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Four Boots One Journey: A Story of Survival, Awareness, and Rejuvenation on the John Muir Trail

Jeff Alt. Beaufort (Midpoint, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-0-8253-0736-2

Hiker and speaker Alt (A Walk for Sunshine) and wife Beth, hiked the John Muir Trail—218 miles in all—as an effort to heal themselves and spread awareness about depression following a suicide in the family. While his outdoors experiences included the Appalachian Trail, she was a hiking novice who enjoyed the comforts of home. More than just a memoir, Alt's book serves as as a guide to the trail as well as a reference for backpacking preparations. Alt describes terrain, wildlife, and fellow hikers as he narrates their experiences. Food is a frequent theme due to the difficulties of limiting weight and carrying many days' meals in a bear proof capsule. Alt balances the safety concerns and difficulties of long hiking journeys with humorous and spiritual observations about life on the trail and in nature. Throughout, Alt shares memories of Beth's brother along with symptoms of depression. The story holds great sincerity and is recommended for hikers. (July)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit

Paul Martineau. J. Paul Getty Trust, $39.95 (200p) ISBN 978-1-60606-322-4

This gorgeous collection of White's photographs documents an exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the first major showing of the artist's work since 1991.The book includes several complete series from the exhibition, which demonstrate the breadth of White's artistic concerns and personal passions, alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) erotic, contemplative, and abstractly sculptural. His photographs often evoke a spiritual, otherworldly realm while grounded in the concrete physical manifestations of the everyday world. For example, The Temptation of St. Anthony Is Mirrors, a sequence from the 1940s depicting White's student Tom Murphy, reflects the tenderness and pain of White's closeted homosexuality while referencing Christian martyrdom. White illuminates the sensuous yet transcendent orbs and crystalline filigree in a series shot in upstate New York called The Sound of One Hand.. Martineau's accompanying essay, informative if not groundbreaking, provides a straightforward biography detailing various hardships in White's life and they impacted his art and inspired his teaching career. (July)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Obsessive Creative

Collette Dinnigan. Harper Design, $75 (264p) ISBN 978-0-06-2337-12-2

In this scrapbook-style autobiography, the internationally renowned Australian fashion designer gives readers an intimate glimpse into her glitzy, glamorous world. Beginning with a story from her bohemian childhood when she and her parents sailed from apartheid South Africa to New Zealand, Dinnigan reveals how serendipity aligned with intense ambition, a strong work ethic, and marketing skills to take her to the Olympian fashion heights she occupies today. Fashion lovers will drool over the photographic abundance of Dinnigan's lushly girly gowns and underwear, and aspiring designers may be both inspired and daunted as Dinnigan outlines the effort it took to design, sew, and sell her hallmark lingerie line. When it comes to parenting advice, Dinnigan is less convincing (the chapter "Being a Mama" is strangely focused on Dinnigan's work life and her own mother). This pretty book works perfectly as delightfully sensuous object and light, effervescent read. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World

Jann Aldredge-Clanton. SkyLight Paths, $18.99 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-59473-573-8

For minister and teacher Aldredge-Clanton (Changing Church), including female names and images of God in liturgy is vital to social justice. She argues that utilizing female terminology and imagery is needed to overcome the harm caused by centuries of exclusively male language. Building on her previous books and blog, she introduces Christian clergy and lay people who are working to create theological and social change through new religious language. These stories highlight how the people whom she interviewed came to believe in the importance of gender-inclusive language, their struggles to change entrenched traditions, and their triumphs as they offer new ways of being, doing, and believing. Reflecting her claim that using female language for the divine can remedy oppression, she organizes her material in such categories as gender equality, racial equality, and marriage equality. Practical resources, including hymns, prayers, and a list of feminist churches, are woven throughout. This book is not an academic exploration of an important topic but it does provide an intimate look at those working to create inclusive, feminist theologies and a more just world. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Violins of Hope

James A. Grymes. Harper, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-224683-7

Grymes traces the beautiful and haunting history of violins played by Jews in the Holocaust. Each chapter is dedicated to one violin and its players, places, and how it eventually came into the hands of Israeli violinmaker and repairman Amnon Weinstein. Across the board, the violins aided someone's survival or made their life more bearable. In Auschwitz, SS members formed orchestras for entertainment from the prisoners there. Often players received special treatment from the guards. They noted, "We played music for sheer survival. We made music in hell." It was by no means a guarantee of survival, and some orchestras were gassed immediately after their set. But some of the stories are accounts of hope, education, and joy. In the backwoods of Norway, the conductor Ernst Glaser headed an initiative where he played for the Norwegian resistance movement, hiding out in the wilderness to relay Norwegian history and pride. Motele Schlein's story describes using his musical prowess to sneak into an SS party and plant bombs. Motele muses, "I'll play so well tonight, that you'll be blown apart dancing." The accounts are unembellished, with plain, yarn-spinning language. They breath new life into history. (Aug.) Falling Into Heaven: A Skydiver's Gripping Account of Heaven, Healings, and Miracles Mickey Robinson BroadStreet, $14.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-4245-4945-0 As a 19-year-old skydiver, Robinson survived a plane crash but sustained major injuries, nearly all of which should have been fatal. Yet he lived to tell the story of his near-death visit to heaven, the visions of his own future that he experienced there, and the many developments that confused and astonished doctors as his healing defied medical expectations. He also tells of a second spiritual encounter with Jesus after his accident, and weaves in much information about how the 1960s set the stage for his own journey back to faith. While Robinson's descriptions of the sociopolitical ferment of the era provide good context for understanding his spiritual journey, the historical background is heavy at times. Much of the book's success may ultimately hinge on whether readers find Robinson's descriptions of his visions and the instantaneous healings he experienced credible. Unlike other books that have become bestsellers in the genre, the focus of Robinson's story is less on the inspirational lessons of his experience and more on a recounting of what actually happened to him. This adds little to an overpublished topic. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Last Great Walk: The True story of A 1909 Walk from New York to San Francisco and Why It Matters Today

Wayne Curtis. Rodale, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-60961-372-3

Journalist Curtis (And a Bottle of Rum) uses the story of Edward Payson Weston's trek across America in 1909 at the age of 70 as a jumping off point for musings on the lost art of walking, specifically how we choose to get around and what's lost in service of faster modes of transit. While Weston's 104-day journey is not particularly riveting, it serves as an anchor as the author explores peripheral topics like evolutionary theory on how and why our hominid ancestors first walked upright, the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, and innovative crosswalk technology. Curtis presents Weston's walk as the end of an era, or rather the beginning of "the big bang of American transportation" and the battle for space in the streets between motorist and pedestrian. He then more optimistically points to recent efforts to increase "walkability" in cities, centered around the community-building aspect of pedestrianism. With a few tangential exceptions, Curtis's meandering approach to his subject matter works out, aided by his sense of humor and Weston's own unique brand of quirky belligerence. Agent: Jennifer Gates, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Goaltenders' Union: Hockey's Greatest Puckstoppers, Acrobats, and Flakes

Greg Oliver & Richard Kamchen. ECW (Legato Publishers Group, U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $19.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-77041-149-4

Oliver and Kamchen (Don't Call Me Goon) examine the brotherhood that exists amongst goaltenders and the support they give one another both during their careers and beyond. Looking at the careers of more than 60 goalies from Georges Vezina (1910-1925) and George Hainsworth in the ‘30s to current goaltenders Martin Brodeur and Jonathan Quick, the book illustrates how the game has changed over more than 100 years, focusing on the struggles and challenges of goaltending in professional hockey. The authors provide accounts of the eccentric behavior of Gilles Gratton's eccentricities, Clint Malarchuk's terrible injury and Pelle Lindbergh's death but also provide hilarious accounts throughout, such the Fred Brophy goal in 1905 when he and Paddy Moran were the only skaters left on the ice while other players were serving penalties. The authors provide an entertaining account of goaltender personalities, the mental toughness required, and valuable insight into the careers of the best before, during and after their stints in the National Hockey League. Along the way, readers will learn about the influence television had on the introduction of the two-goalie system and many other interesting facts. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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World Order

Henry Kissinger. Penguin Press, $36 (432p) ISBN 978-1-59420-614-6

Former U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger elicits strong reactions; the man some call "war criminal" also won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize. At 91, he is still crafting his own record and place in history. A fixture in international politics since the 1960s, Kissinger argues that, assisted by the U.S., the spread of independent sovereign states, democratic aspirations, and global networks in communications, finance, and health have brought the "enterprise of world ordering... to fruition." Kissinger's guiding principle is what he calls the "global Westphalian system," named for the 17th-century treaty that ended the 30 Years' War. In studying the U.S.'s role in this system, his main theme is the "contest between idealism and realism" in American foreign policy. Kissinger's section on the Middle East focuses on U.S. partner Saudi Arabia and adversary Iran, but sidesteps the elephants-in-the-room of Israel and world oil. While considering the threat posed by the acquisition of nuclear weapons by rogue states, he also discusses the possibility, tenuous as it may be, of rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran. Some readers will feel Kissinger whitewashes the Bush administration's legacy in Iraq and the Middle East. Others will ask if Kissinger's stark title is ironic, given sharply escalating international conflict. Nonetheless, Kissinger's thoughts, grounded in some 50 years of experience, deserve a wide, attentive audience that should include anyone interested in foreign affairs or the global future. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Misdiagnosed: One Woman's Tour of%E2%80%94and Escape from%E2%80%94Healthcareland

Jody Berger. Sourcebooks, $14.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-4022-9388-7

After intermittent tingling in her hands and feet, Berger, a 43-year-old sports journalist, sees a neurologist who orders an MRI; from the lesions detected on her spine he swiftly diagnoses multiple sclerosis. Terrified by the ambiguity of the disease and unwilling to follow a prescription for steroids, Berger begins an odyssey through the health care system, visiting health professionals from various medical persuasions who diagnose according to their specialty, from heavy metal toxicity to depression. As she travels from doctor to doctor (occasionally paying out-of-pocket for tests that aren't covered by insurance), Berger also delves into her personal life: her uneasy relationship with her mother, a childhood in which she felt disrespected, a divorce, and a shaky romance with a man she met three weeks after her marriage ended. As a journalist, Berger creates her own "assignment," relentlessly "touring the American medical landscape" in a yearlong struggle to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. The author's experience reveals that it pays to be armed with knowledge, fortitude, and—perhaps most importantly—tenacity, when entering the health care system. Readers will breathe a sigh of relief when Berger finds a team (an osteopath and Ayurvedic physician) that unravels the mystery. Her story is told with just the right portions of introspection and useful information. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise

Chris Taylor. Basic, $28.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-465-08998-7

As deputy editor at news website Mashable, Taylor brings a genuine love of pop and nerd culture to this comprehensive retrospective on one of the 20th century's most popular film series. The book takes a scholarly look at Star Wars, yet remains accessible. Readers digging through chapters on science fantasy, independent filmmakers, and legal maneuvering will also discover delightful tales of Taylor's own experiences visiting the world's largest Star Wars museum and witnessing a Navajo tribe's introduction to the movies. Though, at times, these asides interrupt the chronology of Taylor's history, they're intriguing and never out of place. Taylor has compiled an impressive collection of background research and insider info that any fan would be glad to own. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/22/2014 | Details & Permalink

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