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My Exodus: Leaving the Slavery of Religion, Loving the Image of God in Everyone

Alan Chambers. Zondervan, $15.99 ISBN 978-0-310-34248-9

Despite the shocking subtitle, Chambers, former president of ex-gay ministry Exodus International, does not recount a transition away from Christianity in this cautious memoir. Rather, he tells the story of his earliest introduction to ex-gay ministries as he struggled with his own attractions to other men. Eventually, he marries a woman and comes to head Exodus, until he ceases its operations under pressures both from former participants alleging damage and from more conservative Christians who oppose Chambers’s rhetorical shift away from curing homosexuality and toward a more expansive, grace-focused Christianity. This memoir offers little on Chambers’s childhood, and tales of his non-professional life only appear to reflect on his work before and after Exodus. The scant moments of candor about his marriage or family life feel somewhat disjointed and do not offer a complete picture. A few chapters written by his wife appear in the middle but only serve to whet the appetite for hearing more of her side of the story. This memoir will appeal to those wanting to understand the demise of Exodus but will leave readers with questions about Chambers’s post-Exodus views. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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American Apostles: When Evangelicals Entered the World of Islam

Christine Leigh Heyrman. Hill and Wang, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8090-2398-1

Through excerpts from missionary journals and evangelical periodicals, Heyrman (Southern Cross) uncovers early American evangelical encounters with the world of Islam surrounding the Mediterranean at the beginning of the 19th century in this fascinating study. American missionaries, endeavoring to convert the masses in the Ottoman Empire (and simultaneously challenge Roman Catholicism and Eastern Christianity), brought back to the U.S. a caricature of Islam that fit their own political goals. Heyrman argues this interaction formed a permanent imprint on American Christianity that stifled increased pluralism while also producing forms of “muscular Christianity.” Filled with curious characters and careful analysis, this archival work reads in part like a historical novel, with well-researched sources and documents mined for depth and continuity. While Heyrman’s conclusions are sometimes speculative, anyone interested in evangelical history, American Christianity, foreign missions history, or Christian-Muslim relations will readily enjoy this work. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Cultivating Chaos: How to Enrich Landscapes with Self-Seeding Plants

Jonas Reif, Christian Kress, and Jürgen Becker. Timber, $40 (192p) ISBN 978-1-60469-652-3

Rational gardeners spy self-seeding flowers (spiderwort, loosestrife, Korean rock fern) and run for the hoe, but landscape designer Reif and Kress, owner of Sarastro Perennials nursery in Austria, persuade the panicky to rethink these so-called invaders. They reason that under careful policing, a garden with self-seeding plants can be made artful with rivers of repeated plantings. Becker’s photos of bountiful, lush gardens with waves of colors easily substantiate this claim. The authors further convert readers to their experimental approach by discussing the advantages of gardening with self-seeders (quick results, inexpensive, suitable for beginners, etc.). They also address the life spans of a variety of annuals, biennials, and short- and long-lived perennials, and discuss preparation of lots and plots, including raising and lowering the pH of the soil as needed. Among instructions and strategies are profiles of gardeners and gardens, and an annotated list of self-seeders. This book is a great resource for gardeners willing to think outside the “plot”. Photos. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Sharpie Art Workshop: Techniques and Ideas for Transforming Your World

Timothy Goodman. Rockport, $22.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-63159-048-1

Graphic designer Goodman (40 Days of Dating: An Experiment) provides a diverse repertoire of ideas for creative use of the Sharpie permanent marker, from the humble doodle to an intricate wall mural. In 2010, after he was commissioned by the Ace Hotel in New York City to create a mural using a Sharpie inside one of its rooms, he abandoned his more traditional, brand-centered work. He discovered that the versatile Sharpie, with 49 colors and several tip sizes, has broad crossover appeal within myriad “genres, cultures, backgrounds, ages, and beliefs.” Prose, poetry, patterns, and design embellishment are just some of the elements suggested for such Sharpie-friendly surfaces as sneakers, plates, vases, skateboards, frames, Post-it Notes, envelopes, gift wrap, and cards. Goodman profiles 14 accomplished artists working in the medium, providing their commentary, artwork, and website links. He includes the Sharpie’s history—it was invented in 1964—and cites this fun fact: Sharpie is the favored writing instrument of astronauts because it is highly suitable for zero gravity. Slim and unique, this “catalog of inspiration” enthusiastically celebrates the mighty marker. Illus. (July)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Mount Athos Diet: The Mediterranean Plan to Lose Weight, Look Younger and Live Longer

Richard Storey, Sue Todd, and Lottie Storey. Vermilion (IPG, dist.), $19.95 trade paper (282p) ISBN 978-0-09-195470-3

This charming diet guide from writer/photographer Richard Storey, nutritionist Todd, and food writer Lottie Storey outlines a plan inspired by the lifestyle and culinary choices of the Mount Athos monks, whom Richard visited on a trip to northern Greece (tradition bars women from the idyllic peninsula). He discovered the monks to be among the healthiest and fittest men on the planet, commonly living into their 80s and 90s. Following a fascinating history of the “Holy Mountain,” settled by Christian hermits in the seventh century C.E., the authors present the plan, which involves three Fast Days (following a vegan diet), three Moderation Days (dairy, fish, and chicken allowed), and a weekly Feast Day. Although certain rules are followed (e.g., no red meat, except on feast days) the plan’s beauty, the authors claim, is in its flexibility; readers are encouraged to choose their own schedule for the various days, and to be creative with recipes. “Monks don’t count calories,” the authors note, but they do practice moderation, limit alcohol (red wine on Moderation and Feast Days with meals), and avoid snacking. This unusual and inspiring diet book contains a selection of uncomplicated, healthful recipes, as well as suggestions for meditation, positive affirmations, and exercise. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Yoga Therapy for Stress & Anxiety: Create a Personalized Holistic Plan to Balance Your Life

Robert Butera, Erin Byron, and Staffan Elgelid. Llewellyn, $19.99 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-0-7387-4575-6

Beginning by noting the prevalence of complaints about stress in today’s world, YogaLife Institute founder Butera, psychotherapist Byron, and physical therapy professor Elgelid present a well-organized guide to using yoga to deal with this problem. The challenge, they observe, is that most people lead lives seemingly designed to keep them in a state of anxiety. For that reason, their program—referred to as “comprehensive yoga therapy”—is designed to help readers “take action to change anything that disturbs our minds.” It involves a daily routine that includes journaling, mental exercises, and yoga postures. Readers will learn how to rephrase intention, reframe “thought patterns” and “thought awareness,” and create a life where “suffering is optional.” Specific sections of the program address eating habits, workplace stress, and personal relationships. Some of the yoga postures might be challenging for new students, but the authors are understanding and encouraging, giving readers permission to “jump around” and tackle exercises in whatever order works. The commitment required will be substantial, but for stressed-out yoga fans interested in a change for the better, this book could be a valuable beginning. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Intuitive Parent: Why the Best Thing for Your Child is You

Stephen Camarata. Penguin/Current, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-59184-613-0

In this agreeable but uninspiring debut, Camarata, a professor of psychiatry and hearing and speech sciences at Vanderbilt—and also a parent and grandparent—promotes old-fashioned parenting with current research. He comes out strongly against highly marketed “pre-programmed” flash cards, Baby Einstein DVDs, and academic preschools in favor of an intuitive, flexible, play-based approach focused on “pay[ing] attention to your child and then respond[ing] normally” during everyday interactions. Camarata shares research showing that drills on letters or math train the young brain on very specific skills, while “natural learning” builds whole-brain comprehension and broadly applicable skills. As a special-needs educator, Camarata claims that increased ADHD-like behavior in classrooms is due to a push toward one-size-fits-all teaching, and that for children on the autism spectrum, specific training programs may be counterproductive. His grandfatherly voice gives a comforting pat on the head to parents overwhelmed by the apparent necessity to cram information into their child’s brain within tightly defined critical periods, and a shake of the finger to overscheduling parents concerned with early achievement. But his low-key style feels like it comes from an earlier generation, out of touch with the 21st century hustle, and his “do less” message could feel bland to the inspiration-seeking parent. Agent: Max Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Raising Can-Do Kids: Giving Children the Tools to Thrive in a Fast-Changing World

Richard Rende and Jen Prosek. Perigee, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-399-16896-3

Rende, a developmental psychologist, and Prosek (Army of Entrepreneurs), CEO of public relations firm Prosek Partners, unite to provide useful strategies for parents hoping to steer their children toward successful careers. Rende and Prosek weave current research throughout and include interviews with various business people who look back on their childhoods for clues to their accomplishments (e.g., Joe Wetli, the “director of innovation” at Elmer’s Glue; brothers John and Bert Jacobs, creators of the “Life is good” lifestyle brand). They use real-life examples to underscore their points; for instance, the Jacobs brothers recall their mother’s eternal optimism. The book stresses the importance of play in early childhood and argues against the trend toward an early and intense focus on academics. It also explores the benefits of arts and crafts, risk-taking, learning from mistakes, and developing conversational competence, among other topics. In our swiftly changing world, the authors claim, “the old paradigms for parenting for success are becoming increasingly obsolete.” Their book should help parents raise kids flexible and creative enough to grasp future opportunities in business and in life. Agent: Lorin Rees, Rees Literary Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Melt-downs, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen Time

Victoria L. Dunckley. New World Library (PGW, dist.), $18.95 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-60868-284-3

Integrative psychiatrist Dunckley tackles the hot issue of the effects that electronic devices such as cellphones, computers, and e-readers are having on children’s brains. The effects, she believes, are profound, potentially dangerous, but also reversible. Dividing the book into three parts, she begins by outlining symptoms of and problems developing from Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS). Parts two and three explain how to “reset” the brain with a three-week electronic fast, and then how to decide whether to reintroduce electronics. Dunckley includes plenty of case studies, which make for interesting reading. Justin’s teacher and dad thought he had ADHD; however, when he eliminated screen time, his symptoms gradually disappeared. A three-year-old girl’s tics—eye-blinking and throat-clearing—vanished when her parents took away her smartphone. Dunckley’s ideas for moderating screen time, such as mandating equal amounts of exercise time, should appeal to parents. Readers will also feel relieved to have such a helpful guide to teaching children that there is more to life than staring at a screen. Agent: Deirdre Mullane, Deirdre Literary. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Eight Keys to Raising the Quirky Child: How to Help a Kid Who Doesn’t Quite Fit In

Mark Bowers. Norton, $19.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-70920-9

Pediatric psychologist Bowers’s guide to understanding the “quirky child”—one with a high IQ and without a pathological diagnosis, but with significant socially off-putting behaviors and difficulties with self-regulation, interpersonal interactions, and executive functioning—is deeply insightful and refreshingly practical. The book, an entry in Norton’s 8 Keys to Mental Health series, combines an appreciation of the differences of kids outside the norm with the message that they must be guided into learning essential social skills. Bowers places quirky behavior on a continuum between normative and pathological, and discusses models of development that can help parents figure out when behavior is, and is not, age-appropriate. While focusing on interventions for children from ages three to 10, Bowers does touch on issues that might surface for parents in later years, such as modulating “depth-seeking” (oriented toward highly specific interests) and isolating behavior and helping students approach homework as a process and not just the mastery of academic skills. Frustrated parents who believe their child is well-described by the “quirky” profile will find Bowen’s attitude supportive, his psychological explanations of their child’s motivations satisfying, and his specific strategies for helping these kids accept breadth of experience and build social competency usable and encouraging. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/03/2015 | Details & Permalink

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