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Cosy: The British Art of Comfort

Laura Weir, illus. by Rose Electra Harris. HarperOne, $19.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-06-294816-8

In this delightful celebration of British coziness, Weir, editor-in-chief of the London Evening Standard’s ES Magazine, provides readers soothing ways to escape everyday stresses by luxuriating in one’s home. She explains that this “paean to retreating” arose from her attempts to seek comfort from “politically dark winters and the relentlessly bleak news cycle.” Advising readers to give themselves “permission to seek solace and comfort in harsh times,” she recommends feasting (included are recipes for cottage pie and apple crumble, among other homy dishes), knitting, watching a cozy movie (such as Little Women or Dead Poets Society), and (of course) brewing a strong tea. Chapters on “Cosy Clothing” and “Home and Hearth” teach readers how to dress for the indoors (sweaters, socks, and a shawl are necessary) and to bring the proper lighting and temperature (if readers are lucky enough to have a fireplace) to a home. “Whether your home is humble or hefty, shabby chic, or flashy, or bleak; your home is your castle, your domain, your space.” Weir’s winsome, particularly British riff on the hygge craze will aid readers wishing to bring more comfort into their lives and homes. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/04/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Think Outside the Building: How Advanced Leaders Can Change the World One Small Innovation at a Time

Rosabeth Moss Kanter. PublicAffairs, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5417-4271-0

As this stimulating treatise reveals, Kanter (Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead), a Harvard Business School professor and cofounder of the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative, believes exciting new ideas can result when leaders get out of their own institutional headspace and venture into new fields. Kanter focuses on successful businesspeople near the end of their primary careers, but not yet ready to retire and play golf; in her view, they have the needed skills and connections to help drive positive social, political, and environmental change. Through accounts of those who have done so, such as John Dubinsky, a former banking executive now dedicated to easing the construction business’s racial disparities, she walks readers through such subjects as reforming institutions; forging relationships, alliances, and coalitions; avoiding the “seven perverse traps of career success” (such as “insulation from disagreement”); and developing a “new definition of what it means to have a successful career and a successful life.” Buoyed by strong writing and an encouraging tone, Kanter’s thorough and thought-provoking guide will be a boon for veteran leaders who want to put their well-tested skills to new—and socially constructive—use. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/04/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Without Apology: The Abortion Struggle Now

Jenny Brown. Verso, $17.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-78873-584-1

In this cogent manifesto, National Women’s Liberation activist Brown (Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight Over Women’s Work) sketches the history of abortion rights in the U.S. and argues that reproductive justice won’t be achieved until feminists break down the stigma surrounding abortion. According to Brown, concerns over a steep decline in the birth rate and corresponding increases in gender equality, not religious or moral objections, laid the groundwork for the 1873 federal statute outlawing abortion (it had been legal in America for the century prior). She sees similar anxieties behind recent attacks on reproductive rights and argues that abortion is less a cultural issue than a “key economic battlefront.” To win the battle, Brown writes, feminists should switch legal strategies from reforming anti-abortion laws to repealing them altogether; follow the examples of the 1969 Redstocking Abortion Speakout and the 2015 #ShoutYourAbortion media campaign by giving people a platform to share their abortion stories without shame; and expose the links between anti-abortion measures and class, gender, and racial inequalities. Not all readers will embrace Brown’s Marxist interpretations, but her call to “move feminism toward bolder, more universal demands” is likely to strike a chord with young progressives. This laser-focused polemic makes its case effectively. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/04/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Jet Girl: My Life in War, Peace, and the Cockpit of the Navy’s Most Lethal Aircraft, the F/A-18 Super Hornet

Caroline Johnson, with Hof Williams. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-13929-0

Former weapons system officer Johnson debuts with a garrulous memoir recounting her training at the U.S. Navy’s flight school in Pensacola, Fla.; the camaraderie she developed with her fellow “jet girls”; and her decision to leave the “fighter community” as a result of “harassment and gender discrimination.” After graduating at the top of her flight school class, Johnson was selected for the Blacklions, an elite fighter group based out of Virginia Beach, Va. Immediately upon joining the squadron, however, she was subjected to the kinds of “microaggressions” that, she argues, wear down the navy’s female aviators over time, causing four out of every five of them to stop flying at the first available opportunity. Though she took out three armored vehicles and killed 16 ISIS fighters during the 2014 campaign to rescue 50,000 Yazidis under attack by the terrorist caliphate on Mount Sinjar, Johnson stopped being assigned “prime events” after she told her commanding officer that she felt isolated by her squadmates. Eventually, she asked to be reassigned to the naval academy as a leadership instructor. An enthusiastic narrator, Johnson’s love of flying comes through clearly. This no-holds-barred account will interest aviation buffs and those invested in making the military more welcoming to women. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Success and Something Greater: Your Magic Key

Sharon L. Lechter and Greg Reid. Sound Wisdom, $27.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-64095-073-3

Financial literacy advocate Lechter and motivational speaker Reid, who previously coauthored Three Feet from Gold, once again build on the ideas of success guru Napoleon Hill (1883–1970), devoting this insightful work to exploring the impact of mindset on success and failure. The authors discuss the challenges of overcoming negative thinking, claiming that three to five positive thoughts are required to counteract just a single negative one, and that, per Hill, “the more emotion we give that [negative] thought, the greater the probability that the thought will come to fruition.” They also explore, among other topics, living purposefully, goal-setting, overcoming impediments to one’s goals, and modeling oneself on visionary leaders, offering case studies to illustrate the different lessons they share and relating each piece of wisdom to Hill’s philosophy. Additional areas include “changing your world,” setting milestones, and possessing the determination to win. Offering an inspirational plan for seeking success, this work will no doubt please Hill’s legions of followers and bring new admirers into the fold. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness

Susannah Cahalan. Grand Central, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-1-5387-1528-4

Journalist Cahalan (Brain on Fire) sets a new standard for investigative journalism in this fascinating investigation into a pivotal psychological study. In 1973, the mental health system was in trouble, she writes, thanks to weak diagnostic criteria and overburdened hospitals and health-care providers. Stanford psychologist David Rosenhan understood it would take a grand gesture to incite reform—such as recruiting seven sane individuals to feign auditory hallucinations. Rosenhan used their accounts of institutionalization to write the 1973 article “On Being Sane in Insane Places,” which sparked controversy and led to the widespread reform or closure of institutions and a revision of the DSM. However, his volunteers’ identities were never revealed, which to Cahalan raises the question—was he hiding anything? Driven by her own traumatizing experience as a misdiagnosed psychiatric patient, Cahalan pours through Rosenhan’s notes and lists of his known contacts, attempting to match real people to the study’s unnamed subjects, and ultimately is unable to find proof that six out of the seven fake patients really existed. She also discovers the wholesale omission of a volunteer’s account that contradicted Rosenhan’s argument. Her impeccable inquiry into the shadowy reality of Rosenhan’s study makes an urgent case that the psychological and psychiatric fields must recover the public trust that “Rosenhan helped shatter.” Agent: Larry Weissman, Larry Weissman Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Camel Crazy: A Quest for Miracles in the Mysterious World of Camels

Christina Adams. New World, $17.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-60868-648-3

In this frustrating follow-up to Adams’s 2005 memoir A Real Boy, she recounts discovering an unlikely method for alleviating the issues associated with her son Jonah’s autism. Having stumbled onto references to the healing powers of camel milk, she investigated further and decided to try it. After just a single dose, she reports, the seven-year-old’s symptoms vanished—he slept through the night, displayed affection, and had complete control over his limbs and behavior, making it through an entire school day without incident. Today, he’s 20, and “people who meet him can’t tell he has autism.” Adams admits that the jury’s still out on exactly why camel milk works in treating (not curing) some cases of autism and other conditions such as diabetes, but does little to explore current research, such as by interviewing doctors and experts. Instead, she spends her time visiting camel farm after camel farm, meeting with milk producers and vendors and learning more about the animals themselves. This frustrating omission is somewhat alleviated by the appendices, which include tips on handling and storage, suggested dosages, potential side effects, and a global list of distributors. Parents eager for a research-driven take on a potentially promising autism treatment will be disappointed to find this amounts to little more than an overly digressive look at camel farms. Agent: Dana Newman, Dana Newman Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Meat Planet: Artificial Flesh and the Future of Food

Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft. Univ. of California, $27.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-52029-553-7

Historian Wurgaft (Thinking in Public: Strauss, Levinas, Arendt) expertly details the five years he spent, beginning in 2013, researching the emerging industry of producing meat from cultured tissues rather than from live animals. After observing the world’s first laboratory-created hamburger, developed in 2013 by a Dutch scientist, he undertakes a worldwide investigation into the future of artificial meat. Wurgaft becomes “a kind of anthropological field worker,” visiting and interviewing scientists and businesspeople in start-ups in New York, California, and Israel. Throughout, he uses cultured meat as a lens into how technology changes the world. Wurgaft describes how the various planned technologies will work (“a vision of cultured animal products being produced not through slaughter and butchery, but in sterile, sleek facilities that look a bit like breweries”), the roadblocks to its production, and ethical questions “about the implications cultured meat may hold for our moral regard for animals.” Wurgaft’s investigation into cellular-grown meat’s various industrial and cultural issues should stand as an essential introduction to the subject. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More than Ever

Gavin Edwards. Dey St, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-295074-1

Edwards (The Tao of Bill Murray) affectionately captures the spirit of Fred Rogers (1928–2003) in a crisply told biography that focuses on the enduring lessons Rogers shared with his viewers. For more than 30 years beginning in 1951, Mister Rogers walked through his front door, put on his tennis shoes and cardigan sweater, and sang “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Growing up near Pittsburgh with doting parents, Rogers thrived in a loving and encouraging family, especially his grandfather, who spoke the words that shaped Rogers: “There’s just one person in this whole world just like you—and I like you just the way you are.” Edwards traces Rogers from his days at Rollins College in Florida, where he met his future wife, Joanne Byrd, through his earliest forays into television in New York City, to his development of the characters for his show and his advocacy for quality children’s programming. Edwards also pulls examples from Rogers and his show that teach lessons on how to live more like Rogers right now, such as being kind to strangers, telling the truth, and “always seeing the best in people.” Edwards’s enthusiastic prose vibrantly captures Rogers’s spirit and wisdom. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Second City Sinners: True Crime from Historic Chicago’s Deadly Streets

Jon Seidel. Lyons, $24.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4930-3845-9

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Seidel has gathered the stories of the Windy City’s most notorious 19th- and 20th-century murderers, from the Haymarket Affair in 1886 to Richard Speck’s horrific murder of eight student nurses in 1966, in this earnest, well-researched crime collection. The author covers a number of now obscure cases, including that of the merry murderesses Beulah Annan (“Chicago’s prettiest slayer”) and Belva Gaertner (the “chic divorcée”), whose crimes inspired police beat reporter Maurine Watkins’s 1926 play Chicago, which was subsequently turned into a perennially popular musical. Another highlight is “Terrible Tommy” O’Connor’s daring prison escape, which became the basis for the 1928 Broadway play The Front Page. Some readers may wish that Seidel devoted less space to such prominent gangsters as Al Capone and John Dillinger and more to lesser-known but no less deadly villains. Newspaper quotes from the 20th century’s early decades enliven the text, demonstrating “a style of crime reporting that is at once anachronistic and beautiful” and which gave way, later in the century, to much less colorful coverage. True crime buffs will find plenty to enjoy. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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