Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, November 30, 2012

Week ending November 30, 2012

Corera, Gordon. The Art of Betrayal: The Secret History of M16; Life and Death in the British Secret Service. Pegasus. Jan. 2013. c.496p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781605983981. $35. HIST
Corera (security correspondent, BBC News) writes a popular history of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), more commonly known as MI6, tracing its evolution since the end of World War II. His focus, as the title indicates, is how MI6 officers during the course of the Cold War and beyond have persuaded others to betray their countries. He shows that success depends on skill and patience, with luck sometimes coming into play. He also covers how the Soviets during the Cold War recruited high-level British agents who did tremendous damage to the British intelligence establishment. Third, Corera addresses how the Blair government betrayed the professional service in its rush to join the American war against Iraq.
Verdict The author himself obviously favors the old style hard work and derring-do of officers in the field, not the policy-makers or technocrats of today, and he writes in a style seeking to appeal to lovers of spy fiction (after all, John le Carre worked for MI6 before crafting his fiction) and true tales of espoionage. Especially recommended to those interested in the human factor in the world of spying.—Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL

Flynn, Anthony & Emily Flynn Vencat. Custom Nation: Why Customization is the Future of Business and How to Profit from it. BenBella. Nov. 2012. 200p. illus. index. ISBN 9781937856106. $16.95. BUSINESS
Flynn, founder of a customized nutrition bar company, and business journalist Vencat, discuss the movement towards customization in the products and services bought today. The first half of the book describes the phenomenon, using examples such as Shutterfly, Zazzle, CafePress, Dell, and even Khan Academy to illustrate the growth of the customization industry. They point to factors such as the growth of secure online shopping, 3-D printers, and a generation of tech-savvy millennials as the cause of the customization movement. Flynn and Vencat point out that, frequently, companies creating small, customized batches of goods are located in the USA rather than overseas and will likely remain there due to the realities of shipping costs, taxes and duties, and delivery times. The second half of the book is a how-to primer for potential owners of customization businesses, whether starting a new business or adding customization to an existing enterprise.
Verdict An interesting, easily readable look at a new business model from a successful practitioner. Recommended for small business owners, business students, and anyone interested in the future of American business.—Rachel Owens, Daytona State Coll. Lib., FL

Keyes, Raven. The Healing Power of Reiki: A Modern Master’s Approach to Emotional, Spiritual, and Physical Wellness. Llewellyn. 2012. 268p. notes. ISBN 9780738733517. pap. $16.99. HEALTH
This is an engaging chronicle of the energy healing adventures of a New York Reiki practitioner. Keyes fills her book with touching examples of how Reiki can heal and transform from her own experiences, whether in operating rooms (including one belonging to television’s Dr. Oz), at Ground Zero, and in the world of professional sports. Each chapter emphasizes the versatility and power of Reiki energy to heal problems such as grief, trauma, fear, as well as physical ailments, and provides exercises geared towards practitioners who wish to emulate Keyes’s shamanistic healing style. Keyes, it should be noted, is a big name in the Reiki world: not all practitioners have as amazing results (or rub shoulders with as many luminaries).
Verdict This book is definitely not a how-to but instead a collection of personal stories that emphasize the potential of Reiki energy healing. It will appeal to Reiki practitioners and other energy workers who are looking for inspiration and new techniques, and will perhaps be useful to readers looking to explore treatment methods outside of Western medicine.—Janet Tapper, Univ. of Western States Lib., Portland, OR

Plaut, Joshua Eli. A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to Be Jewish. Rutgers Univ. 2012. c.240p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813553795. $68; pap. ISBN 9780813553801. $22.95. REL
Plaut (Greek Jewry in the Twentieth Century, 1913–1983), explores how the meanings of the Christmas holiday have become Americanized and changed, in particular by American Jews, both secular and religious. For American Jews, the holiday has always presented a kind of dilemma: does one assert one’s own separate religious identity, develop a means of paticipating in Christmas celebrations as a Jew, or seek to change the meanings of the holiday? Plaut shows that Jews have responded to Christmas in a variety ways, including fostering the tradition of going out for Chinese dinner that day, a means of outsiders becoming a group of insiders. Plaut covers this approach in its own chapter. Other chapters address the evolution of Hanukkah into a larger than traditionally established Jewish December celebration; remaking Christmas into a secular time of giving; and Jews’ contributions to the American popular culture of the Christmas holidays, e.g., the Christmas songs written by Jews in support of Christmas as representing family, peace, and joy.
Verdict This book is a clever look at the dilemmas presented to us at Christmas, whether in fact we are Jews or not. It is academic in tone (its title, subtitle, and cover may mislead) but nimbly written. Many readers will be likely to enjoy it.—Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL

Rahaim, Matthew. Musicking Bodies: Gesture and Voice in Hindustani Music. Wesleyan Univ. 2012. 200p. bibliog. illus. index. ISBN 9780819573261. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9780819573278. $19.99. MUSIC
Indian music scholar Rahaim (ethnomusicology, Univ. of Minnesota) uses both experience and observation to deconstruct the complex relationship between tone, meaning, scale (raga), and hand movements used by Hindustani vocalists, who perform what is also known as North Indian classical music. Many photos help illustrate the principles discussed, often accompanied by some type of notation so readers can better recognize the gestures, which often include the motif of objects gripped, held, thrown, or pulled. Rahaim reveals that the hands of the singers are the vehicles for performing the depth of the music, and vocal pitch is closely linked to hand position. Though these gestures are often transmitted from teacher to student, students are still generally free to move as they see fit.
Verdict It is clear that Rahaim is an accomplished scholar and this work will appeal to readers already equipped with a specific body of knowledge. Those interested in ethnomusicology, Indian music, and the connection between performer and song will find this book fascinating.—Carolyn Schwartz, Westfield State Coll. Lib., MA

Burton, Richard. The Richard Burton Diaries.Yale Univ. Nov. 2012. 700p. ed. by Chris Williams. bibliog. ISBN 9780300180107. $35.00. FILM
During the heyday of their relationship, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor virtually invented the public’s image of paparazzi-hounded celebrity. In private, Burton kept a diary, recording his observations about Taylor, his extensive reading habits, movies he was working on, travel, other celebrities, housekeeping details, his often heavy drinking, as well as random insights about life. Editor Williams (Welsh history, Swansea Univ.) considers this diary a portrait of a “complex, conflicted, contradictory” man who wrote to preserve “a record of truth” that was both distant and distinct from his public persona. The bulk of the diaries cover 1965-1972. Copious footnotes explain references to people and places.
Verdict The diary reveals a moody man, at turns thoughtful or petty. Readers seeking an organized look at Burton’s life, stage, and screen career won’t find that here. On the other hand, the actor also offers eloquent observations about his life, loves, and all too human failings. The book is essential for future biographers, though general reader interest will be limited.—Stephen Rees, formerly with Levittown Lib., PA


Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"