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The Wawa Way: How a Funny Name and Six Core Values Revolutionized Convenience

Howard Stoeckel, with Bob Andelman. Running Press, $19 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7624-5306-1

Wawa stores, found in the mid-Atlantic states and Florida, inspire impressive customer loyalty. Recently retired Wawa CEO Stoeckel, writing with Andelman, pays fond tribute to this unique organization in a lively history that marks the company's 50th anniversary. Part convenience store, part restaurant, Wawa occupies a unique space in the market, with core values that can inspire any organization. From valuing people and delighting customers, to doing the right thing, and embracing change, these principles are less a corporate dictate and more a way of life. How Wawa operates flies in the face of common corporate practices, from their servant leadership model to their ownership structure, which consists of private ownership and shared ownership among the founding family and employees. In chronicles of the up's and down's of the company, what emerges is the organization's commitment to staff and customers. Corporate histories are seldom engrossing and even less frequently do they touch an emotional chord, but that's exactly what the books does. Wawa fans, and general business readers, will relish this empowering story. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Last Stand at Khe Sanh: The U.S. Marines' Finest Hour in Vietnam

Gregg Jones. Da Capo, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-306-82139-4

Journalist Jones (Honor in the Dust) examines one of the most iconic and controversial engagements of the Vietnam War, the 77-day (February–April 1968) siege of the 6,000-man U.S. Marine base at Khe Sanh by some 20,000 North Vietnamese Army troops. This is not the first book to look at Khe Sanh, as a number of memoirs and military histories have chronicled the siege's brutal on-the ground-action and bigger picture strategic issues, and Jones gives cursory attention to the larger picture—who won, who lost, and why. "Definitive answers" to questions such as the NVA's true objectives at Khe Sanh, he says, "will likely remain elusive." Instead, Jones concentrates on sharing the personal stories of the American Marines in the trenches, leaning heavily on interviews he conducted with veterans and making them the core of a readable narrative that also includes facts and figures from secondary sources and official records. This informative account serves as a testament to those who "heeded the call of their duly constituted leaders" and "went to Vietnam with the best of intentions," earning "a place of honor in American history." (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll

Lisa Robinson. Riverhead, $27.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-59448-714-9

During her 40 plus years as a music writer and columnist (New Musical Express, NY Post, Vanity Fair), Robinson has conducted a wealth of high-profile interviews—Patti Smith, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Jay Z, Eminem. These immersive tales from the hotels and backstage rooms of many larger-than-life musicians form a fly-on-the-wall adventure through the last half century of music. Growing up the daughter of a judge in Manhattan, Robinson used to sneak out to hear Thelonious Monk at the Village Vanguard before ending up in the offices of her future husband, writer and music label insider Richard Robinson. At a time when the feminist movement was still in its infancy, Robinson established herself as part of a rarified circle of women who had truly free access. She had early success with interviews because, initially, she didn't see herself as a rock critic (often writing gossip about fashion) and was cautious to judge, leaving the drug exposes to others. Tellingly, although she was entertained by the likes of Jagger and enthrall by Led Zeppelin, when Robinson was in New York she would head straight to CBGB's to see Television and The New York Dolls, of whom she has been a longstanding champion. For Robinson, writing about the scene "felt like a ‘calling'." Whether I was in a private plane with the Rolling Stones or standing in two inches of beer…at CBGB's—it was exactly where I wanted to be." Her excitement is palpable and will leave you wanting to put your lighter in the air. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Tales from Beyond the Tap

Randy Bachman. Penguin Canada/Viking Canada (Penguin Canada, Canadian dist.), $29.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-670-06763-3

In this follow-up to Vinyl Tap Stories, Bachman of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive highlights pivotal moments and interesting facts from his storied 50-year career in rock music. He and musicologist John Einarson selected 20 queries from fans of his CBC radio show to become chapters of this book including "The Recordings That Changed My Life" and "Burton and Me." Bachman, who developed a range of guitar techniques for a new generation of guitar players, writes about guitarists Lenny Breau and Scotty Moore as his main influences. Bachman studied guitar with Breau and was inspired by his rendition of "Oh By Jingo." Breau's elegant playing and Moore's solos on Elvis Presley's recordings strengthened his resolve to become a professional musician. When The Guess Who recorded Wheatfield Soul in A&R studios in 1968, Bachman was impressed by how the expertise of sound engineer Phil Ramone contributed to the quality of the recording. As a songwriter/producer Bachman has helped pique greater interest in Canadian music internationally. Though directed primarily at his fans, the book and its colorful and lively patter should have broad appeal for rock music enthusiasts. Agent: Gilles Paquin, Paquin Entertainment. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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It Ain't Over%E2%80%A6 Till It's Over: Reinventing Your Life%E2%80%94and Realizing Your Dreams%E2%80%94Anytime, At Any Age

Marlo Thomas. Atria, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4767-3991-5

From her eponymous web series for women, Thomas—actress, activist and author (Free to Be…You and Me)—handpicks 60 of her site's followers and weaves their true stories into a chatty magazine-style compilation about the joy of self-fulfillment. No hurdle is too daunting for this group of women, who Thomas defines as a part of the "Reinvention Generation," not even age—many of the women profiled are in their 60s and 70s. Thomas opens with five women who launched their own businesses, charting their successes in brief. Beyond their financial achievements lie personal goals: one follower from Panama City shrinks to a size 10 from a 32, and another finally found time to attend college at 54. This motivational compilation includes a tonic for every challenge with the seemingly ageless, Thomas leading by example. As one of her followers points out, Thomas has "been all the way up and all the way to the very bottom" yet she continues to soldier on, illustrating that the key to success is taking action. Certainly the level of accomplishment displayed by her fans is a testimony to the author's personal charisma, which is on full display here and will no doubt invite an even larger following. Photos. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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How to Win in Commercial Real Estate Investing: Find, Evaluate and Purchase Your First Commercial Property%E2%80%94in 9 Weeks or Less

R. Craig Coppola. Rich Dad Library, $16.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-9911104-0-7

Coppola steps in to write this latest in the "Rich Dad" book series and although it offers many of the formulaic ingredients that usually make the series successful, this one reads more like an infomercial for real estate investment. Coppola does his best to make his credentials known early on, declaring on the first page that he was six-time "Office Broker of the Year." Yet facts Coppola offers to convince readers to invest in real estate aren't necessarily factual ("There's a pride of ownership in real estate that you don't get when you own stocks") and bring into question his agenda. Still, Coppola employs the helpful tools often found in the series, such as fill-in-the-blank worksheets, in addition to his own helpful spreadsheets, key points, and sample letter of intent. Still, the book's premise of "nine weeks to making an offer" plan is an overestimation of the audience's ability to accomplish what will likely take much longer. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A Fighting Chance

Elizabeth Warren. Metropolitan, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-6277-9052-9

Warren, the freshman senator from Massachusetts turned Democratic rock star, serves up a frank and lively account of how she became the banking and finance industry's fiercest nemesis. Warren's passion is rooted in her personal history. As a young girl in her native Oklahoma, she saw her family's fortunes nose dive after her father's heart attack, losing their car and almost their house and forcing her mother back into the job market at age 50. Warren puts herself through college, marries, grows weary of stay-at-home motherhood, and fatefully decides to enroll in law school, inspired by "television lawyers who were always fighting to defend good people who needed help." She develops an expertise in bankruptcy, becoming one of the country's go-to experts. In these pages, she displays a down-home charm and an effortless rapport with everyday people that makes her story more engaging than the average political tome. Her sketches of the powerful, among them President Barack Obama, the late Ted Kennedy, Timothy Geithner, provide a feel for the ups and downs of inside the Beltway relationships. Yet the pivotal, often vicious campaign battle with former Bay State senator Scott Brown that catapulted her into the U.S. Senate is an almost anti-climactic footnote to her fight to set up her baby, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The book is more memoir than manifesto; Warren emerges as a committed advocate with real world sensibility, who tasted tough economic times at an early age and did not forget its bitterness. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes

Anand Gopal. Metropolitan, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9179-3

A haunting ethnography of Afghanistan after the American invasion, journalist Gopal's nonfiction debut tells the stories of three individuals to create a picture of the situation in Afghanistan. Gopal spent hundreds of hours interviewing a Taliban commander, a member of the U.S.-backed Afghan government, and a village housewife. He presents a stirring critique of American forces who commanded overwhelming firepower, but lacked the situational knowledge to achieve their objectives. Men with the ear of American commanders often took advantage of their credulity to destroy their enemies, making little effort to determine their affiliations. Gopal writes of one hapless bus driver, who spent nearly five years in Guantanamo and was prohibited from presenting evidence that he was not a member of the Taliban, because there was "no accusation against [him]" that suggested this affiliation. Heela, the housewife, has the most remarkable story of the three: in closing pages of the book she becomes a senator, unaware until winning that she was even in the running. Gopal reveals the fragility of the tenuous connection between intention and destiny in a war-torn land. (May)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation

Blake J. Harris. It Books, $28.99 (576p) ISBN 978-0-06-227669-8

In this engaging narrative, filmmaker Harris (The Flying Scissors) recounts one of the fundamental pop culture rivalries of the ‘90s, the so-called "Console Wars," which saw Sega and Nintendo vying for market dominance in the early days of the home entertainment console industry. Harris portrays Nintendo as the distinguished incumbent, obsessed with quality control and perfection, while Sega is painted as the ambitious upstart willing to rewrite the rules of engagement. At the heart of it all is underdog businessman Tom Kalinske. While not the only primary character, it's his efforts to make Sega of America into a viable operation and a serious contender that drives much of the book. Harris covers all sides of the ongoing conflict (including the arrival of third party Sony) with cunning thoroughness, turning hundreds of interviews into a riveting story full of colorful characters. While the story is presented as a series of contrasts—Nintendo Entertainment System vs. Sega Genesis, Mario vs. Sonic, 8-bit vs. 16-bit vs. 32-bit—it's also a fascinating, even illuminating, history of the video game industry as seen through the experiences of two influential companies and a host of participants, ending with the advent of the fifth generation consoles, and Kalinske's resignation in 1996. This is an essential read for any interested in the evolution of video games, and the rise and fall of Sega as a console contender. Agent: Alex Glass, Trident Media Group. (May)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults

Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale. Gotham, $17 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-5924-0860-3

In 2007, with degrees from Brown in hand, good friends Pan and Kapelke-Dale decide to travel and commit to send each other lively, funny weekly emails about their highs and lows during their three years of globe-trotting. Pan jets off to China, making Beijing her new home where she intends to learn Mandarin and get a toehold in journalism. She fumbles her way through romances as well as well as jobs, and tries to figure out a culture where Facebook and YouTube are banned. Pan conveys everything honestly, despite knowing the government is reading her emails. Kapelke-Dale lands in New York and also grapples with being out of the cocoon of college, encountering a terrible boss and an even worse potential boyfriend who takes her pulse after sex to see if she had faked her enthusiasm. Similarly, she doesn't hold back as she experiences newfound panic attacks and gets help via a therapist. Although the authors don't go into great detail about the origins of their relationship or how they decided to embark on their correspondence pledge, the tight and supportive bond of their female friendship comes through. Agent: Allison Hunter, Inkwell Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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