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The Bookwatch

Volume 13, Number 3 March 2018 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Health/Medicine Shelf
American History Shelf Cookbook Shelf Genealogy Shelf
Art Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Jordan B. Peterson
Random House Canada
9780345816023 $25.95

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos comes from a psychologist who considers what facts modern folk need to know about social and scientific issues, gathering a host of rules and writings from the intersections of faith, science, and social issues as it addresses issues of freedom, responsibility, and the task of synthesizing world wisdom into an acceptable paradigm for change. His interdisciplinary mix of psychology, science, politics and religion may feel overwhelming at times, but an attention to a logical structure and progression of facts makes for an account that is absorbing, lively, and hard to put down.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Baen Books
9781481482783 $25.00

Neogenesis tells of sentient space ships long made illegal by the Complex Logic Laws, the mentors who help new smart ships take their places in this constructed universe, and particularly, Theo, the captain of an intelligent ship, and her brother, whose household employs an AI butler. As mentors, masterminds, and those with visions of new laws and new boundaries clash, there's a new breed of self-aware AI influencers on the market that could change everything. This powerful story of emergent intelligences and special interests who would exploit or help them makes for an engrossing story that's unpredictable and hard to put down.

The Gone World
Tom Sweterlitsch
9780399167508 $27.00

The Gone World crosses the line between sci-fi, a thriller, and a murder mystery, and combines high technology with a gripping story set in 1997, when the Navy's newfound time travel ability results in the discovery of a cataclysmic event which destroys humanity. The Navy has charged a secret investigative service with thwarting this destiny - and that's where Special Agent Shannon Moss comes in, as her investigation of a Navy SEAL's murder dovetails with a horrific future event. Gripping and tense, this thriller is hard to put down and will satisfy readers of all three genres.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

The Thompson Method of Bodywork
Cathy Thompson and Tara Thompson Lewis
Healing Arts Press
9781620556641 $35.00

The Thompson Method of Bodywork presents techniques developed by co-author Cathy Thompson during her years as a bodywork therapist, and blends Zen shiatsu, rolfing, yoga, and psychotherapy to address the kinds of emotional blockages that often lead to chronic pain, tension, and other physical issues. From explorations of how to understand the body's signals and its link to mental wellbeing to how to change physical conditions to correct subconscious issues and visa versa, this offers illustrated instructions for some 90 exercises that lend to corrective alignment, showing how to use the bodywork routines to release tension and promote healing.

The American History Shelf

Lone Star Books/TwoDot/Globe Pequot

Two fine history books are recommended picks for history collections. Howard Kazanjian and Chris Enss' The Trials of Annie Oakley (9781493017461, $24.95) provides a biographical coverage that focuses on the feisty independent woman who advanced the image of women in American history both through her performances in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show and in her advocacy efforts. The latter - which included advocating for the US military and fighting for orphans - may be lesser-known episodes in her life, but here they are brought to the forefront in an account that reads with the lively immediacy of fiction but gathers a range of facts about Oakley's performances and life. Bill Groneman's Eyewitness to the Alamo (9781493028429, $18.95) gathers over a hundred descriptions of the Battle of the Alamo by those who were eyewitnesses, and traces the legends, realities and events of one of the most famous battles in American history. Discussions comment on reviews of the Alamo's struggles and add the social and political background necessary to place these events in proper historical perspective. Both are recommended picks for any American history holding.

TwoDot/Globe Pequot

Sherry Monahan with Jane Perkins' The Golden Elixir of the West: Whiskey and the Shaping of America (9781493028498, $24.95) could have been featured in our Food and Wine section, but is reviewed here for its larger and central theme on the shaping of the West and how liquor - whiskey, in particular - played a big role in that history. From the evolution of the saloon business in the booming West to how California merchants became big whiskey shippers and how opulence developed in places whiskey was consumed, this provides a lively and thought-provoking story of the history of booze in the west. Sherry Monahan's Tinsel, Tumbleweeds, and Star-Spangled Celebrations: Holidays on the Western Frontier from New Year's to Christmas (9781493018024, $24.95) provides a lively history of holidays on the Western frontier and covers everything from traditions surrounding gifts and events to songs, poems, decorations and food and drink recipes. These come from firsthand stories of parties and events culled from journals, memorabilia, and newspaper reports, and covers the six major yearly holidays from New Year's and Easter to Christmas and home-cooked to restaurant fare. Few books provide such an inviting approach as this; especially given the wealth of vintage illustrations throughout. Charlie Seemann's Way Out West: Photographs from the Farm Security Administration 1936-1943 (9781493027279, $24.95) provides a lively history of the American ranch in the West, and is a 'must' for any Western Americana collection. While vintage black and white images are the backbone of this discussion, equally powerful and hard-hitting are surveys of dude ranches, individuals in the Farm Security Administration, bunkhouses and automobiles, and more. These are all top recommendations for any holding strong in Western Americana and American history.

The Cookbook Shelf

Twodot Books/Globe Pequot

Gail L. Jenner's Sourdough Biscuits and Pioneer Pies: The Old West Baking Book (9781493029709, $24.00) covers Dutch oven and outdoor cooking methods for producing cakes, breads, pies, cookies, waffles and more, and blends old-fashioned recipes from early cookbooks with historic discussions that range from how the introduction of new technology, such as leavening, produced new opportunities to cooks that modified tastes and cooking techniques alike to how these recipes from different pioneer families reflected collections and approaches that made the most of ingredients at hand and less than modern conditions. From Bernice's Brown Bread, made with graham flour, chopped fruits and nuts, molasses and buttermilk to the story of Crisco, this blend of culinary history and recipes is not to be missed by any cook who looks for more than recipes alone. Sherry Monahan & Nancy Plain edit the Western Writers of America Cookbook: Favorite Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Writing Wisdom (9781493024940, $19.95), a survey that pairs over a hundred recipes with anecdotes and stories from a range of popular American writers, providing lively discourses that include ingredients that might not normally be in a supermarket (i.e. "1 adult but young opossum, killed in the depth of winter"). The result is a fun and delicious history that will interest anyone who delights in culinary affairs and American history.

The Genealogy Shelf

Through the Tax Assessor's Eyes
Noreen J. Goodson & Donna Tyler Hollie
9780806358581 $37.95

Through the Tax Assessor's Eyes: Enslaved People, Free Blacks and Slaveholders in Early Nineteenth Century Baltimore comes from a native Baltimorean and retried professor of history who works with a retired public school teachers and long-time family history researcher to provide a powerful, specific set of profiles of people from the tax assessor's records. The focus on Baltimore reveals much of its hidden slavery history and issues and thus makes this a recommendation beyond the usual genealogical circles reaching into civil rights and Afro-American history holdings with a reference piece that not only provides a narrowed focus on assessor's ledgers from 1813 and 1818, which identified citizens by race and nationality; but supplements this data from that culled from city directories, census records, and books and articles about 19th century Baltimore and Maryland. The result is highly recommended for regional collections and nation-wide studies in black history alike.

The Art Shelf

Wearable Art
Anne Lee and E. Ashley Rooney
Schiffer Publishing
9780764353994 $34.99

Wearable Art is the third volume in the Artistry in Fiber three-book series, and discusses different aspects of making fiber art. Various artists contribute their fiber art works which are wearable explorations of knit, felting, stretch yarns, rayon hand block prints, and even jewelry embellishments to fabric shawls, dresses, jackets, and more. The result is a blend of visual displays and artist insights on the creation, art, and form of wearable art and how wearers influence the fiber art approach by their choices and fashion senses.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
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