Part memoir, part self-help guide, The Hourglass: Life as an Aging Mortal is a poignant yet direct conversation about aging. Author Pamela Cuming doesPart memoir, part self-help guide, The Hourglass: Life as an Aging Mortal is a poignant yet direct conversation about aging. Author Pamela Cuming does an extraordinary job of juggling the emotional issues surrounding aging with the pragmatism required to effectively convey her ideas.
Cuming alternates between personal vignettes of her own confrontations with death and a more academic discussion of the psychology of aging. Using her own family as an example, she offers an interesting look into the dominate mindsets surrounding aging: The castaway, the stargazer, the warrior, the celebrant, and the sage. She artfully explains how different mindsets approach the aging process and how these differing mindsets within a family can create conflict during end-of-life situations.
At the end of the book, Cuming provides some mental exercises for the reader to map out their own approach to aging. I would suggest it would be most effective for the reader to complete these exercises before reading the book. First, this will help avoid the tendency to try and shape answers to fit the desired mindset you want to be. Second, this will allow you to better apply the information to yourself as you go through the book.
Reviewer note: I was given a comp copy of this book for review and criticism....more
Borderline Personality Disorder Toolbox: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide to Regulating Intense Emotions by Jeff Riggenbach is a well-designed, practiBorderline Personality Disorder Toolbox: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide to Regulating Intense Emotions by Jeff Riggenbach is a well-designed, practical workbook for those that suffer from BPD. Written in an accessible, conversational tone, Riggenbach presents the material in an easy-to-digest manner.
The workbook opens with a solid explanation of what BPD is, how it is defined, how to find a qualified therapist, and how to set treatment expectations. These opening sections empower the patient to take control of his or her treatment.
The workbook exercises are clear, concise, simple to follow, and cover a wide range of potential trigger situations. Though designed for the patient’s use, this book is a valuable resource for friends and family who want to better understand the condition so that they can provide needed support. Family can work through many of the worksheets with the patient to provide additional encouragement and reinforce the lessons.
Reviewer note: I received a comp copy of this book for review and criticism...more
ADHD: Non-Medication Treatments and Skills for Children and Teens by Debra Burdick is highly accessible tool for parents and caregivers of children wiADHD: Non-Medication Treatments and Skills for Children and Teens by Debra Burdick is highly accessible tool for parents and caregivers of children with ADHD when it stays on point. Treating ADHD requires a comprehensive approach that included proper medication levels, healthy diet, and therapy treatments. This workbook provides a valuable resource as far as mental exercises parents can employ with their children in their day-to-day lives.
The worksheets themselves are clear and easy to use. Burdick does a fine job of setting up each worksheet in a concise manner. Worksheets are practical and cover “real-world” scenarios that children and teens can relate to.
There are, however, a few places where Burdick’s personal prejudices show through. As a practitioner of neurofeedback, she presents it as settled science that is a “magic wand” for some patients with ADHD. Her chapter on the subject reads like a long infomercial with anonymous success stories presented but no actual information on the core research in the field or even how to find a trustworthy practitioner. While neurofeedback studies have proven promising, few studies have produced concrete, reproduceable results and there are concerns about the quality of the studies themselves.
There is also some language in the chapter regarding diet that didn’t sit well with me. There are a lot of dangerous “some” statements regarding antibiotics that are not backed up by meaningful citations to clinical studies. And then there is the concerns about artificial sweeteners, a common villain in New Age circles, that are downright silly. There is a rambling statement about how aspartame breaks down into methanol, which breaks down into formaldehyde and thus is poisonous.
This is what is referred to as “junk science” because it takes a very specific chemical reaction and a specific toxicity level and makes an over-generalization about it. Much like recent panics about arsenic in apples and other “toxins” in food. In fact, the amount of potential metabolized methanol is aspartame is less than what is naturally occurring in the environment. The body can metabolize these trace amounts with no negative effects. Implying otherwise against all the available evidence does a huge disservice to parents by engaging in unhelpful fearmongering.
Ignoring the forays into New Age pseudo-science, the actual worksheets in this book are an excellent resource for parents to use. But parents should take the pseudo-science with a healthy dose of skepticism before making sweeping changes to their child’s diet. Discuss potential food allergies with your child’s pediatrician and get the correct testing to rule out food-related issues, but don’t make changes based on junk science that has been discredited by Snopes.com.
Reviewer note: I was given a comp copy of this book for review and criticism...more
Pro Voice: How to Keep Listening When the World Wants a Fight is a provocative book because it does not seek to provoke. Written by Aspen Baker, foundPro Voice: How to Keep Listening When the World Wants a Fight is a provocative book because it does not seek to provoke. Written by Aspen Baker, founder of Exhale, the book details the founding and history of the post-abortion counseling service. Refusing to work under the bright light of either pro-life or pro-choice, Exhale thrives in the gray; providing a non-politicized, non-judgmental place for those impacted by abortion to share their stories.
The book also elaborates on the value of the pro-voice way of approaching social issues. It is not either/or, right versus wrong, black or white. It acknowledges the complexities of human life and the personal and unique issues of the individual. Pro-Voice says that each person’s life experiences have value, and that understanding those experiences can help build bridges across even the most vicious political divides.
Baker has a casual, personable writing style that is easy to read. There is a refreshing humility to her writing. She isn’t pretending to have all of the answers. Rather, Pro-Voice provides a way to make sure we actually hear the real questions.
Reviewer note: I was given a comp copy of this book for review....more
I have a great interest in philanthropy. Through my publishing company, I do a lot of cause-based marketing; from a charity cookbook that we put togetI have a great interest in philanthropy. Through my publishing company, I do a lot of cause-based marketing; from a charity cookbook that we put together to an annual writing competition to benefit different charities each year. I’m not donating tens of thousands of dollars a year, but I do try to make sure that what I am donating is getting where it needs to get and doing what it needs to do. Because of this, I was very interested in reading Every Gift Matters: How Your Passion Can Change the World.
Every Gift Matters by Carrie Morgridge is a well-written, thoughtful, but ultimately low-information book for the average person interested in doing more in their community. The fundamental problem with the book is that, despite Morgridge’s attempts to present the concepts in a blanket of “everyman” can-do, the work is really written for affluent donors who have the time and resources to engage in significant philanthropy. For those interested in setting up trust funds or donating thousands of dollars to causes they care about, the book provides a nice guide of pitfalls and advice. But most of the book will mean little to less affluent donors.
Advice like going on site visits and studying financials all makes perfect sense if you are establishing a trust fund or engaged in largescale philanthropic efforts. But it seems terribly impractical for the person writing a $20 check to the local food bank. There is a lot of emphasis placed on getting to know the leaders of charitable organizations personally before investing in them, which makes perfect sense if you are about to write a check for $250,000 but not so much for people writing checks for $50. While certainly all donors should learn more about a charity before donating, I’m not sure the advice on scheduling dozens of meetings with local leaders is actually practical for the majority of average donors.
Morgridge also includes some anecdotes about “average” people doing extraordinary things, but even these narratives are rose-tinted and don’t really provide any insight on HOW to get things going. For example, she tells the story of Kylan, a young boy who became pen pals with a child in Uganda that his parents sponsored through WorldVision. In Morgridge’s telling of the story, Kylan, at five, decided on his own to try and raise money to help others in Uganda; first with a lemonade stand, and then by collecting scrap metal. It is a sweet story of how an average kid took the initiative and changed lives.
But the version of events in the book is disingenuous. A quick Google search was enough to understand that it was actually the boy’s parents that “encouraged” him to do these things and eventually establish Metal Mission, a charity that collects scrap metal to raise money to help families in Uganda. This doesn’t take away from the wonderful work Metal Mission does, nor does it diminish Kylan’s efforts at such a young age. But Morgridge’s example of how anyone can change the world falls flat when the example is actually about affluent parents with time and resources to spare encouraging their son to follow in their footsteps.
I had hoped that Every Gift Matters would provide me with some practical insight. But there is little in the book that has any bearing on what is within my capabilities to do based on the level of donations I can do. If I hit the lottery and was looking to establish a philanthropic organization to maximize my donations, I would call Morgridge personally to pick her brain (she is Vice President of the Morgridge Family Foundation and does wonderful work with charities like DonorsChoose.org). I have enormous respect for the work she does, but unfortunately Every Gift Matters doesn’t live up to the stated premise of demonstrating how small gifts can make a difference.
Disclosure: I was given a comp copy of this book for review....more
David Potter’s Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint is a mesmerizing biography of one of history’s most influential, and most wrongfully-maligned, womenDavid Potter’s Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint is a mesmerizing biography of one of history’s most influential, and most wrongfully-maligned, women leaders. Much of the previous scholarship on Theodora relied on the works of her contemporaries, who were often more inspired by personal and political vendettas than truth. Potter’s research moves pass the direct works of her contemporaries and takes advantage of a great deal of new scholarship on the Byzantine Empire. The end result is a rich, detailed, and nuanced look at the Empress.
Potter work shines a light on how Theodora established her influence and used it to enact progressive reforms, particularly for women. It is under Theodora and Justinian’s reign that women are truly first seen as full citizens deserving of rights and not just the property of their fathers or husbands. The many religious and civil reforms established were revolutionary in the time period.
Like many historical works, Theodora does assume some baseline knowledge about the region from the reader. However, Potter does a fine job of articulating complex points in an approachable manner. Even if a reader only has a casual interest in ancient history, there are very few points in the book where one would be lost. Overall, Theodora is a wonderful addition to our collective knowledge of both the time period and the amazing woman who influenced it. ...more
A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup is a delightful, entertaining, and thoughtful look at how one of literature’s greatA is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup is a delightful, entertaining, and thoughtful look at how one of literature’s greatest mystery writers used poisons. Some might consider the topic a bit morbid, but Harkup’s approach to the material is actually educational and fun.
For mystery and suspense writers, this book should be required reading for both the historical perspective it offers and as a matter of craft. For fans of the genres, the book provides a unique insight into Agatha Christie’s body of work.
This isn’t just a list of which poisons are used in which stories. Harkup presents the science behind the poisons as Christie would have understood it. Christie was well versed in the science behind her preferred method of murder, having worked extensively in pharmacies during both world wars. She also understood the logistics of poison: how easy or difficult they were to obtain, how easily they could or could not be traced, and how investigators would go about identifying them.
Instead of taking a dry, academic approach, Harkup adopts a more conversational tone that will make the book more accessible to casual readers. The approach, however, may put off those expecting a straightforward scientific discussion. This isn’t a science book and it certainly won’t tell you how to poison anyone today. But it does offer an extensive historic look at the use of poisons throughout history and how that knowledge was used by Christie.
A is for Arsenic is a wonderful look into the mind of Agatha Christie and would be a welcome addition to the library of any fan.
Reviewer Note: I was given a comp copy of this book via NetGalley for review ...more
World Religions: A Guide to the Essentials by Thomas A. Robinson and Hillary P. Rodrigues is a well-organized, easily accessible journey through the hWorld Religions: A Guide to the Essentials by Thomas A. Robinson and Hillary P. Rodrigues is a well-organized, easily accessible journey through the histories and beliefs of the world’s major beliefs both past and present. The inclusion of a discussion on ancient religions provides a welcome context in which to view the more contemporary religious practices of our time. Throughout most of the ancient world, religions were inclusive. That is, instead of the practitioners of various faiths considering their beliefs the One True Way, practitioners took a more holistic view. While we tend, for example, to consider the Egyptian pantheon all one religion, the religious beliefs of ancient Egypt were actually multiple different sects that co-existed and often cooperated for the greater good.
Another difference between ancient religions and contemporary ones is the idea that the world was created by one set of gods, but ruled over by another. In some cases, this was a matter of the younger gods overthrowing the older ones. In others, it was a matter of the older gods simply being disinterested in their creation and leaving it to others to run. This differs from most of the world’s contemporary religions, which tend to believe that their god or gods both created the world and rule it.
This discussion provides an interesting juxtaposition when we move into the more contemporary religions, particularly the Western Religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The authors do a good job of presenting each religion in a neutral manner, focusing on the history behind the various faiths without offering any judgment. In this regard, the book is a useful tool for those who sincerely want to learn more about other religious beliefs without all of the modern baggage imposed by so many biased media sources.
The inclusion of the major Eastern religions makes this book even more valuable. So often in the West, we tend to marginalize Eastern religions when we discuss religion in general. But millions of people follow these belief systems, and the authors again do a great job of explaining the fundamental belief systems and histories of these religions in a way that is both neutral and accessible.
Reviewer Note: I was given a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a review. ...more
Haunted Plantations of the South is a disappointing collection of ambiguous vignettes of various alleged ghost sightings at predominately tourist destHaunted Plantations of the South is a disappointing collection of ambiguous vignettes of various alleged ghost sightings at predominately tourist destinations in the South. In truth, the book reads more like a tour guide than a thoughtfully researched work on the subject.
Each listing includes only the barest details of the alleged hauntings, and the author rarely cites any sources. It is almost as if some of the stories are being taken verbatim from guided tours of the plantations themselves. This is tragic, as the limited information presented hints at some truly fascinated stories. I had hoped this collection would offer some really intriguing tales of hauntings and their histories. Instead, all the book offers are vague snippets written in a dry style.
As I read through the book, I often found myself feeling uncomfortable at the sanitized depiction of slavery presented in the book. These hauntings occur on Civil War era plantations, and many of the hauntings involve slaves who died under horrific circumstances. But the author presents the information with all of the casualness with which one would read a grocery list. The complete indifference to the circumstances that led to the slaves’ deaths was troublesome. ...more