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SirReadaLot.org


We Review the Best of the Latest Books

ISSN 1934-6557

March 2006, Issue #83 

Guide to This Issue

Arts & Photography / Religion & Spirituality

Mary in Western Art by Timothy Verdon (Hudson Hills Press)

No one can doubt Mary's importance in the spiritual history of Europe : every European city has at least one grand church dedicated to her, and, from the fifth century to the present, Christian thinkers have devoted considerable space to her in their reflections.

In the visual arts, perhaps not even Christ has had so eminent a role as she. In certain periods images of the Mother indeed outstrip those of her Son both in quantity and in creative originality. The historical identity of Europe 's peoples – their self-image across time – in fact seems linked to the ways in which they have venerated, imagined, and depicted Mary.

Prepared with an eye to the cultural evolution now in course in Europe, Mary in Western Art ponders the presence of Mary in art, suggesting the theological, devotional, and social background and seeks to evoke the affective rationale underlying Mary's centuries-old cult. The text organizes the rich, visual material according to several methodological principles, using a thematic approach in the first chapter, a biographical one in the second, and in the third offering a concrete historical example: Mary as a subject in Florentine art.

Writing from the viewpoint of religious faith, Timothy Verdon, Yale-trained art historian, priest of the Archdiocese of Florence since 1995, and director of the diocesan office for catechesis through art, clarifies the logical and emotional framework within which the individual and collective relationship, shaped by familiarity with the Judeo-Christian Scriptures and with the liturgical, devotional and literary traditions of the Church with Mary relating the images to Church writings of different eras. Passages quoted are intended as examples of a way of thinking, not as proofs in an argument; however, they want to convey the mood of the generation that generated Mariana images. The text does not presume to ‘explain’ individual paintings or sculptures; true works of art, after all, are never mere textual illustrations.

Verdon attempts to make allowance for the fact that many readers lack direct or personal experience of Mary. In addition, passages quoted are intended as examples of a way of thinking, not as proofs in an argument; however, they want to convey the mood of the generation that generated Mariana images. According to Vernon , Mary herself is the icon of a collective calling, a figure of the city that can never fail since God is in her midst. Vernon ends Mary in Western Art with a wish or – more exactly – a prayer “that Europe may again open its heart to God's Spirit, accepting the Life its own history offers it, in order to rediscover a freshness and generosity that – in the past, at least – Europeans recognized and loved in the Virgin Mother of Christ, Mary.”

This timely publication ponders the presence of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in art, and seeks to evoke the affective rationale underlying Mary's centuries-old fascination. The breathtaking reproductions are full color and many are full page as well in this large format book.

Audio / Literature & Fiction / General

Lovers & Players [Audio CD, ABRIDGED, 4 CDs, running time: 5 hours] by Jackie Collins, narrated by Jackie Collins, Sydney Poitier, Jack Scalia & Scott Sowers (Audio Renaissance)

Dangerous sex, family secrets, irresistible power…Jackie Collins is back – in her most deliciously scandalous novel yet, her twenty-fourth, with Lovers & Players.

The Diamond family's power extends from coast to coast, engulfing all who come near. Amy Scott-Simon, a pretty young New York heiress, is engaged to marry Max Diamond, a powerful real estate tycoon. At her bachelorette party she runs into Jett, Max’s younger half-brother – fresh from Italy , where he is a successful male model. A one-time drug addict now in the program, Jett has no idea who Amy is. She also doesn’t realize who he is. A one-night fling leads to complications and regrets. Meanwhile, Chris Diamond, a hot L.A. entertainment lawyer, flies into town to meet with his two brothers and Red Diamond, the boys’ billionaire father, a dysfunctional, abusive bully, who has been controlling their world for as long as they can remember.

Working as Red’s housekeeper is Diahann, a beautiful black ex-singer. Her stunning, bi-racial, nineteen-year-old daughter Liberty , a waitress and would-be singer herself, does not approve of her mother working as a housekeeper. Liberty has dreams of her own, and while she pursues them, Damon P. Donnell, married hip-hop mogul supreme, pursues her. And then there is Mariska, Max’s Russian socialite ex-wife, a woman with more secrets than anyone, secrets that ultimately lead to her brutal and mysterious murder. As the lives of these characters intertwine over a seven-day period in New York, power, love, sex, money, and fame are the ties that bind – emotionally and otherwise – in Lovers & Players, a love story about family relationships and deadly choices.

Take one vindictive aging tycoon and three charismatic, ambitious sons; add one naïve heiress, one aspiring R&B diva, one British (titled, natch) lady of the house; throw in a dash of Russian mafia, kinky sex, a pinch of rap mogul, fabulous locations and a sprinkling of murders, and you have the ingredients for a fast-paced, glamour-heavy Collins extravaganza. … Each son … is battling his own private demons: a huge business deal gone sour and a bitter ex-wife; a gambling debt that's gotten out of hand; and (what else?) drug and alcohol addiction. … The ever-stylin' Collins manages to tie the scattered plot lines together into another page-turning tale packed with intrigue, revenge and romance for her St. Martin 's debut. – Publishers Weekly
In Collins' twenty-fourth novel, she turns yet again to detailing the tawdry lives of the rich and beautiful. … Vintage Collins here: sex, love, betrayal, and deception. Her fans will certainly enjoy. – Kathleen Hughes, Booklist

The highly charged love story, Lovers & Players, gives a revealing look into the private realms of Collin’s always fabulously rich and sexy cast of characters.

Audio / Mysteries & Thrillers

Dumb Witness: A Hercule Poirot Mystery [UNABRIDGED, Audio cassette, 5 cassettes, running time: 7 hours, 20 minutes] by Agatha Christie, narrated by Hugh Fraser (Hercule Poirot Mystery Series: Audio Editions, Mystery Masters)

One of the best-selling authors of all time, Agatha Christie spearheaded the golden age of mysteries with the creation of such unforgettable characters as Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. Dumb Witness is one in the series of ever-popular Poirot mysteries about the vain and cleverly enchanting Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

After an accident on the stairs, rich, elderly spinster Emily Arundell becomes convinced that one of her relatives is trying to kill her. Miss Emily has two nieces and a nephew, all of whom badly want money. They all spend Easter with her, and during the weekend she has a curious accident. She survives, but her suspicions are aroused. So on April 17th she writes a letter to Hercule Poirot.

Poirot receives the mysterious and cryptic letter from Miss Emily on June 28th – two months after it was written – about a possible attempt on her life. The letter requesting the renowned detective's services arrives too late – after the sender's demise. But a client is a client, even if she is dead, and Poirot is wants to get to the bottom of the mystery, it's only a matter of time before he decides to investigate. While the woman's death looked natural to all, Poirot stubbornly believes it to be murder. But who mailed the letter so late? Who had the motive – and the skill – to make murder look so much like an accident?

In Dumb Witness Poirot faces one of the most unusual challenges of his career as he tries to determine which of the victims disgruntled relatives did not have a motive for murder. As Poirot heads to her hometown of Market Basing, he must contend with a cold trail and the strange villagers to solve a murder that confounds even his superior skills.

Novelty, intriguing character types, and ingenuity. – New York Times Agatha Christie at her best – Daily Mirror
Delightful...a bevy of most excellent human creatures – not to mention the dumb witness himself, little Bob, the wire-haired terrier – Evening News
One of Poirot's most brilliant achievements – Glasgow Herald

A slick job in the admirable Christie manner. – New York Herald Tribune

Christie is a master at keeping readers guessing, and this story is no exception. Dumb Witness is a grand example of her suspenseful yet cozy mysteries with an intricate plot that confounds readers, and listeners, until the very last. The audio version is masterfully read by Hugh Fraser, know to many listeners as “Captain Hastings.”

Business & Investing / Economics

The Coming Economic Collapse: How You Can Thrive When Oil Costs $200 a Barrel by Stephen Leeb, with Glen Strathey (Warner Business Books)

With a nineteen-year history of making bold yet astonishingly accurate economic forecasts, it is little wonder that when Stephen Leeb speaks, smart investors take heed. In his 1986 book, Getting in on the Ground Floor, Leeb prophesied the great bull market of the 1990s. In his 1999 book, Defying the Market, he warned investors of the coming collapse in technology shares. And in February 2004, when crude oil cost under $33 a barrel, Leeb’s book The Oil Factor predicted soaring energy prices were just around the corner.

Now, in The Coming Economic Collapse, Leeb describes how the U.S. economy is standing on the brink of the biggest crisis in its history. As the fast-growing economies of China and India push global demand for oil beyond production capacity, Americans will experience a permanent energy shortfall far worse than the one in the 1970s. According to Leeb, the result will be severe financial hardship for most people, and an opportunity for investors to become rich.

Backed by research and analysis, Leeb describes the psychological ‘groupthink’ that has caused leaders in government, Wall Street, the oil industry, and academia to ignore the approaching crisis, until now when it is almost too late. He debunks the myth that petroleum supplies are limitless, and reveals the truth about an alternative energy source that is fast becoming cheaper than oil. In addition, he offers practical solutions such as:

  • The #1 skill investors need, and why advice from most financial experts will prove disastrous.
  • How to make a fortune in oil, gold, and other inflation-sensitive sectors.
  • Today’s leading alternative energy stocks, the new super-growth industry.
  • Steps the government must take immediately to avoid crippling energy shortages.

A blockbuster. A powerful warning coupled with well-documented advice. – Myron Kandel, former editor and anchor, CNN Financial News

Brilliantly and superbly written. Truly impressive...Cannily guides investors faced with the prospect of an alarming, all-too-likely scenario. – Gene G. Marcial, senior writer and "Inside Wall Street" columnist, BusinessWeek

Leeb spins advice that can survive the siege. – U.S. News and World Report

Brazen, brilliant... and a little bit frightening. Provocative and prophetic, this is one of the most important books I've read in years. Those who heed its strategies will be richly rewarded. – Jonathan Honig, Portfolio Manager, Capitalistpig Hedge Fund, LLC; and author of Greed Is Good

The Coming Economic Collapse is a call-to-arms to avert catastrophe... and a survival kit. The book is urgent, even frightening, coming from a financial prophet.

Business & Investing / Management & Leadership

The DNA of Leadership: Leverage Your Instincts to: Communicate – Differentiate – Innovate by Judith E. Glaser (Platinum Press)

“The ability of organizations to reach their next level of greatness is determined by the atmosphere. The atmosphere is determined by the quality of the relationships. The quality of the relationships is determined by the quality of the conversations and behaviors. As a leader, you have in your grasp the ability to create and shape an environment that inspires greatness at every level. This is your leadership DNA," explains Judith E. Glaser in her new book, The DNA of Leadership. An organizational anthropologist and executive coach who has advised senior executives across industries, Glaser offers a step-by-step guide to help leaders create workplace cultures where people thrive and learn to express their own DNA for greatness.

The DNA of Leadership builds on Glaser's earlier bestseller, Creating WE, which focused on eliminating ‘I-Centric’ thinking and communication in favor of ‘We-Centric’ practices that make for healthy work environments and pave the way for business success. Through her work with such clients as Coach, Pfizer, Merrill Lynch, Barclay's, Lowe Enterprises, and Siemens, Glaser has identified seven vital ‘leadership genes – seven dimensions along which leadership can be expressed. Like cellular DNA, these leadership practices bond together in pairs – one half (the I-Centric side) leading to stagnation, and the other (the We-centric side) leading to growth.

In The DNA of Leadership, Glaser illustrates each of the seven genes with a case study from a company she and her associates have worked with – VeriSign, New Wave Entertainment, Dreyer's and Edy's Grand Ice Cream, and IBM – that exemplifies what a particular gene looks like when it is effectively expressed. After presenting this best practice example, Glaser offers an illustration of what can happen when the I-Centric side of a particular gene takes over. She then reveals the steps leaders must take to move to the We-centric pole of the gene. Here, she emphasizes the importance of language, describing how powerfully words affect culture, and explaining how to create the kinds of conversations that will open doors, rather than close them. She completes the discussion of each gene with specific practices leaders can graft onto their own corporate cultures.

The seven leadership genes are:

  • C Gene: Community – Co-creating cultures work to include, not exclude. They focus on engagement, involvement, and participation, and they work to reduce territoriality, ego, and fear of rejection.
  • H Gene: Humanizing – Humanizing cultures are those where leaders believe, "We are all in this together." Leaders in these environments work to reduce blaming, victimizing, and criticizing, and support open, honest communication and respect for others.
  • A Gene: Aspiring – Aspiring cultures are characterized by a high level of learning and, when opportunities arise, being aware and seizing them. Aspiring leaders reduce fear – of change, of making mistakes, and of being wrong.
  • N Gene: Navigating – Navigating cultures are marked by mutual support and growth; sharing rather than withholding. People cross-pollinate to build networks and to exchange insights and wisdom so they can be prepared to move deftly in response to marketplace changes.
  • G Gene: Generating – Generating cultures are those where leaders, employees, stakeholders, and customers work together to envision and create the future. They focus on innovation and experimentation, promoting growth rather than groupthink.
  • E Gene: Expressing – In expressing cultures, people have a voice, make decisions, challenge authority, and are valued and respected for their contributions. Rather than being dictated to, people are encouraged to develop themselves in order to develop the organization.
  • S Gene: Spirit of Reinvention – Cultures with spirit of reinvention experience ongoing transformation. People work together toward a higher purpose, and a commitment to creating a shared future takes precedence over compliance to outdated beliefs and norms.

The DNA of Leadership concludes with a chapter offering ‘DNA exercises’ to help create the workplace culture that will enable organizational evolution.

The world is moving away from top down hierarchy and toward the horizontal spread of power. So, too, must leadership evolve from domination to stewardship. The ‘genetic roadmap’ in Glaser's book can guide your journey along that evolutionary path, and help you lead the organizational dinosaurs in the dust. – Edie Wiener, futurist and author of the bestselling Future Think

Judith has created a thoroughly original, modern day perspective into how great leaders are formed. Her engaging insights into generational influences, cultural connectivity, and conceptual genetic analogies give us a compelling – almost spiritual view into the true code of leadership. – Angela Ahrendts, CEO Designate, Burberry

Judith's insights give an incredibly accessible path to how leaders can create environments for greatness to be realized. Judith's leadership insights are the touch points to thriving in the face of change, as well as a means to build leadership communities that will drive growth. It's a book that must be read and reread by everyone who wants to realize his or her leadership potential and inspire the same in their people and businesses. – Glen Ellen Brown, V P, Hearst Brand Development, Hearst Magazines

The DNA of Leadership helps readers understand how to shape their company's success; they can, Glaser convincingly argues, ‘graft’ these seven practices onto meetings, conversations, and strategic initiatives to leverage talent, maximize results, and boost profits. The book will help any organization tap into its most powerful source for innovation and success – its people.

Business & Investing / Marketing & Sales

The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception by Debora L. Spar (Harvard Business School Press) is one of the sleepers of 2006.

A generation ago, infertile couples desperate for children had few choices beyond adoption. Today, advances in science and technology have made it possible to order babies from a menu of options including donated eggs, rented wombs, and gene selection. Indeed, in the United States alone, human reproduction has become a thriving $3 billion industry. Yet the product in this market is one that most would argue should never be sold: a child.

According to Debora Spar, the future of stem cell research is likely to be driven as much by markets as by science, by the demand that emerges for the products of these cells and the firms that rise to supply them. If we ignore these commercial prospects now, we risk undermining both the business and the science.

Spar, Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School presents a book about an issue that deeply impacts all of us – politicians, scientists, doctors, lawyers, economists, sociologists, religious leaders, any couple that ever wanted to have a child, but couldn’t. In The Baby Business, Spar argues that it is time to acknowledge that the acquisition of children has become a multibillion dollar industry that has left science, law, ethics, and business deeply at odds. This behind-the-scenes account combines pioneering research and interviews with the industry’s top reproductive scientists to provide a first glimpse at how the industry really works: who the baby-makers are, who makes money, how prices are set and what defines the clientele. Fascinating stories illustrate the inner workings of market segments – including surrogacy, egg swapping, designer babies, adoption, stem cell research, and human cloning – as Spar explores the moral and legal challenges that industry players must address. The book also explores:

  • How legal inconsistencies and continent-spanning loopholes affect the market.
  • What role government can and should play in regulating the industry.
  • How industry participants can address the complex moral and legal challenges they'll face as this industry evolves.

According to Spar, hampered only by the limits of science, the dilemma of unmet demand, and an uncer­tain political system.

A new, surprising, and authoritative take on an important aspect of modern society that most people just don't know about. – Toby Lester, Deputy Managing Editor, The Atlantic Monthly

Stretches our preconceived notions about the most basic part of being human – not with science fiction designed to shock, but with science fact lucidly and accurately explained. – Douglas Melton, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences, Harvard University, and Codirector, Harvard Stem Cell Institute

A startling revelation on the expanding global market for high-tech reproduction. Spar raises provocative questions about the business of designer children, and her answers are often not only thought provok­ing but disturbing. – Gregory D. Curfman, MD, Executive Editor, New England Journal of Medicine

This book raises the issues America 's policy-makers must evaluate as science makes greater strides in the fertility arena. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

The Baby Business is that rare find: a seminal book on a vitally important topic that is a pleasure to read. – Diane B. Kunz, PhD, Executive Director, Center for Adoption Policy

Elucidates in a clear and provocative manner all the medical, ethical, and even problematic aspects of the infertility industry. – Merle J. Berger, MD, Boston NE , and Associate Clinical Professor in Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology, Harvard Medical School

From Beltway back offices to hospital operating rooms to third world villages to bedrooms of middle America , The Baby Business exposes the unvarnished truth about an issue that touches us all. As the fertility trade moves inevitably forward, Spar challenges us to examine how we can balance science, law, and commerce in our quest to satisfy one of humanity's most basic desires.

Children / Grades 2-4

I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children by Marian Wright Edelman, illustrated by Barry Moser (Amistad)

It's the little things that make a world of difference.

In her new book, I Can Make a Difference, Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund and New York Times best-selling author, encourages all children to take responsibility for the kind of people they are and will become.

The book is filled with short contributions from a variety of cultures and full-color illustrations by award-winning illustrator Barry Moser. It is divided into twelve sections, each one highlighting a goal that any child can aspire to achieve, such as being "honest and telling the truth" and "persevering and not giving up."

The diverse selection of stories, poems and songs in I Can Make a Difference show that even the smallest actions can change one's own life, as well as the lives of others.

The contributors to the book in the form of quotes, stories, tales and poems are: Martin Luther King, Jr., Pablo Casals, Marian Wright Edelman, Margaret Hillert, Maya Angelou, Helen Keller, Henry David Thoreau, Benjamin Mays, Shel Silverstein, Gwendolyn Brooks, Anne Frank, The Prophet Muhammed, Emily Dickinson, James Russell Lowell, Langston Hughes, Albert Schweitzer, Aesop, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Walt Whitman, James Weldon Johnson, Leo Lionni, The Dalai Lama, George Washington Carver, The Brothers Grimm, The Bible, Eleanor Farjeon, Leo Tolstoy, Lee Hays and Pete Seeger, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Vaclav Havel.

Written in a tone that speaks to children and their needs, I Can Make a Difference also challenges adults to ask the right kinds of questions: What kind of people do we want our children to be? What kind of moral choices – personal, community and political – are we parents, grandparents and community adults prepared to make at this turn of the century and millennium to make our children strong inside and empowered to see and help build a more just, compassionate and less violent world?

…An oversize format allows Moser to mix full-size paintings, portraits, and spot art in artwork that ranges from utilitarian to effective to stunning. Edelman, a well-known children's rights activist and winner of such awards as the MacArthur Prize Fellowship and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, discusses her hopes for inspiring children to see their lives as a means of improving the lives of others. A strong package that will lead to fruitful discussions between adults and children. – Ilene Cooper, Booklist

I Can Make a Difference presents timeless stories, poems, songs, quotations, and folktales that speak to all children to let them know that they can make a difference in today's world. Moser, head of the printmaking department at Smith College in Northampton , Massachusetts , illuminates the book with his illustrations.

Cooking, Food & Wine

Cajun Low-Carb by Jude W. Theriot (Pelican)

Chef Jude W. Theriot is not only one of the premier names in Cajun cooking, he has struggled all his life with maintaining a healthy weight. After trying hundreds of diets, Theriot discovered that a diet low in net carbohydrates worked best for him because he felt satisfied in both the quantity and variety of food he was able to eat and still lose weight. In developing the recipes for Cajun Low-Carb and eating them, he lost more than one hundred pounds!

Cajun Low-Carb covers a wide range of styles from standard American favorites like pizza, (mock) mashed potatoes, and meatloaf, to classic Cajun dishes including étouffée, crab au gratin, gumbo and jambalaya. The seafood recipes cover just about everything that swims, and the sauces and seasoning mixes elevate just about any dish into a special treat. There are even dessert recipes sure to satisfy the sweet tooth without the sugar. A unique feature of each of Theriot’s cookbooks is the lagniappe, or ‘a little something extra.’ Cajun Low-Carb includes suggestions for parties, additional uses for recipes, serving suggestions, and ideas for substitutions. Each recipe lists serving size, total carbohydrates per serving (which includes sugar alcohols), net carbohydrates per serving, and calorie count.
A member of an authentic Acadian family, Theriot learned the art of Cajun cooking from his Acadian-French grandmother at a young age. Trained as a traditional French chef, while pursuing his master’s degree in psychology and counseling, he served as executive chef at Le Champignon and Gatsby’s Top of the World in Lake Charles , Louisiana , and at the Old Vienna Restaurant in Austin , Texas . Working within this rich mixture of traditions, Theriot has created recipes low in calories, fat, and carbohydrates that preserve the unique flavor of Cajun cooking.

Jude Theriot was Cajun before Cajun was hot. – Anne Byrne, former food editor, Atlanta Journal-constitution

Cajun is one of my weaknesses. How nice it is to have a cookbook that embraces my new eating habits. – www.RoundTableReviews.com 
So delicious are these dishes, you could easily serve them to non-low carbers... – www.fabulousfoods.com
Jude Theriot ... believes it’s possible to enjoy Cajun food without the carbs... – The Daily Adviser
...Chef Jude Theriot proves that you can have your Jambalaya and eat it, too. – Home School Digest

Cajun Low-Carb is an excellent cookbook to help cooks prepare interesting and flavorful meals without sacrificing commitment to the low-carb lifestyle. It proves that Cajun cooking can be low-carb, and, in this book, Theriot gives cooks all they need to know to create lively and healthy Cajun meals.

Cooking, Food & Wine

The Family Table: Where Great Food, Friends and Family Gather Together
by Christy Rost, with a foreword by Martin Yan (Capital Books, Inc.)

Gathering together around the table provides us with the opportunity to celebrate the most important things in life – love, family, good health, and good friends. Christy Rost, best-selling chef for Sur La Table, is passionate about family meals, and she believes that besides flexibility, the key to successfully preserving the family meal is an arsenal of family-friendly recipes that emphasize the beauty of simple foods, fresh, wholesome ingredients, and reasonably priced wine selections.

In The Family Table, Rost offers 250 mouthwatering recipes, well-balanced and do-able in a reasonable amount of time, and invites readers to gather everyone around the family table on a regular basis. Recipe selections range from all-American favorites to Caribbean , Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, and Mexican cuisine. The Family Table is divided into four sections: Everyday Meals, Weekends, Entertaining at Home, and Holidays. Within each section, recipes are grouped by type (salads, entrees, side dishes, etc.) Wine suggestions are also included with many of the entree recipes. "Eric's Wine Notes," written by a wine expert, contain three wine suggestions in order of least to most expensive.

Sample recipes in The Family Table include: Home-style Meatloaf, Buttermilk Cornbread Muffins, Sunday Best Mashed Potatoes, Tomato Galette, Thick and Creamy Tortilla Soup, Grilled Marinated Pork Chops, Cape Cod Rice Pilaf, Apple Cranberry Muffins, German Apple Pancake, Mango Spinach Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette, Portabella Mushroom Turnovers, Pink Rum Desire, Berries with Champagne Sabayon, Grilled Lemon Basil Chicken, Rack of Lamb Dijon, Roasted Herbed Pork Loin, Onion Soufflé.

These are recipes for real people, and many include wine suggestions. – Cathy Barber, Dallas Morning News

Christy is a talented and dedicated culinary professional and a fantastic cooking teacher. Her cooking classes are so popular and in such demand – she has the unique ability to read her students' hearts. I have witnessed the magic of her presence when she works. – Martin Yan, host of Yan Can Cook

It is a practical volume emphasizing the beauty of simple foods, local ingredients, reasonably priced wines and the joy of family dining. – Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Family Table supports Rost’s mission of educating people on how to nurture the self through bringing others together, a mission she shares with this reviewer. Her recipes are easy to follow. The way she divides the book's content is user-friendly. Her dedication to the family asserts itself in her something-for-everyone approach. Her collaboration with Eric Little on the wine pairings shows that wine belongs on the table nearly as much as salt and pepper. The Entertaining at Home section is the cure for those who get so overwhelmed with pomp and circumstance that they forget to enjoy being with their guests.

Cooking, Food & Wine

Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook edited by Southern Living (Oxmoor House) says that slow cookers aren't just for everyday entrees anymore.

The slow cooker has made a fast comeback in recent years, and why not? The cook gets to serve great tasting, home-cooked meals that demand minimal preparation, require only a single pot, and deliver maximum family- or crowd-pleasing fare, all with little oversight. And seasonal classics made in the slow cooker free up oven space and give cooks more time with family and friends.

Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook features more than 200 recipes that show readers how to maximize this essential appliance for successful make-ahead cooking. The test kitchen professionals at Southern Living created most of these recipes just for this new book and based them on meals they cook for their families or on slow-cooked favorites passed down in their families for generations. Features include:

  • All-new slow cooker recipes focused on simplicity, dependability, and versatility.
  • Handy resources like 15 Minutes or Less, Kids Love It!, Freeze It, or Southern Living Classic.
  • ‘Quick Menu’ tip boxes throughout help readers enhance their slow cooker meals with no-cook or easy-cook side dishes.
  • The scoop on the latest slow-cooker models.
  • Tips for slow cooking different types of foods, such as dairy products and pasta, which can sometimes be tricky in the slow cooker.
  • An entire ‘Menus’ chapter offers 10 Southern-style dinnertime solutions.
  • Lucky New Year's Menu serves up Jalapeno Cornbread for soppin' up hearty New Year's Soup.
  • Boxes entitled Dual Slow-Cooker Menu pair slow-cooker recipes from throughout the book, so readers can set up two cookers and have a complete slow-cooker meal ready when they walk in the door.

Some recipes include: Cornish hens, Grandma Dean's Chicken and Dressing, Green Bean Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping, Cranberry-Apple Cobbler, Slow-Cooked Collard Greens, Hot-and-Spicy Black-Eyed Peas, Barbecue Beef Sandwiches, Barbecue Baked Beans, Beef Brisket with Fall Vegetables, Roasted Garlic-Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

A bonus chapter of quick-fix traditional recipes helps readers round out slow-cooker meals. Readers will find salads, breads, sides, and desserts that make Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook a staple for preparing mouthwatering meals with ease.

Whether readers are new to slow cooking or were raised in a slow-and-easy kitchen, this all-new collection of kitchen-tested one-dish meals, savory sides, and tempting desserts will spark their slow-cooking desire.

Education / PreK-12

The Educator's Guide to Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievement: Social-Emotional Learning in the Classroom edited by Maurice J. Elias & Harriett Arnold (Corwin Press) makes the claim that educators can tap the power of emotional intelligence and watch school-wide achievement soar.

The Educator's Guide to Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievement is a comprehensive guide to emotional intelligence (EI). The book contains is a state-of-the-art collection of best practices from the field’s best and brightest minds. It is edited by educational leaders, Maurice Elias, professor, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, who directs the Social-Emotional Learning Lab; and Harriett Arnold, veteran educator who has served as elementary school teacher, middle school administrator, elementary school principal, director of personnel and staff development, and international consultant to schools. With chapters by Daniel Goleman, Rachel Kessler, Marty Sleeper and Margot Strom, Janet Patti, Eliot Rosenbloom, Pam Robbins, Mark Greenberg, Sheldon Berman, Susan Wooley, Rose Reissman, Carol Cummings, and many others, The Educator's Guide to Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievement brings social-emotional learning into every classroom.

Key features cover:

  • Theory and context for EI, including brain development, multiple intelligences, service and citizenship, school-to-work, and health.
  • Teacher preparation and professional development.
  • 17 best-practice programs in action, relevant to grades PreK-12.

The book includes an application/reflection guide for note-taking, follow-up, contacts, and ideas for immediate implementation

Bringing all this information together in one spot is quite a contribution... There isn't too much research or theory here, but lots of emphasis on 'What can I do on Monday?' – David A. Squires, Associate Professor, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven
I highlighted at least two dozen specific ideas that I will implement in my classroom next year. – Steve Reifman, Teacher, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, CA
Relevant and meaningful for today's educators. – Beverly Eidmann, Principal, Arvada Middle School, CO
Useful, unique (not a crowded field at all!), practical, clearly written. – Robert DiGiulio, Professor of Education, Johnson State College

This is valuable book that gathers and presents to teachers a variety of proven strategies, prosocial and pro-academic, that involve emotional intelligence. The Educator's Guide to Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievement is an essential resource for all teachers, counselors, and school administrators who want their school communities to educate healthier, more responsible, and more successful students.

Education / Behavioral Psychology

A Case Study Approach to Classroom Management by Richard T. Scarpaci (Pearson Allyn & Bacon)

Dealing with behavioral problems in the classroom is a major cause of teacher dissatisfaction. Nearly one-half of all new teachers in U.S. inner-city schools leave during their first five years of service, and many cite behavioral problems and classroom-management issues as influential in their decision. A Case Study Approach to Classroom Management addresses the issue of classroom management in both a theoretical and practical fashion. Written to be accessible to students as well as novice practitioners, it seeks to provide readers with a proper perspective on classroom management. The objective is to make available a supporting framework to help teachers survive their initiation and becoming effective classroom managers. Based on the author's forty years of experience and research, the text offers a set of approaches, strategies, and concepts relating to effective problem-resolution.

A Case Study Approach to Classroom Management uses an interactive case study approach, known as IOSIE (Identifying the problem – Deciding on Objectives – Developing a Solution – Implementing it – Evaluating it). It analyzes eighteen traditional approaches and models for classroom management. The steps are detailed in the text to help students understand the conceptual foundations of classroom management in addition to knowing how to react to a range of situations and problems.

Special features of the text include:

  • Takes students through the entire process of Special Education placement, from referral through assessment and instructional modification and adaptation.
  • Uses various approaches and strategies in sample case studies in every chapter to show students how different strategies rectify inappropriate classroom behavior.
  • Addresses contemporary classroom management issues such as bullying, gang violence, suicide prevention, child abuse, and sexual harassment.

A Case Study Approach to Classroom Management is the end result of a lengthy holistic process; it began as a first aid kit and evolved into a practitioner's management toolbox. IOSIE is presented as a rubric for interpreting case studies, or real-life sce­narios.

Readers are introduced to the three basic ways to approach problem-resolution: through a consequences, group-guidance, and individual-guidance approach. Generic management strategies requiring varying levels of teacher intervention are explained, as are specific management strategies, presented on a spectrum of most to least teacher control.

The strategies comprise a road map for use with the case study approach to behavior analysis to create learning environments in which misbehavior is deterred and education enhanced. Addressing behavioral problems before they result in violence is one of the objectives of the case study approach.

Readers are encouraged to understand the psychological precepts that support the various management strategies. The research base for A Case Study Approach to Classroom Management is broad, suggesting an eclectic approach to classroom management.

The text is balanced between theory and practice. The teaching personality, which is viewed as what teachers bring to the classroom, is discussed throughout the book.

Materials in the have been tested in graduate manage­ment and methods courses, as well as staff development programs. Each part begins with an introduction that provides an overview of the specific chapters and sets out expectations for readers. Each of the chapters in Parts I and II concludes with sections titled Key Terms to Focus On, Discussion Questions, Mini-Cases from the Field, and References. In Part III, each case study concludes with sections titled Discussion Topics and Questions to Ponder, and What Would You Do If ...?

Part I introduces the IOSIE method and general approaches to management, with a focus on teaching personality and teachers' individual management styles. Part II provides an in-depth view of management models and strategies, discussing particular classroom contexts and the strengths and weaknesses of models used by teachers to deter violence in the classroom. Classic approaches are reviewed along with specific procedures that can bring these approaches to life within the classroom. Part III gives readers an opportunity to apply their learning of management styles and approaches to particular case studies.

Appendix A looks at the most severe forms of behavioral problems that teachers face, discussing the types of violence in today's schools, including youth vio­lence, bullying, gangs, suicide prevention, child abuse, and sexual harassment. Appendix B presents a Classroom Management Quiz, which is an opportunity for the reader to reflect on and evaluate his or her own management style after reading the different classroom management methods presented in Chapters 4 through 7.

The case studies in A Case Study Approach to Classroom Management are written from a teacher's perspective. Chapters 1 through 7 contain mini-case studies that present real-life scenarios that readers must analyze and apply the specific classroom management style just described. The generic and specific management strategies discussed in Parts I and II then aid readers to resolve the identified problems presented in the case studies in Chapter 8. Each case opens with a guide, Keys to Analyzing This Case. Readers are asked to use the IOSIE method as a framework when beginning to analyze the difficulties confronted in each episode. Other keys to un­derstanding the case follow. Concluding questions provide direction for student thought and reflection.

A Case Study Approach to Classroom Management comes with an Instructor's Guide and Resource Manual to assist the instructor in the organization and presentation of classroom management classes and workshops. The Guide provides strategies and materials that can be used in facilitating instruction. The various items in this Guide are designed to be altered and modified to meet individual instructional needs.

The Instructor's Guide is divided into two parts. Part I offers a model syllabus for which this book might be used. Instructors can use this model and adapt it for their own course.

This text provides an underlying rationale for dealing with misbehavior, which will help students develop their own understanding of the decisions and choices one must make in developing a classroom management style of their own. – Judie Rhoades , Western Oregon University

I wish I had read this little book and seen the accompanying videos before I began my term of 6 years of public school teaching experience in a large, diverse, and challenging high school. – Sheila K. Jones, Miami University

A Case Study Approach to Classroom Management presents, in a logical sequence, the general topics of classroom management, and is intended for use by the undergraduate and graduate students as well as practicing teachers. The information presented will assist and support readers in becoming effective classroom managers by helping them understand and utilize a variety of approaches, adapting them to in­dividual students and circumstances. A Case Study Approach to Classroom Management encourages teachers to be flexible, providing a toolbox of classroom management strategies that facilitate the ultimate goal of instructional learning. Packaged with the supplemental online materials available through Pearson Allyn and Bacon, the book provides a powerful set of online tools that bring the classroom to life. Suitable for teachers of all grade levels, the text brings students as close as possible to direct hands-on experience in a classroom setting.

Health, Mind & Body / Alternative Medicine

The Reflexology Atlas by Bernard C. Kolster & Astrid Waskowiak (Healing Arts Press)

Of all the ancient practices that have been revived by the growth of alternative healing, reflexology is one of the most popular. It is easy to learn, can be applied anywhere, and is especially well-suited to self-treatment or the treatment of a partner. It is also excellent for the treatment of children.

The Reflexology Atlas is a reference guide providing an overview of and instructions for the many forms of reflexology – foot reflexology, hand reflexology, ear reflexology, head reflexology, and the total massage known as Shiatsu.
In the reflexology system it is possible to stimulate a distant organ or body part by massaging a corresponding ‘reflex zone’ on the hand, foot, ear, face, or scalp. By examining the location of the reflex zones, one can visualize a projection of the entire human body superimposed over each of these massage locations. On the foot, for example, the big toe represents the head; the area at the base of the toes corresponds to the neck and shoulder girdle; the digestive organs can be massaged in the middle of the foot; the curves of ball, arch, and heel on the side of the foot mirror the curves of the spine; and the pelvic organs find correspondence just below the anklebone. Because the placement of the reflex zones makes intuitive sense, reflexology is easy to learn and can be applied anywhere.
In an alphabetized symptom-by-symptom section, authors Bernard C. Kolster, physical therapist and medical doctor specializing in reflexology, and Astrid Waskowiak, medical doctor and medical editor, offer reflexology techniques tailored to a wide variety of common health disorders, including allergies, joint problems, headaches, back pain, sleep disorders, and heart and circulatory problems. Translated from the German, The Reflexology Atlas contains step-by-step instructions, illustrated in full color, which put the healing techniques of reflexology massage at the fingertips of readers.

… the book provides succinct charts of the areas to be massaged. The accompanying photographs, though not exactly works of art, are clear and precise. Each major section ends with a helpful roundup of the most important points to remember. Refreshingly, the book offers no outlandish promises of healing or even rejuvenation; instead, it plainly spells out the potential benefits while reminding readers throughout that the best results can often be seen when the techniques are used as an adjunct to conventional medical care. Still, those seeking to remedy headaches, back pain, insomnia or weak knees might do well with the solutions featured here alone. – Publishers Weekly

The Reflexology Atlas is a fully illustrated and comprehensive reference guide to the many different kinds of reflexology. It provides reflexology treatments tailored to a wide variety of common health disorders, and it contains concise and easy-to understand, step-by-step instructions illustrated in full color. The book is an easy way to get started, yet it is quite comprehensive.

Health, Mind & Body / Psychology & Counseling

No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality by Judith Rich Harris (W. W. Norton & Company) is the story of a scientific quest, but it is also the personal story of a courageous and innovative woman who refused to be satisfied with ‘what everyone knows is true.’

Judith Rich Harris was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize with her previous investigative and highly controversial book, The Nurture Assumption about socialization; this time Harris turns the spotlight directly on personality.

Now in No Two Alike Harris tackles the biggest mystery in all of psychology: What makes people differ so much in personality and behavior? It can't just be ‘nature and nurture,’ because even identical twins that grow up together – same genes, same parents – have different personalities. And if psychologists can't explain why identical twins are different, they also can't explain why each of us differs from everyone else – why no two people are alike.

As Harris points out, most people – whether they are professors of psychology, podiatrists, or postal clerks – believe that personality has already been explained. The commonly held belief is that individuals are the way they are because of nature, nurture, and/or some kind of interaction between the two. But the conventional theories fall apart as soon as Harris pokes at them. Not one of these theories can account for all the evidence. The search for clues carries Harris, independent investigator and former child development textbook writer, down many byways of science. The evidence she examines ranges from classic experiments in social psychology to cutting-edge research in neuroscience. She looks at research on autistic children, observations of chimpanzees, birds, and even ants. Harris begins with the case of Ladan and Laleh Bijani, conjoined identical twins who were born attached together at the head. Identical twins have identical genes and are treated very similarly by their parents. Laden and Laleh went everywhere together – they had no choice. And yet they had different career goals, different world views, and different personalities.

In fact, as told in No Two Alike, human individuality is a mystery, and Harris embarks on a quest to solve that mystery. Like the detective in a classic mystery novel, she examines clues and eliminates likely suspects. Her search for evidence takes her far afield: social psychology, psycholinguistics, neuroscience, primatology, even entomology, the study of insects. But she relies most heavily on what she calls her ‘two new brooms’ – evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics – to sweep away a hundred years of cobwebs from psychology.

It was evolutionary psychologists who first proposed the idea that the mind is, as Steven Pinker put it in How the Mind Works, "not a single organ but a system of organs, which we can think of as psychological faculties or mental modules." Harris carries the idea of specialized mental modules one step further, using it to explain how children become socialized and how, at the same time, each individual develops a unique personality. She proposes three mental systems – the relationship system, the socialization system, and the status system – to account for the variations in personality and behavior that cannot be attributed to genes. The relationship system collects information about specific individuals; this is the source of our love of gossip. The socialization system collects information about the members of social categories such as ‘men,’ ‘women,’ ‘girls’ and ‘boys’; it is responsible for adapting children to their culture.

The status system has the hardest job: this system collects information about the self. One of the most important things that children have to learn while they are growing up is what sort of people they are. Are they strong or weak, fast or slow, pretty or plain? This self-knowledge is essential for working out a strategy of behavior that will serve them well in their adult lives – a strategy tailored to their own strengths and weaknesses and to the opportunities afforded by their environment. Thus, people become more alike in some respects (due to the way the socialization system works) and less alike in others (an effect of the status system). "The result," Harris writes, "is that no two people have the same personality."

The solution offered in No Two Alike is an original one: the first new theory of personality since Freud's.

As a parent, as a social psychologist, and as a human being, I was enlightened and enthralled. Harris is an extraordinary thinker and writer: wise, witty, learned, scientifically rigorous, and absolutely fearless. Contemporary psychology has no sharper critic – and no better friend. – Joshua Aronson, editor of Improving Academic Achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education

When this book arrived, I pretty much sat down and read it from cover to cover – hardly my typical reaction to a nonfiction book. No Two Alike is a deeply impressive accomplishment. – Paul Bloom, author of Descartes’ Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human

There are many books about ‘human nature,’ but very few on the important question of why humans differ from one another. Judy Harris's book is terrifically well written and interesting. – Robert Plomin, author of Nature and Nurture: An Introduction to Human Behavioral Genetics

No Two Alike is another firecracker of a book by the woman who forced the world to rethink how we become who we are. Harris's scholarship and the persuasiveness of her arguments make this book mandatory reading for psychologists; her style, humor, and storytelling skills make it exhilarating reading for everyone. – Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, and The Blank Slate

In her previous book, The Nurture Assumption, Harris put a new spin on the nature-nurture debate. Now, in No Two Alike, Harris drops the other shoe and it hits even harder. Harris turns out to be well suited for the role of detective – she is a writer of intellect, wit, and critical acumen. As she showed in The Nurture Assumption and demonstrates even more convincingly in No Two Alike, she is fearless in her willingness to take on the establishment and to question the accepted gospel. This startlingly original, new theory of personality is a must read for evolutionary psychologists, biologists and anthropologists, and readable enough for everyone from parents of twins to armchair science detectives.

Health, Mind & Body / Self-help

Ultraprevention: The 6-Week Plan That Will Make You Healthy for Life, [ABRIDGED, 4 CDs, running time: approximately 4.5 hours] by Mark Hyman & Mark Liponis (Simon and Schuster Audio)

Healthcare is pulled and shaped by many forces, by drug and insurance companies looking for profits, by politicians in search of votes, and by stressed, overworked physicians who barely have time to talk to sick people before writing a prescription or packing them off to a specialist.

So is anyone interested in keeping people well?

Yes. Created by two physicians who both survived catastrophic illness, the program described in Ultraprevention will work for absolutely everyone – old, young, healthy, sick, or somewhere in between. The promise of its practice is huge – a health span that matches life span – and increased energy, weight loss, enhanced mood and memory, better digestion, deeper sleep, diminished stress, and more. Ultraprevention is the new science of staying healthy, an innovative program that shatters the myths of today's ‘fix-the-broken-parts’ medicine. These myths – drugs cure disease, genes determine a person’s fate, getting older means aging, fat is a four-letter word – are actually believed by many doctors and are keeping everyone sick. Ardent general practitioners, authors Mark Hyman and Mark Liponis reject the current healthcare system of specialists paid to find something wrong, specialists who don't consider how their ‘cure’ for one ailment affects the entire body. Working outside the managed care model at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, a practice affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston , Hyman and Liponis break free of the quick-fix prescription cycle and formulate a program that identifies and eliminates the cause of disease instead of just masking symptoms.

For example, they say that "If you have high blood pressure, doctors give you a high blood pressure pill, instead of trying to figure out why you might have high blood pressure in the first place." In lieu of such quick fixes, Hyman and Liponis suggest a plan of far-reaching life-style changes, among them installing a reverse osmosis water filter in the kitchen. Isolating the source of more than 90 percent of today's most common diseases, from cancer and heart disease to diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer's, Hyman and Liponis enumerate the Five Forces of Illness – Sludge (malnutrition), Burnout (impaired metabolism), Heat (inflammation), Waste (impaired detoxification), and Rust (oxidative stress).

Through the practice of the six-week Ultraprevention program, readers learn three simple steps that stop these forces and create a lifetime of good health. So, the book advises, stop falling for the myths that make that sick and start Ultraprevention, a plan to get older without aging, to maintain health for life.

Any program promising better health is only as good as the work you put into it, but Ultraprevention authors Mark Liponis and Mark Hyman, co-directors of medicine at Canyon Ranch, have designed their program so that not everyone must follow every little detail to the letter. Their six-week program is divided into three stages, but you can decide which suggestions will help speed you towards your goals. … While the terminology is potentially overwhelming to total novices in complimentary medicine, the book offers clear and excellent possibilities for those who are willing to look outside the box for improved health. – Jill Lightner, Amazon.com
Bets are on that pharmaceutical companies are not fans of doctors Mark Hyman and Mark Liponis, co-medical directors of Canyon Ranch, a practice affiliated with Harvard University . Their fact-packed book presents a convincing argument that most prescription and over-the-counter medications do nothing more than treat the symptoms of sickness, ignoring the root cause of illnesses like asthma, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease.…– Publishers Weekly
Two likable physicians weave every new and worthwhile idea about nutrition into a useful guide to healthy living. Even the trickiest language of today's metabolic lexicon is a breeze to understand in the hands of these two articulate authors, who also have fabulous speaking voices. … A well-done audio that should be a top listening priority for health pros and anyone interested in physical health. – T.W., AudioFile
A healthy lifestyle is the cornerstone of cardiovascular prevention. Hyman and Liponis provide a provocative, practical, accessible, and highly readable guide to this important subject and challenge aspects of the traditional medical model. – Peter Libby, M.D. Chief, Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School

It sounds too good to be true, and it probably is (i.e., our bodies are probably going to break down eventually no matter what the good doctors may say), but making some of the changes described in Ultraprevention is also a heck of a lot better than the alternative, which is getting sicker and more decrepit before our time. Our hats off to them for developing a program like this against the tide of the pharmaceutical companies and the medical establishment.

Health, Mind & Body / Self-help / Psychology & Counseling

The Passion Prescription: Ten Weeks to Your Best Sex – Ever! by Laura Berman (Hyperion) claims to be the definitive guide to a sexual makeover for women of all ages.

Is it exciting and satisfying? Is it passionate? Or is it just ‘good enough’? Well, good enough is not enough anymore!

Sex & the City and similar programs have made women more comfortable with discussing their sexual wants and needs, but many of them remain clueless as to what they can actually do to improve their sexual experiences. In The Passion Prescription, Laura Berman, leading sex therapist, offers women a step-by-step guide for making over their sex lives in 10 weeks. According to Berman, clinical assistant professor of OB/GYN and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University and founder and director of the Berman Center in Chicago , whether married or single, young or old, every woman can find the tools to create the sex life she wants and deserves.

Each chapter explores a different facet of women's sexuality, including tailored recommendations and ‘homework’. And since sex is always a couples issue, a Guy's Guide at the end of each chapter summarizes the key points that he needs to know. Berman also fills in the information gap about medical interventions for women's sex lives. She offers women up-to-the-minute medical guidance for optimizing their sexual health. Her approach includes quizzes for getting to the root of specific sexual challenges and resources for finding the care women need. This sexual makeover guide includes results from two groundbreaking new studies. One sheds light on the myths surrounding vibrators, letting all women in on the benefits that vibrators hold for their sex lives – including enhanced libido, better relationships, and even better quality of life. The second study introduces women to the little-discussed concept of genital self-image and how it affects their sexual satisfaction.

Included are:

  • The art of self-stimulation for novices and old pros alike.
  • How the medications readers may be taking can ruin their sex life – what to take and what to avoid.
  • Simple ways to minimize the guilt and insecurity that keep readers from enjoying sex.
  • How to overcome common roadblocks in an intimate relationship.
  • How partners can help readers get back on track sexually.
  • Tips for spicing up a stale sex life to invigorate a relationship.
  • Sexercise!: an easy exercise routine that improves one’s sex life.
  • Food choices for better sex and better taste (Berman provides some of her favorite recipes by Chef Jeremy Charles).
  • A helpful summary of Eastern techniques for improving readers’ sex life.

It's about time! Finally a book for women that answers all the questions our mothers were too embarrassed to talk about. A must read by every woman! – Suzanne Somers

Passion has been the key ingredient for my happiness. Everyone should read Dr. Berman's passionate book. – Pamela Anderson

The Passion Prescription gives women of all ages both the permission and the practical information needed to make fabulous sex a health-enhancing part of their daily lives. Great stuff! – Christiane Northrup , MD , author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom

Laura Berman's book offers something you can't find anywhere else: a program that anyone can use. Her advice is practical, easy-to-follow, and supported by her clinical experience. As someone who has followed her career for years, this is by far her best work. – Dr. Drew, host of Loveline

… the book's comprehensive mind-body approach has something to offer most partnered women (the constant references to male life partners make it most appropriate for heterosexual women in committed relationships). Though the book is generally sex-positive and health-promoting, some odd contradictions do appear, such as the surprising ‘prescription’ for waxing, shaving or dyeing one's hair ‘down under,’ despite the focus on positive body image and the health risks of these practices pointed out in the book. – Publishers Weekly

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Berman's The Passion Prescription helps women achieve a good sex life through an innovative, easy-to-follow plan. Berman, a sex educator and therapist for eighteen years, takes an approach that combines extensive medical research with a good dose of creativity and common sense and provides all the tools that women need into this practical, accessible guide.

History / Americas

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan (Houghton Mifflin Company)

The dust storms that terrorized America 's High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since, and the stories of the people that held on have never been fully told.

Once one of the greatest grasslands in the world, the High Plains of Colorado , Kansas , Nebraska , Oklahoma , Texas , and New Mexico went through a bonanza of over-farming in the 1920s. When the rains stopped and the wind picked up in the early 1930s, the stripped earth began to stir and blow to devastating effect, sending millions of tons of dust across much of the nation. In the High Plains, the power of these blinding black blizzards of dust was such that it was often impossible to ‘see your hand in front of your face,’ according to one survivor. At its peak, the Dust Bowl covered close to one hundred million acres, and more than a quarter of a million Americans were forced to flee their ruined homes.

In The Worst Hard Time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, going from sod homes to new framed houses to huddling in basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out. Egan follows their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black blizzards, crop failure, and the deaths of loved ones. The Worst Hard Time uses the individuals and families of those who stayed and survived across the region, weaving together the eyewitness accounts of survivors now in their eighties and nineties, who will soon carry their memories to the grave, including:

  • Ike Osteen, who survives the Dirty Thirties in a home made of dirt and plank boards, with his widowed mother and eight brothers and sisters.
  • Bam White and his family, Native Americans who live through the worst of the storms on the edge of town, in the shadows.
  • John McCarty, a businessman, known as the Dust Bowl Cheerleader, who founds the Last Man Club, an association of people who vow never to flee.
  • The Doc, a big-hearted, once wealthy man, who ends up a pauper after opening up a soup kitchen.
  • The Herzsteins, a pioneering Jewish family, who try to maintain the rituals of daily life even after they lose a beloved uncle to a gunslinger.
  • Hazel Lucas Shaw, who comes to the Plains as a teenage bride only to see her baby girl killed by the dust.

… In vivid fashion, Egan reports on the grit, the drifts, and the figures bent against the gusts. All the elements of the iconic dust bowl photographs come together in the author's evocative portrait of those who first prospered and then suffered during the 1930s drought. – Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
The Worst Hard Time is an epic story of blind hope and endurance almost beyond belief; it is also, as Tim Egan has told it, a riveting tale of bumptious charlatans, conmen, and tricksters, environmental arrogance and hubris, political chicanery, and a ruinous ignorance of nature's ways. Egan has reached across the generations and brought us the people who played out the drama in this devastated land, and uses their voices to tell the story as well as it could ever be told. – Marq de Villiers, author of Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource
As one who, as a young reporter, survived and reported on the great Dust Bowl disaster, I recommend this book as a dramatic, exciting, and accurate account of that incredible and deadly phenomenon. This is can’t-put-it-down history. – Walter Cronkite
The Worst Hard Time is wonderful: ribbed like surf, and battering us with a national epic that ranks second only to the Revolution and the Civil War. Egan knows this and convincingly claims recognition for his subject – as we as a country finally accomplished, first with Lewis and Clark, and then for 'the greatest generation,' many of whose members of course were also survivors of the hardships of the Great Depression. This is a banner, heartfelt but informative book, full of energy, research, and compassion. –Edward Hoagland, author of Compass Points: How I Lived
Here's a terrific true story – who could put it down? Egan humanizes Dust Bowl history by telling the vivid stories of the families who stayed behind. One loves the people and admires Egan's vigor and sympathy. – Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

The Worst Hard Time captures the drama, heroism, and terror of this unwritten chapter of the Greatest Generation. The book is a testament to the power of human perseverance in the face of the most wretched of conditions, as well as a reminder that the environmental catastrophe of the Dust Bowl may only be a preview of what is in store for us in our ever-warming future. As only great history can, Egan's book captures the very voice of the times: its grit, pathos, and abiding courage, a lasting and important work of American history.

History / Americas / Social Sciences / Geography

Western Places, American Myths: How We Think about the West edited by Gary Hausladen (Wilbur S. Shepperson Series in History and Humanities: University of Nevada Press )

Despite countless past attempts to describe and analyze it, the American West retains an enigmatic quality that continues to attract and intrigue us.

As Gary J. Hausladen, professor of geography at the University of Nevada, Reno, editor of Western Places, American Myths, states, "The power and importance of the American West, ambiguous or not, cannot be overstated. Not just a real geographical region, the West is a mythic concept that repeatedly transcends simple historical-geographical description. For Americans, the West is part of our psyche, an essential part of who we are as a people."

The essays in Western Places, American Myths are the work of a dozen scholars from several disciplines, all examining the West as both an actual region and as an enduring element of American culture, demonstrating how today's West is the result of a long and continuous process, a constant reinvention and redefining of place. Their essays address such topics as the role of the West in the development of the scholarly discipline of historical geography; the changing role of the ranch and the rancher in Western culture and economy; the role of the West in the development of the National Park System; and the impact of conflicting systems of land tenure and concepts of space on Western development – those of the Native Americans and those of the Anglo-European settlers.

The region's minorities are not unnoticed, as evidenced by ruminations on the role of Mormon theology and culture in shaping settlement patterns and the economy of the Intermountain states; the mainstreaming of Hispanic popular culture; the changing role of Native Americans in regional politics and development; and the impact of Western realities on traditional gender roles, as exemplified by the adventures of nineteenth-century British travel writer Isabella Bird. Nor is the mythic quality of the West left unexamined. There are essays on the evolution of gambling in the West, from frontier pastime to economic mainstay; on ghost towns as an element of the West's past and present image; and on the ways that Western films both reflect and shape the myth of the region; and a color photo essay illuminates the visual power of the West's mythic and perceived spiritual qualities.

Lucid prose, lively topics, and original thinking all take center stage in this evocative synthesis of the geography of the American West. – Susan W. Hardwick, author of Mythic Galveston: Re-Inventing America's Third Coast, and a geographer at the University of Oregon

Gary J. Hausladen and his posse of historical geographers valiantly ride out to seek the truth about reality and myth in the American West. They take their readers on a perilous journey through a landscape filled with fascinating social and environmental complexities, providing insightful, well-written commentary, splendid photographs, and a veritable mountain of scholarly references along the way. This book leads the way in the development of a new vision of that quintessential American region: the West of reality and of imagination. – Will Graf, author of Wilderness Preservation and the Sagebrush Rebellious and Plutonium and the Rio Grande, and past president of the Association of American Geographers

On its own, each essay in this collection makes a powerful contribution to our understanding of the modern West. As a collection, the essays offer a provocative and engaging commentary on the complexity, vitality, tensions, and ceaseless change that characterize this vast and myth-haunted region. For anyone who might think that there is nothing new that can be said about the West, Western Places, American Myths rewards readers with exciting new perspectives and insights, reminding us that the West still contains mythic places.

History / Americas / Social Sciences

A Stronger Kinship: One Town's Extraordinary Story of Hope and Faith by Anna-Lisa Cox (Little, Brown and Company) is the inspiring, true story of an extraordinary nineteenth-century town where blacks and whites lived as equals.

The differences between black folk and white folk are not blood or color; and the ties that bind us are deeper than those that separate us. The common road of hope which we all have traveled has brought us into a stronger kinship than any words, laws, or legal claims. – Richard Wright, 12 Million Black Voices

A hundred and fifty years ago in the heartland of the United States , amid a roiling sea of racism and hatred, a community decided that there could be a different America . In this place, schools and churches were completely integrated, blacks and whites intermarried, and power and wealth were shared by both races. In order for this to happen, the citizens of this place had to keep secrets, to break the laws of the world outside, to sweep aside fear and embrace hope.

Fittingly, the name of the town was Covert.

Now, in an astounding historical-detective feat, Anna-Lisa Cox in A Stronger Kinship uncovers the saga of this place that took the road untaken. Starting in the 1860s, and for decades later, the people of Covert, Michigan , attempted to do what then seemed impossible: love one's neighbor – regardless of skin color – as oneself. Drawing upon private diaries, overlooked documents, oral histories, and contemporary records, Cox gives us intimate glimpses of the people who lived there. Some of the blacks who made their way to Covert had been born into slavery; others had always been free in name if not in practice. Many of the whites who made their way to Covert from the East arrived as confirmed abolitionists, with affiliations in some cases to the Congregational Church. Farming or logging mills provided steady income for most residents, and the relatively low level of poverty aided racial concord. Readers hear about the individual lives of citizens, from William Conner, the Civil War veteran who went on to become Michigan's first black justice of the peace, to Elizabeth Gillard, who survived a shipwreck that left her and her family washed onto Covert's shores, only to find she loved the unusual community she came to call home.

Cox is the recipient of numerous awards for her research, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Younger Scholars Award, a Gilder Lehrman Fellowship, and a Pew Younger Scholars Fellowship. She received her MPh in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge and her PhD in American history from the University of Illinois . She is an active historian, writer, and lecturer on the history of race relations in the nineteenth-century Midwest. She is currently a scholar in residence at the Newberry Library.

Anna-Lisa Cox has excavated a jewel from our past. A Stronger Kinship is as refreshing as a cool breeze, and ever so revealing. This beautifully crafted story is a must-read for anyone who has ever tangled with race, America 's dilemma. It will give you hope. – Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here

A Stronger Kinship is proof of the wealth of new insight into American history to be found through attention to small towns and rural places, where settlers sought to realize beliefs and ideals that sometimes put them far in advance of society as a whole. These are precious narratives, instructive and heartening. – Marilynne Robinson, author of Gilead

Covert, Mich. , is home to 2,600 residents today – 1,200 Caucasians, 900 African-Americans and 500 Hispanics. That's an unusual mix for a rural Midwestern town, which, as Cox reveals, has an intriguing history. Focusing on the late 19th-century, Cox, a historian at Chicago's Newberry Library, recounts how Covert became racially integrated just after the Civil War and how its residents lived harmoniously thereafter, even as other American towns practiced segregation or ended up bedeviled by racial hatred…. Cox's optimism is infectious, and her recovery of Covert's nearly lost history admirable. – Publishers Weekly

A Stronger Kinship brings to light the inspir­ing stories of the extraordinary residents of Covert. A Stronger Kinship is the story of another America , a tale both of what was and what could have been, a testament that through great courage and good faith, people can stand against the story and create something new and fine, together.

History / Americas / African Americans

Slavery and the Making of America by James Oliver Horton & Lois E. Horton ( Oxford University Press)

The history of slavery is central to understanding the history of the United States .

From the first Africans brought to British colonies in the early seventeenth century to the end of Reconstruction, Slavery and the Making of America illuminates the human side of this inhumane institution, presenting the history largely through stories of the slaves themselves.
Slavery and the Making of America is a companion volume to the four part PBS Series of the same name, written by historians James Horton, Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies & Professor of History at George Washington University, and Historian Emeritus at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution; and Lois Horton, Professor of History at George Mason University. The authors draw on a wealth of primary sources to document the horrors of slavery, particularly in the deep South, and describe the slaves' struggles to free themselves from bondage. The book also features rare photographs from the Gilder-Lehrman collection of American History.

Readers will discover a wide ranging and sharply nuanced look at American slavery, from the first Africans brought to British colonies in the early seventeenth century to the end of Reconstruction.   There are dramatic tales of escape by slaves such as William and Ellen Craft and Dred Scott's doomed attempt to win his freedom through the Supreme Court. Readers will see how slavery engendered violence in the nation, from bloody confrontations that broke out in American cities over fugitive slaves, to the cataclysm of the Civil War. The book is also filled with stories of remarkable African Americans like Sergeant William H. Carney, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery at the crucial assault on Fort Wagner during the Civil War, and Benjamin ‘Pap’ Singleton, a former slave who led freed African Americans to a new life on the American frontier. Some of the other individuals covered include:

  • ‘Black Sam’ Fraunces, a West Indian mulatto who owned the Queen's Head Tavern in New York City , a key meeting place for revolutionaries in the 1760s and 1770s.
  • Moses Grandy, a slave who worked, saved, and purchased his own freedom, then moved to Boston , where he earned enough money to buy the freedom of his wife and son.
  • George Middleton, who commanded a regiment of blacks in the Revolutionary War.
  • John Roy Lynch, a former slave elected to the House of Representatives in 1872.

In this compact and lucid account … Africans and African-Americans appear not just as ‘passive laborers’ but as shapers of American culture, from colonial politics to Southern cuisine. The authors reveal the myriad experiences of free and enslaved blacks and devote particular attention to the lives of women, both white and black. … As the Hortons chronicle lives from freedom in Africa to slavery in America and beyond, they tell an integral American story, a tale not of juxtaposition but of edgy oneness. – Publishers Weekly
This outstanding resource humanizes the tragedy of slavery and shows its legacy as it continues to shape American culture today. … By bringing individuals to life, the inhumanity is made more real and vivid. … Much research has gone into this work, but the writing is accessible. Black-and-white photographs and period reproductions are liberally sprinkled throughout. Although they are a bit dark due to age, they make the text more interesting and lifelike. – Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA, School Library Journal
… consider this fact: In the 340 years after Columbus's voyage to the Americas, some 12 million people migrated from the old world to the new. Of those, about 2 million were Europeans, while the other 10 million were African slaves. No single datum speaks more bluntly to slavery's centrality in the history of the modern world. …Whether Americans are finally ready, 140 years after abolition, to take an unstinting look at slavery is an open question. As our current president has noted, we are a people disinclined to ‘look in the rearview mirror.’ But for those willing to risk it, this book offers an admirable place to begin. – James T. Campbell, The Washington Post's Book World
… This absorbing book reflects how the history of African Americans is tied into the warp and weave of American history. This companion volume to the PBS series on American slavery offers a comprehensive look at its broad and deep impact on American history. – Vanessa Bush, Booklist

Filled with absorbing and inspirational accounts highlighted by more than one hundred pictures and illustrations, Slavery and the Making of America is a gripping account of the struggles of African Americans against the iniquity of slavery, and it exposes slavery as the great contradiction of our nation, one that continues to influence race relations in contemporary society.

History / Biographies & Memoirs / Leaders & Notable People

Saddam's Secrets: How an Iraqi General Defied and Survived Saddam Hussein by Georges Sada, with Jim Nelson Black (Integrity Publishers)

He was not a man of the people or a friend of the Arab people. The fact is, Saddam Hussein killed more Arabs than anyone in the history of mankind.... – from the book

Here in his own words is the first Iraqi military insider to break his silence.

He was Saddam Hussein's top military advisor . . . and a truth-teller in a regime where truth was relative. He was also a devout Christian in an anti-Christian country. For the first time, in Saddam's Secrets General Georges Sada shares his amazing journey – and speaks of the military secrets he was asked to keep, secrets that only those closest to Saddam would know. In this exclusive book, the General paints a picture of Hussein, his regime, and his country, that is at once personal, compelling and sobering.

As much as Saddam's Secrets discloses secrets that only those closest to Saddam would know, the motivating force in General Sada's own life is no secret. He was a modern-day Daniel in a spiritually volatile land. And yet he rose to the top of his field and became one of Hussein's most trusted advisors – because Saddam knew Georges would always tell him the truth.

Sada graduated from Iraq 's Air Academy in 1959 and was trained by elite forces in Great Britain , Russia and the U.S. An ace fighter pilot who trained other pilots, he went on to become air vice marshal in Saddam Hussein's military. His acts of bravery, including saving the lives of forty downed coalition pilots in the Gulf War, have earned him hero status. Now retired, Sada is director of the Iraqi Institute for Peace and also serves as spokesman for the newly elected prime minister of Iraq . A recipient of the prestigious International Prize for Peace and Reconciliation presented by the bishop of Coventry , England , Sada is also the president of the National Presbyterian Church in Baghdad and chairman of the Assembly of Evangelical Presbyterian Churches-Iraq.

General Sada shares his journey, including the untold story about plots to destroy Israel , hide weapons of mass destruction and overtake the Arab world.

  • He shares what Iraqis really think of Americans, and if the war was justified.
  • He validates part of the intelligence the U.S. had that led to the war.
  • He shares his role in various wars, including the two Iraq-U.S. conflicts.
  • He details how 17 seconds saved his life during the U.S. 's attack on the military headquarters, and just how precise America 's guided missiles are.
  • He reveals secrets of the WMD program, how they were used, where they were stored, and how they were moved before the UN could find them.
  • He shares a conversation with Saddam in which the dictator discusses the record kept of the 17 times Sada had disagreed with him in public...something no one did even once and lived to tell about. In this conversation, Saddam startles Sada with his viewpoint of the general's service.

But as much as Saddam's Secrets discloses some of the secrets that only those closest to Saddam would know, General Sada's own life is a news story.

Regardless, Sada squarely places blame on Saddam for destroying Iraq , day by day and year by year, with his cruelty, corruption, and promotion of incompetent yes-men to positions of power. In fact, the book's greatest secret may be that there is hope for Iraq : in Sada's opinion, with Saddam finally gone, Iraq may actually have a chance to become a modern society, fulfilling its great historical legacy. – Religion BookLine.

Former Iraqi General Sada delivers a riveting inside account of Saddam Hussein's tyranny, including confirmation of the existence and hiding of weapons of mass destruction. … he strongly praises Operation Iraqi Freedom, pointing out that no other country would take the first step. … – Publishers Weekly
Discover the answers to many questions about Saddam – who he was, what he was like, and what he was doing to terrorize the world. – David Ebberly, Colonel, USAF (Retired)

In this eye-opening expose, General Sada shares his bizarre yet amazing journey as an insider to one of history's most sinister regimes. As an eyewitness to history, Sada paints a picture of Hussein and his country that is at once personal and alarming, truthful and compelling, candid and sobering. Saddam's Secrets has an unexpected religious angle, being slightly Christian‑centric, and strangely paranoid over Muslim population growth in the West. It is a story guaranteed to send shock waves around the world.

History / Military / United States

Bloody Tarawa: The 2d Marine Division, November 20-23, 1943 by Eric M. Hammel & John E. Lane (Zenith Press)

On the morning of Saturday, November 20, 1943 , the 2d Marine Division undertook the first modern amphibious assault against a well-defended beachhead. The objective was tiny Betio Island , Tarawa Atoll, and the going was supposed to be easy ‘a target already pounded into coral dust by a massive naval and air bombardment.’ But what the Marines discovered was an island garrison alive and well, the Japanese defenses intact and manned by foes who would rather die than surrender. Within minutes of the start of the head-on assault, the American battle plan was a shambles and scores of Marines had been killed or wounded. The assault virtually stopped at the water's edge, its momentum halted before many Marines had even dismounted from the amphibian tractors that had carried them to the deadly beach. Follow-on waves of Marines suffered grievous casualties when they were forced to wade more than five hundred yards through the fire-swept, knee-deep water because tidal conditions had been miscalculated by the invasion planners.

The battle that followed ‘three full days of terror during which more than 3,000 died to secure an island half the size of New York’s Central Park’ is fully told in words and pictures in this dramatic book.

Authors of Bloody Tarawa, Eric Hammel, author of 30 works of military history and John E. Lane , a 17-year-old Marine bugler at Tarawa , build on the updated text of their 76 Hours: The Invasion of Tarawa . Hammel and Lane use more than 250 photos and combat drawings from the U.S. Navy and Marine archives and private collections to reveal the graphic horror of warfare at its worst. Many of the photos used in Bloody Tarawa have never before been published.

Bloody Tarawa follows every terrifying step as the Marines, failed by the invasion’s planners, are forced to wade more than 500 yards through fire-swept, knee-deep water, reaching land only to face what many historians agree were the best, most concentrated defenses American troops encountered in the entire Pacific War.

Bloody Tarawa tells the immortal story of tragedy and near defeat turned around into an epic of victory and indomitable human spirit – the story of certainty shattered and courage recovered against overwhelming odds, of victory culled from near-defeat, and its terrible cost.

Literature & Fiction

Aftermath by Brian Shawver ( Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)

Brian Shawver, author of the highly praised first novel, The Cuban Prospect, returns with Aftermath, a deeply affecting novel about a blue-collar Pennsylvania town that is turned upside down by the tragic events that unfold outside a local restaurant on a piercingly cold night in January.

Aftermath is set in East Breed’s, a town with barely concealed prejudices and unspoken rules. One Friday night in the parking lot of a chain restaurant, class tension erupts in a brutal fight between the privileged boys from private prep school St. Brendan’s and a group of kids from the local high school. Casey Fielder, the restaurant’s wary manager, watches the melee, but hoping to avoid an incident on his watch, never calls the police and later is shocked to discover he will be punished for his inaction. When the fight ends, Colin Chase, a handsome, cocky student at St. Brendan’s, so insensitive that even his mother struggles to find in him any signs of compassion, is left severely brain-damaged.

Casey, ostracized by his unforgivable behavior, loses his job and dedicates himself to investigating the causes of the fight, hoping that his discoveries will provide some justification for his failure to act. His obsessive pursuit of the truth will test his relationship with his girlfriend, Rachel, who has a secret of her own.

For Lea, Colin’s mother, the incident ironically offers a way to reclaim the defiant, arrogant son she hardly knew and could barely love. Although she hopes that the guilty boy will be found and punished, Lea can’t escape the feeling that Colin somehow brought the horror upon himself. So she begins to uncover the evidence of her son's past life. As she combs through the ‘old Colin's’ possessions she discovers secrets she already suspected and secrets she never would have imagined. But she continues to dig, in hopes of finding some connection, some scrap of his past that will allow her to love the ‘new Colin’ unconditionally. As she looks for clues that will help her understand him, she discovers his apparent devotion to a young woman named Jenny, and she seizes on this relationship as the key that will finally allow her to love her son unconditionally.

[A] moving study of class division and its tension . . . Often heartbreaking and sometimes shocking, [Aftermath] is an intense, harrowing look at not only an ugly crime but also its agonizing consequences. – Library Journal (starred review)

Aftermath is a moving, absorbing novel. Brian Shawver is a wonderful, elegant writer, with a fine moral sense and an arresting, compassionate ability to understand people in crisis. – Patricia Duncker, author of Hallucinating Foucault

In a compelling and at times heartbreaking narrative, Brian Shawver portrays the lasting effects of one night. An assured, deeply gripping novel, Aftermath, brings readers intimately into the lives of small town America while illuminating the larger complexities of our time.

Literature & Fiction / Poetry

Buck Ramsey's Grass: With Essays on His Life and Work edited by Scott Braucher & Bette Ramsey, with a foreword by B. Bryon Price (Texas Tech University Press)

…After an abortive attempt at college, I punched cows horseback for wages along the Canadian. Later I moved to the Alibates Division of the Bivins Coldwater Cattle Company. For some years back there I rode among the princes of the earth full of health and hell and thinking punching cows was the one big show in the world. A horse tougher than me ended all that, and I have since been a stove-up cowpuncher trying to figure out how to write about the cowboy life.

Some consider this poem to be the peak so far in that effort. I took the stanza scheme from Pushkin and the plot from a short story I wrote called "A Beginning" and later rewritten as "The Wagon Incident." The poem is meant to be the beginning and a very small part of a story of cowboys on the plains. – Buck Ramsey, Amarillo , Texas , 1993, from the book

First published as And As I Rode Out on the Morning, Buck Ramsey’s epic poem of cowboy life is a classic. In this edition, entitled Buck Ramsey's Grass, the editors have restored the poem’s original title, Grass, and have gathered commentaries on Ramsey’s work from poets, musicians, historians, and others devoted to the cowboy way and movement. Completing the package are Ramsey’s original short story on which he based the poem and a CD of the original 1990 recording of Ramsey performing Grass in John Hartford’s home studio in Nashville , introduced by Andy Wilkinson. Buck Ramsey (1938–1998) affectionately claimed the cowboy poets as his tribe. They in turn call him the father of cowboy poetry. Anthem, the prologue to Grass, is often praised as the finest single piece of literature to arise from the cowboy renaissance. The editors of Buck Ramsey's Grass are Scott Braucher, photojournalist and newspaper photo and copy editor and Bette Ramsey, retired school counselor and wife of Buck Ramsey for over thirty-five years.

…I think Buck's gift to cowboy poetry was his honesty and his heart. Cowboy poetry gatherings gave him a place to make lasting friends, connect to the old ways, pass on things of intrinsic worth, and give his gifts. He truly believed that's what they were about – giving your gifts and passing on things of intrinsic worth, not seeking fame or fortune. – Bette Ramsey, Amarillo , Texas , 2005, from the afterword

[Ramsey is] one of the most revered figures in cowboy subculture. – Texas Monthly

The story of Billy Deaver’s entry into manhood and the world is a tale that was lived in the flesh by hundreds of young cowboys in the days of the big ranches and long cattle drives. It is a Texas story, a Western story, an American story. This book serves as tribute to a man who is sorely missed, but whose spirit lives gloriously in his work. – Bryan Woolley

A literary genius, Buck is and always will be my hero. – Red Steagall

This edition, Buck Ramsey's Grass, is essential reading for anyone interested in cowboy poetry or the cowboy way of life. The essays are insightful additions.

Literature & Fiction / World Literature / Canadian

Margaret Laurence's Epic Imagination by Paul Comeau (The University of Alberta Press)

Anyone who writes in the English Language is in some way an inheritor of Shakespeare and Milton....Our task is not to reject the past but to assimilate it, to take the language and make it truly our own familiar idiom and out of our deepest observations of our people and our place of belonging on this planet. – Margaret Laurence from Ivory Tower

For Margaret Laurence; the epic aspect of her fiction concerns the fundamental human condition. The epic heroism found in Margaret Laurence’s work is not the grandeur of larger-than-life sagas but a heroism that is simply life itself – the ongoing struggle of character, striving in victory and defeat.

Since her death in 1987, Laurence has remained a commanding force in Canadian literature. The Stone Angel and The Diviners rank most highly among her works for their portrayal of heroic female characters struggling to find a sense of place, and identity, in an often hostile world. In Margaret Laurence's Epic Imagination, Paul Comeau argues that such heroism springs from Laurence's abiding perception of the epic dimension in everyday life.

In Margaret Laurence's Epic Imagination, author Comeau comprehensively explains how Laurence instinctively turned to the Bible, Shakespeare, Dante, and Milton for models of the epic mode, which she employed in her own fiction. Comeau traces the development of Laurence's voice from its tentative beginnings in her African fiction to its culmination in the Manawaka Cycle. He explains how Laurence used the epic mode to create archetypal narratives of loss, exile, and redemption. Laurence deeply absorbed the epic structure and recast it, populated with the characters of Hagar Shipley, Rachel Cameron, Stacey MacAindra, and Morag Gunn. According to Comeau, it was Laurence's powerful ability to illustrate the epic dimension in her characters that has ensured her a lasting place among great Canadian writers.

Following relatively closely the chronology of Laurence's canon, Comeau divides this study into two parts. Part One, "Epic Beginnings," traces the development of Laurence's epic voice in her African writings. He does not suggest that the African works are epic in themselves, but only that they display epic features, those "fugitive admixtures, tinges of generic color" that typify modes. More specifically, her African works chronicle Laurence's passionate response to the quasi-biblical Somali people and their poetry, paying tribute to the former in the Prophet's Camel Bell and to the latter in A Tree for Poverty. In the oral tradition and in the encyclopedic content and depth of the long narrative gabei, she discovered an analogue to the epic structures that had already taken hold in her creative consciousness. What she found as well, and this as much in the legends about the gabei poets like Elmii Bonderii and Mohammed Abdullah Hasan as in the poems themselves, was the unique splendor and verisimilitude that can result from the fusion of myth and reality, the very synthesis that helps sustain the epic mode in both her African stories and Manawaka books. Similarly, stories like "The Drummer of All the World," "The Merchant of Heaven," and "Godman's Master" reveal her proclivity for employing the epic mode to interpret the human struggle for self-actualization and redemption in an often hostile world.

In accordance with her Presbyterian upbringing, Laurence’s character and themes take shape chiefly within biblical epic image patterns, though not exclusively so; and always the human elements transcend the reli­gious in their elaboration. This is especially true in her inaugural novel, This Side Jordan, where the biblical story of Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land adumbrates the Ghanaian people's movement toward independence. But in the novel the quest for freedom is as much an individual proposition for Nathaniel Amegbe as it is the national aspiration of Ghana . Clearly, the private emotional and spiritual connotations predominate; national independence does not auto­matically result in personal liberation, as Mammii Ama abruptly realizes in "A Gourdful of Glory." In a very real sense, then, the transition that Laurence witnessed in Ghanaian society provided her with a metaphor for expressing a more intrinsic concern for personal freedom in all its manifestations. More importantly, Ghana 's transition offered a suitable mythic backdrop against which Laurence could hone her technical skills in preparation for the epic quest that was to follow.

Laurence's quest constitutes a spiritual journey no less inspired than that undertaken by Dante in his Commedia, as has been observed. Like Dante, Laurence takes the reader on an imaginary odyssey, through an infernal state of self-destructive pride, out of a purgatorial condition of self-doubt, and on to a kind of paradisal fulfillment in self-knowledge. This, according to Comeau, is the underlying pattern of the Manawaka Cycle and hence constitutes the subject of Part Two of this study, "The Comedy of the Soul." His title here derives from the medieval source for Dante's poem, the traditional Commedia dell' Anima, and emphasizes the highly individualistic nature of the journey, together with its prototypical three-part structure, without implying any special indebtedness on Laurence's part to Dante's social, political, or religious belief systems. For, while he does not suggest that Laurence consciously reverted to Dante's Commedia as a model, he does believe that her imagination sought expression in the same classical and biblical archetypes and epic structures that inspired the Italian poet; and some of the resulting textual parallels, intentional or otherwise, seem to me remarkable.

Comeau therefore interprets the Manawaka novels as a "Comedy of the Soul," elaborating on The Stone Angel as a vision of hell, A Jest of God and The Fire-Dwellers together as a perspective on purgatory, and The Diviners as an attempt to mitigate the burden of paradise lost, thus forging whatever redemption may be possible in a postmodern world. He treats the Vanessa MacLeod stories in A Bird in the House in their right chronology, not because they complete the pattern in any concrete way, but rather because they offer valuable insight into the working of Laurence’s epic imagination and might even be said to have made the writing of the Diviners possible.

The final chapter on Margaret Laurence's Epic Imagination, "Epic Epilogue," attempts briefly to give summary perspective to Laurence's epic achievement in the broader contexts of both her writing career and her contribution to Canadian literature. Divining, like Morag Gunn, that her last Manawaka book would constitute the psychic and spiritual culmination of the cycle, that the gift would be withdrawn and the magic given to an inheritor, Laurence sensed she would be unable to write another novel and eschewed producing a ‘mock up’ one. By her own authority, she had written herself out of the labyrinth by parodying, deconstructing, renaming, and thereby redeeming the old myths, and herself in the process, and she could do no more. Conventional wisdom tells us, after all, that an epic is the definitive and culminating work of a lifetime.

And insofar as it is possible for one writer or person to bring salvation to another, Laurence cast a long shadow over the members of her ‘tribe’ and her reading public, Comeau included – the author confesses to being drawn to Laurence's fiction by her great and abiding gift of sympathy, exemplified nowhere more poignantly than in her treatment of native themes that speak to his own distant Metis heritage. What therefore began as an academic study of a writer whose social, political, and spiritual sensibili­ties roughly paralleled his own launching upon an odyssey of personal discovery. Laurence's creation of Canadian epic served to locate Comeau’s frag­mented awareness of personal ancestry within a more comprehensive framework of cultural achievement and identity.

To define Laurence's shadow, then, is the underlying purpose of Margaret Laurence's Epic Imagination. Not by any means an easy task for, as Robert J. Kroetsch has intimated, the shape of Laurence's shadow is a vivid enactment of the contradictory joy and terror of writing, that pliant and vanishing process that defies the scalpel of any pathologist critic, but that might begin at the hand. With Kroetsch's cautionary and chastening words in mind, he embarks on this epic journey of understanding, which must necessarily begin at the hand.

Psychology / Gender Studies / Cultural Studies

Managing the Monstrous Feminine: Regulating the Reproductive Body by Jane M. Ussher (Women and Psychology Series: Routledge)

Managing the Monstrous Feminine takes a unique approach to the study of the material and discursive practices associated with the construction and regulation of the female body.

Jane Ussher, Professor of Women's Health Psychology, and director of the Gender Culture and Health Research Unit: PsyHealth at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, examines the ways in which medicine, science, the law and culture combine to produce fictions about femininity, locating the female body as the source of women's power, danger and weakness. Managing the Monstrous Feminine is about the experience of the fecund female body, the performance of gender in relation to this body, and the positioning of transgression from idealized femininity as embodied pathology, which acts to maintain fears of the monstrous feminine within. Including sections on ‘Regulation’, ‘The subjectification of women’ and ‘Women's negotiation and resistance’, Managing the Monstrous Feminine describes the construction of the ‘monstrous feminine’ that we see depicted in art, literature and film, revealing the implications on theory, research and practice. In the book, critical reviews are combined with case studies and extensive interview material to illuminate discussions of subjects including:

  • The regulation of women through sexual violence and abuse.
  • Regimes of knowledge associated with reproduction.
  • Intersubjectivity and the body.
  • Women's narratives of resistance.

In the introduction to the book, Ussher describes her experience of gender growing up. Her mother suffered from disabling depression for many years, which was blamed on her body, on ‘post-natal depression’, and thus treated with a gamut of punitive psychiatric interventions: drugs whose side effects were worse than her ‘symptoms’, electro-convulsive therapy which left her shaking in terror, and threats of incarceration under the Mental Health Act if she refused to be ‘good’ – refused to join the group psychotherapy which she found distressing and humiliating. In explaining her unhappiness, none of the experts looked to her relationships, to her childhood difficulties, or to the constricted nature of her existence – a normal life for an Irish woman living in England at that time, but a life that could provoke despair that was deemed pathology, nonetheless.

The pathology was positioned within her: either she was the one who had failed to be what a good wife and mother should be, or, her body had failed – raging hormones following the birth of her youngest daughter deemed the cause of her depression. Like many women, she chose the embodied explanation: it was better than blaming herself. It wasn’t much of a choice, and at least it offered the promise of a panacea, the medical treatments which promised to modify her fecund flesh. None worked, which isn't surprising. It wasn't her body that was to blame. Only when she left the confinement of the disempowering marriage did she find peace (and, ironically, a positive relationship with my father, once he no longer had the power to dictate the rules of her existence). But at the age of 13, when Ussher reached menarche, and her mother's distress was at its worst, Ussher didn't know that this would be the outcome – she bought the bodily explanation too.

Ussher describes how her first period brought the threat that madness would also be her fate, being told, as many menarchal girls are, 'now you’re a woman'. Who would be ‘woman’ with her mother's life as role model? She was resolute that her body would not drag her into despair, would not mark her as different or deficient.

Ussher says that it is not a coincidence that she has spent many years speaking and writing about the very subject she was so determined has no effect – fecund corporeality. She says she may prefer to position her writing on gender as a desire to break silence on the subject of which women are expected not to speak – the seeping, leaking, bleeding body. But it is also the effect of being troubled by theories which deny the materiality of the body, which leave her own experiences of embodied change unexplained; as well as discomfort with the wholesale rejection of professional intervention implicit in many feminist and post-modern critiques – where does this leave a woman who experiences distress, which she locates in the fecund body, a woman who comes forward for professional help? Offering only a theoretical deconstruction of her problem, as she once thought we could, is nothing short of insulting.

As Ussher approaches midlife, she says, the spectre of corporeality has come back to haunt her, bringing a confrontation with mortality and the materiality of the flesh that cannot be denied. As she reflects on the means by which she has managed to weather the storms of life, and achieve an equanimity that was unimaginable to her younger self, she cannot deny the role that professional support and insight has played in this process.

Managing the Monstrous Feminine is an attempt to unravel these issues, not using her own life as a case example – she starts with her own experiences in order to avoid positioning herself as immune from the regimes of truth and disciplinary practices which regulate the reproductive bodies of women. In the book she draws on interviews with women in the UK, Australia and North America, conducted both by herself and by other researchers, with the aim of understanding the complex and sometimes seemingly contradictory ways in which contemporary Western women simultaneously accept and resist the discourses and practices associated with the fecund body, the ways in which this negotiation impacts upon their embodied subjectivity, and its relation to their taking up the subject position ‘woman’.

This is a terrifically readable account of the wrongs done women by rendering the ‘fecund female body’ a site of meaningless, monstrous abjection. Together with ways of combating this with examples from Jane Ussher's own personal life, as well as with examples from the visual arts, and from group and individual women's re-telling of their experiences, Managing the Monstrous Feminine does much to render speakable the unspeakable, specifically regarding ‘PMS’. – Janet Sayers, Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychology, University or Kent at Canterbury

The book is thought provoking and represents an exciting advance in Jane Ussher's scholarship over the past twenty years, initially expressed through her original and challenging accounts of the psychology of the female body and women's madness. Overall there is an upbeat message for women and a rallying cry and inspiration to challenge the ‘patriarchal gaze’ and its impact on our mental and physical well-being. – Paula Nicolson, Professor and Head of the Department of Health and Social Care, Royal Holloway University of London

These insights into the relation between the construction of the female body and women's subjectivity will be of interest to those studying social psychology, gender studies and cultural studies. Managing the Monstrous Feminine will also appeal to all those looking for a high-level introduction to contemporary feminist thought on the female body.

This series, Women and Psychology, edited by Ussher, brings together current theory and research on women and psychology. Drawing on scholarship from a number of different areas of psychology, it bridges the gap between abstract research and the reality of women's lives by integrating theory and practice, research and policy. Each book addresses a ‘cutting edge’ issue of research, covering such topics as post-natal depression, eating disorders, theories and methodologies. The series provides accessible and concise accounts of key issues in the study of women and psychology, and demonstrates the centrality of psychology to debates within women's studies or feminism.

Reference / Education / Almanacs

The Almanac of American Education 2006 (Almanac of American Education) edited by Deirdre A. Gaquin & Katherine A. Debrandt (U.S. DataBook Series: Bernan Press)

“Education is always a vital topic for public debate and discussion,” says Tamera Wells‑Lee, Director of Publishing for the publisher. "The Almanac of American Education 2006 helps answer pressing questions about education trends in the United States .”

The Almanac of American Education 2006 gives readers the latest facts, figures, and obser­vations of the state of education in America and includes:

  • A valuable guide to educational resources on the Internet.
  • Helpful explanatory text.
  • A comprehensive collection of educational attainment and school enroll­ment data in an easy-to-use print format.

With editors Deirdre A. Gaquin, data use consultant to private organizations, government agencies, and univer­sities for over 20 years, and former Director of Data Access Services at Data Use & Access Laboratories; and Katherine A. DeBrandt, data analyst and writer with Bernan Press, The Almanac of American Education 2006 contains historical and current data, and examines American education from a variety of angles. It presents national coverage of school enrollment and educational attainment. Attainment levels are presented by race, occupation, and industry, and cover both high school and college attainment. Other figures provide information on the percentage of high school and college graduates in the population, along with enrollment status by age and level of school, dropout rates, and number of college attendees.

This information-packed volume is divided into three sections. Part A: School Enrollment covers enrollment rates and background or family characteristics, secondary and post-secondary education, historical enrollment characteristics, educational attainment, employment, and income. Part B: Region and State Education Statistics provides population, school, and student characteristics by region and state, and Part C: County Education Statistics provides population, school, and student characteristics by county. Each part includes a Notes and Definitions section that thoroughly explains the data.

This edition also includes a "Guide to Government Resources on the Internet," offering site descriptions and evaluations along with URI s and directing users precisely where to go for more information and details on education topics.

State-level statistics provide average SAT and ACT scores; per-student expenditures; private and public school enrollment; student poverty; public school teacher salaries; teacher characteristics: and regional comparative data. County-level statistics include information on student/teacher ratios; free lunch eligibility; numbers of students and graduates; attainment levels; per-student expenditures; and dropout rates.

The Almanac of American Education 2006 is part of the U.S. DataBook Series, a set of subject-specific volumes that provide the most authoritative statistical data in a convenient and affordable printed format.

This new edition of The Almanac of American Education serves as a guide to address high priority education needs by comparing the quality of education at the national, state, regional, and county levels. Compiled from reliable sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau; the National Center for Education Statistics; the National Education Association; ACT; and the College Board, The Almanac of American Education 2006 contains historical and current data, analysis, and graphs that allow readers to make decisions quickly and authoritatively and answer important education questions, including:

  • What are the nationwide trends in earnings by education attainment level?
  • Is the gap in earnings between high school graduates and college gradu­ates growing or shrinking?
  • Which states have the highest dropout rates, and which have the highest completion rates?
  • Is there any correlation between a state's average test scores and its rate of college attainment?
  • Which states have the largest county-to-county variance in student/teacher ratios?
  • Is there any correlation between student poverty and county-level, per-student expenditures?

The Almanac of American Education was selected as one of CHOICE Magazine’s "Outstanding Academic Titles" in 2004. These titles are chosen for their excellence in scholarship and presentation, the significance of their contribution to the field, and their value as important and often first, treatments of their subjects.

Continuing its recognized tradition of excellence, The Almanac of American Education 2006 provides updated tables, useful graphs, and analyses that offer new insights into the current state of education in the United States . This reference volume covers changing trends in American education with its comprehensive data and analysis making it easy to compare the quality of education across different states and counties.

Religion & Spirituality / Christianity

Christian Origins: A People's History of Christianity, Volume 1 edited by Richard A. Horsley (A People’s History of Christianity Series: Fortress Press)

Who were the first Christians? How did they live and worship?

Dealing with a time when ‘Christians’ were moving towards separation from the movement's Jewish origins, Christian Origins: A People's History of Christianity, Volume 1 is the inaugural volume of  the new series A People's History of Christianity. The book tells ‘the people's story’ by gathering together evidence from the New Testament texts, archaeology, and other contemporary sources. Of particular interest to the distinguished group of scholar-contributors are the often overlooked aspects of the earliest ‘Christian’ consciousness: How, for example, did they manage to negotiate allegiances to two social groups? How did they deal with crucial issues of wealth and poverty? What about the participation of slaves and women in these communities? How did living in the shadow of the Roman Empire color their religious experience and economic values? After an introduction Unearthing a People’s History, there are three sections: Part 1. Early Jesus Movements, Part 2. Cities and Texts, and Part 3. Social Patterns and Practices.

The volume is edited by Richard A. Horsley, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and the Study of Religion at the University of Massachusetts , Boston , and author influential in the field.

With Horsley, contributors to Christian Origins: A People's History of Christianity, Volume 1 include: Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley, Allen Dwight Callahan, Warren Carter, Neil Elliott, Steven J. Friesen,William R. Herzog II, Clarice J. Martin, Carolyn Osiek, Raymond Pickett, Barbara R. Rossing, Antoinette Clark Wire.

General Editor for the series, A People’s History of Christianity, is Denis R. Janz is Provost Distinguished Professor of the History of Christianity at Loyola University , New Orleans . Other volumes planned for the series include:

2. Late Ancient Christianity, Virginia Burrus, editor

3. Byzantine Christianity, Derek Krueger, editor

4. Medieval Christianity, Daniel E. Bornstein, editor

5. Modern Christianity to 1900, Amanda Porterfield, editor

6. Twentieth-Century Global Christianity, Mary Farrell Bednarowski, editor

Hidden for centuries by their anonymity and illiteracy, the people of God – the body of Christ, the church – are finally having their story told, and by some of today's finest historians of the church. The saints, bishops, and theologians of traditional histories can now be placed against the panoramic and fascinating backdrop of the lived religion of ordinary men and women of faith. Highly recommended. – Mark U. Edwards, Jr., Harvard Divinity School

… this series of books, issuing from editors in whom I have great confidence and many of whose writers I know and respect, ‘turns history upside down’ and reveals what times and events were like for Christians – and sometimes their rivals and enemies – on the ground. Professional historians long neglected this ‘up close’ approach, evidently thinking that the basic folk did not merit attention. Add to that another reason for the failure to take them into account: it is harder to get at the stories and records of their lives. Now, thanks to a generation of historians with interests in ordinary (but really extraordinary) Christians in ages past, these people can be observed as seldom before. While they did not leave documents in the forms of formal creeds, confessions, or concordats, and while their names did not mean as much to cleric-chroniclers of old as did those of bishops, abbots, and emperors, we now have techniques to unearth scraps, snippets, letters, diaries, transactions, which, taken together and treated in expert hands, let us find how exciting their lives are, how misguided decisions were to talk about the elite few and neglect the faithful and faithless many. These stories may come up from the basement of church history, but news about their existence deserves to be shouted from the housetops. – Martin E. Marty, University of Chicago Divinity School

The stories of the people in Christian Origins: A People's History of Christianity, Volume 1 make fascinating reading for the general public and represent a virtual revolution, a major shift in the thinking of historians.

Religion & Spirituality / New Age

Whispers from the Woods by Sandra Kynes (Llewellyn Publications)

When the natural world speaks... listen.

Trees are a gateway into the world of spirit. A walk in the woods makes it easy to understand the awe and reverence our ancestors had for trees. According to Sandra Kynes, when readers become reacquainted with the natural world, they gain access to different levels of energy and awareness that, in turn, can bring deeper meaning and spiritual satisfaction to life. In Whispers from the Woods Sandra Kynes, artist and teacher, an explorer of Celtic history, myth and magic, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, covers more than just Celtic Ogham and tree calendars. The book includes meditation, shamanic journeys, feng shui, spellcraft, and ritual. In addition, it has a reference section with detailed information on fifty trees, which includes seasonal information, lore, powers, attributes, and more.

Kynes explains in the introduction to Whispers from the Woods how modern pagans have continually sought ways to honor the natural world and live more closely with the rhythms and spirit of the land. Many find that drawing close to nature allows them to access different levels of energy and awareness.

Millions of years ago, trees evolved into giants of the planet, and became the most successful form of plant life in the competition for sunlight and other resources. Small creatures sought protection from predators in the trees, and finding a convenient bounty of food aloft, they stayed and made their homes among the branches. Some of these animals, classified as prosimians, developed their distinctive characteristics, such as both eyes in the front of the head, and evolved into the simians that eventually came down from the trees. With these prosimians in mind, it could be said that if it were not for the trees we would not be here. Biologically speaking, we could not remain on earth if it weren't for the trees, as they are largely responsible for creating and maintain­ing Earth's atmosphere. Yet, according to the church fathers, nature represented chaos and the wild, Pagan, female side of things that were classified as evil and beneath the dignity of ‘man.’ In their minds, nature had to be subdued and controlled. As technologies advanced, a false sense of power expanded, and the momentum that moved us farther from the natural world increased.

According to Kynes, Pagan and non-Pagan people are rediscovering the majesty of trees and are appreciating with wonder these magnificent giants. In the woods, one cannot help but feel part of the natural world. With that feeling comes the self-realization of returning to Source, to the Divine. Trees provide a gateway into a wider world of spirit and magic. Whispers from the Woods is intended to help readers explore their place in the ‘web of life’ and its mysteries.

By exploring a variety of tree mysteries and traditions, Whispers from the Woods offers ways for readers to begin to live in harmony with the earth's rhythm. The second half of the book, set up in an easy-to-use field guide format, offers a wealth of information on fifty trees.

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip (Ace)

No stranger to the realms of myth and magic, World Fantasy Award-winning author Patricia A. McKillip presents her first contemporary fantasy in years. Solstice Wood is a tale of the tangled lives we mere mortals lead, when we turn our eyes from the beauty and mystery that lie outside of the everyday.

In Solstice Wood Sylvia Lynn, a bookstore owner in San Francisco , has gone about as far away as possible from her childhood home. When her beloved grandfather dies, Sylvia knows she must finally return to her childhood home in upstate New York and face the grandmother who raised her and the woods which so beguiled – and frightened – her. Though Lynn Hall is nearly ramshackle, Sylvia’s grandmother is just as spry as ever. There is no escaping her scrutiny – and Sylvia has something to hide.

But it's not until she meets the Fiber Guild – a group of local women who meet to knit, embroider, and sew – that Sylvia learns why her grandmother watches her so. A primitive power exists in the forest, a force the Fiber Guild seeks to bind in its stitches and weavings. And Sylvia is no stranger to the woods.

A haunting and mysterious story of family, love, and magic, Solstice Wood is sure to bewitch fans of Patricia McKillip's elegantly lyrical prose and attention to nuance. – Locus Magazine

World Fantasy Award-inner McKillip revisits the setting of her masterful novel Winter Rose (1996) in this compelling contemporary fantasy. …But the hall's protective magic has weakened, leaving Sylvia – both mortal and faery herself – vulnerable as ‘the bridge across the boundaries’ between the two worlds. Can generations of mistrust and long-hoarded secrets yield to a truce, let alone a new understanding and even trust between faery and human? Though McKillip has traded her usual lyrical style for a sparser approach, she doesn't stint on characterization, mood or mystery in this multilayered tale. – Publishers Weekly

A masterful storyteller of myth and fairytale, McKillip makes a foray into the modern world with Solstice Wood, a bewitching fantasy novel with a contemporary setting.

Social Sciences / Politics / Leaders & Notable People

Proverbs Are the Best Policy: Folk Wisdom and American Politics by Wolfgang Mieder ( Utah State University Press)

Author Wolfgang Mieder, widely considered the world’s greatest proverb scholar, here considers the role of proverbial speech on the American political stage from the Revolutionary War to the present. Mieder, author of many books, editor in chief of A Dictionary of American Proverbs; and founding editor of Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship, begins Proverbs Are the Best Policy: Folk Wisdom and American Politics by discussing the origins and characteristics American proverbs and their spread across the globe hand in hand with America ’s international political role. He then looks at the history of the defining proverb of American democracy, ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’ Subsequent essays consider such matters as Abigail Adams’s masterful use of politically charged proverbs; the conversion of the biblical proverb ‘a house divided against itself cannot stand’ into a political expression; Frederick Douglass’s proverbial prowess in the battle against racial injustice; how United States presidents have employed proverbial speech in their inaugural addresses; and the proverbial language in the World War II correspondence between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, which sharpened their communication and helped forge bonds of cooperation. Mieder concludes with an insightful, relevant examination of the significance of the ambiguous proverb ‘good fences make good neighbors.’

While Mieder’s earlier book contained chapters on Adolf Hitler's, Winston S. Churchill's, and Harry S. Truman's authoritative and effective manipulation of proverbs, the proverbial discourse of the Cold War, and the origin, history, and meaning of the two proverbial slurs ‘The only good Indian is a dead Indian’ and ‘No tickee, no washee,’ the present volume, containing eight additional studies, is focused on the American political scene ranging from early revolutionary times to the present day. It thus represents a survey of the obvious predominance of proverbs in American political discourse.

The first chapter on ‘Different Strokes for Different Folks’: American Proverbs as an International, National, and Global Phenomenon serves as an introductory analysis of what characterizes American proverbs. The second chapter on ‘Government of the People, by the People, for the People’: The Making and Meaning of an American Proverb about Democracy investigates when this triadic statement originated and how it became an American proverb defining the entire concept of democracy in a most succinct manner. The third chapter on ‘God Helps Them Who Help Themselves’: Proverbial Resolve in the Letters of Abigail Adams looks at how this remarkable woman influenced her husband John Adams, her family, and numerous politicians of the day with her epistolary missives rich in proverbial wisdom.

In the fourth chapter on ‘A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand’: From Biblical Proverb to Abraham Lincoln and Beyond Mieder looks at the role that the divided house proverb (see Mark 3:25) has played in American politics, starting with Thomas Paine's remarkable essay on Common Sense Addressed to the Inhabitants of America (1776).

Frederick Douglass, former slave and abolitionist spokesman, shared the proverbial prowess of his friend Abraham Lincoln, as Mieder demonstrates in the fifth chapter on ‘Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You’: Frederick Douglass's Proverbial Struggle for Civil Rights. He employs proverbs as collective wisdom and social strategies to bring across his important social and moral messages that included the struggle for his own race after the Civil War and the expansion of women's rights.

Such American presidents as John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Harry S. Truman were masterful ‘proverbialists,’ but this could certainly be shown to be true for a number of additional presidents. In order to get at least an idea of how proverbial some of our other leaders have been, Mieder looked at a certain speech that every president delivers in his sixth chapter on ‘It's Not a President's Business to Catch Flies’: Proverbial Rhetoric in Presidential Inaugural Addresses. He carefully investigated all fifty-five ceremonial speeches by American presidents, dividing his findings into seven convenient sections from George Washington to John Quincy Adams, from Andrew Jackson to James Buchanan, from Abraham Lincoln to William McKinley, from Theodore Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Dwight D. Eisenhower, from John F. Kennedy to Jimmy Carter, and from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush.

Both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston S. Churchill were magnificent public speakers and masters of the English language, frequently relying on proverbs and proverbial expressions to add metaphorical expressiveness to their statements. The seventh chapter on ‘We Are All in the Same Boat Now’: Proverbial Discourse in the Churchill-Roosevelt Correspondence demonstrates this by way of a detailed analysis of the 1161 and 788 messages sent by Churchill and Roosevelt respectively to each other during the turbulent war years between 1939 and 1945. As both world leaders rallied their people through word and deed to fight as allies against the dictatorial powers during the Second World War, they relied heavily on proverbial language for effective communication.

Finally, the eighth chapter on ‘Good Fences Make Good Neighbors’: The Sociopolitical Significance of an Ambiguous Proverb looks once again at the origin, history, dissemination, function, and meaning of an American proverb by interpreting a large number of contextualized examples from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present day. This chapter becomes a survey in culture, folklore, history, language, psychology, and worldview, showing that the proverb ‘Good fences make good neighbors’ is by no means a ‘simple’ piece of folk wisdom. The proverb certainly takes on a very ambiguous role as it is applied to the political ramifications of building walls at the borders between Mexico and the United States or between Israel and the Palestinians. This chapter is thus a unique example of the many layers of meaning that one and the same proverb can take on in different contexts.

Proverbs permeate our sociopolitical life everywhere and at all times, and they are significant signs of the wisdom and worldview of an entire nation trying to uphold the inalienable rights of life, liberty, ant the pursuit of happiness for all its citizens, and, with the help of the United Nations, for all humankind.

Mieder has brought particular understanding to the uses of proverbs in politics, and Proverbs Are the Best Policy: Folk Wisdom and American Politics makes a further contribution to a better understanding of how proverbs as strategically used folk wisdom continue to be important communicative devices that deserve close scrutiny.

Social Science / Political Science / Government

Providential Democracy: An Essay on Contemporary Equality by Dominique Schnapper, translated by John Taylor (Transaction Publishers)

Democracy posits the universality of the equality principle: a community of citizens is governed by the principle of the formal equality of all individuals, whatever their real social, cultural, or other inequalities. Democratization, on the other hand, is motivated by the ambition of ensuring the real equality of citizens, and not simply their formal equality. The dynamics of democracy are thus insured by the development of a welfare state that increasingly intervenes in order to satisfy the social and economic needs of individuals. Especially focused on France , yet informed by the experiences of other European countries, Providential Democracy examines the dilemmas of the search for equality in society and politics.

Democratization guarantees the rights of salaried workers and employees, the rights to material survival and housing, as well as health care, education, and culture. Today, however, as author Dominique Schnapper observes, its action has become paradoxical. As the fruit of a praiseworthy concern to ensure the universality of rights, what Schnapper identifies as a ‘Providence State’ now aims, by means of positive discrimination and other specific promotion policies, to defend the particular rights of certain categories of individuals. According to Schapper, professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, member of the French Constitutional Council and author of 17 books, the action of the Providence State thus nourishes an aspiration: that the identities of historical collectivities gathered within the same national society be publicly recognized, and that these have rights.

Equity thus supplants equality: and multiculturalism, universality. Such is the ordeal currently experienced by Western democracies, which are faced with the increasingly ‘providential’ nature of their societies. Indeed, the author asks, how can a united political Europe be constructed on the ideals and institutions of citizenship, when European nations are becoming providential democracies?

The debates inspired by globalization and by the construction of Europe inevitably provoke thought about the very principles underlying how we live together in democratic societies. On both sides of the Atlantic , an increasing number of books, in political philosophy and the social sciences, deal with the aptness and effectiveness of so-called classical citizenship in an expanding world. Such writers inquire into the means by which all members of a society might be induced to participate in a genuine democratic project, as well as into those by which specific population groups might have their need to be acknowledged fulfilled. To the extent that no coherent critical systems (as was formerly the case with the ideologies of Fascism, Nazism, or Communism) remain directed against what English speak­ers call ‘liberal societies’ (in French, this could literally be stated as "societies organized by means of citizenship"), the problem of adapting traditional citizenship to the needs and demands of homo democraticus has now arisen.

Providential Democracy seeks to contribute to this debate by extending the scope of a project begun over a decade ago. Schnapper seeks to respond as a sociologist to problems that have long been formulated by political philosophers: in other words, to base her response on an objective knowledge of modern society. She says that political philosophers often fail to take historical experience sufficiently into account. They do not entirely exclude such experience from their purview, indeed in the sense that they themselves are historical individuals who intend to participate in public debates. Yet they do not systematically base their analyses on historical experience.

If theoretical thinking is to be renewed, Schnapper says that a nec­essary prerequisite lies in the quest of the rational knowledge to which sociology aspires. Sociological studies, sociologists can legitimately test philosophers' meditations on democratic society. The conceptual constructions of political philosophy will never entirely satisfy sociologists, who consider empirical inquiry – and, more generally, the learning acquired through sociological research aimed at a rational and critical comprehension of historical societies – to constitute the basis from which they can only then attempt to render human relations intelligible. The analyses developed in Providential Democracy thus stem from a strictly sociological project whose essential steps Schnapper outlines. First, after investigating the history and processes of integration in French society, she sought to understand the modern ‘community of citizens’, the ‘Republic’, as it has existed up to now in the framework of the French nation. The essential characteristic of the republic is an ambition to create an abstract political society by transcending, through citizenship, the specific roots and attachments of its members. Individuals are thus also citizens, regardless of their historical or ethno-religious origins, and regardless of their social attributes. In a democratic nation, an oscillation or a dialectic inevitably arises between political legitimacy – free and equal citizens acting in political life as subjects of abstract rights – and the ethnic, historical, or ethnico-religious realities of the society at hand, which is made up of individuals differing in origin, religious faith, and material living conditions.

Second, having defined and described the ideal-type of the republic (in a national context), Schnapper set forth to study the effects, but also the limits of these effects as well as the lapses in the principles of citizenship, that are revealed by the sociology of inter-ethnic relations. This was the topic of La Relation n l'autre. Throughout that study, she wanted to show that, even in the longest-standing democracies, the civic principle has never been powerful enough to prevent human beings from identifying with historical or religious particulars, which is legitimate. The stigmatization of and discrimination against certain groups are directly contrary to the civic principle shaping and structuring collective living. Alongside other striking examples, this was indeed the case in the United States, where blacks were long perceived, not as equals, but rather as descendants of African slaves and discriminated against because of their ‘race’; this was also the case in most European nations, where citizenship principles did not eliminate anti-Semitism, even though nearly all Jews behaved as loyal citizens.

Finally, in this new stage of her study, Schnapper examines the impact of democratization on the community of citizens on the ‘Republic’; that is, a society shaped and structured by means of the principle, values, institutions, and practices of citizenship. By ‘democratization,’ she means the extension of the idea of the equality of all human beings, as well as the impact of this extension to all aspects of social life.

The analysis developed in Providential Democracy concern France , even though Schnapper has endeavored to elucidate specific French phenomena by im­plicitly referring to the experiences of other European countries. A comparison of the many diverse national societies of Europe – which are all, to different degrees and in different forms providential democracies – surpasses the scope of the book. In the future, however, such a comparison could constitute a new stage in this ongoing study. In the meantime, analyzing France – despite or because of its singularity – represents a step in research focused on the evolution of the providential democracies which have united to form Europe . This analysis, moreover, enables one to formulate the more general problem, faced by all European nations, of the construction of a united Europe . What remains of the national republic today? How can the idea of citizenship, which was conceived in a national framework – and citizenship indeed remains the only idea available at the moment for organizing collective living – effectively organize a post-national society? How can one conceive of a political society that would go beyond the nation-state in which political modernity was born?

Constructing a united Europe was and remains a grand political project. For more than fifty years, Europe as a whole has contributed to ensuring peace among European nations as well as to the victory of Western democracies over the Soviet empire. It has fa­vored the prosperity of various peoples – which, like all kinds of prosperity, has been relative, yet nonetheless unquestionable. In this respect, Europe as a whole is to be praised. Schnapper hopes that the project of a political united Europe will be achieved. No European nation is big enough to act alone in the world, and if European nations were united, Europe would take on a presence and possess a possibility of action that would be all the more desirable in that it would create a balance of power with American allies. Advocates of a united Europe need to become fully aware of the difficulties in order to give themselves, and us, a better chance of overcoming them.

Schnapper has no intention of engaging in technical discussions about desirable reforms that could be undertaken by the Providence State , nor of formulating what should be the policies of a Welfare State which, as everyone agrees, is in crisis. She has no intention of joining in on an ‘economic-liberal’ critique of the Intervention State – a critique to which she does not adhere. Nor does she intend to deplore the end of civic responsibilities and announce the weakening, or even the dramatic crumbling, of the Republic. Instead, she attempts to comprehend the kinds of social bonds that are established, at least in part, by the democratic Social State . By analyzing debates revealing the typical kinds of tension or contradictions of providential democracy, she avoids presenting her own viewpoint, ex­cept in a few questions raised in the conclusion.

In Providential Democracy, Schnapper analyzes the logic behind, and the meaning of, a providential democracy that is at once irresistible and protective, and shows that it is a necessary product of democratic values, of the aspiration of homo democraticus to equality in all dimensions of life and social relations. Thus Providential Democracy offers a searching and timely critique of democratization that will be of interest to sociologists, political scientists, and historians.

Social Sciences / Popular Culture

An Offer We Can't Refuse: The Mafia in the Mind of America by George De Stefano (Farber and Farber, Inc.)

The last decade of the twentieth century was not a happy one for the mafia. During the nineties, both the United States and Italy made remarkable strides in curbing organized crime, imprisoning gangsters and dismantling their business interests. And while it would be premature to consider either the Italian or the American mafia dead, both have been wounded, the latter perhaps mortally so.

As evidenced in countless films, novels, and television portrayals, the Mafia has maintained an enduring hold on the American cultural imagination – even as it continues to wrongly color our real-life perception of Italian Americans. In An Offer We Can't Refuse, George De Stefano, journalist and culture critic, takes a close look at the origins and prevalence of the Mafia mythos in America . Beginning with a consideration of Italian emigration in the early twentieth century and the fear and prejudice – among both Americans and Italians – that informed our earliest conception of what was at the time the largest immigrant group to enter the United States, De Stefano explores how these impressions laid the groundwork for the images so familiar today and uses them to illuminate and explore the variety and allure of Mafia stories – from Coppola's romanticized paeans to Scorsese's bloody realism to the bourgeois world of David Chase's Sopranos – while discussing the cultural richness often contained in these works. At the same time, An Offer We Can't Refuse addresses the lingering power of the goodfella cliché and the lamentable extent to which it is embedded in our consciousness. And the book looks at the power it has in both everyday life and the entertainment world, making it all but impossible to green-light a project about the Italian American experience not set in gangland.

A whip-smart meditation on the power of ethnic myth, in this instance the one that supposes that to be an Italian American is by definition to walk among the dons and the goombahs.… De Stefano is sympathetic, but he wonders whether an unlinking from the mob and all its symbolism might not mean 'the end of the Italian American as a protagonist in American popular culture.' What's worse, to be seen in a negative light – or to not be seen at all? A good question, and a very good source for those who like to scratch below the surface – Kirkus Reviews

Journalist De Stefano takes a careful look at the appeal of the Mafia in popular culture: how the image of the Italian gangster developed and how it affects Italian-Americans. … the author has done a fine job with a complex and provocative subject. Publishers Weekly
Finally, a book that helps to explain America 's enduring fascination with the mythology of the Mafia. For anyone who's interested in the subject An Offer We Can't Refuse is essential reading – thoughtful, informative, entertaining, and most of all, even-handed. – John Turturro

An Offer We Can't Refuse provides provocative and entertaining look at the mafia, the media, and the (un)making of Italian Americans, conveying a deeper understanding of our ongoing dance with La Cosa Nostra.

Sports / Outdoors & Nature

Introduction to Recreation and Leisure edited by Human Kinetics (Human Kinetics)

Recreation and leisure is a nonstop industry with phenomenal growth and diverse career paths and options.

Introduction to Recreation and Leisure is an introductory text to the field, not only because of its complete coverage but also because of its unique voice. Written by 34 professors and professionals from the United States and Canada , this book offers the collective view of these eminent scholars, rising stars, and leading professionals. The result is a portrait of the field that also compares and contrasts the perspectives found in the two countries. The book

  • Presents historical, philosophical, and social aspects of the industry, which students can use to build their knowledge of the field.
  • Offers insights to the standard treatment of community parks and recreation departments, youth and nonprofit agencies, commercial recreation, and tourism enterprises.
  • Describes how recreation provides fun, enriching, and educational programs and services for people of all ages.
  • Encompasses a variety of services, including recreational sports, outdoor activities, fitness and wellness, and arts and culture.
  • Exposes students to the variety of career options available and supports them as they explore their interests and prepare for challenging careers in one of the leading industries of the 21st century.

Introduction to Recreation and Leisure includes the following features:

  • Profiles of outstanding graduates and indicators for future directions in the field.
  • Web sites with links that provide access to real-world recreation.
  • Photos that illustrate the great variety of recreation and leisure.
  • Online instructor guide that presents a support package complete with chapter overviews, discussion questions, objectives, and learning activities that interface with technology.
  • Presentation package of key points and illustrations.
  • Test package with multiple-choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank, and short-answer questions.

Introduction to Recreation and Leisure is divided into three parts. Part I. Foundations of Recreation and Leisure, provides students the foundational history, philosophy, and understanding of the field in relation to the individual and society. Part II. Leisure and Recreation, introduces students to different sectors of the field, presenting the multifaceted delivery system through parks, public recreation, nonprofit organizations, commercial recreation and tourism, therapeutic recreation, and unique groups. Part III. Recreation and Leisure Service Areas, presents the different types of programming found in recreation and leisure services, including recreational sports; fitness, health, and wellness; outdoor and adventure recreation; and arts and culture. It includes career directions and ends with a chapter on the nature of recreation and leisure as a profession.

For students pursuing a career or considering recreation or leisure as a potential career choice, this book offers vital information from which they can begin to make informed choices. Introduction to Recreation and Leisure presents a comprehensive view as it celebrates a multifaceted profession that has been one of the top three growth employment areas in the past 15 years. It details the multifaceted delivery system of the field through parks, public recreation, nonprofit organizations, commercial recreation and tourism, therapeutic recreation, and unique groups. And it provides foundational information and real-world connections to the profession, and it prepares students for their future in recreation and leisure. Readers will enjoy learning about recreation and leisure, reading what the principal thinkers and leaders have to say about the field, and meeting outstanding graduates from universities across the United States and Canada who share their career experiences.

Sports / Popular Culture / Youth/Adult

Have Board, Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and Snow by Jamie Brisick (HarperEntertainment)

Like surfing and skateboarding, snowboarding is something you have to figure out. You have to earn it. You have to make it over different hurdles before it reveals its soul. And when that happens, its soul becomes part of you. – Todd Richards, P3: My Adventures in the Pipes, Parks, and Powder

Whether on water, pavement, or fluffy white powder, the history of surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding is a landscape filled with rugged personalities, exotic locales, wild innovation, and most of all the united dream of becoming one with the oceans, streets, and mountains.

Have Board, Will Travel shows the intricate connection between all three sports. Their histories act as the foundation, and the images serve as divine inspiration. Author/photographer Jamie Brisick surfs, skates, snowboards, and ping-pongs back and forth between Southern California and São Paulo , Brazil . He has written for boardsporting magazines for more than ten years, and surfed on the ASP world tour for five.

Have Board, Will Travel closes with diagrammatic maps – three maps showing the Surf Spots, Skate Spots, and Snow Spots of America.

In this big, beautiful title, Brisick shows how surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding developed, each one feeding off the advancements and buzz of the others. The author skims the surface of these multimillion-dollar industries with just a paragraph or two, and an occasional quote, per page. … browsers and reluctant readers are going to be more interested in the large, colorful photographs from a variety of historical and contemporary sources. … – Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library , MD , School Library Journal

A grand and glorious homage to three interrelated sports of surf, skate and snow, Have Board, Will Travel has the tone and feel of the youthful master, but it is written in many voices. The spectacular and moving photography dominates in a good way. Each page is filled with enough side-stanced glory to summon even the laziest couch potato to pick up a board and ride.

Travel / U.S.

National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States, 5th edition by National Geographic Society (National Geographic) is perennial favorite with almost a million copies sold in previous editions.

National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States reflects National Geographic's century-long association with America 's national parks system and its reputation for travel expertise and cartographic excellence. The book opens with an essay by Yellowstone authority Paul Schullery, and an introduction to the guide with a locator map showing all 58 of these American treasures. Next, the parks are presented alphabetically region-by-region in seven geographical regions, with individual maps and geographical profiles of each. Coverage of each park begins with a portrait of its natural wonders, ecological setting, history and, often, its struggle against man and alien species. These illustrated descriptions offer tours tailored to the time available, whether readers have an hour or a week, and tell visitors the best spots to enjoy hikes, spectacular vistas, and wildlife. Then follows in-depth information on how to get there, best time of year to visit, recommendations of what to see in the park depending on length of stay, trails, and hikes. Itineraries and directions, special activities and advisories, and suggestions of hotels and campgrounds are provided, along with ideas for excursions to nearby wildlife refuges, monuments, and other nature areas of exceptional interest – 140 in all. An ‘information and activities’ section at the end of each park entry gives postal and email addresses and phone numbers; open seasons and accessibility; entrance fees; pet information; visitor center locations; special advisories such as boating tips, snake warnings or flash flood warnings; facilities for the disabled; overnight backpacking; campgrounds; and hotels, motels and inns inside and outside the park.

National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States, fifth edition, is written by experienced National Geographic travel writers who extensively visited each park and conducted sight-by-sight tours tailored to time available, whether a few hours or a few days. "One of the things that distinguishes this guidebook is its conscience – the attention to the welfare of the parks it describes," writes naturalist Schullery in the introduction. "You will find travel information interspersed with news of some threat to a park, or history of a threat that lost out. National parks have become battlegrounds of the conservation movement, and the battles continue." National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States includes the newest park, Congree National Park in South Carolina .

The other parks guidebooks pale in comparison. – Newsday

Featuring 80 all new maps and more than 350 photos, this guide is the most comprehensive, up-to-the-minute book of its kind on the market today. National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States is the definitive book for park visitors offering firsthand guidance from expert travel writers; their recommendations for viewing scenery, wildlife, sunsets and more are personal and informative. From planning a trip to making the most of every minute, this invaluable, easy-to-use guide is the ultimate one-stop resource.

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