Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, April 12, 2013

Week ending April 12, 2013

starred review starBernstein, Len. Photography, Life, and the Opposites. Delia Pr. 2012. 210p. photogs. ISBN 9780984676538. $60. PHOTOG
Photographer Bernstein credits the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism as “a beautiful way of seeing” that allows photographers “to like the world through knowing it.” As evidenced in his touching images, Bernstein loves the world he photographs, especially people glimpsed in warm, intimate moments on the seemingly anonymous streets and subways of New York and elsewhere. He not only captures what Henri Cartier-Bresson called decisive moments but also exquisitely sweet, tender ones. Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Robert Coles (psychiatry, emeritus, Harvard Univ.; Handing One Another Along: Literature and Social Reflection) contributes a brief foreword, promising that readers will be moved by the images and accompanying commentary. An awareness of each subject’s humanity shines through Bernstein’s poignant images of ordinary people in otherwise everyday situations. All of the photos are artfully composed, with a hint of whimsy running like a bright thread through many of them. Bernstein describes each of his images in an informal paragraph or two, as if he were addressing a journal or chatting with someone on the street.
Verdict Anyone who likes photography, from young amateur to seasoned professional, will love this book.—Raymond Bial, Urbana, IL

Griffin, Jack. How To Say It: Creating Complete Customer Satisfaction; Winning Words, Phrases, and Strategies To Build Lasting Relationships in Sales and Service. Prentice Hall. 2013. 272p. index. ISBN 9780735205253. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781101623688. BUS
Griffin’s (How To Say It at Work; How To Say It for First Time Managers) newest entry in the “How To Say It” series tackles sales and customer service and expounds on what words and phrases connect with customers. Three sections detail department processes from the viewpoint of customer service representatives—preparing to sell, selling to specific groups of people (e.g., programming end users, purchasing managers, and business leaders), and completing the cycle with how to deliver complete satisfaction to customers. Each chapter lists keywords and phrases as well as includes scripted scenarios drawn from conversations via email, phone, and in person meetings. Griffin bypasses common sales wisdom in favor of focusing on the customer experience and offers a practical guide with insight to enhancing the customer experience, using the best words.
Verdict A solid addition to general business collections and for those working in sales and/or looking for ways to become more effective in their roles.—Elizabeth Nelson, UOP Lib., Des Plaines, IL

Man, John. Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior. Morrow. 2013. 304p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062222022. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062202666. HIST
In a book that is part history and part travelog, British popular historian Man (Attila) takes a wide view in searching for the truth about historical “shadow warriors” and their modern counterparts. Early chapters trace the development of ninjas and their skills by sweeping through Japan’s tumultuous history with accounts of their exploits, interspersed with Man’s own observations on rumored ninja techniques and various historical locations (such as the former sites of the Koga and Iga schools of ninjutsu). Later chapters explore the concept of the “modern” ninja, ninja ideals in World War II espionage, the romanticization of the ninja figure, and the transmission of the idea to Western culture (focusing in particular on the James Bond film You Only Live Twice). Man writes entertainingly while providing vivid anecdotes and dispelling myths, but he’s limited by both the paucity of historical accounts of ninjas and his own reliance on English-language sources or a translator. While the later chapters supply some interesting viewpoints, their connection to legitimate ninja history at times feels tenuous.
Verdict An engaging volume for the casual reader or those with a general interest, but others in search of a sturdier volume on the subject might prefer to rely on Stephen Turnbull’s works such as Ninja: The True Story of Japan’s Secret Warrior Cult.—Kathleen McCallister, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia

Norton, Anne. On the Muslim Question. Princeton Univ. 2013. 272p. notes. index. ISBN 9780691157047. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781400846351. POL SCI
Halfway through this book, Norton (political science, Univ. of Pennsylvania; 95 Theses on Politics, Culture, and Method) writes that when reading the works of philosophers and theorists who have died, “readers are obliged to read critically, dismissing or condemning some of what [the authors] wrote, accepting other works and passages as useful or brilliant.” This advice should pertain to all readers of all books, including this one. Norton’s central claims, that the clash of civilizations is not borne out in the daily lives of ordinary people and that the West needs to examine critically its political and philosophical stance toward Islam and the Muslim world, are compelling, but she tends to slip too easily into sweeping, unsupported statements that detract from her argument and are unnecessarily provocative. For example, maintaining that Western feminists are more concerned with polygamy in other countries than with sexual assault in their own is baffling and comes across implicitly as an argument for cultural and moral relativism. Contending that people fear suicide bombers because they are “an image of what is feared in Muslim immigrants who assimilate” is an unfortunate piece of social psychoanalysis. These types of weaknesses detract from what Norton maintains is the book’s actual claims.
Verdict Readers already familiar with Norton’s work may wish to explore this book. Others may find it heavy going.—Julie Edwards, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula

Sawyer, Keith. Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity. Jossey-Bass. Apr. 2013. 274p. bibliog. ISBN 9781118297704. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781118539118. ED
As emerging technologies continue to challenge production status quo within institutions throughout all economic sectors, the ability to apply creative thinking is an essential component to the 21st-century job skill set. Sawyer (psychology, education, business, Washington Univ., St. Louis; Group Genius), a former student of renowned Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience) whose expertise on the creative process Sawyer draws from and outlines here in his steps to creativity, challenges the assumption that learning how to be creative is counterintuitive. Using science-based research and engaging examples, Sawyer illustrates eight steps that he contends “zig zag” on the nonlinear and iterative path to success: ask, learn, look, play, think, fuse, choose, and make. Sawyer delineates the goal and process of each step with easy-to-follow mental exercises and techniques.
Verdict An engaging, highly readable, and well-referenced handbook. Recommended for all audiences; students will appreciate the techniques, exercises, and insight based on Sawyer’s grounded expertise.—Jane Scott, George Fox Univ. Lib., Newberg, OR

Thompson, Tracy. The New Mind of the South. S. & S. 2013. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9781439158036. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781439160138. SOC SCI
What exactly is a Southerner? Do blacks and Hispanics living in the South characterize themselves as Southerners as often as do whites? In this engaging work, with its title making overt reference to W.J. Cash’s The Mind of the South (1941), Thompson (The Ghost in the House) uses her journalistic skills to explore this question and more. As Thompson herself says, “It’s complicated.” The four-year journey that led her back through the South where she grew up allowed her to reexamine her own heritage while experiencing the South anew. With refreshing candor, Thompson explores in depth the issues surrounding the Civil War and attitudes about it now and in the past, e.g., whether it was fought over states’ rights or slavery. Is the Civil War a South-defining issue among new Southerners? Thompson also gives ample attention to topics such as lingering racial issues, the rising Hispanic population, and the ubiquitous influence of religion in the South. Most interesting are her vivid descriptions of visits to various gatherings such as to a United Daughters of the Confederacy meeting, a Children of the Confederacy convention, and a predominantly black megachurch in Atlanta even as she identifies the new markers of the New South.
Verdict Highly recommended for libraries of all types, especially those with Southern history collections and readers in American studies.—Holly Hebert, Brentwood P.L., TN

Van Horn, Carl E. Working Scared (or Not at All): The Lost Decade, Great Recession, and Restoring the Shattered American Dream. Rowman & Littlefield. 2013. 240p. bibliog. ISBN 9781442219656. $45; ebk. ISBN 9781442219663. BUS
Van Horn (public policy, founding director, the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers Univ.) elaborates on the extensive research project Work Trends: Americans’ Attitudes About Work, Employers and Government that surveyed 25,000 American workers during the period 1998–2012. By documenting workers’ experiences through a time of economic prosperity followed by a maelstrom of economic despair, Van Horn reports on the survey results in a succinct history of the causes and events leading to the 2008 Great Recession and concludes with a summary of the country’s current economic position. Using extensive quotes, charts, and graphs, Van Horn assesses the U.S. response to the challenges resulting from the Great Recession and offers suggestions for strategies on how to increase job creation and recommendations for transforming policies and practices. He closes with four national priorities for leaders and citizens.
Verdict For anyone feeling affected by the economic adversity of the last decade.—Bonnie Tollefson, Cleveland Bradley Cty. P.L., TN

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"