My Picks of the Month
There are a number of new books that address major issues that were published last month and they are worthy of your attention.
The Freedom of Information Act that permits Americans to secure government, i.e. public records, but it is being sorely abused. Congress is still trying to find the truth behind the “Fast and Furious” operation that involved running guns to Mexican drug cartels, so you can imagine the obstacles the present administration is creating for anyone seeking the truth. Christopher C. Horner, a Washington attorney and Senior Fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, has authored The Liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information ‘Criminal’ ($27.00, Threshhold Editions, an imprint of Simon and Schuster). He details the stonewalling and the lengths that Obama administration officials have gone to hide what they are doing. It involves an epidemic of the use of private emails, even private desktop computers, and third-party servers used to hide the conduct of public business. This and other means of keeping the public in the dark are revealed. As always, shining light on these dark corners is essential when millions of public funds are at stake and policy decisions threat our freedoms. In a similar fashion Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk by John Fund and Hans Von Spakosky ($16.99, Encounter Books) examines voter fraud which can defeat the majority by distorting election outcomes. It took the Supreme Court to determine the winner of the Bush-Gore election and it is an insidious threat to the right of all voters to be secure in the outcome of any election, but particularly the one that will occur on November 6 this year.
My friend, Burt Prelutsky, a popular blogger and former Hollywood writer for many sitcoms, is no friend to liberals and no fan of Barack Obama. His new book, Barack Obama, You’re Fired! And Don’t Bother Asking for a Letter of Recommendation ($19.95, softcover) has a forward by Bernard Goldberg, a regular on Fox TV’s Bill O’Reilly’s show, who said he believes Burt is the reincarnation of Mark Twain as he calls out liberals for their actions and beliefs. Burt is very funny. He has collected his commentaries that reveal the foolishness and chicanery of Obama and his fellow travelers. Noted personalities from Joe Wambaugh and Michael Medved, to Pat Sajak have praised his writings, including the late Andrew Breitbart. You can get your copy at burtprelutsky.com. B.K. Eakman’s Agenda Games: How Today’s High-Stakes Political Combat Works ($17.95, Midnight Whistler Publishers, softcover) takes the reader whose only information about politics comes from the mainstream media and pulls back the curtain on every political “game” in which legislators and candidates engage. She takes the reader, chapter by chapter to discover the way politicians address (or don’t address) issues involving health care, the budget, national security, education and others. Like many of her generation, she had moved from support for an ever-growing government to one that questioned Big Government. Only she devoted herself to uncovering the truth about how politics-as-manipulation had brought so many to this pace. Her book is well worth reading if you keep wondering why you are hearing and reading things that your eyes and common sense says just ain’t so.
For those with ambitions to write nonfiction, from memoirs to journalism, but who feel they haven’t adequate training, I recommend they pick up a copy of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up by Lee Gutkind ($16.00, Da Capo Press, softcover), the author and editor of nearly thirty books, founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction magazine. This is a grand tour of creative nonfiction providing challenging writing exercises, analytical reflections on the techniques the best writers use, tips on getting published, and much more. I have been a nonfiction writer my whole life and I can confirm this book will turn you into one as well. Offbeat and entertaining, Francine Brokaw takes one Beyond the Red Carpet: The World of Entertainment Journalists ($11.99, Sourced Media Books, softcover) provides an uncensored view of life as an entertainment journalist with the help of thirty colleagues who share their personal stories and funny anecdotes about celebrity interviews. The author has had a long career interviewing major celebrities over the years and if you aspire to this career, this is the one book you should read.
Reading History, Understanding the Present
If I were told I could only read one genre of books, it would be history. I have learned more about the past, the people who shaped it, the way its errors are often repeated, and why “the past is prologue” to our present times.
Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History by John Fabian Witt ($32.00, Free Press), a Yale law professor explores how slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation helped shape the modern laws of armed conflict. In particular, he reviews the code of 157 rules issued by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and how they became the basis for rules established in the Geneva Conventions and today’s internationally accepted laws of war. This is particularly timely in an era of asymmetrical warfare in the form of Islamic terrorism and the potential acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran, a nation that has declared its intention to destroy Israel and maintained a state of war with the United States since its seizure of our diplomats in 1979. Witt points out that the conduct of war was subjects of great concern to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, every bit as much as modern presidents. He charts the development of such laws in America from the founding to the cataclysm of the Civil War to the dawn of the modern era.
In 1962, I was discharged from the U.S. Army after having had my service extended as the result of the Cuban Missile Crisis that ended on October 28, 1962 when Krushchev agreed to removed nuclear missiles from that island prison, averting a nuclear war. It is agreed that it was John F. Kennedy’s finest moment in office. What followed is detailed in The Fourteenth Day: JFK and the Aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis by David G. Coleman ($25.95, W.W. Norton) and for those who love history as much as I it is an interesting account of what flowed from that confrontation as the Kennedy administration was greeted initially with acclaim and almost immediately found itself under siege by the media and political opponents. It is a narrative of events in the Oval Office from October 1962 to February 1963 and has the added benefit of being based on JFK’s secret tapes. As he and his advisors walked a thin, dangerous line with the Soviets, he fashioned a response to them that reduced tensions, but drew the line in Berlin, a victim of the Cold War and flashpoint.
As Hispanics have replaced Afro-Americans as a growing minority in the U.S., Danny Quintana presents the Hispanic voices of those who migrated throughout America after World War II from northern New Mexico, southern Colorado, and Old Mexico to America’s cities. Immigrants from Mexico were driven by the same forces as other nationalities, seeking employment, education, and opportunity in the magnet that America became from its earliest years. In Caught in the Middle: Stories of Hispanic Migration and Solutions to America’s Immigration Dilemma ($16.95, The Beckham Publications Group, softcover) Quintana counters the misconceptions about today’s migrants, legal and illegal. It is well worth reading to understand who they were and are, and the dilemma in which they find themselves.
The third edition of The Handy History Answer Book by David L. Hudson, Jr. has been published ($21.95, Visible Ink Press, softcover) and for anyone who wants to grasp the role of history and its impact on the present, this is the book to own! This concise guide to all things historical is a treasure of information about invention, philosophy, politics, culture, sports, business, law, media and religion. It deserves to be in everyone’s personal library and provides hours of insight and entertainment.
People write memoirs for a variety of reasons, but often to help others who have experienced what they have and to offer their stories by way of encouraging them to overcome and cope.
Believe: My Faith and the Tackle that Changed my Life by Eric LeGrand with Mike Yorkey ($23.99, HarperCollins) is the story of how, on October 16, 2010, LeGrand, a Rutgers defensive tackle was injured by a tackle that left him paralyzed from the neck down. He knew his life would never be the same. He battled his way back to make a new life for himself and has become a hero to men like Tim Tebow and Gov. Chris Christie who lent their support. He has since become an analyst for the Rutgers Football Radio Network. His story is an inspiration to anyone on how to turn a setback into a new life. There’s also a younger reader’s edition. Many women have to undergo mastectomies as the result of cancer and Susan Cumming’s Adventures of a One-Breasted Woman: Reclaiming My Moxie after Cancer ($12.95, Booksmyth Press, softcover) will provide inspiration and entertainment in this memoir of her first six years after treatment for early-stage breast cancer. She was a struggling New York actress when diagnosed, she is now a twenty-year survivor and a gifted writer with a very active funny bone that will prove a tonic for any other woman encountered this in their life. She’s living testimony to the saying “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.”
Coming soon is Michael Aaron Rockland’s wry memoir of his life as a cultural attaché in the American embassy in Spain. The time is the mid-1960s. In An American Diplomat in Franco Spain ($15.00, Hansen Publishing Group, softcover) Rockland tells of “working to give Spaniards a favorable impression of U.S. culture and to help cultivate democratic forces in Spain, but my job was complicated by the fact that we were cozy with their dictator in order to maintain three nuclear bases during the Cold War with the Soviets.” The memoir is filled with behind-the-scenes stories including a day spent alone with Martin Luther King in Madrid to a search for missing hydrogen bombs, and much more. He recounts how his six years abroad changed him and instilled a life-long love affair with Spain. It is impossible to put down as he tells of the years that were the death-rattle of the Franco regime told in a very entertaining style. He is currently a professor of American studies at Rutgers University and the author of several acclaimed books.
Getting Down to Business Books
As always there is a continuous stream of new books devoted to various aspects of business and finance, all of which are intended to help the reader learn how to achieve success.
Raising capitol for a new enterprise has always been a challenge and an interesting new book, The Kickstarter Handbook, by Dan Steinberg ($14.95, Quirk Books, softcover) that addresses how “Creators. Innovators. Dreamers. Schemers” can find patronage in the digital age. The author discusses Kickstarter.com, an online platform for the purpose of “crowd funding.” It taps the ability of people to donate money to a project and tells how dozens of artists and inventors have tapped this source of funding and offers advice on how to go about making a good presentation. I enjoy watching the poker tournaments on television so naturally The Shark and the Fish: Applying Poker Strategies to Business Leadership by Charley Swayne ($19.95, ECW Press, softcover) caught my eye. The author discusses things such as how to avoid losing control and going “full-tilt”, a poker phrase for letting negative emotions control one’s actions. Other topics include how to turn losses into lessons, and how to perfect the art of negotiating a deal. For someone just starting out in the business world or seeking the keys to making the right moves in a business, this book is filled with interesting and useful ideas.
New Sales Simplified: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development by Mike Weinberg ($17.95, Amacom, softcover) is one of the many new books from a publisher that specializes in business books. The author asserts that maintaining a constant flow of buyers is clear and simple, and doesn’t depend on the economy. He advises against waiting for current economic trends to end and to apply the basics of salesmanship and being proactive. Anyone is sales can benefit greatly from this book. Also from Amacom, comes the second edition of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late by Leigh Branham ($24.95, Amacom). Written by an expert on employee engagement, Branham believes that employee turnover is largely preventable and reveals what really pushes talented, dedicated people out the door. He provides an arsenal of innovative strategies to help business leaders and managers keep the people upon which their company depends. These range from loss of trust in senior leaders to feeling devalued, along with a lack of growth opportunities, stress, and the need for coaching and feedback.
Books for Younger Readers and Teens
Parents these days are so fortunate to have some of the best books in the world to give their children, to encourage learning, and guide them through stages of growth. Of course, it helps if your father, Jeffrey Wilson, is a novelist and you’ve grown up around books and even thinking about writing one of your own. That’s what Connor Wilson has done with A Giant Pencil ($12.95, Magic Dreams Publishing, softcover) and considering the idea occurred when he was eight years old and the book was published when he nine, that probably makes him the nation’s youngest traditionally-published fiction writer. Aimed at readers from 5 through 8 or so, it is an entertaining story about how a young sibling and thoroughly “fussed at” kid learns that the world is a lonely place when no one is “fussing” at you. And sometimes it is for your own good. This book marks a strong beginning for a young writer.
American Girl and the many fine books it publishes for girls of all ages. Years ago I created a media spoof called The Boring Institute and for twenty years it made news with its lists of the most boring celebrities, films and television, so naturally my eye was caught by Bored No More! Quiz Book ($9.95) that is filled with ideas and advice to keep any girl, age 8 and up, so busy she won’t have time to be bored. A great investment for any parent as is Slumber Wonders: Make All Your Slumber Party Dreams Come True ($9.99) filled with advice on planning and throwing eight dream sleepovers, including shopping lists. I Love Art will bring out the artist in every little girl including some colorful stickers. In a similar fashion there’s Picture Yourself Here: Turning your favorite photos into silly scenes using the ideas and punch-outs inside ($12.99).
The teen years can be filled with all manner of fears that can inhibit their enjoyment and two books arrived recently that will be welcomed by parents of youngsters who are shy or just not getting the most of these development years. Both are published by New Harbinger Publications and are written by psychologists who help teens overcome these common problems. Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life for Teens ($15.99, Instant Help Books, a division of New Harbinger, softcover) has three authors to offer essential skills to teen readers to help them cope with anxieties and develop emotional intelligence to avoid or move passed unhealthy behaviors and simple self-doubt. It’s about self-acceptance and the lessons that counter some of the attitudes imparted by our culture. The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook for Teens ($16.95, Instant Help Books, softcover) by Jennifer Shannon will prove especially helpful for those teens who will learn how to grow more independent and focus on their social development if they suffer from too much social anxiety and shyness. It can provide a real breakthrough. Both books are written and illustrated in ways that connect directly to teen readers and are illustrated with cartoons in which they will see themselves, plus exercises and worksheets to develop their self-confidence.
Novels, Novels, Novels
Sometimes I think everyone wants to write a novel and, these days, anyone can get theirs published. I rarely take note of self-published novels, preferring to rely on those from large to small publishing houses whose livelihood depends on selling what they offer. Here’s a look at a selection from the deluge I receive every month.
As usual, the bulk of the novels I receive are softcover books, so let’s look at some recent arrivals.
Just in time for Halloween, there’s Laura Levine’s Death of a Neighborhood Witch ($24.00, Kensington) and entertaining story, part of the Jaine Austin mysteries, is set in Beverly Hills where freelance writer and chocoholic, Jaine, battles crime and cellulite. One of her neighbors is Cryptessa Muldoon and when she is murdered, Jaine becomes the cop’s prime suspect. It’s great fun to read and the big question is whether Jaine will make it to Halloween without eating all the candy she’s bought for trick or treaters.
Shades of Orange with Many Greens is subtitled “visions of Paul Cezanne” by Walter E. Thompson ($15.95, Langson Street Press) an art historian and painter in his own right. Drawing on Cezanne’s life, the novel brings to life the erratic and bizarre character of the artists who, for 56 years, withstood intense criticism and constant rejection for the works that now costs millions to purchase. Not until late in his life was he hailed as a great impressionist. Thompson captures his travails the reader is taken to the era and the artist. The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith ($12.99, Tyger Books) is a literary dystopian thriller set in the near future. England has been partitioned, women are not allowed to work outside the home, the arts are suppressed. A young couple, Lucas and Angela, try to escape London with disastrous consequences. The author has already earned plaudits for her previous novels and will no doubt earn more with this intriguing new one. We’re happy to see Juliette Fay’s new novel, The Shortest Way Home ($15.00, Penguin Books). Sean Doran has spent the last two decades working as a nurse in disaster-stricken countries around the world. When he makes one of his infrequent trips back to his boyhood home in Massachusetts he’s planning to be there for a few weeks at most, but finds the household on the brink of crisis. His Aunt Vivvy who raised him and his siblings after his mother died is showing signs of dementia and his sister Deirdre has moved to New York leaving no one to look after Sean’s 111-year-old nephew, Kevin. He finds himself playing a reluctant parent while falling in love with a woman from his past. Suffice to say there is plenty of drama here.
That’s it for October. Come back next month for a look at the best in non-fiction and fiction that may be overlooked elsewhere. And tell your book-loving friends, family and coworkers about Bookviews.com!