Political Leadership, Hot Flashes, the Penal System, Being a Gardener, & Homesteading | Xpress Reviews

Week ending June 6, 2014

Brown, Archie. The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age. Basic. 2014. 480p. index. notes. ISBN 9780465027668. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780465080977. POL SCI
The idea of “leadership” continues to be a hot point of debate for politicians, op-ed writers, and political scientists alike. Brown (politics emeritus, Oxford Univ.; The Rise and Fall of Communism) explores the idea of the modern “strong leader” in world politics. He pushes a strong but counterintuitive theme that voters and political observers alike overrate “strong” leadership, traditionally defined by the characteristics of charisma, decisiveness, and centralized decision-making. Brown’s central thesis is primarily based on 20th-century case studies of what he calls transforming and redefining leaders in the United Sates, the UK, and Europe; a smaller section of the book is devoted to totalitarian and authoritarian regimes from around the world. A fairly convincing case is made, though occasionally dubious logic (for example, that political leaders have little effect on election results) does prevail, and most discerning readers will detect a leftward bias that is clearly present, though not polemical in nature.
Verdict While its clear narrative and discussion of well-known leaders may appeal to readers with an interest in modern political history, this title is most likely to find its audience among those who are attracted to serious political science titles.—Ben Neal, Richland Lib., Columbia, SC

Elkins, Gary. Relief from Hot Flashes: The Natural, Drug-Free Program To Reduce Hot Flashes, Improve Sleep, and Ease Stress. Demos Health. Jun. 2014. 262p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781936303564. pap. $19.95. HEALTH
Baylor University professor Elkins (director, the Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory) is a clinical health psychologist with expertise in hypnotic relaxation therapy. Here he describes his innovative five-week program that teaches women the techniques of relaxation, mental imagery, and self-hypnosis to treat the hot flashes that often accompany menopause and breast cancer treatment. He claims that hot flashes are often associated with fatigue, irritability, and depression, causing about 20 percent of women to experience symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with daily activities. Elkins describes the current traditional hormonal and nonhormonal therapies and outlines their drawbacks. Research conducted at the Baylor laboratory demonstrated that women who used his hypnotic relaxation therapy program, which employs audio files and which he carefully outlines in the book, were able to reduce their hot flashes by up to 80 percent on average. The author includes forms for daily diary-keeping, as well as for recording individual triggers and sleep ratings.
Verdict This book is not as comprehensive as Christiane Northrup’s popular The Wisdom of Menopause (2012) but should bring hope to sufferers who have attempted to apply standard medical advice without success. Recommended.—Linda F. Petty, Wimberley, TX

Ferguson, Robert A. Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment. Harvard Univ. 2014. 352p. notes. index. ISBN 9780674728684. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780674369948. LAW
In this rather intricate book, Ferguson (law, literature, and criticism, Columbia Univ.; Alone in America: The Stories That Matter) first compares the conditions in American prisons to the hell described by 14th-century Italian poet Dante in the Inferno. Ferguson then contends that the American public condones these conditions because their urge to punish is so strong. In seven chapters, he gives the definition of punishment in our criminal justice vocabulary, its ratchet effect in theory, the mixed signs of its suffering, and a portrait of its legal punishers and legally punished. He then documents the punitive impulse in American society, summing up his argument in a final chapter called “The Law Against Itself.” Ferguson’s descriptions of prisoners’ suffering are compelling and thought provoking. He does not give reasons why our urge to punish is so strong but simply leaves it up to readers to come to their own conclusions.
Verdict Owing to Ferguson’s academic style of writing, this book will probably not attract the general reader. It is, however, a must for those working within the criminal justice system, the law, or religion.—Frances O. Sandiford, formerly with Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY

Kennedy, Des. Heart and Soil: The Revolutionary Good of Gardens. Harbour. Jun. 2014. 224p. photos. index. ISBN 9781550176322. pap. $24.95. GARDENING
heartandsoil060614Canadian journalist, author, and dedicated gardener Kennedy (My Way of a Gardener) digs up his favorite articles and essays written over the last decade as the basis for this quietly charming collection. Each essay is a concise two to three pages in length, and the topics range from ruminations about the ongoing battle with various garden pests to musings on assorted tools of the trade such as the wheelbarrow. Kennedy does have a delightfully dry sense of wit, and he employs it to good use in his writing, though most readers will find this collection works best when read a few essays at a time rather than all in one shot.
Verdict While it is possible to glean a practical gardening tip or two from this book (especially for those living in northern climes similar to that of the author), the real demographic for this book are those hardy spirits who relish reading about their passion for digging in the dirt and who have enjoyed other horticultural literary meditations such as Jamaica Kincaid’s My Garden.—John Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ

Perrin, Gilles. Detroit Resurgent. Michigan State Univ. 2014. 174p. ed. by Howard Bossen & John P. Beck. photos. ISBN 9781611861303. $29.95. PHOTOG
Detroit’s hard times have often been depicted in photographs of the city’s crumbling industrial infrastructure. This volume instead focuses on the backbone of the place, its people. In large-format, black-and-white portraits, French photographer Perrin captures more than 60 Detroit artists, activists, leaders, and entrepreneurs. Interviews conducted by Perrin’s wife, Nicole Ewenczyk, document the residents’ ability to create and thrive through commitment to their city. The introductory essays written by editors Bossen (Michigan State Univ. Museum) and Beck (HR management, Michigan State Univ.) describe the project and detail Perrin’s lengthy career. An excerpt from a poem by Detroit performance artist Jessica Care Moore and other writings are also included. Part photo album and part sociological study, this book falls short of being successful as either. While it acts as a visual reminder of the talented people who call Detroit home, the portraits are too posed and feel like commercial photographs. The accompanying discussions, meanwhile, demonstrate pride in Detroit and a strong work ethic but lack depth.
Verdict Detroit residents and historians will enjoy this documentary collaboration. However, for fans of portrait photography or readers of sociological work on urban issues, there are better books to browse.—Shannon Marie Robinson, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH

Woginrich, Jenna. Cold Antler Farm: A Memoir of Growing Food and Celebrating Life on a Scrappy Six-Acre Homestead. Roost: Shambhala. Jun. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9781611801033. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780834829671. ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
Woginrich (Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life; Chick Days: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens from Hatching to Laying; Barnheart: The Incurable Longing for a Farm of One’s Own) runs a small farm in Washington County, NY. This is a relatively new endeavor for her, and she describes her experiences in terms of the old agrarian calendar—the Wheel of the Year. A year on a farm is punctuated by many necessary events—breeding sheep, planting the garden, shearing sheep, harvesting the garden, and much, much more. She details these events poetically while explaining the hard job of running a farm, work that is meditative and cathartic. She is homesteading, attempting to live off the land and off the grid. Each chapter is an essay describing a particular adventure she has had in this new life.
Verdict Homesteading advice, some recipes, and a good dose of humility make this a most enjoyable read for anyone who is interested in living a life that’s more in tune with natural rhythms.—Diana Hartle, Univ. of Georgia Science Lib., Athens