Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, August 23, 2013

Week ending August 23, 2013

Cowen, Diana. Sunday Dinners: Food, Family, and Faith from Our Favorite Pastors. Andrews McMeel. 2013. 216p. photos. index. ISBN 9781449427108. $24.99. COOKING
In today’s busy world, families don’t often make time to sit down for a meal together. Cowen, editor of the religion and food sections of the Houston Chronicle, presents this compilation of stories and recipes that celebrate the importance of the traditional Sunday meal. Each chapter features a pastor and his or her family, including well-known figures such as Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and George Foreman, who share stories of childhood family meals, traditions, and favorite dishes. Many of the pastors highlighted are from Texas, although a few other states are represented, and this is apparent in some of the recipes, which are typical Southern dishes such as macaroni and cheese, grits, and cornbread. Many of the recipes are traditional comfort foods, but, for some readers, the frequent use of rich ingredients such as butter, cream cheese, and creamed soups may make them suitable only for special occasions rather than weekly options.
Verdict Readers will enjoy the inspirational stories of families coming together at the table as well as the variety of delicious recipes.—Melissa Stoeger, Deerfield P.L., IL

Hines, Kevin. Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt. Rowman & Littlefield. Aug. 2013. 194p. bibliog. ISBN 9781442222403. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781442222410. PSYCH
Skilled international public speaker and mental health advocate Hines encourages audiences with inspirational presentations on the topic of suicide awareness and prevention and has been honored as a Lifetime Achievement Award winner by the National Council for Community Behavioral Health. This retelling of his own suicide attempt and road to healing makes for a quick read but doesn’t bring anything new to survival memoirs. Hines’s tales of schoolyard bullying and dysfunctional family life are relatively commonplace, yet his account is brave in detailing his jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. While there are suspenseful moments and Hines’s recovery is inspiring, what’s lacking here is visceral, descriptive writing and, unfortunately, not enough surprises to keep this reviewer engaged.
Verdict This should appeal to fans of popular psychology and Christian inspiration, also patients of attempted suicide and their loved ones, who will find the select bibliography combined with Hines’s insight into the suicidal mind helpful.—Chrissy Spallone, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Lib.

Margolick, David. Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns. Other Pr. 2013. 382p. ISBN 9781590515716. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781590515723. LIT
Drawing heavily on letters written to family and friends by American author John Horne Burns (1916–53) and on his writings more generally, Margolick (editor, Vanity Fair; Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock) examines the troubled life of promising novelist Burns, a homosexual who daringly addressed homosexual themes, as he descends into alcoholism, exile, and an early death. Burns is portrayed as someone uncomfortable in his own skin, a Harvard-educated genius with a mean streak who finds it difficult to connect even with members of his family. The biography takes its title from “dreadfuls,” a term Burns used as a code word for homosexuals. His debut novel, The Gallery (1947), which features a sympathetic treatment of homosexuals serving in World War II, received highly favorable reviews. Subsequent works, including Lucifer with a Book, a satire based on his teaching experience at a New England prep school, met a harsher reception. Once critical of expatriate writers, Burns seems to have put aside his reservations when he moved to Italy. His sudden death there at age 37 ended a life of literary promise and raised questions about the causes behind his demise.
Verdict For Margolick, “Burns’ homosexuality simultaneously marked his greatest work, limited his artistic range, hastened his downfall and, decades later, aided his reemergence as a literary figure of note.” This engaging book will appeal most to readers interested in gay studies.—William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY

Walker, Alice. The Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm’s Way. New Pr. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781595588722. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781595588869. LIT
In this collection of articles, letters, lectures, poems, and essays, Pulitzer Prize winner Walker (The Color Purple) reaffirms her role as an activist working for peace and justice. The book opens with an essay expressing her hopes for Barack Obama’s presidency in 2008 and continues with promoting a series of human rights causes, from the controversy surrounding U.S. Army private Bradley Manning and Burma’s political opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to her support for Cuba’s former prime minister Fidel Castro. One of her major concerns remains the plight of the Palestinians, a cause she has long championed. Her impassioned, hard-line approach has alienated some supporters of Israel and caused Walker to be labeled as anti-Semitic.
Verdict Despite her fiery political views, Walker presents a vision of life filled with prayer, purpose, and commitment that will inspire many. This articulate book will appeal to Walker fans and readers dedicated to political change.—Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo

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"


  1. Theo Snow says:

    Thanks for posting these. I’m definitely going to pick up Cracked, Not Broken. I’ve been reading a lot of books recently that deal with tough issues and life struggles. I have just read Back From The Abyss – The Autobiography Of A Low-Bottom Alky from Kieran Doherty. That is one book that I feel deserves a lot of attention this year in the non-fiction category. Can;t recommend it highly enough.