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Deepening Engagement: Essential Wisdom for Listening and Leading with Purpose, Meaning, and Joy

Diane Millis. SkyLight Paths, $16.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-59473-584-4

Educator, spiritual director, and consultant Millis (Conversation: The Sacred Art) proposes a new method to help individuals and communities connect more honestly with one another. Millis suggests a way to move from deep listening to deep engagement on any scale. Chapter titles are short maxims, like “be who you are" and “use everything," that are developed into invitations to pause, ponder, and practice each chapter's core concept. Some ideas help readers examine their own lives, while “listen generously" and “ask meaningful questions" are guidelines that can be applied to relationships with others. Drawing on her work teaching leadership skills with the Fetzer Institute and the Lilly Endowment, Millis writes that strong communities can be founded on honest engagement and the willingness to improvise. Appealing to both corporate leaders and self-help readers, Millis writes with heart and compassion without veering into fuzziness or jargon. She includes a good bibliography for those wishing to deepen their explorations of her ideas. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem

Rod Dreher. Regan Arts, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-941393-32-1

After Dreher's sister's untimely death, Dreher (The Little Way of Ruthie Leming) returns with his wife and children to live in the Louisiana parish where he was born. He hopes to reconnect with his family, but they regard him as different and arrogant. Grieving and frustrated that his family won't accept him, Dreher is nearly overcome by a stress-exacerbated illness. Reading Dante's Divine Comedy sets him on a path to healing, and he decides that to seek ultimate satisfaction in anything but God is to pursue a fool's errand. Though the writing is often beautiful and sometimes wise, the book doesn't live up to the virtues it extols. Each chapter ends with a how-to box of occasionally anodyne self-help advice (“Find the dragons hiding [inside your own heart], slay them, and bring back the treasure that will help you live well"). Such platitudes undermine Dreher's insistence that narratives, particularly Dante's, are uniquely life-changing. It's clear that reading Dante—and getting some good counseling—helped Dreher overcome despair and learn the meaning of love and forgiveness, but his personal solution is far from universally applicable. Agent: Gary Morris, David Black Agency. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Meb for Mortals: How to Run, Think, and Eat like a Champion Marathoner

Meb Keflezighi, with Scott Douglas. Rodale, $19.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-62336-547-9

Keflezighi's book is a perfect accessory for marathon training. Keflezighi, the winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon, covers topics both physical and psychological, writing that “everything I've achieved physically in running started psychologically with the thought, ‘I want to do this.' " This thorough training guide covers every bit of the expected subject matter: physical drills (including photos to show form), diet, strength training (including a five-minute do-anywhere routine), and cross-training. Keflezighi even includes his personal training schedules four weeks prior to running a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or marathon. He also addresses issues like good shoe selection, wearing sunglasses on race day, and the key role that recovery plays in a solid running regimen. Each section begins with inspirational full-page photos of Keflezighi, and the chapters are clearly organized, addressing basic questions and concluding with helpful do's and don'ts. The format is clean and the writing is simple and strong, all making this book a valuable tool for anyone with their sights set on running a marathon. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Le Bootcamp Diet: The Scientifically Proven French Method to Eat Well, Lose Weight, and Keep It Off for Good

Valerie Orsoni. Berkley, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0425280607

Corsican-born healthy living coach Orsoni (Le Personal Coach) says she tried 40 diets before teaming up with her then-overweight dad, a chef, to create this uniquely French approach to lasting weight loss. Her gourmet plan includes Detox (the program's “cornerstone"), Attack, Booster, and Maintenance phases. Orsoni eschews deprivation; a central principle of hers is that there are no forbidden food groups, though there are specific guidelines to accompany the four phases (during the seven-day detox, for example, she forbids meat, dairy, yeast, gluten, and alcohol). Orsoni's overriding principles include body cleansing, alkaline balancing, and sugar management. The plan also incorporates exercise (including a daily 30-minute walk on an empty stomach), a morning drink of lemon juice with water, buckwheat tea, and motivational strategies and breathing techniques to relieve stress. Each section is accompanied by appealing, relatively uncomplicated recipes selected to satisfy varied culinary preferences. A French creamy carrot soup contains vegan sour cream; other pages describebacon-roasted brussels sprouts, or a colorful Basque piperade. True to her word, Orsoni proves that diets need not be boring or unpalatable, appealing to those who are eager to infuse their diet plans with a plentiful helping of joie de vivre. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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On the Edge: The State and Fate of the World's Tropical Rainforests

Claude Martin. Greystone (PGW, U.S dist.; HarperCollins Canada, Canadian dist.), $36.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-77164-140-1

In this report prepared for the Club of Rome, a think tank that analyzes major world problems, Martin aims to combat “rainforest fatigue" brought on by decades of conservation advocacy and the ascendance of climate change as a global concern. In nine chapters, he synthesizes decades of scientific literature on the state of the world's rainforests and assesses conservation efforts. With input from specialists, Martin also covers issues such as forest monitoring trends, causes of deforestation, and biodiversity. During much of the 20th century, the rainforests fell prey to the resource-hungry, global economic paradigm of infinite growth. Since the 1970s, conservation efforts have yielded impressive results, but the assault on the rainforests, largely fueled by palm oil expansion and the need for livestock pastures, continues. Martin calls for further action via “comprehensive forest conservation concepts that build on ecosystem persistence and resilience." His book is an impassioned argument backed by scientific data that is geared toward an educated general readership. Anyone interested in the fate of the rainforests—and the world—should check it out. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Fallen

Kara Stanley. Greystone (PGW, U.S. dist.; HarperCollins Canada, Canadian dist.), $17.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-77164-103-6

Stanley's debut book is a love story about the way the author's life changes after a traumatic injury leaves her musician husband, Simon, paralyzed from the waist down. It traces Simon's journey from his fall at a construction site to Vancouver General Hospital, where he reawakens from a coma, and along his long road to rehabilitation. The story moves between the past, as Stanley recounts the course of her life with Simon and their son before the accident, and a present filled with excruciating anxiety about Simon's health and future. It's a difficult story to follow, both because it is so painful for Simon and his family, and because they endure a laborious trek through the labyrinthine passages of the medical system, but the man whose portrait Stanley paints is endearing, and her love for him is resilient and unquestionable. Along with descriptions of personal healing experiences, including the important role of music in Simon's recovery, Stanley also includes some recent neuromedical research. This doesn't always feel like a natural fit and slows the book down, but otherwise this is a compelling story of strength and love. Agent: Carolyn Swayze, Carolyn Swayze Literary Agency (Canada). (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Beyond Gatsby: How Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Writers of the 1920s Shaped American Culture

Robert McParland. Rowman & Littlefield, $38 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4422-4708-6

McParland (Mark Twain's Audience) fails to deliver on the promise of his book's subtitle, opting instead to demonstrate that some of the most prominent American authors of the 1920s were in fact simply products of their time. Citing Mencken, McParland refers to Fitzgerald as a “social historian" of the period, and goes on to say that “these novelists, in their various ways [are] observers of a bright and unique era." Sinclair Lewis, too, “was one with his readers," the success of Main Street attributable to “a receptive audience," while Faulkner “shows us a different picture of the 1920s than the ones we have been looking at to this point." The writers who emerge from these pages are all the less interesting for being depicted more as chroniclers of the age than as its arbiters, more shaped by their time than shaping it. MacParland has done an impressive amount of research, but he piles on too many facts without explaining their significance. In place of insight, he offers anodyne observations worthy of SparkNotes: The Great Gatsby contains “the archetypical quest of the American dream"; The Grapes of Wrath “reminds us of the heroism of the common man and woman." Despite 40 pages of endnotes and bibliography, this book is likely to be of little more interest to the academic than to the lay reader. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Contender: Andrew Cuomo, A Biography

Michael Shnayerson. Twelve, $30 (544p) ISBN 978-1455521-99-9

The hook of this biography from Shnayerson (Coal River)--that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is still a legitimate presidential prospect--may have been overtaken by events: the January 2015 arrest of Sheldon Silver reinforced the state's image as a cesspool of corruption, despite Cuomo's pledge to clean up Albany. The governor is certainly a fascinating figure, but even readers with a negative view of him are likely to have qualms about the author's persistent use of anonymous sources. Shnayerson, belatedly, explains that many of the people he spoke with were afraid of getting on Cuomo's bad side, but does not provide any basis to credit their accounts or indicate what efforts he took to corroborate them. This is a serious failing, as the author gives space to some significant innuendos, including speculation that Cuomo may have tipped off investigators to his predecessor's use of prostitutes, the scandal that led to Eliot Spitzer's resignation and set the stage for Cuomo's 2010 election. There's enough that's well-documented about Cuomo, both good and bad, to make resorting to unsubstantiated reports unnecessary, and this biography, intended to be definitive, is not. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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