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Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators, and Mavericks Do to Win at Life

Dave Asprey. Harper Wave, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-265244-7

Asprey (The Bulletproof Diet) mines both conventional and unconventional techniques in this haphazard but sneakily instructive book. Core is his belief in the all-encompassing power of “the three Fs”: “fear (run away, hide from, or fight scary things in case they are threats to your survival); feed (eat everything in sight so you don’t starve to death and can quickly serve the first F), and the third F-word, which propagates the species.” To harness these innate human desires, he builds his book around 46 high-performance “laws,” which include both accepted, mainstream, and more out-there concepts. While some of Asprey’s suggested techniques are admittedly controversial or of questionable merit—microdosing on psychoactive drugs such as LSD to decrease anxiety, treat alcoholism, and promote self-awareness; restricting orgasms for men while promoting them frequently for women to balance hormones; adding butter to coffee for bursts of energy—far more are decidedly sensible. He advises readers to investigate their own fears fear, explore dietary choices, foster positive thinking, enjoy downtime, learn the power of visualization, use the power of “no” to reduce burnout, load up on omega-3 fatty acids, and avoid “weasel words” (can’t, need, bad, and try). He helpfully includes thought-provoking action items at the end of each chapter, as well as recommended podcasts from his own Bulletproof Radio. Asprey’s motley collection of firsthand tips will inspire and encourage readers. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City

Clarence Taylor. New York Univ, $35 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4798-6245-0

Historian Taylor (Reds at the Blackboard) schools readers on what came before the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown were in American headlines. He maps the progress of New York residents’ attempts to combat the New York Police Department’s use of excessive force, from coverage of police brutality in early- to-mid-20th-century black weeklies like the People’s Voice and Crisis to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent successes and failures at increasing police oversight and curbing racial profiling. Chapters on the efforts of the Communist Party (which acknowledged the problem early, but were boxed out of mainstream civil rights activism by the NAACP and others) and the Nation of Islam (which adopted de-escalation tactics before police departments did) are particularly interesting, as is an account of the 1964 Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant riots brimming with primary sources. But Taylor’s narrative voice shines brightest in a detailed look at New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, a police accountability group that should be, but isn’t really, staffed by civilians. Taylor could perhaps have done more to highlight the activism of New York City’s Latin-American residents (aside from a brief section on the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, they are simply included alongside black residents in crime statistics and analysis). This well-researched, well-told book provides thoughtful context for the current American reckoning with police brutality. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Countersexual Manifesto

Paul B. Preciado, trans. from the Spanish by K.G. Dunn. Columbia Univ, $25 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-231-17562-3

Published for the first time in English, this manifesto from Spanish philosopher Preciado (Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era) intends to “draw a door in the wall of sexual and gender oppression and escape through it.” Arguing that sexual identities, sexual practices, and even sex organs are not “natural” or inherent but in fact culturally designated, Preciado advocates an alternate system whose participants would renounce the privileges and constraints that arise from “the heterocentric social contract... that legitimizes the subjection of some bodies to others.” He draws insightful connections between, on the one hand, prohibitions on masturbation and diagnoses of female hysteria and, on the other, the physical and psychological abuse perpetrated against intersex people. The text, which frequently aims to shock and transgress, is enhanced by amusing drawings. Despite satirical elements, it is not always apparent when Preciado is joking; is the reader to take at face value, for example, prescriptions like “everyone will have then at least two names, one traditionally female and another traditionally male... such as Robert Catherine”? Preciado’s is a noble pursuit, and his points are well-argued, but readers not well-versed in deconstructionist theory may have difficulty following along. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Are U Ok? A Guide to Caring for Your Mental Health

Kati Morton. Da Capo Lifelong, $20 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7382-3499-1

Morton, a marriage and family therapist whose YouTube channel has more than 550,000 subscribers, offers an intuitive handbook that empowers readers to tend to their own mental health. She covers enacting meaningful change, identifying complex feelings, seeking help, types of therapy (including medications), and recognizing the signs of a toxic relationship, among other topics. Throughout, Morton includes anecdotes from anonymous patients and shares her own experiences navigating difficult passages in her life. Chapters provide practical tools for handling anxiety, depression, and other mental health difficulties (including journaling and other exercises), while also offering powerful insights and mottos: “It’s a process, not perfection.” She discusses the need for individuals to reach out to a professional therapist and lists signs that might encourage readers who haven’t seen a therapist to seek one out. She also emphasizes the importance of accepting discomfort en route to getting better, as change comes only through disrupting familiar yet destructive behaviors. All are deserving of help, Morton asserts, and the potential for positive change and contentment is real. This is less a resource for diagnosis (there is brief discussion of particular conditions)than an exploration of the constellation of mental health issues. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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White Lives Matter Most: And Other “Little” White Lies

Matt Meyer. PM, $14.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-6296-3540-8

This slim collection of essays by activist and teacher Meyer, who is white, and adapted speeches by activists of color seeks a right way for white allies to engage in meaningful political activism, especially when “no person raised white under white supremacy, like no one raised male under patriarchy, can... completely extinguish from every fiber of our psyche all forms of supremacist attitudes.” Meyer begins by testifying to the unwarranted amount of focus white narratives can take up, obscuring and obfuscating the lives, histories, and voices of people of color. “From the genocidal policies of the Middle Passage and Manifest Destiny,” he writes, “America has always meant White Lives Matter Most.” He outlines threats to meaningful dismantling of racially oppressive systems and international solidarity, from the oppression of indigenous peoples to bipartisan political support for war, which he argues not only diverts resources from helping the marginalized but also foments xenophobia. Meyer calls for whites to engage in “extreme solidarity,” learning more deeply than is typical about the roles and teachings of oppressed people in the struggle for racial justice, leaving the ivory tower to join that struggle, and ensuring the struggle is not inappropriately dominated by white people. Given the focus of the book, it seems odd to put only the white Meyer’s name on the cover as author, rather than editor, when four of the 12 pieces were coauthored or authored by activists of color. Ultimately, this questionable packaging decision underscores the book’s very cogent argument that whiteness is often inappropriately centered. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon

Joshua D. Mezrich. Harper, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-265620-9

Mezrich, a University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health surgery professor, delivers an attention-grabbing and candid look at human organ transplantation. Often pulse-quickening, sometimes stomach-churning, and always immersive, Mezrich’s descriptions of the complicated, time-sensitive process of transferring livers, kidneys, and other healthy organs from deceased donors to recipients use examples from his own work as a transplant surgeon. Numerous, well-integrated asides on the evolving trial-and-error of organ transplant, from the early days in the late 19th century through advances made during WWII and after, complement his personal stories. In addition to being up-front about the fear of making a mistake during surgery—“It needs to be perfect. Otherwise the patient will pay a huge price, the donor won’t have given the gift of life, and you will be woken in the middle of the night by a shrill pager”—Mezrich describes the emotional attachment that can form between donor families and donor recipients. He notes how one patient, having received a heart from a young woman killed in a car accident, celebrates her donor’s birthday each year, “almost as if it were her own.” Success through perseverance is this book’s main theme, and Mezrich does a commendable job sharing his death-to-life experiences in a vital field. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After

Julie Yip-Williams. Random House, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-51135-9

When lawyer Yip-Williams was diagnosed with stage-IV colon cancer at the age of 37 in 2013, she decided to write her story, which resulted in this inspiring and remarkable work that chronicles her immigration to the U.S. and her final five years. Born in Vietnam with congenital cataracts, Yip-Williams writes that her grandmother—who deemed her a burden to the family—had found an herbalist she hoped would administer a potion to put the infant to “sleep forever.” He refused, and Yip-Williams’s ethnic Chinese family later moved to Hong Kong, where a Catholic charity sponsored their relocation to California, where Yip-Williams was raised and underwent corrective eye surgery. She attended Harvard Law School, joined a firm where she met her husband, moved to Brooklyn, and had two children. After her diagnosis, she was determined to make the most of the time left (she died in March 2018), and to leave a written legacy for her daughters. Yip-Williams faced cancer head on, with “brutal honesty,” anger, humor, and resolve. Planning her death, she made Costco runs, traveled to the Galapagos Islands, found a child psychologist for her daughters ages six and eight, and even joked about her husband getting a “Slutty Second Wife.” Yip-Williams’s wise and moving account of her battle with cancer is an extraordinary call to live wholeheartedly. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder

Sean McFate. Morrow, $29.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-284358-6

McFate’s experience as professor of strategy at the National Defense University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, plus time spent in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and as a private military contractor in Africa, inform this standout work of military science. McFate defines the present global condition as one of “durable disorder,” the principal feature of which is persistent and perpetual armed conflict. Entities like China, Iran, terrorist organizations, and drug cartels, all of whom have less money and firepower than the U.S., are more effective in the new forms of warfare, such as strategic subversion and information campaigns, covert proxy or “shadow” wars that may include private mercenaries, economic warfare, terrorist attacks, and strategic manipulation of laws to further their agendas. He predicts that, unless America thinks its way out of its present “strategic incompetence,” it will continue to lose conflicts, and others who do not fight conventionally will “inherit the world.” McFate backs up his theories with examples drawn from history, both recent and ancient, and his own personal experience. For example, he looks at British Maj.-Gen. John Fuller, who wrote in 1928 about how tanks and aircraft could be used in concert to invade a country quickly; while his compatriots called him a crackpot, Germans read his books and created the blitzkrieg. This is an authoritative and skillful analysis of the state of war today. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive

Stephanie Land. Hachette, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-316-50511-6

In her heartfelt and powerful debut memoir, Land describes the struggles she faced as a young single mother living in poverty. “My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter,” she writes, before chronicling her difficult circumstances. Land got pregnant at 28, then left an abusive relationship and went on to raise her daughter, Mia, while working as a part-time house cleaner in Skagit Valley, Wash. Later, using public assistance, Land moved to a moldy studio apartment and got her daughter into daycare. While housecleaning, Land imagines the lives of the clients, whom she knows intimately through their habits and possessions (their apparent unhappiness despite financial comfort fosters compassion as well as gratitude for her own modest space), and experiences the humiliating stigma of being poor in America (“You’re welcome!” a stranger snarls at the checkout as she pays with food stamps). Even while working, Land continued to follow her dream of becoming a writer. She began a journal and took online classes, and eventually attended the University of Montana in Missoula. Land’s love for her daughter (“We were each other’s moon and sun”) shines brightly through the pages of this beautiful, uplifting story of resilience and survival. Agent: Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Iran Rising: The Survival and Future of the Islamic Republic

Amin Saikal. Princeton Univ, $29.95 (496p) ISBN 978-0-691-17547-8

Saikal (Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival), a historian at Australian National University, offers a critical but not unsympathetic perspective on the “unique and multi-dimensional, and at times tragic, theopolitical story” of Iran. Four decades after the culmination of a revolution enjoying overwhelming public support, the country is isolated, buffeted by sanctions, and bitterly divided. The clerical establishment “has used the state apparatus to gain control of coercive forces, means of mass communications, educational institutions, and public forums.” Following a brief and efficient overview of Iranian history since the overthrow of the shah, Saikal turns to the geopolitical and financial situation. He cautions that powerful interests within Iran, such as the military-connected charitable foundations (among them the Revolutionary Guards Corps) that control many industries, have a vested interest in maintaining the country’s hostility with the West. Saikal’s convincing bottom line is that open confrontation with Iran is unwise and unlikely to be productive, whereas a policy of careful engagement, while risky, could enable progress on the margins. The author’s careful, analytic approach privileges trade statistics and governmental communiqués over stories of human interest; as such, this is for readers who seek an understanding of strategic considerations, rather than a sense of what daily life is like for the Iranian population. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/19/2018 | Details & Permalink

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