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Older and Wiser: Inspiration and Advice for Retiring Baby Boomers

Dag Sebastian Ahlander. Skyhorse, $17.95 (265p) ISBN 978-1-62914-417-7

There's sympathy beneath the scathing wit in this hilarious survival manual for Baby Boomers. Revealing the rust beneath the mythic "Golden Years," Ahlander's rowdy sequel to Older and Happier (published earlier this year) is a literary boot camp for seniors facing financial, familial, and social pressures in a rapidly changing world. The Swedish author's personable approach translates easily to American dilemmas. Ahalander is a bar-side guru: she recommends profoundly simple keep self-expectations in the form of "109 Thoughts for the Continuing Journey." Urging positive daily action in "Don't Let Life Become One Long Wait," this self-help crash course is mostly lighthearted with hard lessons on investing, managing savings, and simply enjoying one's money. Challenges of familial relations, excess time, and the fear of pain and illness are treated with dignity and affable self-mockery. The subchapter "Most of It Is Crap" emphasizes the no-nonsense homespun approach not only to surviving but also to enjoying retirement. He examines the economic, cultural, and spiritual challenges that arrive to seniors more regularly than social security checks with quick pace, crisp prose, and sheer gusto. Ahlander provides much needed preventative medicine for the dazed and disillusioned. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America

Jonathan Darman. Random House, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6708-4

Former Newsweek political reporter Darman sizes up the careers of two political powerhouses and craftsmen, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan, while claiming that each man's impressive litany of achievements influenced the historical arc of American leadership. In this smart and perceptive narrative, Darman discusses the contrasts between the two Americas they envisioned—more specifically, the disparities between LBJ's liberal Great Society policies and Reagan's hardline conservative agenda. Both driven and ambitious, Johnson, the down-to-earth Texas cowboy and career politician, and Reagan, "the Errol Flynn of the B-movies" and rising Goldwater heir, zigzagged their respective ways to the White House, overcoming personal setbacks, political ambushes, and intraparty conflict along the way. On the one hand, LBJ championed the poor and civil rights, yet his hugely popular regime was leveled by the Vietnam War's economic and military burden. On the other, Reagan's amiable right-wing chatter made him the darling first of Californians and later of the entire country, yet critics panned him for his lackluster Tinseltown history. Darman's sincere and informative approach animates these historic figures, bringing them from the nostalgia of old TV clips and fading newsprint to the forefront of an engaging historical discussion. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wylie Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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I Only Read It For the Cartoons

Richard Gehr. New Harvest, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-544-11445-6

Gehr is sure to delight any New Yorker fan with this look at the pantheon of cartoonists who regularly grace the magazine's pages with their special brand of wisdom and humor. The 12 profiles collected here, introduced by Simpsons mastermind Matt Groening, capture the twisted minds and methods of the New Yorker's contemporary cartoonists. As Roz Chast explains, the cartoons function as a "gateway (drug) to both the magazine's long-form journalism and the world at large." Gehr indulges readers hungry for New Yorker folklore; cartoonists waiting on drop-off Tuesdays with a brown envelope in their hands, or resubmitting rejected cartoons over and over again. He ranges from the wavering lines of Chast to the gag humor of Jack Zeigler, but doesn't dig too deeply into his subjects' lives. At times, indeed, his study feels more like a series of casually strung-together interviews, with less than illuminating comments from cartoonists like "I enjoyed high school more than I did college." But the book, brimming with New Yorker history and the idiosyncrasies of its contributors, is successful at what it sets out to do—provide a first-of-its-kind paean to some of the magazine's most consistently popular contributors. Agent: Sarah Lazin, Sarah Lazin Books. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Get Unstuck, Be Unstoppable: Step into the Amazing Life God Imagined for You

Valorie Burton. Harvest House, $12.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-7369-5678-9

Offering inspirational encouragement, certified life coach Burton (Happy Women Live Better) challenges readers to get out of their ruts and chart a course toward the life God has in store for them. In a number of short chapters designed with space for responsive journaling and concluding prayers, Burton probes the fears women have, the ways in which they get overwhelmed, and places where a woman's will doesn't match up with God's. Drawing on examples from personal and client experiences, she explores common ways women get stuck in relationships, finances, career, and health. She draws on principles of positive psychology and scripture to guide readers out of the trenches and refocus their thoughts on what God can do. Though she opens with "8 Irrefutable Rules of Getting Unstuck," the rest of the book proves to be a loosely organized collection of inspiring principles, many of which are repeated in subsequent chapters. Readers looking for a scriptural Christian view on the topic will find plenty of discussion about God, but even more positive psychology, which can enlarge Burton's audience. Agency: Alive Communications. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Fairy-Tale Success: A Guide to Entrepreneurial Magic: Create Your Own Cinderella Story

Adrienne Arieff and Beverly West. Adams Media, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4405-7517-4

Readers who've had their fill of business books for women featuring pink covers decorated with stilettos and lipsticks may not have much time for this offering from PR professional Arieff and journalist West, which combines Business 101 with sparkles, fairy godmothers, and magic wands. Their unusual choice for a role model is none other than Cinderella, that "self-determined and innovative entrepreneur... an icon for today's entrepreneurial age." Bringing your idea to market doesn't require business acumen, they suggest. Instead, "all you need is your ‘magic wand - your belief in yourself.'" Concerns familiar from business guides are couched in fairy-tale terms: embracing your own value is rephrased as "reveal[ing] your noble roots"; turning challenges into advantages is "turning cinders into silk"; writing your business plan is "wish[ing] out loud", getting funding is "mak[ing] practical magic", and networking is "summoning your fairy godmother." Though the authors cite an "advisory board" of female entrepreneurs, their condescending tone-taking a firm stance in negotiations is described as "making a mean face"-seems unlikely to appeal to tomorrow's Sheryl Sandbergs. The conceit of Lean In by way of Disney might hold some appeal for parents looking to encourage enterprising middle-schoolers in age-appropriate language. Agent: Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Experiencing Led Zeppelin: A Listener's Companion

Gregg Akkerman. Rowman & Littlefield, $40 (178p) ISBN 978-0-8108-8915-6

Music writer Akkerman (The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story) delivers an excellent look at Led Zeppelin's music, focusing on each of the band's nine studio albums between 1968 and 1979, with a song-by-song analysis—with some examples from live concerts—that proves how well the music "has weathered the passing of the decades." It helps that Akkerman is a self-professed "fan but not a Led Zeppelin fanatic." This allows him to effectively articulate which songs stand out ("When the Levee Breaks" was Led Zeppelin at their best, reinterpreting American blues into something distinctly their own") and their worst ("'Hot Dog' is a mess of a song"). While Akkerman sometimes leans towards the overly academic ("That's the Way" melds music and words "in a manner equal to any text painting composer of the Renaissance"), each page reveals some new aspect of Zeppelin's legacy sound—even in "Stairway to Heaven," as Akkerman looks at the harmonic importance of the song's A-minor key. Even the most hardcore Zeppelin critic will listen again when the song is played on the radio for the millionth time. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Even This I Get to Experience

Norman Lear. Penguin Press, $32.95 (462p) ISBN 978-1-59420-572-9

The television producer whose controversial sit-com hits—All In The Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, One Day at a Time—virtually defined the culture of the 1970s looks back on his triumphs and vexations in this feisty, thoughtful autobiography. Lear vents sharply conflicted feelings about nearly everyone and everything: his father, a charismatic con-man; his mother, a sour woman who constantly disparaged him (when he made Forbes 400 Wealthiest Americans she noted he was near the bottom of the list); Carroll O'Connor, a sublime Archie Bunker but also a megalomaniac forever threatening to shut down the show over script complaints; the United States, which, as founder of the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way, Lear celebrated in patriotic extravaganzas while deploring patriotic excesses. Lear pens sharply observed studies of the creative process on his many iconic productions and bares plenty of raucous, sometimes bawdy anecdotes—readers get to experience a nude and lewd Jerry Lewis—before the narrative peters out in a third-act haze of nostalgic testimonial and light spiritual rumination. Still, in keeping with the bigoted, mouthy, complex and loveable characters he created, Lear's knack for sizing up a flawed humanity makes for an absorbing read. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Dream Weaver: Music, Meditation, and My Friendship with George Harrison

Gary Wright. Penguin/Tarcher, $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-399-16523-8

Most famous for his mid-‘70s solo hits "Dream Weaver" and "Love is Alive," former Spooky Tooth front man stitches together a quilt of his life, starting with his early days in New Jersey and then in London with his first band the New York Tymes and his early success with Spooky Tooth. His mercurial rise and fall as solo artist follows, as does his deepening spiritual understanding of life, and his days gardening, playing music, and discussing Indian philosophy with George Harrison. In pedestrian prose, Wright recalls his apprehension at first meeting Harrison, who had asked Wright to play on All Things Must Pass, but such nervousness melts in the face of Harrison's peaceful aura and spiritual magnetism. As their relationship develops, Harrison introduces Wright to Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda, providing a morsel for Wright's growing appetite for spirituality. Although the book features several never-before-seen photographs as well as the previously unreleased lyrics of "To Discover Yourself," co-written by Wright and Harrison, Wright's narrative is surprisingly lackluster. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Don't Be Afraid of the Bullets: An Accidental War Correspondent in Yemen

Laura Kasinof. Skyhorse/Arcade (Perseus, dist.), $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-62872-445-5

This journalism memoir takes a personalized look at the Arab Spring in Yemen, where Kasinof arrived as a 25-year-old aspiring journalist hoping to improve her Arabic. She got far more than she bargained for when protests turned violent in March 2011, prompting her to volunteer her services to the New York Times as a war correspondent. Kasinof initially has an exaggerated sense of her own importance to the larger story, but gradually matures into a respectful witness to history. She captures the spirit of possibility in a conversation with a political activist who notes that the tumult of the Arab Spring "made our nations stronger and our rulers weaker." When the shooting escalates and civil war appears imminent, she decides to stay, pulling the reader into her heady, complicated mix of emotions. Never claiming to be a seasoned journalist, she notes at one point the charge she got from finding out "how reporting works" while chasing a lead. Nonetheless, Kasinof often manages a wryly knowing tone, as when she observes how integral the practice of chewing the narcotic herb qat is to Yemeni political discussions. By the book's end, she is sharper, savvier and a confirmed Yemenophile. Even if the reader doesn't fully grasp the appeal Yemen holds for Kasinof, her passion for the country still makes for a compelling tale. Agent: Markus Hoffman, Regal Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Conscience Economy: How a Mass Movement for Good Is Great for Business

Steven Overman. Bibliomotion, $26.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-6295-6012-0

Following the principle that each generation leaves its own unique stamp on the world, media expert Overman examines the challenges and opportunities which today's young people pose for business. As he explains, this generation believes it can and must make the world better, and expects business and government to do the same. The result, in his opinion, could be a society-wide shift in the direction of authenticity, empowerment, and fairness. Overman looks at the pressing concerns of this historical moment, including threats to privacy and the environment, and the potential for rapid development in genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. He also explores emerging core values, such as transparency and global citizenship. In the new world this book depicts, brands and the feelings they trigger are the best means of securing product loyalty. Overman's definition of an effective brand is perhaps his most valuable contribution. Using this as a benchmark, he explains how to capitalize on essential brand qualities and discover new brand management objectives. This lucid business guide persuasively argues that businesses, like it or not, will have to make fundamental changes in how they operate in the decades to come. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/12/2014 | Details & Permalink

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