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Debunking the Bump: A Mathematician Mom Explodes Myths About Pregnancy

Daphne Adler. Daphne Adler, $14.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5053-9312-5

In this important book, Adler, a mathematician, management consultant, and self-proclaimed "numbers junkie," equips mothers with researched data behind recommendations for what to do (and not do) during pregnancy and kids' early childhood. She decided to write the book after becoming exasperated with the bounty of conflicting (and often scary) information about pregnancy. Revelatory chapters address pathogens, environmental toxins, "voluntary poison" (tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine), lifestyle, positive influences, and unavoidable risks. Adler writes that not only is it nearly impossible to avoid food poisoning through dietary changes, but that only a handful of food-borne illnesses will cause problems for one's pregnancy. Each "myth" is summarized with Adler's own threat/benefit level rating system; for instance, the threat level of eating oysters is very low, while kissing your kids poses a medium threat, due to viruses. Comprehensive appendices cover Adler's methodology and calculations and the exhaustive catalogues behind her conclusions. She writes in a tone that is both authoritative and assuring—that of a mother rooting for all other mothers. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: A Life in Music

Dave Stewart. New American Library, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-451-47768-2

In this sometimes tedious and tuneless but often melodic memoir, Stewart, who formed the Eurythmics with Annie Lennox, cannily and humorously catalogs his up and downs in music. After a soccer injury sidelined him in his youth, he picked up a Spanish guitar that his brother had given him. Before long, Stewart put his energy into music and began to see himself as a troubadour in the mold of Leonard Cohen, Donovan, and Bob Dylan. After a few years of playing music with friends, he met Annie Lennox and was mesmerized by "her singing, the chords she's playing, her delicate words, and her haunting beauty." Eventually, they form the Eurythmics—whose name they take from a method of teaching music—and record their first album, In the Garden. Stewart catalogs his life in music, going roughly year by year and providing details about albums and his own approach to music. As a producer, he focuses on building music around the human voice because he believes that element is what most people feel most emotionally connected with. Stewart also chronicles his work and friendships with artists such as Mick Jagger, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Lynne. Stewart's candid autobiography offers an intimate glimpse into the incandescent energy that's fueled his music and life. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Banjo: America's African Instrument

Laurent Dubois. Harvard, $29.95 (366p) ISBN 978-0-674-04784-6

In this less than melodious celebration of the origins and history of the banjo, Dubois delivers a straightforward social history of the relationship between race and music. Drawing deeply on archives of primary materials, Dubois traces the life of the banjo: its earliest days in Africa, its introduction into Caribbean culture by enslaved peoples in the 17th century, its central role in the lives of slaves on 19th-century plantations, its use in minstrel shows, its rise in the Appalachian mountains during the second half of the 19th century, and its role in the folk movement and protest movements of the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the music of Pete Seeger. The instrument has had many names—banza, banjaw, bandjo, banjor—but they all describe a kind of "drum on a stick" with a long neck, at the top of which are four tuning pegs. Dubois illustrates that the banjo was instrumental in transculturation, a process by which a number of cultures shaped one another to create something new, especially as the banjo moved from Africa to the various indigenous cultures of the Atlantic. Regrettably, Dubois leaves out many women banjo players, such as Wilma Lee Cooper, Roni Stoneman, and Alison Brown, who as the cofounder of Compass Records has done more in the last 20 years to raise the profile of the banjo and its history than perhaps any other musician. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

Kevin Kelly. Viking, $28 (318p) ISBN 978-0-525-42808-4

Kelly (What Technology Wants), a cofounder and former editor of Wired magazine, reflects on the revolutionary digital and technological changes currently underway and seeks to define 12 of the forces driving these changes. He writes that these forces are active trends that make certain outcomes inevitable: "There is a bias in the nature of technology that tilts it in certain directions and not others." Throughout the book, Kelly catalogs the many new developments of the last couple decades, from the Internet itself to the explosion of cloud computing and digital services such as Facebook and Uber. Each chapter addresses one of the 12 forces and ends with a vision of what our daily lives might look like if the given trend persists 30 years from now; for example, he predicts the personalization of nearly everything—including healthcare and advertisements—based on comprehensively collected, maintained, and shared data profiles. These imaginative speculations reflect an optimistic and arguably idealistic view, and the book as a whole exudes faith in the power of technology to better the world. Kelly notes that bad actors are just as inevitable as the technological changes themselves, but he chooses to elide discussions of the specific downsides that likely will accompany the changes he describes. Kelly's stated goal is "to uncover the roots of digital change so that we can embrace them." The book effectively identifies these roots, but in omitting critical discussion of them, it leaves the reader inadequately equipped to thoughtfully embrace or engage with them. (June)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Wear and Tear: The Threads of My Life

Tracy Tynan. Scribner, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5011-2368-9

Hollywood costume designer Tynan begins her juicy yet touching memoir by recounting the challenges of growing up in London as the only child of legendary theater critic Kenneth Tynan, creator of the avant-garde revue Oh Calcutta!, and novelist Elaine Dundy, who divorced Kenneth on Tynan's 13th birthday. During breaks from boarding school, Tynan spent most of her time in the U.S. with her mother, who moved to New York to reinvent herself. Tynan was able to detect her mother's alcoholism at a young age and vividly recalls her mother's embarrassing behavior while under the influence. Tynan's love of and fascination with clothing became the guiding force in her life. Descriptions of outfits or items of clothing are woven into the narrative as she recounts encountering family friends such as Orson Welles and Tennessee Williams and becoming attuned to her mother's addiction and her father's well-known penchant for sadomasochism. Tynan captures the hedonism of London in the swinging '60s, and the emotional journey of a survivor. (July)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Cyber Effect: A Pioneering Cyberpsychologist Explains How Human Behavior Changes Online

Mary Aiken. Spiegel & Grau, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9785-9

Aiken, a self-described forensic cyberpsychologist, shows in compelling detail how the online world bleeds into people's daily lives in ways that occasionally involve actual bloodshed. The online environments that people increasingly inhabit provide a range of benefits, but they present as many problems. Aiken's stories are stirring enough to stand alone: she covers the near-normalized phenomenon of online dating, the addictive and fatal extremes of gaming, and even murders that are motivated by aspirations of Internet fame. Some analysis focuses on how children respond to the digitized world, information that is especially useful to parents hoping to protect their children from developing bad habits or ending up in danger. Aiken accompanies every anecdote with her own carefully researched, comprehensible analysis. Some of the final notes might read as extreme; for example, her suggestion of a general redesign of the Internet seems at this point inconceivable, and predictions of an all-encompassing battle between humans and machines feels more like the stuff of movies than of scholarship. Still, the relevance of Aiken's careful discussion is undeniable.(Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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More: How to Move from Activity for God to Intimacy with God

Greg L. Hawkins. Multnomah, $19.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-60142-862-2

Hawkins, former executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and current pastor—alongside Max Lucado and Randy Frazee—at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Tex., explores ways of living an intimate life with God in this hands-on primer. With style and smarts, he transparently divulges his mental state during seasons when he felt "off" with God and explains how God used tragedy to help him understand how little control he had over life's happenings. Hawkins's biggest lesson occurred when he discovered a tumor on his left kidney and he understood that God had placed such a dire obstacle in his path in order to explain that Hawkins's intrinsic worth came from him being a child of God, not his own accomplishments. Readers will learn object lessons about the value of a strong inner core in comparison to material or financial success. Hawkins's welcoming style will encourage Christ followers to spend more time in reflection and inspire a reevaluation of what matters most in this temporal life. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Wisdom of Solomon and Us: The Quest for Meaning, Morality, and a Deeper Relationship with God

Marc D. Angel. Jewish Lights, $18.99 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-58023-855-7

Angel (Maimonides, Spinoza, and Us) successfully parses excerpts from the biblical books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and the Song of Songs to present a traditional but intellectually honest approach to the most important questions of life. He begins with the traditional rabbinic view that these three books reflect different developmental stages in the wisdom of the biblical King Solomon. However, though the prevailing opinion is that Ecclesiastes was the work of Solomon's cynical old age, Angel adopts the view of a 16th-century rabbi—that Ecclesiastes was the youthful work of the king as he was striving after life's meaning. This was followed in Solomon's prime by the morally focused Proverbs, and then the spiritual longing of the allegorical Song of Songs in his old age. Based on this ordering, Angel constructs a three-tiered approach to exploring the question of how one may lead a meaningful, ethical, and spiritually connected life. Even those who don't believe that the biblical King Solomon was the author of these books can nevertheless appreciate the wisdom contained in Angel's volume, gleaned and clarified by study over the course of a vibrant rabbinic career. This analysis will appeal to Jews and non-Jews seeking answers to some of life's most basic and sticky questions. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens

R. Scott Hanson. Fordham, $35 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-8232-7160-3

In 1657, the people of Flushing, now a neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., drafted the Flushing Remonstrance, a plea for religious liberty and diversity, in the face of an attempt by New York governor Peter Stuyvesant to persecute anyone who was not a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. From colonial times, Flushing, which its residents often call "the birthplace of religious freedom," has teemed with religious diversity fostered by immigrants who bring their own religious traditions and fervently practice them. Hanson's intimate portrait of lived religion in this New York City neighborhood is at once tedious and inspiring. Hanson offers a detailed history of Flushing from its earliest colonial days, discussing its growth into a "community of churches" in the 19th century and its dramatic expansion in the 20th century beyond the "Protestant-Catholic-Jew" model into a bustling religiously diverse community where Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and Buddhists live side by side in relative religious harmony. Hanson points out that the relative absence of religious conflict in Flushing illustrates the promise of such a religiously pluralistic community, though spatial and theological limits challenge the quest for unity. He urges interaction and cooperation that lead to tolerance, ecumenism, and inclusivism, rather than conflict, intolerance, proselytism, and nativism. The prose is flat, but readers will still enjoy this glimpse at the lived religions of a particular community, which deserves a place alongside Robert Orsi's The Madonna of 115th Street. (July)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Parenting in Perspective: Timeless Wisdom, Modern Applications

Barry Kislowicz. Maggid/Koren, $22.95 (190p) ISBN 978-1-59264-456-8

In this powerfully insightful primer on parenting, Kislowicz underscores, through abundant research and illustrative stories, the key role of perspective in raising healthy, responsible, and committed Jewish children. Drawing from a deep knowledge of Torah and psychology, Kislowicz, a rabbi and educator, presents relevant psychological theories in an articulate and comprehensive manner to demonstrate his fundamental belief: "More than just the amount of time and attention we devote to our children, putting kids at the center means challenging ourselves to see things from their perspective rather than our own." To help transition his theories into practice, Kislowicz follows two fictional families as they struggle with a slew of parenting challenges and follow and deviate from the strategies he recommends. Among the chapters are "Morals and Mitzvot"; "Learning Your Child"; "Practice, Practice, Practice"; and "Teenagers." Kislowicz seamlessly moves from topic to topic and effectively incorporates the science behind the logic in a remarkably understandable and thought-provoking way. His advice is tailored to orthodox Jewish parents and an observant lifestyle, but his advice is so grounded and sensible that any parent would benefit from his informed guidance. (June)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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