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My Pan Am Memoir

Wendy Sue Knecht. CreateSpace, $10.79 (208p) ISBN 978-1-5025-2349-5

Knecht's delightful memoir introduces readers to the exciting world of air travel. She spent decades as a flight attendant for Pan Am Airlines, getting to experience the glamour of world travel and an older, more luxurious way of getting places (before budget airlines ascended and Pan Am went bankrupt). Her years of travel took her all over the world, led her to meet many amazing people, and helped her maintain close ties with family, friends, and lovers, especially with her family's liberal use of her travel benefits. She exposes this world to readers in delightful anecdotes—some funny, some heartbreaking—and on every page displays an infectious lust for travel and adventure. Knecht draws readers in with charm and makes them feel a part of the Pan Am experience. Given the present-day experience of flying coach-class, even readers too young to have flown on Pan Am will feel nostalgic. She also provides valuable advice on packing, eating, and generally being a smart traveler, as well as some recipes for some of Pan Am's most popular in-flight meals. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Story: A Reporter's Journey

Judith Miller. Simon and Schuster, $27 (396p) ISBN 978-1-4767-1601-5

Miller, a former New York Times reporter whose pre-war articles on Iraqi WMDs generated fierce controversy, ponders what she did—and, mostly, didn't—get wrong in this contentious memoir. Miller defends news articles she wrote in 2002–3 that suggested that Saddam Hussein's Iraq might have had active nuclear and biological weapons programs (it didn't), arguing that her stories were well-researched and sourced, hedged with caveats, reflective of a genuine (though mistaken) consensus of intelligence experts, and balanced by more skeptical pieces. She also gives an engrossing run-down of the 2005 "Plame-gate" scandal, when she was jailed for refusing to testify about confidential Bush Administration source Scooter Libby (she finally did so after getting his consent).Miller makes a cogent case that she was unfairly scapegoated as a warmonger and White House dupe, setting that argument in a lively, sharp-elbowed narrative of hair-raising adventures as a Middle East correspondent and in the snake-pit of NYT office politics. Still, when she describes her beat as "what the Bush Administration knew, or thought it knew, about Iraqi WMD," she inadvertently reveals a too-narrow perspective common to many journalists then. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Lord Fear: A Memoir

Lucas Mann. Pantheon, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-101-87024-2

In the hands of New York author and writing teacher Mann (Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere), a chronicle of his older brother's life before it ended in a heroin overdose becomes a suspenseful, if stilted, character study. Mann both adored and feared his older half-brother, Josh, who died at age 28 when the author was 13. Josh was handsome and brilliant, a bodybuilder, a charming ladies' man, and a sadist to those he loved—his mother, his brothers, his girlfriends. By interviewing the people Josh loved and was closest to, author Mann builds the story of his brother's life through narrative reconstruction—a creative nonfiction—for a fluid account that never allows the reader to be moved. The younger brother is hungry to learn about Josh's transgressions as a way to both remember his brother and gain a kind of self-knowledge. On the one hand, his brother provided a model of manhood as a sexual being, a free spirit, and an artist; yet on the other hand, Josh was fragile and spoiled, gripped by inexplicable anxiety ("lord fear"), given to humiliate people, fond of a terrifying pet boa constrictor, and submerged in debilitating drug use in his 20s. Mann's references to the writing of Nabokov, Philip Roth, Roland Barthes, and Virginia Woolf on memory and loss lend the work an elegiac tone, but all the feeling here is cold and hard. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Cafe Spice Cookbook: 84 Quick and Easy Indian Recipes for Everyday Meals

Hari Nayak. Tuttle, $14.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-8048-4430-7

Nayak (My Indian Kitchen) was a food industry veteran when he met Shushil Malhotra, the founder of Café Spice, which has blossomed into a $30 million business supplying supermarkets and retail outlets with ready-to-go Indian food. Here, Nayak shows readers how to create their own versions of Café Spice favorites such as potato and pea samosas and chicken tikka masala, as well as Indian-inspired riffs on Western classics like crab cakes and Sloppy Joes. Though his wordy introduction to techniques, tools, and key ingredients may seem daunting to some, readers will find it useful if they're new to Indian cuisine. Once they've got a grasp of key terms and concepts, Nayak moves on to stuffed lamb fritters, a rich cauliflower and curry soup, smoky fire-roasted eggplant, and a home version of tandoori chicken using the oven or grill (as well as some optional red food coloring) to recreate the popular classic. Once readers have stocked their spice racks and assembled a few masalas and chutneys, they'll likely find Nayak's recipes to be straightforward and fairly easy; much of the effort is in assembling the requisite ingredients. Readers well versed in Indian cuisine may find this a little too elementary for their tastes, but novices will likely find this to be a terrifically practical guide to reproducing Indian classics at home. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll

Fred Goodman. HMH/Eamon Dolan, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-5478-9686-1

Allen Klein revolutionized the rock and roll business, spinning money out of record sales, song publishing rights, and forceful readjustments of contracts that were wildly unfair to artists. "Pugnacious and foul mouthed," Klein and his ABKCO Records became one of the first independent record labels and music publishers, persuading artists that he "can get you a million dollars." It wasn't purely altruistic, as his many enemies noted. "He robbed from the rich and kept it," an approach that contributed to his lasting negative reputation. His hard-nosed negotiations with Andrew Loog Oldham, the first manager of the Rolling Stones, both ensured the band's financial fortunes and eventually gave him a huge percentage of their early royalties as well as control over their early back catalog. Klein's greatest fame came in the four years he served as manager of the Beatles, bringing some financial order to the chaos of their hippie business umbrella, Apple Corps. Goodman (Fortune's Fool), an accomplished journalist, goes over these triumphs in exhaustive detail, painting a portrait of a man with horrific impulse control and a combative personality who got embroiled in ruinously expensive litigation with his most famous clients. While the ins and outs of Klein's wheeling and dealing are well documented here, Goodman rarely provides adequate context for how his approach differed from the practices of the time, and it's tough to see an obvious audience for this book-length portrait of the accounting behind the music. (June)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom

Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-544-60971-6

The Hartwigs (It Starts with Food) are certified sports nutritionists and the creators of the Whole30 program, a regimen designed to transform how readers think about food, their bodies, and their lives. Their new book offers step-by-step guidance to help readers implement the Whole30 plan. The key to the success of their plan, the Hartwigs state, is the complete elimination of foods and beverages such as peanuts, soy, milk, and grains. The benefits, they claim, are significant, including restoring hormonal balance, regulating blood sugar, and eliminating the symptoms of inflammation. They offer a timeline that describes each stage of the Whole30 right through to the reintroduction of some off-plan foods. They also offer an informative FAQ section and help readers through the pitfalls of dining out and traveling. The second half of the book is devoted to recipes, including stuffed peppers and seared salmon benedict, that utilize fresh ingredients and easy cooking techniques. Their offerings for satisfying meals include braised beef brisket and grilled coconut curry chicken. Butternut squash with kale and Swiss chard, cauliflower rice, and roasted spaghetti squash highlight a robust side dish chapter. Sauces, one-pot meals, and holiday meals round out an appetizing collection that can be used on and off the plan. For those interested in trying the Whole30, this book is an invaluable guide that shouldn't be overlooked. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Soul of an Octopus: A Playful Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness

Sy Montgomery. Atria, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4516-9771-1

The ever-curious Montgomery (author of Temple Grandin), a naturalist who writes books for children and adults alike, sets out on a quest to learn what it's like to be an octopus after she meets an octopus named Athena at the New England Aquarium. Upon introduction, the young octopus reached her tentacles out to her new acquaintance, winning over the immediately fascinated Montgomery. The pair developed a relationship that Montgomery charts as she relates her frequent visits to Athena. Athena's sudden death plunged Montgomery into a deep grief, but she returned to the aquarium to meet Octavia, the first in a series of octopuses—followed by Kali and Karma—that reveal to Montgomery just how brilliant these cephalopods can be. She reveals that octopuses often get bored, requiring diversions and toys to keep them occupied; that they change colors to show anger, hunger, annoyance, and pleasure; and that they are not always motivated by hunger, but often crave attention once they receive it from humans. Montgomery's deep love of these creatures often causes her to excessively anthropomorphize them, but her depictions of her intimate experiences with her cephalopod friends ring true, allowing readers to see them in an entirely new light. Agent: Sarah Jane Freymann, Sarah Jane Freymann Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Persuasion Equation: The Subtle Science of Getting Your Way

Mark Rodgers. Amacom, $17.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-8144-3417-8

Rodgers (Accelerate the Sale), principal partner of the Peak Performance Business Group, arms readers with the powers of persuasion to land that new client or elusive promotion. Persuasion, which Rodgers defines as "ethically winning the heart and mind of your target," is a skill that, in his opinion, most people spend too little time on, despite its potentially big impact. Looking to rectify that oversight, he shows readers how to hear "yes" more often. The book explores the mental processes behind decision-making, offering fascinating insights into the roles of personality type, gender, and age. While persuasion is often viewed as unmeasurable, Rodgers shows how to translate the benefits of this "soft skill" into hard numbers to calculate return on financial investments. In addition, he tackles the tough topic of credibility: acquiring it, losing it, and rebuilding it. Rodgers closes with two powerful chapters, the first centering on creating an action plan, and the second on the crucial topic of self-persuasion. Rodgers excels at making a complex topic truly accessible, resulting in a valuable tutorial on getting to "yes" in the corporate world. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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No-Drama Leadership: How Enlightened Leaders Transform Culture in the Workplace

Marlene Chism. Bibliomotion, $26.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-62956-061-8

Leadership consultant Chism (Stop Workplace Drama) offers much-needed advice on a problem that many leaders have but few will admit to: namely, that they are ill-equipped to manage their employees. This business manual shows how to overcome this hurdle and get the results you seek. The most important step for any organization, Chism writes, is internal alignment of its mission and values. She cites the NFL as a prominent example of misalignment, in that its policy on players who commit violent crimes has, in several prominent cases, gone unenforced. Some of the factors Chism names that can lead to alignment include awareness, accountability, and responsibility. While sage advice appears throughout, the book's strongest point is the chapter on communication. Chism urges leaders to view communication as not only a relationship builder but as a brand and a strategy. She also discusses how to deal with change, both desired and unwanted. The book's last third discusses how to create healthy corporate cultures, align a company's energy with its mission and values, and use employee empowerment to drive profits and reduce turnover. Chock-full of valuable insights for leaders at all levels, this book will help demystify the secrets of effective leadership. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Moore's Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley's Quiet Revolutionary

Arnold Thackray, David Brock, and Rachel Jones. Basic, $35 (480p) ISBN 978-0-465-05564-7

Three writers—Thackray, CEO of the Chemical Heritage Foundation; Brock, a leading electronics expert; and Jones, a British journalist—closely examine the professional and private lives of Gordon Moore, a noted electrical engineer and entrepreneur who helped usher in the Information Age but whose name is rarely heard today. Following Moore's studies at Caltech in 1954, he was recruited by Nobel Prize winner William Shockley to work in his semiconductor research laboratory. Originally impressed by Shockley's methods, Moore later broke away from the bitter squabbles of the lab and resigned with several staff members to start a semiconductor division of military contractor Fairchild, developing a batch process capable of producing multiple transistors from a single silicon wafer. He developed "Moore's Law," describing the rapid pace of transistor miniaturization, while working at Fairchild. In 1968 Moore co-founded the groundbreaking microchip company Intel Corporation. Thackray, Brock, and Jones run through Moore's multifaceted life with a refreshing lack of tech talk or science jargon, revealing a man who realized his dreams while maintaining a stable, affirming personal life. Agent: Melissa Chinchillo, Fletcher & Company. (May)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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