Nonfiction Previews, Apr. 2012, Pt. 4: Chopra, Covey, and Ancient Babylon

Bordewich, Fergus M. America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union. S. & S. Apr. 2012. 448p. ISBN 9781439124604. $30. HISTORY
Drafted by Henry Clay and sponsored by Clay and Stephen A. Douglas, the Compromise of 1850 did preserve the Union for a time, temporarily easing the tension between the free North and slave South regarding the issue of slavery in the territories acquired after the Mexican War. Clay’s health faltered as he sought to push through the various provisions of the bill, and Douglas was eventually responsible for its passage. Interesting background as we commemorate the Civil War’s sesquicentennial; American history fans should demand.

Burchard, Brendon. The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive. Free Pr: S. & S. Apr. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781451667530. $26. CD: S. & S. Audio. PSYCHOLOGY
Author of the gold-plated best-selling The Millionaire Messenger and founder of the High Performance Academy, Burchard here recommends that we revise Abraham Maslow’s hoary Hierarchy of Needs, which places safety and sustenance at the base. I’m still for safety and sustenance myself, but Burchard draws on recent research in numerous disciplines, including positive psychology and neuroscience, to conclude that humans are animated by ten basic drives: Control, Competence, Congruence, Caring, Connection, Change, Challenge, Creative expression, Contribution, and Consciousness. Here he explains how understanding these drives helps us get more out of life. A hot author, and the appeal of this kind of book never does fade, does it?

Chopra, Deepak. Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life’s Greatest Challenges. Harmony, dist. by Crown. Mar. 2012. ISBN 9780307719171. $22; eISBN 9780307719195. CD: Random Audio. CD: Random Audio. SPIRITUALITY
No need to introduce Chopra, whose huge following will be clamoring for his latest on everyday family, relationship, and work/life challenges. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people ask him for advice, which he often furnishes in his website’s Ask Deepak column. Now you don’t even have to write in; just pick up this book and find out how you might gracefully handle obdurate friends, plateauing careers, and medical crises with grace. It works for a lot of folks. Promotion everywhere; likely consider multiples.

Covey, Sean. The 4 Disciplines of Execution: How To Realize Your Most Wildly Important Goals. Free Pr: S. & S. Apr. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781451627053. $26. CD: S. & S. Audio. BUSINESS
Focus on the Wildly Important, Act on the Lead Measures, Keep a Compelling Scoreboard, and Create a Cadence of Accountability. Those are the Four Disciplines of Execution according to Covey, a leader in what’s called thought leadership in business and author of mega best sellers like The Leader in Me and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. (Yup, his dad is Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.) You’ll have to read the book to understand what phrases like wildly important and cadence of accountability really mean, but if you have business readers they’ll be interested.

Crystal, David. The Story of English in 100 Words. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9781250003461. $22.99. LANGUAGE
One of our top language experts, whose works range from A Little Book on Language all the way up to The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, Crystal uses 100 words to illustrate the forces that have shaped English. He starts with the first definitively English word, roe‚ found etched on a roe deer’s femur dating from the fifth century‚ and goes all the way up to twittersphere. Fun for all, and informative, too.

Douthat, Ross. Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. Free Pr: S. & S. Apr. 2012. Apr. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781439178300. $26. RELIGION/CURRENT EVENTS
Op-ed columnist for the New York Times with a conservative bent and author of books like Grand New Party, Douthat finds Christianity in America today wholly debased. While once Christianity was the energized and binding center, he argues, now it’s veered into preen-and-get-rich territory that distorts Christianity’s meaning. Glenn Beck, Oprah, Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love mode‚ they all come under his gaze. Bound to make some people angry and animate others, though who’ll react how isn’t entirely predictable.

Jacobs, A.J. Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection. S. & S. Apr. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9781416599074. $28. HUMOR
The title of Esquire editor at large Jacobs’s recent essay collection, The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment, about sums it up. His two New York Times best sellers include The Know-It-All, which recounts the year he spent reading all 32 volumes of the 2002 edition of the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, and The Year of Living Biblically. Here Jacobs explains how he sought to achieve total health in an account that’s bound to be very funny even as it skewers some of the diet and exercise advice out there. I wouldn’t skimp on this one.

Kriwaczek, Paul. Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781250000071. $27.99. HISTORY
Head of Central Asian Affairs at the BBC’s World Service, Kriwaczek looks back‚ way back‚ in this account of the city said to have laid the foundations for modern civilization. He gets right down into the dust to chronicle Babylon’s origins in 7000 B.C.E., then brings us to the glory years under the Amorite king Hammurabi from about 1800 B.C.E., and the city’s eclipse 12 centuries later. With so many books focusing on more recent history, it’s nice to get back to our roots.

Lake, Ricki. Untitled Memoir. Atria: S. & S. Apr. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781451627176. $25. MEMOIR
Perhaps you know Lake best as Tracy Turnblad in the original Hairspray. Or as the bright-faced host of her eponymous TV show. Or as executive producer of The Business of Being Born, a documentary about childbirth in the United States. She’s also survived borderline bankruptcy, a nasty divorce, and the rigors of being a single mother. Her memoir should cover a lot of territory, then, and it’s out in time for her new talk show. Celeb lovers will love.

Minu-Sepehr, Aria. We Heard the Heavens Then: A Memoir of Iran. Free Pr: S. & S. Apr. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781451652185. $25. MEMOIR
Many youngsters worry about exams, friendship, and the right clothes, but once the Ayatollah took over in Iran, Minu-Sepehr‚ son of a high-ranking general in the Shah’s Imperial Iranian Air Force‚ worried whether his father would be publicly assassinated and, indeed, whether the entire family would be able to escape alive. Now an adjunct professor of English and founder of Forum for Middle East Awareness, Minu-Sepehr recalls a defining moment in his country’s history, a moment that sums up the tension between secular and religious, West and East until today. The politically astute should investigate.

O’Neal, Ryan with Jodee Blanco & Kent Carroll. Both of Us: My Life with Farrah. Crown Archetype. Apr. 2012. NAp. ISBN 9780307954824. $24; eISBN 9780307954848. MEMOIR/FILM
First there was the headline-making romance, then marriage, troubles with careers and stepchildren, drug abuse, and breakup. Then there was Ryan’s bout with leukemia and Farrah’s diagnosis with terminal cancer after the couple got back together. A real tearjerker, and O’Neal is intent on fully relating Farrarh’s final struggle and his own sorrow. Go for it, fans.

Riordan, Vicki. Encore Performance: Tapping into My True Passion, Reclaiming My Life. Atria: S. & S. Apr. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9781451643480. $24. MEMOIR
As a teenager, Riordan saw tap as her career, but she gave it up to raise a family. When her marriage faltered, she returned to teaching tap and at age 62 opened the largest tap studio in America. The Tap Pups program embraces adults ranging from ages 21 to 89 and has revolutionized the lives of many students. As George Eliot said, It’s never too late to be who you might have been. Likely a fun and inspiring read even if you ain’t got rhythm.

Sloan, Bill. Undefeated: America’s Heroic Fight for Bataan and Corregidor. S. & S. Apr. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9781439199640. $28. HISTORY
Against awful odds, the American forces in the Philippines held off the Japanese for as long as possible during World War II. They are often portrayed as victims mowed down by unstoppable military might, but Sloan, the author of many popular titles about the war, dignifies their efforts in his new book. Of great interest to avid readers of World War II history.

Specter, Arlen & Charles Robbins. Life Among the Cannibals: A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing As We Know It. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2012. ISBN 9781250003683. $26.99. MEMOIR/POLITICAL
Specter served admirably as a senator from Pennsylvania for 30 years, but perhaps the most memorable moments of his service include his leadership in passing the 2009 Stimulus Bill, switch to the Democratic Party after 44 years as an elected Republican, and town hall meetings on health care that saw the start of the Tea Party movement. In this work, he condemns the extremism that has overtaken the Republican Party, which obviates bipartisan cooperation and consensus.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.


  1. Cathy says:

    In the first review Barbara I think you mean 1850, not 1950!