Nonfiction: Radical Beauty, “Eurasianism,” Disasters, Being Gritty, Fairy Tales, Punk Art | Xpress Reviews

Week ending July 1, 2016

Chopra, Deepak & Kimberly Snyder. Radical Beauty: How To Transform Yourself from the Inside Out. Harmony: Crown. Sept. 2016. 352p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781101906019. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101906026. HEALTH
Alternative medicine guru Chopra (Seven Spiritual Laws of Success) and nutritionist Snyder (The Beauty Detox Solution) have teamed up to create a guide to achieving radical beauty, which “extends beyond the physical,” encompassing both the inner and outer being. Radical beauty can be achieved by following six pillars: internal nourishment, external nourishment, peak beauty sleep, primal beauty, beautiful movement, and spiritual beauty. The first five pillars are explained and followed by accompanying lifestyle changes known as “shifts” often based on Ayurvedic principles. Most come in the form of things to avoid: caffeine, alcohol, ice water, foie gras, white sugar, canned products, straws, nanoparticles, and microwaves, all poised to destroy inner and outer beauty. Activities to incorporate include grounding (earthing), oil pulling, and eating an alkaline diet. The sixth pillar, spiritual beauty, is accomplished by following several stages, each a pastiche of the secular and spiritual. An appendix includes a small selection of recipes for salads, soups, entrees, and desserts.
Verdict Some will see this title as an encyclopedia of current health buzzwords and fads, not backed up by evidence-based clinical research. Those who embrace holistic health trends will find many ideas to incorporate into their quest for radical beauty.—Pauline Theriault, Multnomah Cty. Lib., Portland, OR

Clover, Charles. Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia’s New Nationalism. Yale Univ. May 2016. 384p. photos. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300120707. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780300223941. POL SCI
Clover’s (former Moscow bureau chief, the Financial Times) account of “Eurasianism” in Russia is unlikely to be equaled. The subtitled “new nationalism” fails to encompass the scope of an intellectual and political movement founded on the ideal that Russia’s geographical, cultural, and historical synthesis creates a peculiar identity dependent on Asiatic and European sources. Post-Soviet Russian nationalism is Eurasianism’s current incarnation. Clover clearly delineates the labyrinthine relations of persons, organizations, and ideas from postrevolutionary scholar linguists Roman Jakobson and Nikolay Trubetskoy through the self-promoting contemporary intellectual of geopolitics Alexander Dugin. Eurasianism survives in opposition during the Joseph Stalin era, principally in the extraordinary gulag internee and historian Lev Gumilev, son of Russia’s great poet Anna Akhmatova. Later a more politically flexible movement emerges, often with the Kremlin’s silent support, inheriting the notion of Russia’s distinctive imperial mission. During Boris Yeltsin’s chaotic rule, Eurasian thinking solidifies an antiliberal and anti-Western bias, appropriating a medley of theorists such as Sir Halford Mackinder, Carl Schmitt, and Alain de Benoist. As Vladimir Putin’s “official ideology,” Eurasianism offers a rationale for aggression toward the Russian periphery.
Clover’s unusual command of source material and personal interviews integrates his subject into the improvised and obscure style of Putin’s Russia. Highly recommended.—Zachary Irwin, Behrend Coll., Pennsylvania State Erie

Cox, Stan & Paul Cox. How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe’s Path, from the Caribbean to Siberia. New Pr. Jul. 2016. 416p. illus. notes. ISBN 9781620970126. $28.95. SCI
Hardly a year goes by without a major loss of life and property caused by natural disasters. This book uses specific examples from around the globe to illustrate the magnitude of destruction from fire, floods, earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, and windstorms. After each event, the powers that be praise the resilience of nature and the people affected. However, Stan Cox (research coordinator, Land Inst.; Losing Our Cool; Any Way You Slice It) and anthropologist and writer Paul Cox (Disasters; The New Inquiry) point out that these words cover up the truth: that with proper preparation by these same people, the devastation could have been much less severe. In fact, human activities that involve modification of the natural terrain and waterways and, of course, global warming are significant factors in exacerbating problems. Moreover, incompetence, profiteering, and outright corruption frequently impede recovery after a catastrophe. Even more disheartening, the authors note, it is the poorest and most disadvantaged who are most adversely affected. This narrative is carefully researched and supported by more than 60 pages of references to original sources. Although some examples are given of intelligent rebuilding and planning, on the whole it is a very sorry history.
Verdict Highly recommended to general science readers, this work should be read by those responsible for making major policy decisions.—Harold D. Shane, Mathematics Emeritus, Baruch Coll. Lib., CUNY

starred review starDuckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Scribner. May 2016. 352p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781501111105. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781501111129. PSYCH
grit070116What is grit? According to Duckworth (psychology, Univ. of Pennsylvania), a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, grit is a combination of passion and perseverance. Like Carol S. Dweck in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Duckworth studied why some people succeed and how then to foster that quality in ourselves. She draws conclusions from a range of groups, including West Point cadets and National Spelling Bee contenders, and famous figures such as Charles Darwin, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, and educator and activist Geoffrey Canada. Duckworth’s theory is that successful people must have grit, as measured in her “Grit Scale.” Successful gritty people share common traits: an interest, capacity to practice, purpose, and hope. She stresses the importance of fostering a passion (which cannot be forced) and then deliberately practicing to grow it: you can grow your own grit. Parents therefore should praise children for their effort, not natural talent, and make sure the children find and stay with interests.
Verdict An excellent choice for parents and teachers but also should appeal to anyone seeking an accessible and inspirational guide on the path to success.—Elizabeth Safford, Boxford Town Lib., MA

starred review starLevin, Yuval. The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism. Basic: Perseus. May 2016. 272p. notes. index. ISBN 9780465061969. $27.50; ebk. ISBN 9780465098606. POL SCI
Levin (Hertog Fellow, Ethics & Public Policy Ctr.; The Great Debate) aims to cut through the nostalgia surrounding the history of both the progressive and conservative movements in order to get to an accurate diagnosis of the current political climate in the United States. He uses the first half of the book as a period-by-period examination of recent political and social history. He highlights key elements that are generally overlooked or misunderstood and scrutinizes how misleading nostalgia of each age has led to the particular bifurcation the country experiences today. The second part is prescriptive, focusing on what both the Left and the Right should be doing culturally, economically, and politically to ensure a stable society. Considering the unsettled state of both parties during, and presumably after, this 2016 election season, a book addressing the schisms in the country and its political branches is much needed. Levin’s approach is fair, illuminating, and evenhanded. His inclination is naturally toward the conservative point of view, but his criticisms of Republicans and the Right are justified and necessary.
Verdict Highly recommended for those on both sides of the political divide. Levin’s solutions might be too idealistic to be practical, but they’re well worth considering.—Laurel Tacoma, Strayer Univ. Lib., Washington, DC

Levy, Michael & Farah Mendlesohn. Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction. Cambridge Univ. May 2016. 282p. notes. index. ISBN 9781107018143. $84.99; pap. ISBN 9781107610293. $27.99. LIT
In this comprehensive introduction to the study of children’s fantasy, Levy (English, Univ. of Wisconsin-Stout; Natalie Babbitt) and Mendlesohn (English & literary history, Anglia Ruskin Univ., UK; The Inter-Galactic Playground) begin with European fairy tales, said to have emerged as fables for adults before becoming the first literature published for children, in the form of inexpensive chapbooks produced in the 1720s. The authors suggest that a period of intense cultural appropriation on the part of the British Empire, combined with Europeans’ use of fairy characters to portray virtues in archetype, created the fantasy tradition in England, which quickly moved on to the more sophisticated tales of P.L. Travers and Edith Nesbit. They then detour through the New World and its initial distrust of fairy tales to reveal how the fantastic crept in via Washington Irving and Edgar Allan Poe. The middle of the book describes the effect on children’s literature of the classic worlds of Narnia and Middle-earth, along with the “Harry Potter” phenomenon, and ends with an exploration of how the post-Twilight YA market has evolved the genre still further.
Verdict Recommended for all students and fans of the genre.—Jenny Brewer, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX

Murray, Christopher. Unusual Punishment: Inside the Walla Walla Prison, 1970–1985. Washington State Univ. Mar. 2016. 330p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780874223392. pap. $22.95. CRIMINOLOGY
The punishment at Walla Walla prison in Washington State between 1970 and 1985 was indeed unusual but not for its severity. For many years, the prison had been controlled by the warden on whose word alone an offender could be isolated for weeks in a cold, dark cell. But this was a period of enlightenment, and a new administration turned things around, making the prison almost inmate run. Bikers, for example, rode around the yard on facility machines. However, privileges were abused. There were murders of both inmates and officers and chaos prevailed. Murray, a policy analyst to correctional agencies, has described the transitions for the general reader. It is intense, sometimes sad, and often amusing. He does not condemn or laud any of the approaches but presents them as they came and lets readers decide for themselves if the final outcome after yet another administration change represents a model for how to run a prison.
Verdict For anyone in the field of corrections as well as the general reader who is interested in finding out what it is like inside the walls.—Frances O. Sandiford, formerly with Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY

Teffi. Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea. New York Review. May 2016. 296p. tr. from Russian by Robert Chandler & others. notes. ISBN 9781590179512. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781590179529. LIT
Teffi (the pen name of Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya, 1872–1952) was one of the most beloved writers of 20th-century Russia, but today she is almost forgotten. This new translation by Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Irina Steinberg, and Anne Marie Jackson of her autobiographical work is a solid reintroduction to her charmingly Chekhovian voice. It is the tale of her 1919 trip across Russia in search of employment and something to eat. On the surface it is a cross between comic travelog/memoir and a slightly satirical adventure story. Each chapter is a vignette, often very humorous, filled with charming moments of observed behavior and whimsical character profiles. But beneath that veneer of cleverly observed personality pieces and ironic episodes lurks the dramatic background of political revolution and societal upheaval. And sometimes it is that juxtaposition of the frightful and the comical that brings Teffi’s work to its perfection. One thing we can see most startlingly is the timelessness of lively writing; though readers may be unfamiliar with many of the places and names, they will delight in the wit and tone of her vignettes.
Verdict Recommended for public and academic libraries with Russian (or humor) collections. Readers who enjoy the acerbic and ironic tone of David Sedaris and the humane observations of Anton Chekhov should find themselves in familiar company with this work.—Herman Sutter, St. Agnes Acad., Houston

Torcinovich, Matteo & Sebastiano Girardi. Outside the Lines: Lost Photographs of Punk and New Wave’s Most Iconic Albums. Octopus. May 2016. 224p. photos. ISBN 9781784721497. $19.99. PHOTOG/MUSIC
outsidethelines070116This title is a fresh approach to the punk coffee-table book, focusing on the photography that almost graced punk and new wave’s most notable album covers. Famous images, such as the self-titled 1976 debut album by the Ramones (Roberta Bayley), Blondie’s Parallel Lines (1978, Edo Bertoglio), The Damned’s Damned Damned Damned (1977, Peter “Kodick” Gravelle), David Bowie’s Heroes (1977, Masayoshi Sukita), Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp! (1979, Brian Griffin), and Bow Wow Wow’s controversial See Jungle! See Jungle! (1981, Andy Earl) are given a new life as graphic designers and punk fans Torcinovich and Girardi focus on the rejects. Gravelle’s images of The Damned after a food fight, set against a stark black backdrop, are especially striking. The prefatory material argues that the photographs that appeared on the covers of these vinyl records in their original state complemented the music and significantly contributed to the visual vocabulary of punk and new wave. It does seem odd that the book is 8″ x 8″, and not 12″ x 12″, given the coauthors’ veneration of 12″ vinyl records.
Verdict Fans of early punk and new wave will find plenty to love about this insightful book. A must for any graphic design collection.—Brian Flota, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA