The lazy days of sitting on the beach with a great book may be over for Summer 2011, but there are plenty of great, new books to enjoy in this back-to-school month. Here are six books in very different categories that offer food for thought, as well as thoughts about food! If you have already read any of these book, please leave your comments!
Do you feel like you’re being held captive by your electronic devices? Do you experience actual anxiety when you need to turn them off, or leave them at home? Everything is good, in moderation, but are we too connected for our own good? William Powers, the author of Hamlet’s Blackberry Building a Good Life in the Digital Age (paperback, Harper Perennial August 2011) shows us that living in the digital age can be a blessing or a prison, depending upon how we decide to think and live. This book is a thoughtful view of how we can enjoy the benefits of (digital) technology without going overboard. The author draws from famous philosophers of the past to show that ancient strategies can work today. Using his own family as an example, they fight over-connectedness with some unusual ideas, including a self-imposed Internet Sabbath in which the family goes “offline” on weekends. Whether you agree with the sages of the ages, or Mr. Powers, he gives the reader plenty of food for thought.
I have a personal issue with titles that include “Complete Idiots” or “Dummies.” No one wants to be considered stupid. But if you are planning to launch a blog or a website with Word Press, you would be wise to pick up a copy of The Complete Idiots Guide to Word Press by Susan Gunelius (Penguin Publishing Group USA Inc. 2011). This popular blogging and website building program takes a second to learn, but perhaps, much longer to master. The author breaks down not just what you can do with Word Press, but also points out the distinctions between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. My own websites including the one you are reading this post on: www.advicesisters.net and my persona website: www.alisonblackman.info have both been created with Word Press. After decades, literally, of using a very outdated version of Front Page, I didn’t find Word Press completely intuitive. But the minute I started leafing through The Complete Idiots Guide to Word Press, I began to understand what I’d been missing, and how I could use Word Press to reach my online goals. The book is well organized, well written, and full of information that even a neophyte should be able to understand. If you are contemplating switching to Word Press or have already done so, reading this book will help you get the most out of the program. It’s a must-read.
I am always a bit worried about reviewing a “diet” or “nutrition” book. I am not a nutritionist or a doctor. What I do have, is common sense and a lot of experience reading and evaluating such books. A new book that crossed my desk is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches by Cynthia Sass, RD (Harper One 2011). Cynthia Sass, is a RD so at least her thoughts about losing weight hold some weight (pun intended). But the cover alone set me on edge: “Easy, Fast Chocolate!? the back cover proclaims, plus a lot of claims about what you can expect after just one month on the Cinch! plan. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. For starters, while the author claims you will (not can, but will) lose up to 8 pounds during the first five days, the diet is so restrictive, most people will give up before the time is up. After all, eating just spinach, almonds, raspberries, eggs, and yogurt really leaves out all the other things your body needs to survive. It is an extreme detox. And, if you manage the detox, there are 25 more days that are fairly restrictive, although healthy: grains, lean protein, plant fats, fruits and vegetables. There are tips for dealing with urges, including seasonings that curb your appetite and stimulate your metabolism, but might mess up your digestive system: vinegar, citrus juice, hot peppers, tea, herbs and spices. Some of the items touted such as coconut yogurt that I’ve never seen anywhere, may only be available in selective health food stores (expensive). If you like diet soda, pork or red meat, you’re going top have to give them up for at least a month, as well. For me, this diet is just too restrictive to be realistic for long, let alone plan family meals, but on the other hand, the food choices are healthy and while the exercise and lifestyle tips aren’t earth-shatteringly new, they are good. Although I don’t think many would have success with the diet, overall, I liked the book because it has good suggestions for permanent lifestyle changes. Buy it knowing that despite what the cover says, losing weight with this book or any other, isn’t ever going to be easy or fast.
No one leads a charmed life, especially not Eliza Benedict, the main character in I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman (paperback, William Morrow August 2011). The Washington, D.C. housewife seems to have it all: a loving husband, two beautiful children, and an ugly dog. Her life appears normal and quiet, but her children don’t know that more than 25 years ago, she was abducted by a serial rapist and murderer. Now he’s on death row, and counting on her to save his life. The story is a thriller, and author Laura Lippman knows just how to spin those types of tales. But this one really struck a nerve because I was at the same time also reading “A Stolen Life: a Memoir” by Jaycee Dugard (Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group July 2011). Jaycee’s real life story is even more incredible. In the Summer of 1991, Jaycee was kidnapped and literally held prisoner for eighteen years, becoming a mother at just 14. Her story is true, and horrific. Eliza Benedict is a fictional character, but the comparisons are noticeable. Both women handled their situations with courage and dignity, and they consider themselves survivors, not victims. For someone who has never had to deal with the unimaginable torture of being ripped from family and friends and forced to do whatever it takes to survive, these books are a fascinating look into that world. Neither book is an easy read, but both the fictional Eliza and the real life Jaycee, offer fascinating reading. Both are well worth your time.
Write about what you know, is the old adage. It is evident that authors Chris DiGiuseppi and Mike Force have done just that in The Light Bringer (paperback, HCI; 1 edition July 1, 2011). Mr. DiGiuseppi has spent 19+ years in law enforcement. and co-author Mike Force, 30 years. In their book, The Light bringer, they meld fact and fiction in a book that gives those who feel the need for comfort, a fictional glimpse at what “lies beyond.” The plot involves the fictional Police Officer Alan Crane. a jaded ex-Marine. But while 16 people will die on his watch, he develops a supernatural ability to lead these people to their spiritual fates, while embarking on his own journey through the light and the dark, in the great beyond. As a reviewer, it is my duty to sometimes recommend things I might not personally like. I know that many people will really enjoy this book, especially the supernatural aspects of it. As an individual, I found the stories enjoyable, to the point where the book moved to fantasy and religion and “dungeons and dragons.” While I am uncomfortable personally with content that deals with these subjects and grazes along the lines of fantasy vs fact, that doesn’t negate the entertainment value of the book. If you love supernatural adventure, you’ll especially find the book to be a great read.