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The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch

Lewis Dartnell. Penguin, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-59420-523-1

With breezy aplomb in this fast-paced, detailed guide, Dartnell (Life in the Universe) takes us through a hypothetical post-apocalyptic scenario. He covers not only the little steps for making it through the first 48 hours—finding shelter, clean water, food—but through the longer processes of "rebooting civilization" such as reinstating agriculture, recovering medicine and medical knowledge, and re-establishing communication, among others. This isn't simply a bare bones guide to how many water bottles or rolls of duct tape to stockpile in anticipation of a global disaster. Dartnell draws deeply on the scientific fundamentals of each step required to rebuild society to the level at which we now live. For example, as we re-establish communication with others, the first step will be writing. In order to make paper we'd need to "pour a dollop of…sloppy cellulose soup across a fine wire mesh or cloth screen, bounded on the sides by a frame." To get the power back on, we'd need to build four-sail windmills or waterwheels to harness the natural forces necessary to generate electricity. If a nuclear catastrophe or a viral epidemic destroyed our world tomorrow, this would be a vital survival guide. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 08/01/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Beyond News: The Future of Journalism

Mitchell Stephens. Columbia Journalism Review, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-231-15938-8

Stephens, a professor of journalism at New York University, questions what should be next for modern journalism in the demanding digital age. He explores options for a news industry to revamp and retool, noting that journalists must "return to an older and higher view of their calling." With the Internet, the news business requires not only collecting facts and details of events, and opinionated views, but a need to practice "wisdom journalism" — thoughtful judgment, insight, and informed argument — which is sometimes lacking in current media. The book's astute observations, supported by historic writings of theories and principles, offer the reader various ways to approach the challenges and obstacles confronting the media's content, distribution, and quality then and now. Rather than stressing the dominance of technology, Stephens addresses the preparation, expertise, fairness, and reliability of journalists who present the information and arguments to the consumer. Stephens, not one to say he has all the answers, admits in his remarkable survey on media that "journalism can and must improve [but] will remain vulnerable to hastiness and the passions of the moment." For information buffs, this is a feast, intelligent and candidly forthright. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 08/01/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Bells of Memory: A Palestinian Boyhood in Jerusalem

Issa J. Boullata. Linda Leith Publishing (LitDistCo, North American dist.), $12.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-927535-39-4

Orthodox Christian, Palestinian Arab, and former Arab literature professor at McGill University, Boullata's memoir is of his youth in Jerusalem's Old City in the decades preceding Israel's formation in 1948. Boullata's autobiographical sections afford local color, as when he portrays how "men frequented coffeehouses, among which some had a storyteller to entertain their clients until a late hour with customary narratives, chivalrous romances, and folk epics." The account flourishes when describing Boullata's courtyard home in Jerusalem's Christian Quarter and his mother's cooking, or when highlighting various Arab writers and teachers of the period who influenced Boullata's own career. Personal memoir strays into political history, and while his views are understandably clearly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, the book will appeal to those interested in the milieu of Jerusalem before the advent of sectarian violence. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 08/01/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Black And White: The Way I See It

Richard Williams with Bart Davis. Atria, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4767-0420-3

The rap on Williams, the sometimes tennis coach and father of Venus and Serena, is that he's fierce, independent, and occasionally inappropriate; in his new memoir, co-written with Davis (Closure), he tries to set the record straight. The book follows Williams' trajectory as a self-made man, from his dirt-poor upbringing in Shreveport, Louisiana, to his Oliver Twist-esque stealing persona as a young tike to various run-ins with the local white racists to his eventual flight to Chicago in a freezing boxcar in a freight train at age eighteen. Angry and ambitious, Williams later ended up in Long Beach, California, where he met Oracene Price, a widow raising three daughters, and married her, fathering Venus and Serena, the future tennis dynamos. Written in candid terms, the book doesn't spare unflattering details regarding the challenges of the author's life, or his attempts to participate in a predominantly white sport, which frequently fueled his hot temper and viper tongue. The adoration of Williams as a son, husband, and father form the emotional spine of this book, particularly when it focuses on his fearless mother or his two gifted daughters who have won the most Wimbledon matches in recent years. Gritty, opinionated, and inspirational, Williams' memoir is a testament to a man's courage, drive, and commitment. (May)

Reviewed on 08/01/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Coconut Oil for Health and Beauty: Uses, Benefits, and Recipes for Weight Loss, Allergies, and Healthy Skin and Hair

Simone McGrath. Skyhorse (Perseus, dist.), $19.95 (192p) ISBN 9781628737523

"What other substance can soothe eczema, improve dental hygiene, decrease the risk of heart disease, cure dandruff, increase immunity, and improve digestion?" asks Simone McGrath. The answer, according to him, is coconut oil. McGrath's book does triple duty as a cookbook, health manual, and beauty guide. It offers inventive DIY beauty solutions, including coconut deodorant, toothpaste, and even coconut beer shampoo. For one's health, daily doses of coconut oil are recommended for such diverse ailments as acid reflux, cancer, kidney stones, and multiple sclerosis. Though more than half of the guide is devoted to recipes, readers in search of low-fat recipes should not expect to find them here. McGrath is a thorough writer, but her prose tends toward the hyperbolic; more troublingly, she fails to cite evidence for many of her lofty claims. Coconut oil's effects on the human body are still under scrutiny, and its healthfulness is the subject of much debate. McGrath unfortunately overlooks this reality in her eagerness to capitalize on a current trend. (May)

Reviewed on 08/01/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Let the Tornado Come

Rita Zoey Chin. Simon and Schuster, $25 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4767-3486-6

A bond with a troubled horse helps a woman overcome a legacy of abuse and exploitation in this alternately harrowing and luminous confessional memoir. Chin, a poet and essayist, grew up in a deeply dysfunctional family, viciously beaten by her wrathful dad and disowned by her unstable mother. She began running away at age thirteen and was soon dividing her time between institutions and the streets, where she slipped into a life of drugs and prostitution. She left it behind in adulthood with a writing career and marriage to a neurosurgeon but suddenly came down with panic attacks that left her terrified of showering, climbing staircases, driving and almost everything else. After an unhelpful tour of therapeutic regimens, she sought relief by learning to ride and understand a horse with its own unfathomable anxieties. Chin's story moves between nerve-wracking yet never overplayed episodes of violence and degradation in her youth, and the quiet, baffling tensions of her adult neuroses. Twining through it are lyrical, exuberant scenes lit by her abiding "belief that there was beauty to be had in this world." The result is a haunting yet hopeful saga that shows how trauma and fear can transform themselves into enduring strength. (June)

Reviewed on 08/01/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Birding With Yeats

Lynn Thomson. House of Anansi Press (Publishers Group West, U.S. dist.; HarperCollins Canada, Canadian dist.), $15.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1770893894

A mother's journey through the critical years of her son's adolescence is recounted in lyrical fashion in this vivid and meditative memoir by a Toronto bookseller and first-time author. When early intimations that her son shares her love of birdwatching are confirmed during a trip to Vancouver Island, the author finds herself on an unusual path for bonding with her son. Yeats, who has grown up having Tennyson, Frost and Yeats read to him, hates the structures and social pressures of school but from an early age has been acutely responsive to natural beauty. The book is replete with birds, to a degree that might try the patience of some readers, but Thomson incorporates those details into her reflections so seamlessly that even readers who aren't birdwatchers will be engaged. Tactile and emotive evocations of nature, a profoundly Canadian love of cottaging and travel, and some almost startling descriptions of places from Ontario to the Galapagos Islands form the backdrop for this coming of age story. Yeat's relationship with his mother must change as he grows up, but in Thomson's touching account we see that he is ready for the next step and the ways she helped him get there. (June)

Reviewed on 08/01/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Microbiome Diet: The Scientifically Proven Way to Restore Your Gut Health and Achieve Permanent Weight Loss

Raphael Kellman MD. Da Capo/Lifelong, $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7382-1765-9

Kellman (Matrix Healing) offers a clearly outlined plan for optimal gastrointestinal health, and, with it, significant and maintainable weight loss. The key, he declares, consists of microbiomes—trillions of bacteria living within the intestines that "exert enormous influence over your hormones, your appetite, your cravings," not to mention "the brain chemicals that govern your mood, energy levels, and mental functioning."Kellman details both healthy and unhealthy microbiome systems, providing a checklist of symptoms associated with the latter and a three-part approach for achieving the former. Phase One, a three-week commitment, utilizes the "Four Rs": Remove (unhealthy bacteria), Replace (necessary digestive enzymes), Reinoculate (with pro- and prebiotics), and Repair (your likely beleaguered intestinal walls). Phase Two, lasting four weeks (or whatever time is needed), offers a more varied diet and tips for stress-free eating. Phase Three shows plan followers how to maintain their gut-friendly ecosystem and keep their weight loss static. Those seeking relief from gastrointestinal ailments should find this quick and healthy doctor-sanctioned weight loss program particularly appealing. (July)

Reviewed on 08/01/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Monica Bonvincini

Janet Kraynak, Alexander Alberro, and Juliane Rebentisch. Phaidon, $49.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7148-6705-2

"You can avoid people, but you can't avoid architecture," says the artist Monica Bonvincini, best known for expressing architecture's dominating relationship to women via giant mirrored and lighted constructions of cement and stainless steel like 2010's She Lies in Oslo and 2012's Run in London's Olympic Park. Bonvincini's oeuvre also "alludes to the often hidden spaces of sexual desire and exhibitionism," exploring fetishism and S&M using bronze and resin sculptures and rubber and hanging chain pieces. The answers she gives in a lengthy interview with co-author Alberro helpfully elucidate her art—occasionally, too much so. Her pieces can stand perfectly well by themselves, particularly the massive constructs dramatically reproduced here in color photographs. Less successful is the Wallfuckin' series, which is more likely to induce nervous laughter than thought, and a 1999 installation of completed and framed questionnaires for people in the building trades, including the now-dated: "How do you get along with your gay colleagues?" While She Lies will float on its pontoons in the river Akerselva for many years, these smaller works are more fleeting. 200 illus. (July )

Reviewed on 08/01/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create The New Majority

Patrick J. Buchanan. Crown Forum, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-553-41863-7

After losing one of the most agonizingly close presidential elections in U.S. history in 1960, followed by a humiliating loss for California's governorship in 1962, Richard Nixon seemed doomed for history's trash pile. In his "last" press conference, he famously said: "You won't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." Instead, he regrouped and emerged triumphant in the 1968 presidential election. But how? One of the people best equipped to answer the question is Nixon's first pre-1968 election hire: the young conservative Patrick Buchanan. In this account from January 1966 to Nixon's inauguration in 1968, Buchanan offers memories and insights on the meetings, memos, stump speeches, and conversations Nixon waded through to get to the White House. Details and factoids abound for politics junkies, like Barry Goldwater urging Nixon in a memo to consider Ronald Reagan for his ticket in 1968. Buchanan is a capable writer and skilled at providing succinct summary of the complex politics of the era. Buchana's opinions are controversial, calling affirmative action "a system of racial entitlements" and saying that Nixon's resignation due to Watergate was "the first political coup d'état in U.S. History". Buchanan's memoir is deeply loyal to Nixon, and ultimately, a political defense. (July)

Reviewed on 08/01/2014 | Details & Permalink

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