Nonfiction on Finding “Maybe,” Moonshine, Alzheimer’s, Fermentation, Good Ideas, Neil Young | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 29, 2014

Carmen, Allison. The Gift of Maybe: Finding Hope and Possibility in Uncertain Times. Perigee. Nov. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9780399169533. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780698156036. SELF-HELP
giftofmaybe082914One addiction that’s gotten little play is that of an obsession with certainty. Life coach and business consultant Carmen has experienced firsthand the need continually to be assured that things would turn out as she had planned. Her struggle caused untold stress and thwarted many of her ideas and projects. When she discovered the concept of maybe—that situations could unfold in myriad ways—she wrote this book to help other sufferers. Carmen uses her own and others’ experiences to explain how one can embrace life’s uncertainties as opportunities, develop hope in unlimited possibilities, and enjoy the present as a true gift.
Verdict A little gem of a book with a positive and powerful message.—Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ

Joyce, Jaime. Moonshine: A Cultural History of America’s Infamous Liquor. Quarto. 2014. 208p. photos. index. ISBN 9780760345849. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781627882071. BEVERAGES
Call it unaged corn whiskey, white lightning, or just likker, home-brew moonshine has been a part of American cultural consciousness since colonial times. In her debut book, Joyce provides a highly readable survey of the economic, legal, and culinary aspects of the drink from pre-Revolutionary days through Prohibition and on to the current craft brewing renaissance. The pacing is lively, and numerous illustrations, bits of trivia, and the occasional drink recipe will keep audiences engaged through to the end. The choice to use unmarked endnotes is a wise one for a nonacademic work of this size, keeping the text uncluttered while allowing interested readers to explore Joyce’s sources in greater depth.
Verdict A shot of pop history that goes down easy and packs a punch. Recommended for home-brewing fans and cultural history buffs looking for a broad overview of the topic.Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

O’Brien, Greg. On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s. Codfish. Oct. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780991340101. pap. $15.95. HEALTH
onpluto082914This book does not offer the usual clinical view of Alzheimer’s. It is a first-person journey, as exhilarating as it is exhausting, into Alzheimer’s by a gifted writer as he is taking it—with his mother. “My mother and I were on corresponding tracks,” writes the former Cape Codder editor. “She was years ahead of me, but I could see her in the distance, not sure where she was…. We walked together in a collective denial until the bus for Pluto arrived.” The bus arrived when it did, ironically, owing to her. No longer “getting” weather, she made O’Brien wear a sweatshirt in 80° heat. When he later threw it over his bike handlebars, it caught in the spokes, causing him to crash and sustain a head wound, which hastened his own Alzheimer’s. “Unleashing” in him her “monster,” she tried to help by pouring antiseptic on his bandages. He let her as “she was my mother, even in her Alzheimer’s, and I desperately wanted to be her son. I hope my children, as the disease progresses, will allow me to be their father. It is vital for those with Alzheimer’s to connect with the past…Parallel universes between my mother and me collided…. We were over the handlebars.”
Verdict O’Brien finds wisdom despite a “walking nightmare” of a life. It is impossible to imagine any reader feeling unmoved.Cynthia Fox, Brooklyn

O’Brien, Julie & Richard J. Climenhage (text) & Charity Burgraaff (illus.). Fresh & Fermented: 85 Delicious Ways To Make Fermented Carrots, Kraut, and Kimchi Part of Every Meal. Sasquatch. Oct. 2014. 224p. photos. index. ISBN 9781570619373. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781570619380. COOKING
O’Brien and Climenhage started their company, Firefly Kitchens, in 2010 and a year later received a Good Food Award for their zesty Yin Yang Carrots. Their successful venture in fermented vegetables has moved from home crocks to a commercial kitchen space, and their products are sold throughout the Pacific Northwest. The authors’ passion for the health benefits and versatility of fermented vegetables is reflected in this attractive cookbook. Raw-fermented vegetables have long been a part of diets around the world and provide beneficial probiotics. O’Brien and Climenhage discuss helpful bacteria, advocate daily consumption, and provide a guide to the basic tools and ingredients of fermented veggies, beginning with a classic kraut. Recipes range from smoothies, sushi, and main dishes to tarts and puddings, all using homemade kraut or kimchi. Attractive illustrations accompany nicely laid-out recipes and easy-to-follow instructions.
Verdict This cookbook provides beginners with straightforward steps to master fermenting vegetables and more seasoned fermenters with a wide variety of menus to keep kraut a part of everyday meals. Recommended for those looking to consume more probiotics and for gardeners with a surplus of cabbage.Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Univ. Lib., Rindge, NH

Sturges, Tom. Every Idea Is a Good Idea: Be Creative Anytime, Anywhere. Tarcher. Sept. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780399166037. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101632338. SELF-HELP
Music industry veteran Sturges (former head of creative at Universal Music Publishing Group; Parking Lot Rules) believes that everyone is innately creative and details a method whereby the average person can more easily access that part of the mind to solve problems and achieve dreams in any artistic field, from music and art to fashion or home design. He offers anecdotes from his work with such stars as Carole King and Clive Davis and provides enjoyable exercises that can even function as party games (e.g., creating captions to photos). While there is a wealth of advice and examples contained here, one of the author’s best tips is simple: “finish what you start.”
Verdict Sturges puts together a creative package, exemplifying every lesson in the book. A great purchase for personal collections and libraries.—Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ

Wilson, Sharry. Young Neil: The Sugar Mountain Years. ECW. Oct. 2014. 456p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781770411869. pap. $18.95. MUSIC
While there are many books about the life and work of musician and songwriter Neil Young (b. 1945), perhaps most notably Jimmy McDonough’s Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography (2003), none has focused exclusively on his early years growing up in Canada. This title is an exhaustive account of the legendary artist’s childhood and teen years in Ontario, Toronto, and Manitoba, before he traveled to Los Angeles with fellow future Buffalo Springfield bandmate Bruce Palmer. First-time author Wilson’s book is based in part on her research of the personal papers and photos of Young’s father, Scott Young, held at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. The detailed account seeks to place Young’s later artistic development within the context of his uniquely Canadian upbringing, and while there are interesting details that shed light on his background, the 450-page book (including photos, notes, and appendixes) more often than not veers into minutia of all sorts: the names of each family friend he vacationed with, street addresses of all of his schools, numerous letters and notes to and from family members quoted in full, and on and on.
Verdict Exclusively for the Neil Young completists out there.—Dave Valencia, Seattle