Mindful Health

Why Meditate? The Essential Book About How Meditation Can Enrich Your Life asks what this ancient spiritual practice hasto do with daily living. The essay collection is compiled by Clint Willis, editor of Avalon's Adrenaline outdoor adventure series. Seventeen writers, including Annie Dillard, Peter Matthiessen, Alan Watts, Sogyal Rinpoche and Shunryu Suzuki offer answers to the question posed in the title. Some meditate to better manage their lives; basketball coach and player Phil Jackson has used the concept of "mindful basketball" to coach stars like Shaquille O'Neal, and other writers describe using the practice to better cope with grief or anxieties. Clinical psychologist John Welwood describes the ways it can complement the process of psychotherapy. But ultimately, as Willis observes in his introduction, the practice of meditation is its own reward. (Avalon/Marlowe, $14.95 paper 368p ISBN 1-56924-586-X; Aug.)

Throw those diet pills away, advise many practitioners of Ayurveda, a holistic and individualized Eastern approach to health. More than 5,000 years old, Ayurveda (a Sanskrit phrase usually translated as "the science of life") is attracting an increasing number of American adherents. In Perfect Balance: Ayurvedic Nutrition for Mind, Body and Soul, Atreya(Ayurvedic Healing for Women) provides an accessible guide to a practice that can be confusing to novices. The book begins with a self-test to help readers determine their own metabolic and psychological profiles, then guides them through food, herb and lifestyle choices, offering a 21-day plan for integrating changes into an everyday routine. Atreya, founder and director of the European Institute of Vedic Studies, takes a light tone and, though he obviously takes a dim view of Western eating habits, is never preachy. (Avery, $16.95 256p ISBN 1-58333-089-5; Aug.)

Surviving Parenting

Despite the imagery—from the serene, earthy Renaissance Madonna to Madonna Ciccone—motherhood is not always the blissful idyll that our culture would have us believe. New mothers often feel overwhelmed and frustrated, working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for no pay and little respect. Depression is so common in mothers of infants that the American Psychological Association considers young motherhood a risk factor for depression. University of New Hampshire psychologist and postpartum depression expert Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett helps mothers explore negative feelings and cope with them in The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood: Coping with Stress, Depression and Burnout. Kendall-Tackett, who works with breastfeeding mothers, discusses anger, powerlessness, feeling trapped and the loss of intimacy with a partner. Many new mothers will welcome this empathetic, informed and constructive book. Foreword by Phyllis Klaus and Marshall H. Klaus, authors of Your Amazing Newborns. (New Harbinger, $14.95 paper 214p ISBN 1-57224-248-5; Aug. 15)

When couples have children, an acrimonious divorce can be painful for everyone involved. Couples can bear enormous resentment, anger and disappointment toward each other—yet they still have to collaborate on one of the most complicated and difficult jobs in the world: child-rearing. Too often the intricacies of visitation, holiday plans and differences over discipline are left to lawyers, escalating the antagonism. Psychologists Elizabeth S. Thayer and Jeffrey Zimmerman argue that it doesn't have to be that way, and in The Co-Parenting Survival Guide: Letting Go of Conflict After a Difficult Divorce they help parents work harmoniously with their exes. Founders of Parents Allied to Co-Parent Effectively (PEACE), a service for high-conflict divorced or divorcing parents, the authors offer advice—from conflict resolution to dealing with stepparents—that could save parents thousands of dollars in legal fees and protect kids from needless misery and trauma. (New Harbinger, $13.95 paper 166p ISBN 1-57224-246-9; Aug.

Pocket Books is releasing two companion collections of essays by the bestselling Benjamin Spock, the author of Baby and Child Care, one of the most widely read parenting books ever written. Both are edited by Spock collaborator Martin T. Stein. Dr. Spock's The First Two Years: The Emotional and Physical Needs of Children from Birth to Age Two guidesparents through baby colic, infant fretfulness, diaper rash, spitting-up, choosing a doctor, first foods, ear infections, walking, separation anxiety, toilet training, the dangers of spoiling children and many other challenges. Uninitiated parents will be pleased with Spock's trademark common sense: on contemporary parents' lack of confidence in their own child-rearing judgments, the pediatrician cites young couples' tendency to settle down far from grandparents. This can leave them dependent on experts "who... belittle and condescend to their... readers." (Pocket, $13.95 paper 176p ISBN 0-7434-1122-6; Aug. 14) The sequel, Dr. Spock's The School Years, addresses the preschool years through adolescence, tackling issues like sibling rivalry, education, popularity, discipline, drugs and alcohol, peer pressure, stress, interfering grandparents, calling parents by first names, TV violence and real violence. Spock's tactful wording, measured opinions and respect for family and cultural diversity are apparent throughout the book. Still, some of these essays register conscientious objection to the current, frenetic, middle-class parenting impulses; in the last paragraph of this book, Spock writes, "I don't believe in tying up children's whole week with classes and activities. They should have free time for unorganized visiting with friends, for reading books not required by the school.... They should even have time for dreaming." (Pocket, $15.95 304p ISBN 0-7434-1123-4; Aug. 14)

On Style and Flowers

A Savannah gentleman, asked to explain his hometown, recently said, "This is a city where men own their own white tie and tails. We don't rent them." That, writer John Berendt notes in an introduction to Susan Sully's Savannah Style: Mystery and Manners, "says it all." Berendt'sMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil made the elegant Southern city a site of national fascination. Sully (Charleston Style) guides readers through its lavish architecture and interiors. Plantations, lush gardens, shady wicker-furnished porches, townhouses and parlors are invitingly presented, and their diverse styles—which include Spanish, French, Asian, Federalist, English Arts and Crafts, Greek Revival, Baroque and Gothic influences—are cogently explained. Those who love Southern architecture will welcome this book, and so will Berendt readers intrigued by Savannah and its secrets. 130 color, 20 b&w photos by Steven Brooke. (Rizzoli, $50 208p ISBN 0-8478-2376-8; Aug.)

"Say it with Flowers," is a florist's cliché, but few realize how much flowers can convey. Marina Heilmeyer's The Language of Flowers: Symbols and Myths provides an engaging translation of their significance across centuries and cultures. Writing with journalist Susan Weiss, Heilmeyer, a botanist and art historian, explains the meanings and rituals surrounding 35 different flowers. Readers will learn that for Christians, ever since the Middle Ages, the daffodil has symbolized Christ's resurrection. Violets have an even longer-standing connection to the hereafter, dating back to the myth of Persephone, who was strolling through a meadow of violets when Hades kidnapped her. Rosemary, a symbol of love, was in ancient times burned at altars to appease—or thank—volatile gods. Contains over 100 elegant color illus., including drawings from 18th- and 19th-century botanical journals, and reproductions from painters like Jan Breughel and William Morris. (Prestel, $25 96p ISBN 3-7913-2396-2; July)