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The Paleo Diabetes Diet Solution: Manage Your Blood Sugar

Jill Hillhouse and Lisa Cantkier. Robert Rose (Firefly, dist.), $27.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-77880-548-9

Hillhouse and Cantkier, who both take a holistic approach to nutrition, explain that food is more than fuel: it “tells the body to turn on this pathway or release this hormone.” They describe how blood sugar works in the body and suggest that the paleo approach to eating can help restore healthy blood sugar function and possibly halt blood sugar dysfunction in type 2 diabetes. Paleo refers to the Paleolithic era, when early humans ate the meat and fish they caught and the shoots, berries, roots, eggs, and nuts they gathered. The authors argue that this diet of unprocessed “low GI [glycemic index] foods... results in lower, slower increases in blood sugar and therefore lower insulin demands on the pancreatic beta cells.” The book provides background information about blood sugar and cites research in support of a paleo diet. There is an extensive list of foods to avoid, including most grain and dairy products and all alcohol and fruit drinks, which may prove challenging for many people. The second half of the book includes 125 appealing paleo-inspired recipes and a 30-day meal plan. This work is recommended with the caveat that anyone embarking on a restrictive diet should first consult with a doctor. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Combat Mission Kandahar: The Canadian Experience in Afghanistan

T. Robert Fowler. Dundurn (IPS, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $21.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-4597-3516-3

Fowler (Courage Rewarded) gives readers an insightful cross-section view of Operation Athena, the Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan, largely based on interviews with seven soldiers who served on it in various roles and ranks. Leaving aside the questions of whether Canadian forces should have been in Afghanistan at all and how effective Task Force Kandahar was, Fowler writes that his focus is on Canadian soldiers’ combat experiences. He wants the book to fill in a gap between the daily news reporting that Canadians heard during the mission and more thorough academic analyses that will presumably be published in the years to come. The soldiers describe the threats of hidden improvised explosive devices and the dangers of finding and removing them, the challenges of counterinsurgency warfare in the battle to win the “hearts and minds” of Afghan villagers, and the difficulty of training the Afghan National Army, which sometimes relied more on prayer than on tactics and training to influence the outcome of a battle. Many readers will have to turn to the glossary for help navigating through military acronyms used throughout the book. Through these seven firsthand accounts, Fowler paints portraits of soldiers who were dedicated, loyal, and highly trained, and of whom Canada can be proud. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Secret Life of Equations: The 50 Greatest Equations and How They Work

Rich Cochrane. Firefly, $24.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1770858084

In his introduction, author and educator Cochrane (The Thin Veil of London) acknowledges that this brief survey of 50 famous equations—E = mc2, of course, but also equations that are the basis for calculus, electromagnetism, Google page rank, and rocketry—can’t get too technical or give readers a full understanding of how the equations work; whole books have been written about each of them. Cochrane covers 50 equations in a slim volume with many illustrations and photos, without the benefit of jargon or assumed knowledge. He writes that the book is intended to “make the general ideas plain and indicate ways in which those ideas can talk to each other, sometimes across widely different parts of mathematics, science and everyday life.” His work is best suited for students or other novices in the realm of math. Cochrane defines the terms of the equations and uses simple metaphors and examples to explain frequently daunting concepts. He also explains their applications in GPS technology, roller coaster design, financial markets, and pressure cookers, which may help readers gain a stronger appreciation of math’s relevance. Readers who want more depth will be left unfulfilled, but this starter guide will help them decide what to investigate in greater detail. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Firefly 5 Language Visual Dictionary

Igor Jourist. Firefly, $35 (828p) ISBN 978-1-77085-768-1

This attractive and well-organized illustrated dictionary is a useful reference book that can help curious or aspiring linguists learn up to five languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German. Fourteen chapters cover subjects such as nature, health and medicine, clothing and accessories, leisure and entertainment, and sports. In each chapter, illustrations are organized by subjects and labeled in the five languages. Chapters on the human body, health, and medicine could be useful for anyone seeking medical attention in a foreign country or even medical students studying abroad; the book walks readers through human anatomy and a hospital, labeling equipment and locations such as a radiology lab, an operating room, and an intensive care unit, followed by more pages of medical tools. This hefty hardcover is unlikely to be toted around by travelers, but it’s a very helpful reference book. The detailed, colorful illustrations are informative for readers of any age. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Cuba Beyond the Beach: Stories of Life in Havana

Karen Dubinsky. Between the Lines (Brunswick Books, dist.), $24.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-77113-269-5

Dubinsky, a Canadian professor of history at Queen’s University and coauthor of My Havana: The Musical City of Carlos Varela, gives readers a balanced and clear-eyed portrait of everyday life for citizens in the Cuban capital. She examines the effects of Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, the U.S. blockade, and recent developments such as the economic reforms introduced by Raúl Castro in 2010 and the 2014 normalization of relations with the U.S. Dubinsky lived in Havana for extended periods, and writes knowledgeably about problems Cubans face, including long queues at shops, shortages of food, and the lack of safe, affordable housing. She also introduces readers to the cultural richness of Havana’s neighborhoods and resources such as the Cuban Art Factory, a combined art gallery, performance space, dance club, theater, and art market. She devotes a chapter to Cuban music, praising Carlos Varela as both a singer and a historian: “Good musicians can be great historians because they take us places that only the poets go.” This is an intimate portrait of Havana, enriched by Dubinsky’s personal anecdotes and stories of her Cuban friends. It chronicles the resourcefulness and resilience of the Cuban people and will appeal broadly to anyone traveling to Cuba or readers who just want to be transported there. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Barney: Grove Press and Barney Rosset; America’s Maverick Publisher and His Battle against Censorship

Michael Rosenthal. Arcade, $24.99 (232p) ISBN 978-1-62872-650-3

Early in this biography of Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset (1922–2012), Rosenthal (Nicholas Miraculous: The Amazing Career of the Redoubtable Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler) details the contents of a paper entitled “Henry Miller vs ‘Our Way of Life,’ ” written by Rosset as a freshman at Swarthmore after reading Tropic of Cancer. It’s the same paper Rosset quoted in court nearly two decades later in 1962 when he was accused of publishing the banned book solely to make money from smut. This was a remarkable moment in the biography of a man determined to end “Comstockery,” but it comes nearly 100 pages after the reader learns about the essay, in one of the many moments when Rosenthal seems stuck in minutiae. The book effectively describes Rosset’s successful legal battles against censorship, and Rosenthal illustrates his subject’s publishing philosophy with his decision to publish Samuel Beckett and William Burroughs to American audiences, and his lack of business acumen with his sale of the company’s Manhattan headquarters for pennies on the dollar. Rosenthal also delves into Rosset’s personal life and his passion for Victorian erotica, which helped sustain Grove, but the book works best when it focuses on 20th-century censorship. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad

Jeanine Michna-Bales. Princeton Architectural, $40 (192p) ISBN 978-1-61689-565-5

In the foreword to this photo collection, civil rights activist Andrew Young writes, “The Underground Railroad has been described as the first civil rights movement... because it blurred racial, gender, religious, and socioeconomic lines and united people... in the common cause of ending the injustice of slavery.” This long photographic essay by photographer Michna-Bales documents the sites that made up the network’s route north and is intended to “illuminate the darkened corners” of this episode in American history. Historians estimate that in the six decades preceding the Civil War, more than 75,000 freedom seekers passed through the Underground Railroad’s stations, but this remarkable movement has slipped into the “realm of myth and quaint folktale,” notes historian Fergus Bordewich in an essay describing the historical facts of the journey. Sadly, many of the 80-plus photographs, which were taken at night in hopes of capturing the “mystery and foreboding” that the runaways must have felt on their journey north, lack visual interest due to the darkness in which they were shot and their presentation on the page. Color photos. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Roland Barthes: A Biography

Tiphaine Samoyault, trans. from the French by Andrew Brown. Polity, $39.95 (584p) ISBN 978-1-5095-0565-4

Samoyault, with the help of rare primary sources, brings to life Roland Barthes, a famous French literary critic whose personal story is often overshadowed by his innovative ideas. This biography includes the expected pieces of Barthes’s intricate intellectual puzzle: the development of his thought and his attempts to grapple with the ideological function of art, books, and language. But this book is less about Barthes’s theories than the equally fascinating life that informed them, and readers will come to see the two as inextricably entwined. Samoyault provides detailed accounts of Barthes’s struggles with tuberculosis, which directed his attention to his own physicality and informed his writing’s focus on the body. The narrative begins not with Barthes’s 1915 birth, but rather with his death in 1980—an unexpected choice that’s entirely fitting for such an iconoclastic subject. Most significantly, this book includes new sources: letters, journal entries, and photographs that offer further glimpses into Barthes’s public and private lives. The book reproduces the manuscript for Barthes’ inaugural lecture at Collège de France alongside journal entries meticulously documenting his diet. This work is easily recommended to Barthes enthusiasts, as well as to anyone interested in his ability to make sense of a baffling and tumultuous world. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers

Jonathan Lethem. Melville House, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-161219-603-9

The title of Lethem’s varied collection of book reviews, introductions, and literary essays will surely resonate with any dedicated reader. Curious and adventurous readers will find a plethora of reading suggestions as Lethem (A Gambler’s Anatomy) talks about authors old and new. Indeed, his dedication to contemporary writers is the main note here, though he does delve into some canonical figures, such as Charles Dickens. And his incisive, colorful, and insightful encapsulations of what makes their works special are beguiling, whether he is describing Steven Millhauser’s “coolly feverish” prose or alerting readers to the “brief, elliptical, and precise” pre–Remains of the Day novels of Kazuo Ishiguro. Even as a critic, he reads with enthusiasm. In his introduction to Tanguy Viel’s Beyond Suspicion, he writes, “The book’s reader will meet its opening pages with an intake of breath destined not to be completely released until its last lines have been reached.” He is particularly good at arousing interest in forgotten or obscure authors. Also running through his writing is a distinct love of his home town, New York City, and of New York authors, such as Vivian Gornick and Daniel Fuchs. An enthusiastic introduction by Christopher Boucher precedes the collection. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World

Anne-Marie Slaughter. Yale Univ., $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-300-21564-9

This paradigm-changing book cogently encourages fresh ways of thinking about the workplace and the world. Slaughter (Unfinished Business) promotes the use of social networks for solving any challenging problem, whether it’s spreading new ideas (as done by TEDx) or addressing global problems at a local level (as done by the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy). She groups “the hardest problems” and their corresponding networks into three broad categories: resilience, execution, and scale. This schema is the heart of the book, which outlines considerations for successful networks: how people should be connected to each other, what kind of people should be connected, and how information should be shared. Different types of situations, she explains, may require more diverse or more homogeneous groups. Similarly, sometimes well-networked networkers shouldn’t all be on the same team, and sometimes they should. Sometimes the network needs to be decentralized; sometimes a team leader is just the ticket. Slaughter takes a more polemical tone in the third part, in which she advocates for “open society, open government, and an open international system.” Readers will likely end up taking this book to work with them when especially challenging problems arise. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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