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Food on Foot: A History of Eating on Trails and in the Wild

Demet Güzey. Rowman & Littlefield, $38 (236p) ISBN 978-1-4422-5506-7

Güzey’s fascinating treatise on pedestrian food, the latest book in the Food on the Go series, explores the food traditions and technological advances that people have made in order to eat on the move. He covers polar and mountain expeditions, pilgrimages, exploring new lands, and good old-fashioned hiking. Güzey’s research shines through as she provides cultural and historical references for each type of food. She also shares intriguing facts: Italian soldiers during WWII hated their rations so much that they called them Asinus Mussolini (Mussolini’s Arse), and the Third Reich created a version of crystal meth for their soldiers, which was included in their rations. Güzey’s writing is concise and each chapter (e.g., “Desert Travel,” “Army Rations,” “Street Food”) nicely showcases the wide variety of food enjoyed (or hated) during each type of “walk.” Even those with only a passing interest in the history of food will find Güzey’s work enjoyable. Photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Just Keep Shooting: My Youth in Manhattan

Judy McConnell. Ingram Spark, $14.99 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-0-692-66597-8

In her second memoir (after A Penny a Kiss), McConnell embarks on an immersive journey through nearly six years of post-college life during the late 1950s and early ’60s, though it’s difficult to discern any real impact that time has on the author’s life. She traveled from home in Minnesota to Manhattan, Paris, and Spain, then to California and back to New York. McConnell recalls people she met and experiences including jobs at the U.N., in publishing, and at Forbes magazine. These gigs don’t hold much for McConnell, nor do her loves and friends, who come and go. Her passions feel more like hobbies, as her film and writing aspirations are never fully realized. Throughout the book, McConnell makes clear her disdain for her mother, including her attitude toward the volatile politics of the day and married life. This gives the reader a loose sense of McConnell’s ideals and beliefs, only to have it dismantled as she concludes the book with a rushed description of falling in love and getting married. McConnell works to define herself and her place in life, but by the end, readers are left with no better an understanding of her than when the book began. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Attitude: Develop a Winning Mindset on and off the Court

Jay Wright, with Michael Sheridan and Mark Dagostino. Ballantine, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-399-18085-9

Wright, a longtime Villanova University men’s basketball coach, recalls the team’s arduous path to the 2016 NCAA championship—and the leadership tools he employed to get his team working together—but his book contains scant insight and little substance. He extols his school spirit, raves about the fans’ enthusiasm, thanks the donors, and essentially writes a letter of recommendation for every player—even the senior walk-ons. The book fails on two important fronts. First, as an insider’s look at a championship run, it is toothless; you can practically hear Sheridan, the team’s media relations director, pounding any potentially edgy thought into mush. Second, Wright’s management tips are so obvious (“It never hurts to solicit input from your team”) that the business high-achievers hoping to learn from his success will be disappointed. Wright clearly values his players as more than cogs in a winning machine, but the PR gloss reduces him to a handsome, suit-wearing robot spouting award banquet clichés. It’s hard to tell whether this is a motivational tool or an additional piece of recruitment material for potential scholarship players. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places

Heather Avis. Zondervan, $16.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-310-34546-6

Avis, founder of the popular Instagram account @macymakesmyday, is the adoptive mom of three young children and wife of Josh Avis, a former director of Fellowship Monrovia in California. She shares how passionate she was about the birth process; she couldn’t wait to join her sister in motherhood. Unfortunately, a rare reaction to a dye caused irreparable harm to Avis’s body, leaving her unable to conceive. The Avises were heartbroken, but didn’t stay in that sorrowful place. They began investigating the adoption process, and, over two short years, they chose to adopt three delightful babies, two of whom have Down syndrome. Avis’s personal story is inspirational, her courage is infectious, and readers will close out this text wondering how they might step out in faith as the Avises did. Avis and her husband live their lives in honest authenticity and humbly give all the credit to Jesus for pointing their hurting hearts to children in need. This touching book is overflowing with somber realities, comic relief, and everyday mothering mishaps. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert’s Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor

Kendra Broekhuis. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 ISBN 978-0-7180-8326-7

Broekhuis spent three years as a missionary in Guatemala with her husband, and the move back into life in the U.S. was harder than she expected. She recalls that her biggest criticism was of American churches. Given the level of poverty and want she witnessed living in Central America, the U.S.’s gross wealth and unenthusiastic spiritual community made her uncomfortable. It seemed paradoxical that Guatemala could sustain such a vibrant religious community with so little material support, where back home there were so many resources but little true connection. To remedy this internal tension, Broekhuis began a 30-day challenge to love her immediate neighbors in practical, everyday ways. Broekhuis, an introvert, first tentatively dipped her toe into the waters of serving her apartment neighbors by leaving quarters by the laundry machine, making cupcakes, and praying for a man whose car wouldn’t start. Over time, God started nudging her to connect in more personal ways and, as she obeyed, Broekhuis found herself changing from the inside out. Her essays are perceptive and clever as she ponders her motivations for not getting involved in her neighbors’ lives. As Broekhuis outwardly writes about the experience of engaging with her neighbors, she creates a finely reasoned account of why having a spiritual community is so important. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Reflect: Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History

Thaddeus J. Williams. Weaver, $14.95 trade paper (219p) ISBN 978-1-94133-771-4

Williams, assistant professor of biblical and theological studies at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., utilizes the word reflect as an acronym (reason, emote, flip, love, elevate, create, transform) for the steps one can take to let “the most glorious being in existence” shine through into one’s own life. Williams describes Jesus and other acclaimed historical figures in detail, using their stories to show how spiritual, moral, cultural, and social leaders have used their particular systems of thought to help their acolytes achieve their full potential. Williams concludes that Jesus rises above all others, and that many influential figures have risen to prominence by “mirroring” Jesus. Scripture and prayer ground many of Williams’s points, but philosophical digressions and discussions of logic, reasoning, and catharsis bog down the text. Williams expertly explains the reasoning behind Jesus’s defense of Christian tenets to the Pharisees, but the exploration of catharsis and emotional tension is less clear. Williams’s book is appropriate for those with an academic interest in the influence of the historical Jesus on many significant historical figures. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Dawn of Christianity: How God Used Simple Fishermen, Soldiers, and Prostitutes to Transform the World

Robert J. Hutchinson. Thomas Nelson, $24.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-71807-942-0

Biblical historian Hutchinson (Searching for Jesus) draws on personal knowledge of the Holy Land as well as historical sources to craft a “narrative retelling of the founding” of Christianity, as documented by the New Testament and complementary secondary sources. Like a biography, the book paints a convincing portrait of Jesus. Architectural and archaeological details—about the Temple Mount, for instance—allow for vivid recreated scenes. Jesus’s last week of ministry and death take up roughly half of the book. The author draws in debates over topics such as how Jesus and various scholars have interpreted “the kingdom of God.” The alternation between storytelling and speculation is not always fluid, though, and passages of historical context can interrupt the narrative flow. Much the book recounts events from Acts and the Epistles, including Peter’s ministry and Paul’s missionary journeys, but doesn’t add much in the way of enlightening commentary. However, the additional information about early martyrdoms and the Council of Jerusalem is fascinating, and the endnotes (a timeline, a chart of who’s who in the Holy Land, and extensive notes) are invaluable. The hybrid style isn’t unequivocally successful, but the book inspires fresh wonder at how quickly this new religion took off. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family

Jennifer Lin. Rowman & Littlefield, $36 (332p) ISBN 978-1-4422-5693-4

Lin, a former journalist, weaves the history of her family—through success and persecution, family relationships and separation—into the wider history of 19th- and 20th-century China, with a focus on the role and influence of Christianity. She begins with the conversion of her Chinese great-great-grandfather to Christianity and traces his descendants through her grandfather, a minister educated in the United States, and her father, a Philadelphia-based doctor. Lin’s family story is unique, providing a view of recent and contemporary Chinese life that differs from the standard histories, and it’s emotionally compelling, particularly when she describes the years Lin’s father spent separated from his parents and siblings with little insight into their experiences of the Cultural Revolution and emigrating to the U.S. Lin writes with a novelist’s narrative flair and grace and a historian’s fine eye for detail, and as she sketches the personalities, dreams, and life circumstances of her relatives, her thorough research and compassion for her subjects are evident. Scholars and lay readers interested in China will enjoy this vital work. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife

Leslie Kean. Crown Archetype, $25.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-553-41961-0

Examining evidence of extra-mortal existence with the critical eye of a seasoned reporter, journalist Kean demonstrates that such phenomena merit serious study. The book’s four sections cover past-life memories, life beyond death, communicating with beings in the spirit world, and, in a grand denouement, a section titled “Physical Manifestations—The Impossible Made Real.” Kean writes from a believing perspective while recognizing that her readers will be skeptics. In the many accounts she includes, particularly those of children relating information that can only be explained by memories of a past life, Kean challenges readers to consider the many possibilities of a reality beyond that which can be seen with human eyes. In an additional chapter, cardiologist and near-death researcher Pim van Lommel states, “Today science for me means asking questions with an open mind.” Those who come to this book with an open mind will be pleasantly surprised. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Darwin’s First Theory: Exploring Darwin’s Quest for a Theory of Earth

Rob Wesson. Pegasus, $28.95 (462p) ISBN 978-1-68177-316-2

Wesson, scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey, reexamines Darwin’s life and his Beagle voyage to illuminate the great scientist’s contributions to geology. Though known best for the theory of evolution, Darwin was initially given a berth on the Beagle as a geologist. In South America, Darwin’s observations led him to the belief that a gradual process of uplift was the primary factor in the changes in the Earth. He also discovered examples of fossilized megafauna and, later in the voyage, developed a theory of the formation of coral atolls. Wesson journeys to some of Darwin’s destinations, both to examine the theories in context and to evaluate the effects of recent earthquakes. He quotes Darwin often; giving readers a sense of Darwin’s thought processes and occasionally beautiful writing. Darwin’s theory of uplift was superseded by plate tectonics in the mid-20th century, but Wesson reminds readers that Darwin “simply did not have enough of the pieces to solve the puzzle.” Later chapters address the development of the concept of plate tectonics as a logical follow-up to Darwin’s work as well as current theories on megafauna extinction. Readers interested in Darwin, the earth sciences, and field-based research will find this well worth their time. Agent: Jane von Mehren, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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