, stop trying to fix him and fix yourself, and remove the blocks that prevent you from securing a relationship that works.

Novels, Novels, Novels

There must be fifty novels, hard and softcover, waiting to be read as this is written. Month after month they pour in, a deluge of fiction and one can only wonder at the size of the market for them all. Here are some recommendations for a select few.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the terror attacks around the world has fueled an interest in Islam, if only in self defense. The Topkapi Secret by Terry Kelhawk ($25.00, Prometheus Books) is a story of cultures clashing and the emotions that soar as Arab researcher Mohammed Atareek and American professor Angela Hall race away from death towards discovery. Will what they learn about the Koran cost them their lives or change the world? It centers on a fictional Topkapi Codex, an ancient manuscript of the Koran involved in the murder that split Islam into two sects, Shiites and Sunni. In the novel, Atareek is obsessed with getting his hands on the manuscript, displayed within the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul. Years ago Topkapi was the locale of a novel made into a movie involving an attempted gem theft. This book offers a comparable tale, but one with explosive potential. Another novel reflects the culture clash that has stamped this decade from 9/11 to Iraq to Afghanistan as Americans respond to the threat to their way of life, values, and freedom. Lipstick in Afghanistan ($15.00, Gallery Books, softcover) by Roberta Gately is the story of an American nurse’s life-changing journey into a war zone. It is the story of Elsa who dreamed of being a nurse and of leaving her working class Boston neighborhood to help people whose lives are far more difficult than her own. Her secret weapon is a tube of lipstick and, when she uses it, she can take on any challenge. Still, even nights as an emergency room nurse could not prepare her for the devastation she witnesses at a small medical clinic she runs in Bamiyan. For an insightful look at the harsh realities of Afghanistan, a dash of romance, and some adventure, this story, based on real life experience is well worth reading.

For good, old fashioned suspense and intrigue, Alan Jacobson has served up another Karen Vail novel. In Velocity ($29.95, Vanguard Press) Vail, a FBI profiler, learns that her boyfriend, Detective Robby Hernandez, has vanished in Napa Valley with no clues other than a blood stain and a tenuous connection to a serial killer operating in wine country. As a task force seeks to find Hernandez, the killer challenges Vail by leaving his high profile victims in public places. It is a frantic race against time as Vail marshals her contacts to find him, culminating in a tangle of unforeseen dangers that puts her life on the line. This one is a real page-turner.

Do you recall the recent Russia/US adoption scandal when an American mother sent her adoptive son back to Russia? Or the attention that celebrities like Angelina Jodie and Madonna adopted children from Africa? Conservative numbers put adoptions in America at around 73,000 annually and Chandra Hoffman addresses the theme of adoption in Chosen ($25.99, Harper/HarperCollins Publishers). At the center of the story is Chloe Pinter, the director of The Chosen Child’s domestic adoption program, juggling the demands of her boss and the incessant needs of clients. When a child goes missing the dreams of a young couple become nightmares. The author draws on her own experiences as an aide worker in Romania’s infamous Orphanage Number One that took her back to a domestic adoption program in Portland, Oregon.

There are many softcover novels and the following is just a small selection of those received. You will find a special treat in American Suite by Diana E. Sheets ($19.95, Pinto Books) about a transplanted New Yorker who departs the city after 9/11 seeking what she believes will be a more authentic life in the “flatlands” of Middle America. It is told via the diary entries of three women, Rosalyn Selby, her elder daughter Sophie, and her younger daughter Arisa. It is what used to be called a comedy of manners and it is a subtle send-up of what is now called “chick-lit.” Wickedly funny, it is a real treat as the author takes a look at life today. Speaking of “chick-lit” one excellent example is The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate ($15.00, Gallery Books). At age 30, Holly Maguire has yet to have found her place in the world. Holly’s grandmother, a revered cook and fortune-teller on Maine’s Blue Crab Island told her that the great love of her life would be one of the few people on earth to like “sa cordula”, an Italian delicacy featuring lamp intestines stewed with onions, tomatoes, and peas. The novel opens as she prepares to serve the dish to her love of the moment, John. He thinks it’s disgusting and, what’s more, he’s fallen in love with his administrative assistant! On a visit, her grandmother passes away in her sleep, bequeathing her cooking school to Holly. This begins her adventures in things culinary and in romance. It’s a hoot.

A more somber tale is found in A Disobedient Girl by Freerman ($15.00, Washington Square Press), a heartbreaking tale of two women, connected by a shared and tragic history, yet separated by their respective destinies. Set in the author’s native Sri Lanka, a beautiful country where fate, religion, and sorrow are universal, a five year old Latha is brought into a home as a servant girl and companion to Thara, the daughter of the house who is also five. Though they are as close as sisters, Latha rebels against a life of servitude. There is much more to this story that takes you into another culture, another world. The world of the Amish in America is another culture and it is the backdrop for two Amish-Country mysteries by P.L. Gaus in Blood of the Prodigal ($13.00, Plume) and Broken English ($13.00, Plume). The seemingly serene Amish communities in Holmes County, Ohio, would not appear to be places where crime occurs, but it does as in the case of the first novel in which a young Amish boy vanishes and a search begins. The trail leads to the murder of the son of prominent member of the church. In the latter novel, a marauding ex-convict descends on the town of Millersburg, Ohio where the sheriff is joined by a professor and pastor in a quest to end a wave of local violence. These mysteries pit the values of the Amish, love and forgiveness, against the society in which they live and this makes for very interesting reading.

Step back in time to England’s Victorian era with Posie Graeme-Evans’ new novel, The Dressmaker ($16.00, Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster). Ellen Gowan, a beautiful and clever girl of humble means reinvents herself to become a famous designer to London’s most fashionable and aristocratic ladies. Starting on her 13th birthday when he father suddenly dies, she encounters life-changing events that cover many years from toiling in a dress factor to setting up her own salon in fashionable Berkley Square. It is, as well, a romantic odyssey that provides a look at a past time and those who lived through it. The American South has generated many great novelists and stories. Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart ($14.99, Thomas Nelson) follows in
that tradition with a story of Anne Brumley who has long dreamed of romance while the bells of St. Michael’s ring, but those dreams are beginning to fade by age 36. She loves the city and is determined to make her life there. Family, friendship and faith converge in a beautiful story about following one’s heart

That’s it for November! Tell your book-loving friends and family about Bookviews, a monthly report on the best in fiction and non-fiction where books you may not learn about in the mainstream media are waiting to be discovered. You can share the word on your Facebook page or via Twitter. And come back in December to learn about some great gift books!