Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, February 15, 2013

Week ending February 15, 2013

Clinton, Michael. The Globetrotter Diaries: Tales, Tips and Tactics for Traveling the 7 Continents. Glitterati Inc. 2013. 264p. ISBN 9780985169664. $30. TRAV
Bitten by the travel bug as a young boy, Clinton (publishing director, Hearst Magazines; Wanderlust: One Hundred Countries) has traveled to over 120 countries (he’s aiming for 150) and writes engagingly of his adventures from Antarctica to the North Pole. Whether skiing in Thredbo, Australia, exploring the Namib Desert, hiking in Bhutan, climbing Scotland’s Ben Nevis, or traveling by boat from Vietnam to Cambodia, Clinton embarks on adventures that are often not the usual tourist choices, although he also writes about Paris and Berlin. Interspersed are random bits of advice from Clinton and his globetrotting pals, i.e., always leave time in your itinerary for serendipity and make sure your children carry identification. Clinton also includes a sampling of his own black-and-white travel photographs in this book.
Verdict While most readers don’t have the kind of job and salary that would allow them regularly to mix work and international travel as Clinton does, his enthusiasm will inspire others to travel more often and to more unusual destinations; his heartfelt, breezy narrative will entertain all readers.—Linda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Lib., North Adams

Garza-Hillman, Sid. Approaching the Natural: A Health Manifesto. Roundtree. 2012. 158p. ISBN 9781937359355. pap. $9.95. HEALTH
In this book, nutritionist Garza-Hillman argues that achieving good health is easier than most people think. His philosophy is based on the idea that humans aren’t that different from other animals and that nutrition is a lot simpler than we make it out to be. The key, according to Garza-Hillman, is to take it slow. He says, “Remember, it’s ‘Approaching the Natural’ not ‘Express Elevator to the Natural.’ ” This approach may mean starting with 30 seconds of exercise and gradually adding more physical activity to one’s life. It may mean cutting out junk foods one at a time. Most of his advice seems like common sense until readers get closer to what the book deems the most natural—not everyone is going to take up barefoot running, for example.
Verdict While the idea of getting beyond the quick-fix diet will resonate with a wide audience, the book will likely have the most appeal to those who identify as “New Age” or who accept ideas like touching trees to discharge energy from our bodies.—Mindy Rhiger, Minneapolis

Goldhill, David. Catastrophic Care: How American Health Care Killed My Father—and How We Can Fix It. Knopf. 2013. 384p. index. ISBN 9780307961549. $25.95. MED
A traumatic experience (the death of his father after contracting a series of infections in the hospital) started a journey for media executive Goldhill, which has included a 2009 cover story in The Atlantic and evolved into this book, which details his options on the deficiencies and inadequacies of the U.S. health-care system and suggests possible solutions. Organizations like private insurers, government entities, and Medicare act as surrogate customers or consumers, taking the place of individuals, and so help to maintain a system that places undue focus on financial issues, including profit. Goldhill’s father’s care showed the author that medical professionals are not to blame, but practices have become either too complicated or oversimplified, e.g., quickly using hand sanitizer rather than thoroughly washing hands. One solution he suggestions would be to eliminate insurance for all but the truly catastrophic cases, leaving individuals in an open dialog with providers about the price of routine care, with more realistic and uninflated figures.
Verdict Goldhill’s perspective is invaluable to the health-care discussion, elevating his personal tragedy into an impressive body of research. Written with both pain and passion, this book provides an informative and relatable treatise.—Elizabeth J. Eastwood, Los Alamos Cty. Lib. Syst., NM

Guare, Richard & others. Smart but Scattered Teens: The “Executive Skills” Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential. Guilford. 2013. 310p. ISBN 9781609182298. pap. $16.95. PARENTING
More psychologists, parents, and developmental counselors are examining the why when it comes to understanding the strange and puzzling behaviors of tweens and teens. Here, best-selling authors Richard Guare and Peg Dawson (Smart but Scattered), along with Colin Guare, look at brain development research to help readers understand (and suffering teens overcome) the vexing impulses and time-management issues that plague many adolescents. The book’s “executive skills” are the critical tools needed to solve problems, manage time, and perform tasks. As many parents know, tweens and teens often lack these abilities, which, according to the authors, stem from the brain’s frontal lobe, where its functions are not fully developed in teenagers. If parents can better comprehend brain development, they can help even the most disorganized, reckless teens exhibit more sensible and responsible behavior. The book includes lots of anecdotes and commentary; readers can skip around to relevant chapters or read straight through.
Verdict A very helpful addition to parenting shelves, comparable to David Walsh’s Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids.—Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA

Jasienska, Grayna. The Fragile Wisdom: An Evolutionary View on Women’s Biology and Health. Harvard Univ. 2013. 319p. index. ISBN 9780674047129. $35. MED
This book focuses on the reproductive health of women from an evolutionary perspective. Jasienska (public health, Jagiellonian Univ., Poland) uses many studies as well as her own research to create a narrative of adaption and modification from fetal development to menopause. This research suggests the health of a woman is tied not only to her mother but also to the health and environment of her grandmother during her reproductive years, factors rarely taken into consideration by public health programs. The evolutionary adaptions that allow a woman to reproduce successfully do not necessarily engender longevity. For instance, hormones that increase the likelihood of pregnancy also increase the likelihood of breast cancer. Higher birth weight, linked to healthier infants, can lead to heart disease later in life. Evidence for these arguments is laid out clearly and effectively. Overall, the information is presented honestly, including contradictory reports, limitations of the different studies regarding sample size and testing, alternative interpretations of the data, and the need for additional research. An extensive list of references is included.
Verdict A great read for those interested in women’s health and evolutionary biology.—Susanne Caro, Univ. of Montana-Missoula Lib.

Lauveng, Arnhild. A Road Back from Schizophrenia. Skyhorse, dist. by Norton. 2012. 208p. bibliog. ISBN 9781616088712. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9781620879139. PSYCH
In her new memoir, clinical psychologist Lauveng writes about overcoming schizophrenia and states that one-third of schizophrenics recover with no ensuing problems. However, she offers no research to support her claim. The thrust of her memoir is that people should be treated as people and not identified by their illness. She chastises the medical profession for irresponsibly diagnosing mental illness in people who express their perfectly normal needs in a different way. People with mental illness desire understanding, acceptance, and control over their lives, just like everyone else, and this is a valid demand. However, schizophrenia is defined literally as “cleaved mind,” and for ten years Lauveng experienced horrible hallucinations, in which someone called the Captain viciously berated her. Schizophrenics can become a danger to themselves and/or others, warranting admittance to a psychiatric hospital. Unfortunately, readers don’t find out what happened to the Captain or to Lauveng’s illness. Oddly, she isn’t telling.
Verdict A fine addition to a mental illness memoir collection but not a replacement for classics like Joanne Greenberg’s I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.—Nadine Dalton Speidel, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH

Slater, Dan. Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating. Current. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781591845317. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101608258. PSYCH
Author and reporter Slater
tracks the evolution of online dating services from the early Sixties to the present, examining profile excerpts, analytics, and industry commentary to reveal how online dating companies such as Match, eHarmony, PlentyOfFish, and niche dating sites (Women Behind Bars, STD Friends, and SweetonGeeks) have provided new avenues for people to meet. Slater cites intriguing research on dating and social behaviors, which will appeal to readers of Rowland Miller and others’ Intimate Relationships. Slater looks at facts drawn from browsing and questionnaire data supplied by users of online dating services rather than research from academic case studies.
Verdict This book will be of interest to those who use, or are curious about, online dating services and anyone interested in relationship patterns in general. Slater’s insights into the various ways relationships are mediated by technology, especially within the realm of online dating services, prove a fascinating read.—Ryan Nayler, Native Counselling Svcs. of Alberta

starred review starSmith, Charles. The Gospel According to James and Other Plays. Ohio Univ. 2012. 400p. photogs. ISBN 9780821420058. pap. $28.95. THEATER
This is the first collection of plays by Smith (playwriting, Ohio Univ.), who has done the majority of his work at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater. Most of the works treat historical characters and events in a fictionalized and dramatic setting; that is, the words the characters say may not necessarily be in the historical record, but the ideas expressed and the situations in which they are placed are closely related to the realities that the characters experienced. Particularly noteworthy in this collection is “Knock Me a Kiss,” the story of the courtship and star-crossed marriage of W.E.B. DuBois’s daughter, Yolande, to poet Countee Cullen. The dialog is earthy and humorous, and the characters are written solidly and truthfully. The casts are smallish (ranging from three to 13), and the set design demands are minimal. “Pudd’nhead Wilson” is the longest script of the bunch, at about 90 pages; the others average about 60 pages.
Verdict Directors will, upon reading these scripts, rush to find a cast and a in which space to perform them. The stories will be unfamiliar to most playgoers, and actors will find all of the roles a joy to inhabit. This is drama that deserves a wide audience in theaters of all sizes.—Larry Schwartz, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Moorhead

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"