Tune In Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries
Tim Anderson. Wayward Mammal, $18.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-615-36582-4
When Anderson decides his life in North Carolina is in a rut, he chooses to make a dramatic change and moves to Japan to teach English, as he chronicles in this hilarious, enlightening, and insightful memoir. Anderson is tall, white, and extremely gay—all things that distinguish him from the average person in Japan. His various adventures—accidentally stumbling into the adult area of Tokyo and learning that Japanese porn cuts out all the good parts; discovering the hard way the low standards some English academies have for their teachers; experiencing the joys of karaoke and experimental music—help Anderson begin to understand the differences between American and Japanese culture. A gifted writer, Anderson is sensitive to cultural differences, delightful in his irreverence, and astutely aware of himself and his particular perspective. His observations are often laugh-out-loud funny and will leave readers with the desire to travel and to keep turning the pages, wondering, by the end, where Anderson will travel to next.
Exoneration: The Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell—Prosecutorial Deceptions, Suborned Perjuries, Anti-Semitism, and Precedent for Today's Unconstitutional Trials
Emily Arnow-Alman and David Alman. Green Elms (greenelmspress.com/), $24.95 trade paper (516p) ISBN 978-0-9779058-3-6
As cofounders of the National Committee to Secure Justice in the Rosenberg Case, the authors led the failed fight to save Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. That experience translates into a sometimes compelling read about a controversial case that has largely faded from public consciousness. Even with recent revelations that—counter to the beliefs of the Rosenbergs' supporters—Julius did spy for Russia, the Almans manage to demonstrate convincingly that the couple was not killed for what Julius actually did but for an improperly added charge of treason. They paint a powerful picture of prosecutorial and judicial abuse, and describe the chilling atmosphere of government-inspired fear in the 1950s that prevented many decent people from speaking up. The wealth of their information is not always best served by its presentation, which veers between the polemical and the academic. Still, the account of how the news of the Rosenbergs' deaths reached thousands of supporters, after all avenues of appeal were exhausted, is a moving one.
Elizabeth L. Bewley. Dog Ear (pariohealth.net), $19.95 trade paper (248p) ISBN 978-1-60844-396-3
In this call for change, Bewley advocates converting the health care system from one that venerates doctors as infallible sources of knowledge to one in which patients are legitimate partners in recovery. She outlines numerous changes doctors can make to improve patient care, from truly listening to patients who have nonstandard symptoms to considering drug choices more carefully and promptly returning phone calls. With a genuine commitment to improving health care, Bewley, who includes useful statistics, references, and a guide for further reading, also offers excellent suggestions to patients: keep your own health records, ask questions, don't revere your doctor. In this well-written if slightly repetitive polemic, the task of reforming the health care system falls primarily to medical professionals, which may be problematic, as doctors will be far less inclined to read Bewley's book. As Bewley points out, health care reform isn't just about controlling costs, it's also about improving overall care.
Really!?!: A Memoir and Other Observations from a Man Who's Lived Life ‘Not Quite Famous Enough'
Marc Freden. Xlibris, $19.99 trade paper (386p) ISBN 978-1-4500-7366-0; $29.99 hardcover ISBN 978-1-4500-7367-7
With this witty, conversational, but uneven collection of essays, Freden charts his life, exploring everything from his Catholic upbringing to his work as a dancer and his career as a producer and television personality in Hollywood and the U.K. And while all Freden's essays have merit, the book would have benefited from some careful editing. Readers may find it jarring as the memoir shifts from insightful pieces about world travel to gossipy ones about nightclub lust and celebrities. Additionally, Freden often ends more serious essays with simplistic conclusions that sabotage their impact. Still, his tales of being "not quite famous enough" should resonate in this era of celebrity obsession. Freden's energy, charisma, and honesty are admirable; readers will come away rooting for him to become "famous enough."
Transforming Through 2012: Leading Perspectives on the New Global Paradigm
Debra Giusti, edited by Anjanette Harper. Yinspire Media (www.showcasing.com), $17.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-9819708-1-3
In this collection of essays, futurists offer predictions about what will occur on December 21, 2012, with speculations ranging from a global consciousness shift to cataclysmic geographic events. While many authors hold the moderate view that, as global resources dwindle, it would be in the best interests of humanity to focus on more holistic, natural, and collectivist behaviors, others make wilder claims—some invoking Atlantis and humanity's origins in outer space—that compromise the authority of the collection. The quality of these essays also varies widely. It seems unlikely that casual readers will be persuaded by this collection; the authors will most likely be preaching to the converted.
The Body Love Manual: How to Love the Body You Have as You Create the Body You Want
Elizabeth Lily Hills. Peaceful Planet (www.TheBodyLoveManual.com), $17.95 trade paper (201p) ISBN 978-0-9819388-0-6
Hills, a life coach and self-empowerment workshop leader, shares her philosophy in this ode to mindful eating and cultivating a healthy body image. Hills encourages readers to come to terms with their bodies and engage in some serious self-love via affirmations, meditation, and other introspective exercises. She also urges readers to examine their relationships with food, long-held beliefs about eating, and practices like binging out of fear or avoidance and dieting to lose weight and feel more attractive. Hills's admission that she was once a yo-yo dieter obsessed with body image, along with pertinent statistics, gives her credibility, while her calm, reassuring tone should help readers tackle tough issues (though some, like the lingering effects of sexual abuse, are deftly sidestepped). While Hills's messages—examine why you eat, develop healthy eating habits, and accept your body for what it is instead of what it isn't—aren't particularly new, they aren't particularly harmful either, those interested in cultivating healthier habits through introspection will find this a helpful workbook.
Cooking on the Light Side
Thienna Ho. Thienna (www.CookingOnTheLightSide.com), $39.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-9792103-7-2
Nutritional scientist and physical endurance athlete Ho sums up her theory of well-being as follows: "You are what you consume and what consumes you." In this book of advice and food selections for "bright skin and vitality," Ho introduces nutrients to remove bodily toxins and reverse chronic skin problems, and advocates sulfur-rich vegetables, oats, quinoa, shiitake mushrooms, brazil nuts, black walnuts, sea vegetables, white beans, and the Asian foods konnyaku, agar-agar, and seitan. She also includes sections on beverages and nontoxic cookware. Atypically, Ho recommends light-colored vegetables and fruits rather than dark-colored ones. She provides recipes for easy-to-prepare meals for breakfast (spicy pineapple-banana shake, creamy coconut porridge) and soups (potato–brussels sprout–carrot soup, Swiss chard and seitan soup); main courses that include meat and fish (lamb chops with mashed turnip-potato, halibut with mango salsa and brown rice); and steamed breads and desserts. The book offers inviting photos and step-by-step instructions and uses creative combinations of ingredients with an Asian twist.
The Father of Hollywood
Gaelyn Whitley Keith. Tate (www.TheFatherofHollywood.com), $24.99 trade paper (348p) ISBN 978-1-61663-475-9
This biography of early Hollywood developer H.J. Whitley by his adoring great-granddaughter, Keith, paints a rosy, selective portrait of the man who named the Hollywood Hills. Told primarily through the imagined eyes of Whitley's second wife, Gigi Ross, we follow Whitley from his birth in 1847 Canada, through the death of his six siblings (from cholera) and his parents (a buggy accident), to the United States, where he worked his way west from Chicago to California. Honeymooning in L.A. with Ross—his first wife and infant died in a fire—Whitley resolved to develop the fertile farming area and surrounding Cahuenga and San Fernando valleys. The couple gradually galvanized interest in Hollywood, attracting railroads, street cars, electricity, and an all-important cultural life, epitomized by the first movie studios. As a civil engineer, Whitley created Sunset Boulevard, Ridge Route, the Whitley Heights, and other iconic locales. Keith drops scarcely a critical remark and includes much imagined dialogue; readers may want to consult a history of the era in the interests of objectivity.
Financial Foreplay: Whip Your Business into Shape & Take Home More Cash
Rhondalynn Korolak. Imagineering Unlimited (www.imagineeringunlimited.com), $15.99 trade paper (206p) ISBN 978-0-9805578-1-7
Mercifully, business consultant and psychotherapist Korolak abandons her titillating titular premise early in this informative and accessible financial guide for small-business owners. With a plainspoken approach, Korolak walks readers through business basics, breaking down concepts (e.g., cash flow, variable and fixed costs) and explaining relevant subjects in plain English. Using a litany of examples from various fields (an electrical contractor, a photographer, a book store franchisee, a veterinarian, etc.), Korolak shows how understanding basic business maxims is crucial to profitability. This primer on Business 101 will instill confidence in small-business owners and enable them to better deal with accountants, investors, lawyers, as well as assist them in making better informed (and possibly painful) strategic decisions. Although Korolak's incessant plugging of her own business—a subscription-based online resource that business owners can use to track key performance and financial metrics—can become grating and lessen the impact of her suggestions, her advice is sound.
The Tarnished Fed: Behind Closed Doors: Forty Years of Successes, Failures, Mystique, and Humor
Jim Kudlinski. Vantage, $16.95 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-0-533-16318-2
A former director of Federal Reserve Operations, Kudlinski attempts to demystify the Fed, and explain what it's doing wrong today and how those mistakes might be put right. In prose peppered with charts and tables, Kudlinski—also former CEO of five commercial and two mortgage banks—details changes within the system from 1970 to the present day. The most intriguing chapters include an explanation of how the Fed makes decisions, definitions of national and world gross domestic product, and a terse summary of the subprime mortgage mess. Kudlinski's experience shines through in this tight, enlightening overview of the Fed that will dispel confusion for both lay people and professionals. While Kudlinski is upfront about escalating problems confronting the Fed after former chairman Alan Greenspan resigned in 2006, he reveals a cautious optimism that the economy will improve as long as those in power learn from their mistakes.
Second Blooming for Women: Growing a Life That Matters After Fifty
Kathleen Vestal Logan and E.L. (Betsy) Smith. Second Blooming Books/Wyatt-MacKenzie (www.secondbloomingforwomen.com), $16 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-0-9743832-5-5
Logan and Smith know life's a series of new beginnings, and when a woman turns 50, she can either put her head in the sand or plant new seeds in better soil. The latter requires hard work, and these cheerful authors offer some sound suggestions in this no-nonsense guide. Using a refreshing, sometimes humorous gardening theme (e.g., Women's Growing Zones: Zone 1 Baby/Child, Selfish, "I want to"; Zone 2 Adult Woman, Responsible, "I have to"; and Zone 3 Women After 50, Purposeful, "I choose to") Smith and Logan offer advice, including online and print resources with additional information baby boomers will savor as they reach 50 and beyond. Among the practical tips: listen to music, keep a gratitude journal à la Oprah, speak positively, give and accept compliments graciously, and develop affirmations. Ideas for activities that most self-help fans will enjoy are included, most notably how to create an "action plan."
Got the Power: Seven Tools to Produce the Work Life You Want
Cie Murray. Lifesource (GotThePower.biz), $21.95 (125p) ISBN 978-0-9841550-4-0
In this punchy and straightforward business plan, empowerment coach Murray advocates determining one's best attributes as the path to work-life fulfillment and satisfaction. Murray stresses the importance of finding the work you do best, rather than doing the work others expect of you. To this end, she offers a Thinker Locator Profile—a questionnaire to help determine which "innate" physical orientation readers excel in: hands, brain, mouth, arms, feet, or heart. A list of professions is suggested for each orientation. A person scoring highest in the hands category might consider being a dock worker or a radiologist, whereas a person with high heart scores might be suited to a career as an artist or nurse. Murray provides tips—such as not holding grudges—to help readers make smart, dignified choices in various sticky workplace scenarios. She also suggests turning work into play—looking at it with fresh eyes—as a way to unleash imagination, and she challenges readers to redefine "motivators" and rekindle a sense of gratitude for employment. Despite some platitudinous corporate-speak, Murray delivers an upbeat message.
The Dogtown Chronicles: Our Life and Time with Sheep, Goats, Llamas and Other Creatures
Doris Ober. Villca Qutu (www.dogtownchronicles.com), $18 trade paper (210p) ISBN 978-1-883843-00-7
After former New Yorker and San Franciscan Ober meets Richard Kirschman at a party, she moves to Dogtown—his 10-acre property in West Marin County, Calif.—for a temporary house-sitting job that morphs into a lifelong passion for animals, in this charming memoir. Kirschman's enclave—built in 1976 and located within Point Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco—is home to a wide variety of animals and wildlife that have found shelter there over the years. Enhanced by Kirschman's gorgeous color photographs and line drawings by Connie Mery, Ober's book explores how wildlife and domesticated pets enrich our lives by teaching us about the natural world and how to care for our fellow creatures. Critters include cat Lucky; Scottish Highland steers Moe and Curly; roosters Buck and McGurk; Lakeland terrier Woody; llama Lloyd; sheep Jacob, Lulu, Blanche, Leah; goats Mephisto, Isabella, Slaus; Arabian gelding Sharif; geese Alger Hiss and Mother Goose; and many more. Ober's observations are delightful and sometimes heart-wrenching—particularly sections about the elderly, mistreated, and malnourished Sharif, whom the couple rescue and nurse back to health.
Dreaming of the Majors, Living in the Bush: A Life's Journey Through the Negro League with His Guardian Angels
Dick "Lefty" O'Neal. WinePress/Pleasant Word (www.winepressbooks.com), $14.99 trade paper (116p) ISBN 978-1-4141-1243-5
O'Neal wanted to become a major league baseball player. He got as far as still existing semipro Negro Leagues, pitching for two different teams in the 1970s, the only white baseball player to do so. His story, more folksy reminiscence than memoir, spans more than that period alone, however, as he begins at the beginning, with his Little League days. The author has a pleasant and affable narrative voice, but the lack of narrative focus undermines what is otherwise a potentially interesting yarn. His experience in the Negro League is genuinely historically fascinating and much underdeveloped. He does succeed in conveying a lifelong love of baseball, and his reliance on his faith is also front and center.
Points of View: A Tribute to Alan Kay
Edited by Ian Piumarta and Kimberly Rose. Viewpoints Research Institute (www.vpri.org/pov), $55 (272p) ISBN 978-0-9743131-1-5
Pioneering computer scientist Alan Kay, who in 1968 conceived laptop and tablet PCs with his Dynabook idea, is honored in this dynamic and fascinating essay collection. During his illustrious career, Kay—celebrated for his passion for books, music, education, food, and life—worked with the likes of Xerox PARC, Atari, Apple, and Walt Disney Imagineering; cofounded the nonprofit Viewpoints Research Institute; and created the programming language Smalltalk. Contributing essays to a collection originally compiled as a birthday present to Kay are prominent computer scientists, information technology professionals, music producer Quincy Jones, artist and author Betty Edwards, and master organ builder Greg Harrold. Although in some essays the authors are self-aggrandizing, overtly lauding their own achievements, and others are too technical to interest anyone but computer scientists, heartfelt adoration for Kay shines through. This is a touching labor of love and celebration of work, technology, and learning. Four b&w and 35 color illus.
Letters to Zerky: A Father's Legacy to a Lost Son...and a Road Trip Around the World
Bill Raney and Joanne Walker Raney. Nickelodeon (www.LettersToZerky.com), $27 (436p) ISBN 978-0-9821384-0-3
In this plodding memoir, Bill and Joanne Raney recount a cross-continent trip that began in 1967 with a flight from San Francisco to Munich and took the couple across Europe and Asia in a Volkswagen bus with infant son Xerxes (the titular Zerky) and headstrong dachshund Tarzan in tow. Written in two voices—Joanne's diary entries and Bill's letters to Xerxes—the Raneys record daily events and interactions, from the epic (visiting the Taj Majal, witnessing a Hindu funeral) to the mundane (exchanging money in Iran, border crossings, gastrointestinal illnesses) with equal zeal, often omitting important historical, geopolitical, and regional information. Not without its moments—some of them genuinely touching—the book remains an often banal account of an epic journey without the revelations or insight one would expect from two hippies in the tumultuous 1960s.
Crazy: My Seven Years at Bruno Bettelheim's Orthogenic School
Roberta Carly Redford. Trafford, $20.33 trade paper (364p) ISBN 978-1-4251-9175-7
Redford seeks to expose and challenge the myth surrounding the late Bruno Bettelheim, famed child psychologist and director of the Orthogenic School at the University of Chicago. One of many children placed by parents into Bettelheim's care, Redford was a student at the Orthogenic School—a residential facility for emotionally disturbed youths—from age 16 to 23. While there, she was, by her own account, beaten regularly, emotionally abused, and subjected to a variety of humiliations. Bettelheim himself was a key part of this treatment. Redford offers a detailed account of her time at the Orthogenic School and includes records of counselors' minutes—complete with commentary and interpretation. The author may have a legitimate grievance, but her account is simplistic, repetitive, and fraught with so much anger and resentment that readers may become uncomfortable and unsympathetic.
Laurel Saville. iUniverse.com/Rising Star, $16.95 trade paper (196p) ISBN 978-1-4401-6105-6
In this thoughtful memoir about childhood idealism, the art world, and mental illness, Saville documents her stormy relationship with her mother, gifted artist and designer Ann Ford, who socialized with the likes of Marlon Brando and Claes Oldenburg, but whose schizophrenia, drinking, and drug use led to homelessness and a tragic end. Saville spent years coping with Ford's eccentricities and destructive behavior, grew estranged, and finally moved away. But when she learned of her mother's murder at the hands of a transient, she began digging into the past and questioning assumptions about her grandparents, her mother's talents, her parents' breakup, and her own upbringing. Saville creates lovely imagery and writes with introspection, but she holds her most personal material at arm's length, preventing readers from ever fully engaging with the story. The book has all the right pieces—mental illness, childhood trauma, substance abuse, and celebrity—but it is clumsily fashioned. While Saville is clearly trying to come to terms with her own story, readers will not find it as easy to maintain interest.
Moments of Mystery and Wonder
John Garland Thayer. Vantage, $21.95 (170p) ISBN 978-0-533-16293-2
Retired educator and United Methodist pastor Thayer recalls moments of divine grace throughout his life as a student, husband, father, teacher, and minister. His spiritual awakening occurred in 1934, when Thayer, then an ill four-year-old, sensed an angel at his hospital bedside assuring him he would recover because "God had a purpose" for him. Over the years, Thayer continued to find himself miraculously aided through trials big and small—as in 2008, when a friend donated money for a golf cart to help him traverse his six acres of Tennessee land. A few anecdotes may strike readers as merely coincidental: Thayer appearing at the hospital at the exact moment someone was praying for a minister; Thayer receiving the perfect evening jacket from a stranger. However, episodes that feature voices or visions urging the author into action capture brushes with divinity with clear language and a homespun lyricism.