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Enlightened Aging: Building Resilience for a Long, Active Life

Eric B. Larson and Joan DeClaire. Rowman & Littlefield, $36 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4422-7436-5

Larson, a clinical professor of medicine, and DeClaire (Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, co-author), a health journalist, offer an empowering exploration, targeted to baby boomers, of ways to age healthfully while staving off disability and maintaining an active life. Rather than suggesting some “magic bullet,” the authors focus on increasing resilience, the ability to recover from setbacks and adapt to changing circumstances, through building mental, physical, and social reserves. They state that baby boomers have a better chance of aging healthfully than any generation before them, and identify factors that lead to better aging, including proactivity, attitude, and acceptance. They also caution against overdiagnosis, overtreatment, and new but not necessarily improved medication, instead lauding lifestyle changes as solutions to age-related problems. Larson and DeClaire advise readers to make decisions that are right for them and be proactive about their healthcare. Building on the subject of attitude, they recommend making aspirations more focused and attainable as one ages, something they see as leading to greater happiness and life satisfaction. Though no one can guarantee a long, healthy life, Larson and DeClaire help stack the odds in readers’ favor with their informative work. (June)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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NXT: The Future Is Now

Jon Robinson. ECW (Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar, Canadian dist.), $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-77041-325-2

Sportswriter Robinson (Ultimate Warrior) sets out to tell the whole story of NXT, a fast-growing new offshoot of the mainstream World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) behemoth, but the book is too much of an insider narrative for readers who don’t already know the WWE world. “WWE is stadiums and massive arenas and pyro assaulting your senses. NXT is about the in-ring product,” says NXT executive Paul Levesque, better known as former WWE world champion Triple H (and WWE kingpin Vince McMahon’s son-in-law). Levesque’s vision of NXT helped the WWE expand and draw in some of the top wrestlers who weren’t already in the company, and much of the story is told through his words. Unfortunately, Robinson includes little context to help newcomers grasp who the interviewees are or what their significance is. For example, Windham Rotunda, who used NXT as a stepping stone to WWE stardom as Bray Wyatt, explains how his character developed through the years, but readers don’t learn that his father, uncles, and grandfather all wrestled, or that he played college football. Amid the back-patting and celebration of the “anti-establishment feeling” of a product that is actually an integral part of the WWE, exposition and explanation are missing and the basics of storytelling have been forgotten. Color photos. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Fairly Equal: Lawyering the Feminist Revolution

Linda Silver Dranoff. Second Story (UTP, dist.), $24.95 trade paper (370p) ISBN 978-1-77260-022-3

Dranoff, a trailblazing author (Every Woman’s Guide to the Law) and feminist lawyer, looks back on her busy career in this important overview of remarkable legal and social changes brought about by the Canadian women’s liberation movement. This personal record of relentless persistence in making the law more accessible to women while removing barriers regarding birth control, reproductive autonomy, custody and property rights, and equal pay for work of equal value is a welcome addition to the burgeoning written history of the women’s movement. This important record could have benefitted from and been streamlined by stronger editing. Written in a conversational style and occasionally relying on awkward phrasings that would be more at home in a personal diary, it often reads like a fleshed-out résumé, even listing the awards she received and media appearances she made in particular years. Nonetheless, Dranoff’s recounting of her early years of carving out a significant space in a male-dominated profession, her landmark work as a legal columnist for Chatelaine magazine, and the intersection of court work and political organizing serves as a critical reminder of how far Canadian women have come, as well as a warning to remain vigilant and safeguard hard-earned victories. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Down Inside: Thirty Years in Canada’s Prison Service

Robert Clark. Goose Lane (UTP, dist.), $22.95 trade paper (277p) ISBN 978-0-86492-969-3

Clark’s honest insider’s review of the Canadian federal prison system, which draws on his 30-year career from guard to deputy warden, is a clarion call responding to the growing prevalence of U.S.-style incarceration practices. It’s also a rare glimpse into daily life behind the walls, and it thoroughly indicts human warehousing and, especially, the overuse of solitary confinement. Clark writes in compelling prose about his own transition from singing the company song to growing cynical over top-down bureaucratic directives that seemed unconnected with on-the-ground reality. Having worked at seven federal penitentiaries, dealing with some of Canada’s most notorious convicts, Clark speaks with the authority to name a growing prison culture of indifference and dehumanization girded by a blue wall of guards more interested in punching clocks than caring for prisoners’ welfare. Witnessing casual brutality and the growing gap between his rehabilitative vision for the system and the punishing inanity of federal policies took a personal toll on Clark, contributing to his alcohol abuse and divorce, but he resisted falling into tough-on-crime cynicism. Instead, by sharing his personal experiences of how certain policies and working relationships proved successful in the past, he persuasively points the way to a more humane pathway for the future. (May)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Among the Walking Wounded: Soldiers, Survival and PTSD

John Conrad. Dundurn (IPS, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $24.99 trade paper (232p) ISBN 978-1-4597-3513-2

This valuable contribution to the growing body of literature on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a piercing personal memoir by a veteran Canadian battalion commander who brought the war in Afghanistan home with him. Conrad (What the Thunder Said) writes with a fierce urgency that paints an unflattering portrait of the Canadian military’s upper ranks while questioning the justification for a military occupation that the generals preferred not to call a war. From the book’s introduction by Conrad’s spouse, Martha—a penetrating, surreal analysis of the Canadian home front—to Conrad’s rage at the ways the government treats veterans like insurance clients, this title is strong medicine. Conrad pulls no punches in describing his own descent into hellish trauma. Some difficult sections detail gruesome scenes involving injuries caused by improvised explosive devices, providing an important illustration of the images, voices, sounds, and smells that haunt soldiers’ dreams and invade idle moments long after the soldiers leave the battle zone. Conrad’s poignant attempts to provide care and support for younger soldiers who returned home grappling with PTSD, some of whom later took their own lives, underscore a tragedy whose telling here should be required reading for anyone still dismissing the unseen wounds of warriors. (May)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity

James Martin. HarperOne, $19.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-06-269431-7

Jesuit priest Martin responds to the 2016 massacre in the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., with this brief, clear guide on how Catholics can heal some of the rifts surrounding issues of sexuality. He explains how both Catholic leadership and LGBTQ laity can apply principles of respect, compassion, and sensitivity to the thorny issue. Central to his argument is a gentle reminder to see opponents as fallible humans with good intentions. Rather than argue for a specific theology of sexuality, Martin urges a greater openness from those on both sides to listening, showing care, and genuinely seeking to understand each other. After these suggestions, he turns to brief biblical passages to explore how the ministry of Jesus, the Psalms, and other verses might offer insight into current debates. Each passage is paired with questions for reflection aimed at both LGBTQ believers and those seeking to understand their situation. The surprising places he finds insight highlight the subtlety of his thought and the time he has devoted to considering these questions. Although specifically Catholic, this approachable resource will resonate with many Christians looking for help with providing pastoral care to sexual minorities or living as an LGBTQ Christian. (June)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Who Will Lead Us? The Story of Five Hasidic Dynasties in America

Samuel C. Heilman. Univ. of California, $29.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-520277-23-6

This detailed study of changes in leadership in the major communities of the Hasidic movement—Munkacs, Boyan and Kopyczynitz, Bobov, Satmar, and Chabad—is not aimed at the same general audience as sociology professor Heilman’s acclaimed other works (The Rebbe; Sliding to the Right); instead, he focuses on “the patterns and processes of contemporary Hasidic succession.” Heilman presupposes some familiarity with Hasidism, which centers on charismatic leaders who inspire intense devotion among their followers; indeed, the disputes about whom should lead some Hasidic groups often devolved into violence. The descriptions of those physical altercations are just some of the warts-and-all aspects of the tradition that Heilman is able to provide as a result of his remarkable access to insiders, including influential Bobover rebbe Shlomo Halberstam, who brought the Bobov Hasidic dynasty to the U.S. after WWII, and Nachum Dov Brayer, current rebbe of the Boyan Hasidic dynasty. The centrality of the rebbe to his adherents makes the stakes high when he dies, and Heilman traces what happens when there is no successor, when there are competing successors, and when, as with Chabad/Lubavitch, there is denial that a successor is needed (in this case, because they believe the late Rabbi Schneerson did not really die and will return as the messiah). This is an invaluable addition to the ranks of objective studies of a Jewish movement that continues to flourish in the U.S. even as more modern denominations decline. (June)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. Crown, $28 (480p) ISBN 978-0-553-44708-8

For this insider look at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, veteran political reporters Allen and Parnes offered their sources anonymity in exchange for access; that approach yields a history with plenty of detail, but there are few insights into Clinton herself. Clinton began her campaign as “the candidate to beat” in 2014 and oversaw a collapse that put Donald Trump in the White House. “Loyalty-obsessed Clintonworld,” the sphere of influence around the candidate, guarded access to her so tightly that the candidate “couldn’t figure out why Americans were so angry or how she could bring the country together,” and Allen and Parnes assert that this was largely responsible for creating “a campaign that was miserable even before it started”: nobody was able to tell Clinton that she was “a terrible judge of how her actions could backfire and turn into full-blown scandals” and oblivious to the “massive conflicts of interest” between her public and private roles. The authors say that these flaws, combined with a data-centered approach that missed the surge of populism, led to her loss of key primaries like Michigan in an unexpectedly hard-fought campaign against Bernie Sanders, and derailed what could have been a victory march into a long, joyless slog to humiliating defeat. The insider perspective tunnels into the campaign without really illuminating the personalities involved, the broader context of the electorate, or the eventual winner. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Kathryn Miles. Dutton, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-52595-518-4

Science journalist Miles (Superstorm) details a potential new source of anxiety for Americans: seismicity. She cites the unpredictable nature of earthquakes and the fact that there are over 2,100 known faults on the U.S. geological map. Sketching grim scenarios of potential disaster, Miles suggests that the American infrastructure is wholly unprepared to withstand the next rupture. She begins with the Hebgen Lake, Mont., quake of 1959, which caused $11 million in damages ($70 million today), to illustrate the suddenness of tremors and their devastating ripple effects. Miles then takes readers on a cross-country tour of seismic hot spots. She meets with colorful engineers and geologists to peer below the Earth’s surface and gauge the pressure being imposed on it internally as well as externally by human constructions such as the Hoover Dam, Mississippi River levees, and the Steinway Tunnel (which connects Manhattan and Queens). Miles also confronts hydraulic fracturing in Oklahoma, where increasingly powerful earthquakes have spread over a larger territory, making it the most seismically active of the Lower 48 states. Yet despite myriad technological advances, predicting the next earthquake remains nearly impossible. Mixing geological primer with apocalyptic warning, Miles makes clear “how fragile—and volatile—the ground beneath our feet really is.” Agent: Wendy Strothman, Strothman Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic

Peter Wadhams. Oxford Univ., $21.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-19-069115-8

Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, explains the loss of Arctic ice in this important, if dense, discussion on the effects of climate change. In the 1970s, sea ice covered roughly eight million square kilometers of the surface of the Arctic Ocean. But by 2012 it only covered approximately 3.4 million square kilometers. Wadhams outlines the hows and whys of this dramatic change, looking at the greenhouse effect and increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Methane derives from a number of sources, including natural gas-pipeline leaks, hydraulic fracturing, agriculture, and landfills; nitrous oxide “originates mostly from the use of artificial fertilizers.” Wadhams also details the phenomenon of Arctic amplification—“the main reason why changes due to global warming happen in the Arctic first”—and its causes. Unfortunately, the book’s early chapters on “the properties of sea ice and how it forms and grows on the sea surface” and on glaciers and ice sheets prove difficult to get through. Too academic and dry, they can be hard for general audiences to decipher. Wadhams’s in-depth scientific examination undoubtedly adds to the ongoing study of polar ice caps, but his tone and approach may limit the book’s overall appeal. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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