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Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life

Joan Chittister. Convergent, $22 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-451-49517-4

Chittister (Between the Dark and the Daylight), an American Benedictine nun and a prolific spiritual and political writer, is an ardent evangelist for Benedict of Nursia, a 6th-century Italian hermit who’s known as the “father of Western monasticism.” Chittister proselytizes by convincing the postmodern spiritual reader that Benedict’s Rule, a 1,500-year-old manual for monks, can lead to “internal freedom” today. Here Chittister focuses on the tough “spiritual hinge” of Benedict’s Rule: the 12 steps of humility. Through her judicious use of spiritual parables from around the world and events from her own life, Chittister engages readers with narrative and humor, drawing them down a path to self-revelation and spiritual grounding. These thoughtfully choreographed chapters address the individual and offer an antidote to contemporary trends where “demagoguery is the new political brand, where narcissism is too often misunderstood to be leadership.” Chittister writes that humility is the corrective to dangerous grandiosity, which “in religion... makes itself conscience. In government, makes itself a citizen king.” Chittister’s book is wise, sharp, funny, and timely. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography; The Faith of a Boundary-Breaking Hero

Michael G. Long and Chris Lamb. Westminster John Knox, $17 trade paper (210p) ISBN 978-0-664-26203-7

In this fast-paced read, Long (Peaceful Neighbor) and Lamb (From Jack Johnson to LeBron James) paint a portrait of groundbreaking baseball player Jackie Robinson that is both refreshing and exciting. The authors argue that his little-known religious life was foundational to his success. Robinson himself attributed his resilience to his deep faith: “There’s nothing like faith in God to help a fellow who gets booted around once in a while.” During his stint in the Army, his baseball career, and his years of civil rights activism, Robinson was indeed “booted around,” examples of which the authors provide in each phase of his well-recorded life, but his faith in God, instilled in him by his mother and nurtured by fervent devotion, guided him to victory over his challenges. His association with such notables as Martin Luther King Jr. taught Robinson that, despite his own wariness of some of Jesus’s teachings, engagement with the civil rights movement had a strong spiritual component, and that people of faith must play a powerful role in the quest for equality. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 03/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Candy Is Magic: Real Ingredients, Modern Recipes

Jami Curl. Ten Speed, $35 (312p) ISBN 978-0-399-57839-7

Curl, the owner of the Quin Candy Company in Portland, Oregon, is passionate on the subject of candy, and her cookbook promises to teach readers the behind-the-scenes sleight of hand necessary to make great candy at home. Curl uses real ingredients (such as fruit flavorings that come from actual fruit) in gumdrops, caramels, and lollipops. People who are timid about candy-making will find Curl’s detailed instructions encouraging. Her lesson on making caramel—a task that can put fear into the heart of even the most stalwart cook—is worth the price of the book. Readers can learn to make lollipops, gumdrops and marshmallows, all using fruit purees made from scratch. And on days when candy making seems like too much, there are simpler recipes, including homemade colored and flavored sugar sprinkles, peanut butter hot fudge sauce, and a pan of s’mores made with homemade marshmallows. Balancing kid-friendly lollipop flavors (peach, caramel) are Pinot Gris and rosé ones for those with more mature palates. Unique flavor combinations can be found throughout the book, and include coffee, orange, and smoked salt caramels, and iced tea and lemonade gumdrops. Curl’s enthusiasm for her craft makes this cookbook a pleasure to read; she is the ideal coach for would-be candy makers. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life

Terry Wahls. Avery, $25 (368p) ISBN 978-0-399-18477-2

Wahls, who has multiple sclerosis, developed her own take on the popular paleo regimen when she “could not wait for modern medicine to solve my health problems.” Her clinical background lends some gravitas to her story: she’s a physician and University of Iowa professor, and assistant chief of staff at a VA hospital. Within a year of initiating her diet, Wahls says she went from using a wheelchair to riding a bike. There are three levels of commitment: the Wahls Diet (high-vegetable, low-grain), Wahls Paleo (organ meat and sea vegetables), and finally Wahls Paleo Plus (hard-core high-fat ketogenic). Anecdotally, or at least without citation, Wahls recommends this last level for those with neurological ailments such as dementia and epilepsy, in addition to “the most severe levels of chronic disease.” Recipes cover paleo fixtures such as bone broth, nut milk, and cauliflower “rice,” as well as nearly 50 pages of fairly repetitive smoothies and juices. Recipes are uneven. A bacon salad, for instance, has one ingredient listed, kale; later it develops that Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, and balsamic vinaigrette (and bacon) also figure. Wahls Protocol acolytes might find the book useful; others, not so much. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Will It Skillet? 53 Irresistible and Unexpected Recipes to Make in a Cast-Iron Skillet

Daniel Shumski. Workman, $14.95 trade paper (216p) ISBN 978-0-7611-8743-1

Shumski’s follow-up to 2014’s Will It Waffle replicates its one-tool approach, right down to the recipe count. Though home cooks are likely already using their skillets to prepare dishes such as seared steaks and grilled cheese sandwiches, Shumski offers novel takes for unexpected fare such as parmesan tuiles; a spinach and feta dip; ricotta, spinach, and mushroom lasagna; and even chicken pot pie. He shows readers how to get the most out of their skillets, with instructions on basic care, seasoning, and cleaning, and illustrates how skillets can amplify the flavors of spices by toasting them. Though some dishes seem to be included solely to boost recipe count—such as waffle bread pudding, which employs frozen waffles as its centerpiece—the majority of the fare here is practical and doable for even the most inexperienced, and the book would make a fine accompaniment to a gift of a skillet for a novice cook. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Gluten-Free Cooking for Two: 125 Favorites

Carol Fenster. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-544-82868-1

This solid cookbook for novices was inspired when Fenster (100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes) found herself still cooking large portions despite her household having shrunk. She realized there was a need for small-batch cooking information for childless couples and empty nesters. Cooking for the actual number of people in one’s home helps to control portion sizes, reduces the need for excessive freezer or refrigerator space, and eliminates the waste of food and expensive ingredients. The introduction sets up a small-batch kitchen, with tips and tricks for cooking in smaller quantities, recommended brands for ingredients, and a bonus recipe for Fenster’s gluten-free flour blend. Recipes run the typical spectrum from breakfast to desserts and are basically everyday fare, just downsized and gluten-free. Some recipes rely on pre-made gluten-free products such as pasta and bread, but there are recipes for pie crust and pizza dough. This is a great introduction to gluten-free small-batch cooking. Photos. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Live Better While You Age: Tips and Tools for a Healthier, Longer Life

James W. Jones. Rowman & Littlefield, $35 (216p) ISBN 978-1-4422-6958-3

Jones, a retired cardiovascular surgeon and visiting professor of medicine and medical ethics at Baylor College of Medicine, employs his professional expertise as well as his personal experiences in this practical and sound book on aging in good health. Jones applies a “free will concept” to health, arguing that lifestyle choices can make a crucial difference in “keeping the golden years golden.” According to Jones, many chronic diseases are lifestyle-related and not an inevitable part of aging; he also points out that 74–77% of diseases are not genetically based. The book is divided into three parts: “The Aging Body,” “Lifestyle Changes and Prevention,” and “Medical Care and Management.” In various chapters, Jones examines such ailments as vascular disease, inflammation, and dementia, and concludes that exercise, diet, and socializing are the keys to aging well. A section on improving medical care and choosing a good doctor may be of particular interest to those negotiating the medical maze (one suggestion is to opt for experience over personality). Interspersing health tips with nuggets of wisdom on various subjects, including happiness, religion, and remembering prescription schedules, Jones urges readers to apply “grit” and discipline to their lifestyles, and to weigh immediate gratification against future benefits. Older readers seeking straightforward advice will enjoy and learn from Jones’s sage approach to quality aging. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 03/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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