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The Art of Stopping Time

Pedram Shojai. Rodale, $21.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-62336-910-1

Shojai, an ordained priest of Yellow Dragon Monastery and doctor of oriental medicine behind the bestselling The Urban Monk, now focuses on time and our unhealthy relationship to it (and how we never have enough of it), aiming to show readers how to reclaim and “reprioritize” this resource via his “proven methodology.” Shojai seeks to lead readers toward “time prosperity”—having the time to do what you desire in life without feeling rushed or stressed—and the resultant increase in fulfillment and productivity. His guide is structured on gong, a traditional Chinese practice in which one designates a time for performing a specific task each day; Shojai offers a 100-day gong practice, unveiled over 100 alphabetically ordered chapters. Two of Shojai’s gongs are “Assembling Your Life Garden,” in which readers assess the amount of energy required for what’s important to them, and “Dream Time,” about keeping a dream journal. Also included are chapters on awareness, “Learning Animal Tracks,” and “Listening to Noise,” as well as chapters that address digital life: “Podcasts and Audiobooks” and “Social Media Day Off.” While it may seem silly that Shojai reminds us to smile or make love, readers should find him an appealing guide to improving their quality of life. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Acupressure with Aromatherapy

Karin Parramore. Robert Rose (Firefly, dist.), $24.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-7788-0546-5

In this informative guide, Parramore, an aromatherapist and instructor at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Ore., provides a brief overview of Chinese medicine and its approaches to health and healing. The book explains that acupressure acts on the same points on the body as acupuncture, but practitioners use their fingers rather than fine needles to stimulate “the body’s natural ability to heal.” Aromatherapy complements acupressure, Parramore explains, because essential oils easily enter the body through the skin and “act as an antenna” as acupuncture needles do, to help access the qi, “a vital force that flows through the body.” The book includes diagrams for 64 pressure points and describes acupressure and aromatherapy treatments for 64 conditions, listed alphabetically from addiction to viral infections, as well as a glossary and index. Parramore acknowledges that conventional medical treatments are the appropriate choice in some instances, such as a traumatic accident, but writes that alternative treatments may be better in other situations, such as alleviating day-to-day symptoms. Although the diagrams are well drawn and explained, it may still be difficult for inexperienced readers to accurately find the correct pressure point without additional guidance. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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An Intimate Wilderness: Arctic Voices in a Land of Vast Horizons

Norman Hallendy. Greystone (PGW, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $34.95 (328p) ISBN 978-1-77164-230-9

This book, the culmination of 45 years of journeying in Canada’s Eastern Arctic, admirably fulfills Hallendy’s (Inuksuit: Silent Messengers of the Arctic) desire to bring together the stories and teachings of Inuit elders, which he hopes will be passed on to future generations. Hallendy first came to the Arctic as a mining prospector’s assistant and became captivated by the land and the people. Although he is a white outsider, Hallendy became a student of the elders. He outlines a complex way of being in the world that has enabled the Inuit to survive and thrive in a harsh environment. Enhanced by beautiful photos, there are chapters devoted to maps that juxtapose the natural (caribou hunts) and the supernatural (spirits); the stone cairns called inuksuit, often considered the gates to sacred places; and the basic concerns of northern life, including weather patterns, ice floes, hunting, and making clothing and art. Although readers may be left wanting to know more about some topics that are only briefly mentioned such as domestic violence and the role of women’s work, the book provides a grand service to everyone interested in the North. By putting the ephemeral and the practical on equal footing, it gives an insightful glimpse into a world driven by both survival and spirit. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times

Edited by Carolina De Robertis. Vintage, $15.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-525-43513-6

Shortly after the election of Donald Trump, novelist and activist De Robertis (The Gods of Tango) invited fellow writers equally dismayed by this outcome to offer hope to Trump opponents through a venerable literary format: the epistolary essay. Naming Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as a notable example of the genre, she calls the book’s 31 selections “love letters in response to these political times.” De Robertis’s contributors, who include Jeff Chang, Junot Díaz, Claire Messud, and Celeste Ng, replied to her call with diverse, eloquent, and unapologetic pieces that speak to the heart and underline the sentiment that the personal is political. They contexualize the changes in today’s society by looking backward to famous ancestors and forward to grandchildren. The letters are addressed to the authors’ peers, the protesters at Standing Rock Indian Reservation, strangers in the grocery store, feminists met once on a Cairo sidewalk, and, perhaps most movingly, the beloved children who will inherit the results of adults’ choices. The overall message is one of radical connection and thoughtful activism. This collection is a plea to defy the idea that positive change is impossible. (May)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Serpent’s Tale: Discovering America’s Ancient Mound Builders

Lorett Treese. Westholme, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59416-263-3

In this uneven work, Treese combines a fairly extensive survey of writings on American mound builders with sketches of her own field trips and other tangential materials. After describing a 1987 harmonic convergence celebration at Ohio’s Serpent Mound, she introduces early Smithsonian Institution researchers Ephraim George Squier and Edwin Hamilton Davis, whose 1848 book, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, is referenced throughout. Treese then visits the 18th century and moves forward, chronologically summarizing shifting hypotheses about different mound sites concentrated in the Ohio Valley region. This material forms the bulk of the work and helps convey how popular understanding has changed in regards to the various cultures that occupied these sites and built the mounds. However, Treese’s passages on her visits to museums and mound locations feel out of place; some are straightforward but others include irrelevant commentary on trolley bells or the excellence of the local barbecue. She devotes an entire chapter to Mormons and the mounds but finds no connections between the two, and her final chapter covers alternatives to mainstream theories on human migration to North America, including the notion that humans originated in Atlantis or Mu (aka Lemuria). Treese weakens her main chronology of scholarly thought by juxtaposing her own travels and wild theories of others. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Inga: Kennedy’s Great Love, Hitler’s Perfect Beauty, and J. Edgar Hoover’s Prime Suspect

Scott Farris. Lyons, $29.95 (488p) ISBN 978-1-4930-1755-3

A mysterious woman who captivated powerful men gets a dramatic portrayal in this lively, sometimes swoony, biography. Journalist Farris (Kennedy and Reagan) details the picaresque life of Inga Arvad, a Danish-born pageant queen, actress, and journalist deemed “the most perfect example of Nordic beauty” by Adolf Hitler, who gave her exclusive interviews. When she moved to America in 1940, her Nazi associations sparked suspicions that she was a German spy and provoked a comic-opera FBI investigation with phone taps, bugs, and break-ins. Farris’s focus is the married Arvad’s months-long affair with young ensign John F. Kennedy. He portrays their relationship as sparking Kennedy’s presidential ambitions and then falling victim to them, as marriage to Protestant divorcée Arvad would have ruined his political career. Farris makes this a colorful, entertaining piece of Kennedy-clan gothic—the FBI recorded Inga and J.F.K.’s lovemaking; gruesome patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy manipulated everyone from offstage—but the romantic weight he accords it (J.F.K.’s “Inga Binga” was the only woman “worth the price of fidelity,” he writes) seems overstated: the “great love” feels like a mere hiccup in Kennedy’s history of callous womanizing, while the good-natured Arvad is overshadowed by more charismatic personalities around her. Photos. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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