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Embodied Healing: Survivor and Facilitator Voices from the Practice of Trauma-Sensitive Yoga

Edited by Jenn Turner. North Atlantic, $22.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-62317-534-4

Psychotherapist Turner collects 20 revealing essays about trauma-centered trauma-sensitive yoga (TCTSY) in this discerning anthology. She explains that this “body-based” technique allows survivors of trauma to “create conditions for processing and holding experiences of trauma without talking about it.” Unfortunately, the book presupposes readers understand TCTSY, and the discipline’s “five pillars” (“invitational language, present-moment experiences, choice-making, shared authentic experience, and non-coercion”) are only briefly sketched out toward the end. Each essay is written by or about a practitioner of TCTSY, and the authors come from a variety of circumstances and treatment settings. In “Authenticity in Vulnerability,” Elizabeth Ringler-Jayanthan explores the mental health needs of refugees who are dealing with cultural displacement. In “Inside Out,” Cynthia Cameron explains how TCTSY aided her recovery from childhood sexual abuse. Unfortunately, while diverse examples of students’ healing processes are presented, the lack of a clear explanation of the discipline as a whole precludes newcomers from fully grasping the advice. These discursive essays will mostly be useful to those already familiar with the practice. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/09/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Stop Avoiding Stuff: 25 Microskills to Face Your Fears and Do It Anyway

Matthew S. Boone, Jennifer Gregg, and Lisa Coyne. New Harbinger, $14.99 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-68403-605-9

Social worker Boone (Mindfulness and Acceptance in Social Work), and psychologists Gregg (Diabetes Lifestyle Book) and Coyne (Stuff That’s Loud), share in this informative work lessons on how to face fear and forge ahead. Each chapter is based on a “microskill,” which the authors define as a way of relating to thoughts, feelings, and circumstances. For example, “Deepening Awareness” means paying attention to internal and external feelings, and “Notice Your Thinking” focuses on one’s ability to understand the process of how one comes to thoughts rather than the thoughts themselves. The authors recommend readers “Let Go of Being Right” by releasing the urge to always “win” in discussions or argument with others, and to determine and live out one’s values by “Making Values a Verb.” Brief exercises (termed “teeny tiny practices”) help readers implement the skills and include writing flow charts for one’s thought process and creating a map of all things one wishes to control. Each lesson can be read on its own, making the volume ideal for dipping in and out of. This delightful, information-packed guide will appeal to self-help readers of all types. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/09/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Humans

Brandon Stanton. St. Martin’s, $35 (448p) ISBN 978-1-25011-429-7

Stanton (Humans of New York) composes a beautiful love letter to humanity in this moving compilation of his work. Hundreds of portraits from around the world are accompanied by poignant quotes from each subject in his signature style, and interspersed with the photos are fascinating details about Stanton’s process, like his standard first interview question: “What’s your greatest struggle right now?” The subjects’ responses span topics including death, raising kids, and addiction, imbuing the candid images with lifetimes worth of meaning and memory. One subject playing piano on a street in Montreal says, “You could make a horror movie about my life,” then recounts years of familial abuse and shocking violence. Children offer a lighter reprieve, with a tie-wearing kid in New York who says the hardest part of first grade is “eleven plus eleven.” First-world problems, like a man in a Tokyo intersection who needs more YouTube followers, contrast with recollections of the Rwandan genocide from a woman in Butare, Rwanda. Stanton’s skill at putting people at ease comes through in the spontaneity of the images, as well as in the stories they share with him. It’s an outstanding survey, and each new image reveals something unique about the human condition. (Oct.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly noted the images in the book are black and white.

Reviewed on 10/09/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Oasis: Modern Desert Homes Around the World

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Tillett Wright. Clarkson Potter, $40 (288p) ISBN 978-0-52557-515-3

Tillet Wright documents 25 stunning modern homes in this polished offering. The homes surveyed were built in desert locations across the United States and Latin America and are presented with punchy descriptions and captions alongside perfectly captured images from architectural photographer Casey Dunn. Tillett Wright, who owns his own secluded home in Joshua Tree, Calif., explains how each homeowner landed in such far-flung locales and the stories behind their design choices. For example, Scott Pask, a Broadway set designer, uses his “keen eye for color, material, and furnishings” throughout his home in Tucson, Ariz. Other standouts include a chic rental property in Marfa, Tex., owned by hotelier Liz Lambert, the “cool aunt of modern desert living,” and painter Georgia O’Keeffe’s New Mexico home, the Southwestern design elements of which have come to be widely mimicked. The B8 House in Canela, Chile, located deep in the desert, three hours drive north of Santiago, may be one of the most isolated and boasts a sleek rectangle shape framed entirely in wraparound glass, with a bedroom just steps from the Pacific Ocean. Houses are described with a contractor’s level of detail and captured with an Instagram influencer’s eye for personality. This aspirational lookbook will delight any photographer, artist, or design enthusiast. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/09/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Dostoevsky in Love: An Intimate Life

Alex Christofi. Bloomsbury, $24.50 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4729-6469-4

Fiction writer and book editor Christofi (Glass) provides a novelistic account of the life of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, with a focus on the Russian writer’s romantic life. Christofi traces Dostoyevsky’s miserable childhood, tempestuous adulthood, and novel-writing career, but also introduces readers to the women in Dostoyevsky’s life. They included Apollinaria Prokofievna Suslov, whom Dostoyevsky had an affair with after she submitted a short story to his literary journal, Time, and Anna Grigorievna Snitkina, who met Dostoyevsky after he advertised for a copyist for The Gambler, and married him soon after. Christofi’s approach pays off in his recreations of intimate scenes—“Deserted by language, Fyodor kissed [Anna’s] hand over and over, and they drank hot chocolate together”—and in his revelations about Dostoyevsky’s fiction, as when the novelist confesses, before writing The Brothers Karamazov, “There is a novel in my head and my heart, and it’s begging to be written.” Christofi succeeds in revealing Dostoyevsky’s personality in ways no ordinary biographical treatment could. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 10/09/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Einstein’s Twin: Mind-Bending Puzzles and Paradoxes from the World of Science

Jeremy Stangroom. Bloomsbury, $22 (144p) ISBN 978-1-63557-586-6

Website designer Stangroom (Is Your Neighbor a Zombie?) assembles an amusing collection of scientific conundrums to entertain and instruct the curious. He lays out his work like a puzzle book, with questions up front and solutions in the back, beginning with some basic logic puzzles, including examinations of syllogisms (e.g., if one accepts the premise that “every animal with a tail is vicious” and the commonsensical observation that “a golden retriever is not vicious,” then it follows that a “golden retriever is not an animal with a tail”) and probability (in which a hypothetical “security operative” must press one of three buttons to ensure a hostage’s safety, a version of what seasoned puzzle solvers will recognize as the Monty Hall problem). Pressing on, readers will encounter headier ideas, including Schrödinger’s cat, the possibility of alternative universes, and the prospect that this universe exists only as an elaborate simulation within another world. They will also find discussions of why Stangroom’s solutions work, meaning that, upon reaching the last puzzle, brainteaser neophytes will have gained much “practice making sense of the apparently nonsensical,” just as the author hopes. While none of Stangroom’s head-scratchers is new, he does a good job of making the concepts and skills involved in unraveling them accessible to a wide audience. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/09/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Nobody’s Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness

Roy Richard Grinker. Norton, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-0-393-53164-0

Grinker (Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism), an anthropology professor at George Mason University, examines modern ideas around mental illness in this impactful book. He proposes that “mental illness and stigma were born together” of capitalism, under which the mentally ill were understood in opposition to the “ideal modern worker.” As a result, up until WWI, the insane were considered unfit for society; the war, however, exposed the general population to the idea that even brave men could be diagnosed with problems such as shell shock or neurasthenia. Grinker then looks at the development of medical means for treating mental illness over the 20th century, resulting in both effective and ineffective measures, such as, respectively, electroconvulsive therapy and lobotomies. He also includes some family history—his grandfather was psychoanalyzed by Freud and later became a famous psychoanalyst himself. Readers sympathetic to Grinker’s concern for the mentally ill will find an enlightening brief for the positions that “both normality and abnormality are fictional lands” and that the idea of a mental health spectrum leads to more humane care than strictly drawn divisions between the mentally healthy and unhealthy. This book will fascinate anyone drawn to the subjects of mental illness, psychology, and psychiatry. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/09/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost

Michael Walsh. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-21708-0

Novelist and former National Review columnist Walsh (The Fiery Angel) chronicles 17 battles fought against overwhelming odds in this bellicose account. Declaring war “a masculine engagement, undertaken on behalf of females and children—in large measure to win and protect the former and to ensure the survival of the latter,” Walsh begins with the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE, when vastly outnumbered Greek soldiers fought off Persian invaders for three days, until a traitor sold them out. The fight for the Alamo and Custer’s last stand at Little Bighorn are also discussed, as are lesser-known battles, including the clash between Germanic tribes and Roman forces at Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE, and the defeat of Sultan Suleiman’s Ottoman army at the siege of Szigetvár in 1566. Walsh interviews his father, a Marine who fought in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War, for the book’s epilogue. Memorable tidbits get overshadowed by Walsh’s strident political views (“Today, as the Christianized West enters its fully secular, post-Christian phase, it may have to revert to its pre-Christian pagan, visceral roots as it battles the religiously animated bloodlust of Islam”), and his use of thesaurus words (“pusillanimity”; “desuetude”; “syncretic”) grates. Walsh’s fans will savor the hyperbole; others will be put off by the right-wing rhetoric. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/09/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Mussolini’s War: Fascist Italy from Triumph to Collapse, 1935–1943

John Gooch. Pegasus, $35 (592p) ISBN 978-1-64313-548-9

Historian Gooch (Mussolini and His Generals) delivers a comprehensive and unsparing account of the Italian army’s performance during WWII. Though Italy conquered Ethiopia in 1937 and helped Gen. Francisco Franco win the Spanish Civil War, “success gave rise to dangerous illusions.” Gooch details campaigns against Greece, an underestimated and persistent foe; France, which mounted strong resistance against Italian forces; and Egypt, where Italian commanders had “little enthusiasm” for Mussolini’s bombastic orders. In April 1941, Germany salvaged Italy’s stalled campaign in Greece; later that summer, Mussolini joined Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. In the fall of 1942, “Italian tanks were shot to pieces one-by-one” in the battle for El Alamein in Egypt, and in July 1943, the Allies invaded Sicily, where Germans took command of Axis forces while Italian generals negotiated their own surrender and Mussolini’s ouster (“Everyone seemed to be plotting,” Gooch writes). Rescued by German commandos from the hotel where he was imprisoned, Mussolini survived as the figurehead of a fascist puppet regime in northern Italy until his April 1945 execution. After the war, his “admirals and generals had nothing good to say about Mussolini.” Gooch marshals his voluminous research into a coherent narrative, though casual history fans may find the level of detail daunting. Completists, however, will relish this painstaking and astute analysis of where Mussolini and his cohorts went wrong. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/09/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Joe Biden: The Life, the Run and What Matters Now

Evan Osnos. Scribner, $23 (192p) ISBN 978-1-982174-02-6

The Democratic presidential nominee is a soothing moderate who may become a Rooseveltian progressive, argues this probing but sympathetic biographical sketch. Journalist Osnos (Age of Ambition) draws on vivid reportage from his New Yorker profiles of Biden to paint him as an unprepossessing but effective politician who is good at connecting with voters and wrangling with congressional leaders and foreign potentates; dedicated to a “sobering case for moral decency, for reasonableness”; and “the man who [stands] between Americans and four more years of Trump,” which is what matters most to “a country in peril.” Osnos’s less-than-hard-hitting character study downplays Biden’s shaky performance during the early days of the Democratic primary campaign, interprets his gaffes and garrulousness as signs of passion and empathy, and styles his exaggerations and plagiarisms as “the excesses of a man who wanted every story to sing.” Osnos offers a shrewd analysis of Biden’s predicament as “the nominee of a party gradually marching left, which was desperate to win over moderates and Republicans who were terrified of that march to the left,” and quotes liberal pundits on how Biden could maneuver a Bernie Sandersesque progressive agenda through Congress. The result is a portrait of the candidate that’s smart and evocative, but not immune to wishful thinking. Agent: Jennifer Joel, ICM Partners. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/09/2020 | Details & Permalink

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