Deanna Larson

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A long overdue anti-perfectionist trend is overtaking the fitness world. Being overweight isn't always unhealthy. You can think yourself thin—and you don't need to spend hours in the gym. Feel like crying with relief over your stack of New Year's resolutions? Read on.

Count calories, sure, but keep weight off with different thinking. Dr. Judith S. Beck uses the power of the mind to push dieters to lose once and for all in The Complete Beck Diet for Life: The Five-Stage Program for Permanent Weight Loss. Daughter of pioneering cognitive therapy founder Aaron Beck and director of the Beck Institute of Cognitive Therapy, Beck (The Beck Diet Solution) is a diet coach who helps dieters feel in control and remain motivated while losing at a steady rate and still eating favorite foods. The "getting ready to lose" section is a mental and emotional workout, followed by beginner and maintenance phases of her "Think Thin Program." Each section includes "In Session with Dr. Beck" counseling scenarios, food plans and sidebars like "Reality Check" and "Success Skills." Beck knows you'll make mistakes, or even decide that enjoying a few more calories is a fair exchange for a few extra pounds. But her mantra is: you will turn mistakes into opportunity, you will maintain your weight loss. Sample daily menus, recipes for healthy meals and snacks, a bibliography and plenty of charts and graphs for amateur scientists and left-brainers round out this authoritative guide to getting off the diet-go-round.

Fitness through the years
Weight creep as we age isn't a given. Orthopedic surgeon Vonda Wright, director of PRIMA (the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes), believes that a sedentary lifestyle rather than biology accelerates the "aging" process. Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age is an approach to post-midlife fitness through the F.A.C.E. system of flexibility, aerobic exercise, "carrying" load-bearing exercise and achieving equilibrium and balance. Illustrated exercises, chapters on healing and avoiding injury when exercising as well as hydration and good nutrition are about as dry as a physical therapy pamphlet, but reiterating the basics will doubtless ensure you don't become "merely a bad sequel to your 20-year-old self."

It's not you, it's your genes
If you want to be a size zero, "choose your parents well," says Dr. Linda Bacon in Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight . Bacon—a therapist and recovering "weight obsessive" with an ironic name who holds a doctorate in physiology and specializes in eating disorders and body image—looks at the disconnect between modern food processing, diet culture and the actual science behind the "moral imperative" to lose weight. She disproves the assumption that being fat equals being unhealthy and deconstructs food and fat politics. There are plenty of thin people among McDonald's regular customers, according to Bacon, who explores why diet and exercise programs often don't work, and offers practical advice on how to recast the "weight problem" by helping the vulnerable respect their bodies and souls, taking care of real hungers and changing taste in the process. The best way to lose is to give up the fight and turn control over to your body, according to the book. "You will find that biology is much more powerful than willpower," Bacon writes. "Body weight might be a marker for an imprudent lifestyle in some people but its role in determining health . . . is grossly exaggerated."

Motivation in pictures
That's a "fattitude" heartily endorsed by comic-strip creator Carol Lay in her intriguing graphic memoir, The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude. The L.A. based writer and creator of the WayLay comic strip that has appeared in The San Francisco Examiner, L.A. Weekly and Salon.com, is a "born eater." After learning unhealthy eating—and dieting—habits from her parents, Lay spent her college years in denim maxi dresses, gorging on home-baked bread and fake cookie dough, followed by addiction to amphetamine-based weight-loss pills. She starts the action with a comic strip featuring a hostess greeting her recent self with "You've lost so much weight! You look great! How did you do it?" "I count calories and exercise every day," she answers, followed by a trio of wordless panels showing the hostess dumbfounded for seconds on end. Her seriocomic weighty adventures have a fresh Californian vibe while communicating slightly self-righteous weight-loss tips, but before you hate this cool chick for her steely self-control, she draws a panel about the dangers of emotional binging after a breakup. On a holiday. Or imagines how the Devil would tempt her in the so-Hollywood "Day in the Diet" fantasy strip, which features George Clooney arriving unannounced with hot sausage biscuits, hash browns and a double chocolate chip "crappicino" from Mickey D's. Handwritten calorie charts (her recommended plan only provides about 1,350 calories, a bit low for healthy weight loss), eating plans and recipes and lists of "dodgy foods" round out this quirky but useful motivational tool for achieving thinner peace.

No time? No problem!
Weak-willed? Time-strapped? Get The 90-Second Fitness Solution: The Most Time-Efficient Workout Ever for a Healthier, Stronger, Younger You. New York trainer Pete Cerqua probably got sick of clients moaning about their desire for defined tank-top arms without having a minute to do a thing about it. His brilliant 15-minute-per-week workout promises to beat cardio at shedding pounds and reduce bodies by a half-dress size without changing food choices. His simple illustrated exercises, which only require resolve, a wall and a floor, are done in 90-second reps using pauses and holding weights in key positions rather than slow movements. Busting myths up and down the fitness spectrum, Cerqua advocates four simple secrets to success: short workouts, simplified eating, fewer supplements and a stress-proof life to eliminate time-consuming symptoms, not to mention life-altering illness. Bright, clean and breezy with its "Ask Pete" sidebars, real-life 90-Second Success Stories, speed reader's synopses, lightning-fast gourmet recipes and oversized exercise scorecards, this is the trend-setting fitness guide for the rest of us.

A long overdue anti-perfectionist trend is overtaking the fitness world. Being overweight isn't always unhealthy. You can think yourself thin—and you don't need to spend hours in the gym. Feel like crying with relief over your stack of New Year's resolutions? Read on. Count calories, sure, but keep weight off with different thinking. Dr. Judith […]
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The animal kingdom is full of insights into human nature. These new books give readers a fascinating glimpse of some of the connections.

Near and deer
Nature as nemesis is a foreign concept to anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (The Secret Life of Dogs), who embraces and even encourages the scourge of modern suburban gardeners in The Hidden Life of Deer: Lessons from the Natural World (Harper, $24.99, 256 pages, ISBN 9780061792106). One fall, Thomas noticed that acorns were thin on the ground around her New Hampshire farmhouse, so she sprinkled corn on the ground for the wild turkeys.

Then came the hungry deer. Thomas, who grew up with her scientist parents among the Kalahari people of Africa, started scattering pounds of corn each day, the better to attract, track and observe usually hidden deer behaviors. “I could do no more than the bears and whitetails do—keep looking and listening for more information,” Thomas writes of her curiosity about the deer. “You find questions you cannot answer, and mysteries you cannot solve.”

As she begins to identify each doe, buck and fawn and follows the herds from season to season, Thomas draws readers into her compassionate, insightful accounts of everyday courage on behalf of wildlife, including standing up to an armed neighbor to make sure an injured bear wasn’t shot dead (he later bends her backyard birdfeeder pole like a paper clip and casually empties the seed into his mouth, proof of his vitality). Her accounts of the treatment of whitetail deer that survive impacts with cars are heartbreaking, but this “tree-hugging grandmother” passes a hunting license course with a near perfect score at the age of 68 and then goes hunting with her neighbor in the name of conservation and research. “I didn’t learn how to hunt but I did learn how it feels to hunt,” she writes, “which is all I really wanted.” Anyone with an interest in wildlife will adore spending time with Thomas and her sensitive, inquisitive mind.

Amazing animal rescues
World-renowned ethologist and anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall made her name studying and living among the chimpanzees of Tanzania. She later founded the Jane Goodall Institute, a nonprofit that encourages individuals to take “informed and compassionate action to improve the environment of all living things.” Horrified by the destruction of primate habitats, she left the field in the mid-1980s to raise awareness about conservation. Her new book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink, co-written with Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard, host of the NPR’s The 90-Second Naturalist, is a report on species once on the verge of extinction whose populations are now being revived.

Gathered firsthand by Goodall and colleagues in the field, and from scientific and historical record, these accounts detail the heartening yet life-threatening challenges of conservation work. From the graduate student who dyed the tufts on the heads of cotton-top tamarin monkeys to tell them apart while observing this endangered primate, to the 19th-century lighthouse cat that killed the last remaining wrens on Stephen’s Island, New Zealand, to the California condor chick reintroduced into the wild and then rushed into surgery after its young parents fed it trash instead of bone fragments, these stories could galvanize even the most cosseted animal lover to action. “It comes down to a conflict between concern for the individual and concern for the future of a species,” Goodall writes. “[But] I found that people got really excited about the idea of sharing the good news, shining a light on all the projects, large and small, that together are gradually healing some of the harm we have inflicted.”

Finding the wolf within
Did the dog and human evolve together, and did canines become so successful because they had access to the even bigger human brain? Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jon Franklin (Molecules of the Mind) uses research in brain science and anthropology, plus interviews with experts and primary experience with his own dog, to explore the relationship between ancient wolves, canines and humans in The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection Between Humans and Dogs. “With respect to dogs,” Franklin writes, “the picture science had painted for us was woefully inadequate.” So he sets out on a long, smart and sometimes meandering research trip into the evolution of the wolf brain and its possible relationship to human and canine development.

Franklin tracks down the sexy and non-sexy research into canine evolution, and therefore, human evolution— from current research into what transformed humans 12,000 years ago, canine fossil material found in China, 150,000-year-old wolf skulls in an ancient cave and the lack of grant money to research dogs. (“I can’t get money for work on dogs,” one scientist laments. “I’m tired of struggling with it. Nobody cares about dogs.”) The story really gets interesting when Franklin gets a poodle puppy, Charlie, as a “marriage price” from his wife, then reluctantly observes the lengths to which humans go to “train” their companions, and how their efforts often say more about the humans than the dogs. He watches his wife prepare Charlie for competitive obedience trials (“Could dogs be a tool of one’s ambition?”) and goes to the nursing home where Charlie performs “songs” and realizes he can’t laugh with him, only at him, and that the dog knows the difference. As he muses on his dog as an “amplifier of nature,” Franklin leads dog lovers to ponder the critical role their own pets may play in shaping their daily lives.

Cat fancier
Millions of viewers fell in love with the story of Christian the lion on YouTube, wishing they were the ones getting that big cat hug. Kevin Richardson has lived that fantasy as a self-taught behaviorist and animal custodian at Kingdom of the White Lion in South Africa. He teams with writer Tony Park for a fascinating glimpse into the dangers and joys of working with lions, hyenas and other predators in Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa. Working as an exercise physiologist after college, Richardson met a rich man who had just bought a local lion park and encouraged him to visit with two little lion cubs, Tau and Napoleon. “Before I knew it,” Richardson writes, “I was responsible for an entire family of extreme creatures.” Without aspirations to become an animal wrangler or leeu boer (Afrikaans for lion farmer), the former zoology major instead developed relationships with these dangerous animals without a stick—the usual way of handling lions at the time—feeding them from his hand and following his own observations and instincts. Richardson still gets his fair share of lion “slap arounds” and tooclose encounters, which make for hair-raising reading. His respect for the big cats as he continues to learn and risk all makes his story endlessly fascinating.

The animal kingdom is full of insights into human nature. These new books give readers a fascinating glimpse of some of the connections. Near and deer Nature as nemesis is a foreign concept to anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (The Secret Life of Dogs), who embraces and even encourages the scourge of modern suburban gardeners in […]
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Gingerbread and dirty Santas, nativity scenes and maxed-out credit cards: the holidays bring both highs and lows. During this most special time of year, there are cooks cooking, crafters crafting—and people creating wacky Christmases of their own making, as celebrated in these new books.

Strange stories of the season
Count on Augusten Burroughs (Running with Scissors, A Wolf at the Table) to have a droll but dysfunctional take on the most sacred of holidays. You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas is a stepbrother of sorts to that antidote for forced merriment, David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice. In “Two Eyes Made Out of Coal,” Burroughs attempts to impress his mother with a gingerbread house as seen in a magazine but decides to use “imagination” instead of the chump’s choice—following the recipe—and ends up with less fairy tale castle and more “public housing unit.” The mandatory participation of the holiday season strains Burroughs’ spirits in “Why Do You Reward Me Thus?” as he realizes how much he despises the “sheep shoppers,” the being-with-friends thing and the hijacking of Hanukkah. So he searches Manhattan for Jews, Chinese and others “on the outside of the snow globe” who “don’t give a [expletive] about Christmas either.” In a denouement worthy of O. Henry, he finds bums wanting to talk semiotics and a homeless angel who brings Burroughs out of his despondent drunken stupor with a Puccini aria instead of “The Chipmunk Song.”

It’s the hap-happiest season of all, so take a spin through the holiday madness in The Upside-Down Christmas Tree: And Other Bizarre Yuletide Tales. Authors Delilah Scott and Emma Troy uncover kooky traditions, presents from hell, weird holiday food and drink, unusual decorations and dysfunctional family antics from Christmases around the world. From the festive kiviak—or rotten auk meat—of Greenland and trees decorated in tampon “ornaments” to the clever “divide-and-conquer” in-laws’ Christmas, the “Yankee Swap” created by the original frugal re-gifters and the number of Santas peed on by children (34 percent), this compendium of all things kooky, charming and Christmas will provide plenty of laughs at the holiday table.

Pop-culture writer Hank Stuever enters the world of the Christmas crazy willingly in Tinsel: A Search for America’s Christmas Present. Relocating to a Dallas suburb over the course of three years to follow “true holiday believers,” Stuever—an award-winning writer for the Washington Post Style section and author of Off Ramp—creates an utterly charming yet sobering profile of the music, traditions, money, pressure and sheer nuttiness of the city’s seasonal celebration. Traveling with the proprietor of Two Elves with a Twist home trimming service, visiting with homeowners who light up their house so brightly it’s visible from space, meeting collectors of the twee Department 56 miniature villages and witnessing a single mom as she tries to provide a good holiday for her kids, Stuever is part sociologist, part psychologist and always a perceptive observer, placing American holiday rituals in a new light. “Our sense of Christmas is nothing without the narrative of heartbreaking need,” he writes. “Mary needed a place to give birth and nobody would give her one. This need for need exists so that our children can distinguish it from the concept of want.”

Help for the holidays
Hostesses who fear they won’t have the mostest this holiday season only need a few hours with Best of Christmas Ideas to boost their spirits. The editors and stylists of Better Homes and Gardens magazine can be counted on for “fresh, fast and fabulous” ideas for stylish holiday decor, table settings, floral centerpieces, wreaths, cards, wrapping and treats in styles that range from fashion-forward (lime-green tree trimmings, blue velvet stockings) to traditional-contemporary (feather tree decorated with dried orange slices and pine cones). Need fast decorations? A Tiered Meringue Tree of either homemade or store-bought meringue cookies looks like it took hours but only requires a bit of stacking skills. Expecting last-minute guests? Spend an afternoon making and freezing hearty soups—like Smoked Sausage Split Pea—along with easy rolls and ice cream sandwiches (recipes included), and you’ve got dinner-in-a-minute for a crowd. Kids driving you crazy? Put them to work making paper cones stuffed with ornaments or pinecones to decorate the tree. Need quick hostess gifts? Try Herbed Toasted Almonds, or dress up a store-bought red pillar candle by gluing stick peppermints along its base. Each recipe, craft or sewing project is illustrated with full-color pictures and complete instructions and patterns (most only require basic crafting or sewing skills), and a list of sources at the back will help harried cooks or crafters place their overnight orders.

If Mother Earth is on the gift list, Anna Getty’s I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Gifts, Decorations, and Recipes That Use Less and Mean More has stylish ideas for celebrating, giving and reflecting on the season that recycle and reuse but still give plenty of joy. Sections on Nesting and Entertaining feature homemade decor and place settings using natural and recycled elements (Recycled Wool Wreath, Newspaper Stocking), and Trimming has ideas for earthy decorations (Sugared Crabapple Ornaments, Twig Stars). The Giving section suggests packaging homemade treats in repurposed containers, such as bamboo steamer baskets. Sophisticated but easy recipes are also included (Cranberry Prosecco Cocktails, Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Ginger and Mascarpone, Pan-Fried Chicken Breasts with Chestnut Stuffing and Port Gravy), and the book is rounded out with lush photographs, “green tips” by famous eco-experts, a resource section listing useful websites and sidebars on green greetings and shipping, recyclable parties, low-impact gift and wrapping ideas and “composting Christmas.”

Bakers who are mystified by royal icing and luster dust will feel merry about the elegant designs in Cookie Craft Christmas. Valerie Peterson and Janice Fryer—the bakers behind the Cookie Craft series—have created a tiny treasure of a book complete with full-color illustrations of their bakery-worthy holiday creations ranging from easy to elaborate. A few basic rolled-cookie recipes and lessons on pre- and post-baking decorative techniques are followed by instructions for more than 70 distinctive designs, plus tips on freezing, shipping and swapping home-baked treats. From white reindeer and gingerbread sleighs to sweet treats for New Year’s and Hanukkah, these cookies are designed to create lasting memories.

Deanna Larson writes from Nashville.

Gingerbread and dirty Santas, nativity scenes and maxed-out credit cards: the holidays bring both highs and lows. During this most special time of year, there are cooks cooking, crafters crafting—and people creating wacky Christmases of their own making, as celebrated in these new books. Strange stories of the season Count on Augusten Burroughs (Running with […]
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Cap, gown, diploma: now what? Having many options can be as difficult as having none, but the risk-taking and wisdom in these books will help any new grad make the important decisions.

A YEAR OF CAREERS
After graduating from college, Sean Aiken was overcome with pressure to live up to his potential. Still living in his parents’ basement at 25, searching job boards and newspaper ads, he thought: Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly what these jobs were like before committing to them? The One-Week Job Project documents Aiken’s brazen, funny and often fascinating search for the job that will make him happy (and pay the bills). Aiken starts by accepting an offer to be a bungee “jump master,” a fit symbol for his plunge into uncertainty. Then, using connections and media buzz to find work, he travels more than 46,000 miles in a year-long journey, taking on 52 jobs from snowshoe guide, florist and dairy farmer to NHL mascot, Air Force recruit and firefighter. Along the way, he notes the salary of each position and what he took away from the experience. In the end, he concludes that a career is “merely a vehicle to fulfill our passion”—and that happiness depends greatly on your co-workers, and the chance to do meaningful work.

SEARCHING FOR SATISFACTION
What do you do with your life when you’re the offspring of a billionaire, expected to use Dad’s money to zoom to the top? If you’re Peter Buffett, son of renowned investor Warren Buffett, you ditch the silver spoon and forge your own path. Buffett, now an Emmy Award-winning producer and composer, details his road to personal and professional accomplishments in Life Is What You Make It. When he reached adulthood, Buffett received a relatively small inheritance (under six figures), along with fatherly advice to find what made him happy and try to help others. The modest sum allowed him to discover a passion for music and spend a few frugal years getting established without worrying about the bills. Buffett shares what he learned working his way up in the competitive world of TV and film composing in thoughtful, inspiring sections including “No One Deserves Anything” and “The Gentle Art of Giving Back.” He believes that anyone can have the “advantages” of discipline, integrity and vision that produce the best careers—and the best lives.

LOST AND FOUND
Like most of us, Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett and Amanda Pressner talked about quitting their jobs (in their case, high-powered New York media jobs) to backpack around the world. The difference: They actually did it. The Lost Girls is the story of their 60,000-mile journey, told from their perspectives as newbie world travelers and searchers. The book places the reader smack-dab in the moment as the three friends hike up for sunrise over Machu Picchu, try to design a volunteer project for orphaned girls in Kenya (their solution is heartwarming) and discover a mystical $4 day spa near a forest temple in Laos. There are amusing and sometimes frightening culture clashes aplenty, but the real appeal of the story is the long road they take together, each supporting the others on a soul-searching quest to create a life that matters.
 

Cap, gown, diploma: now what? Having many options can be as difficult as having none, but the risk-taking and wisdom in these books will help any new grad make the important decisions. A YEAR OF CAREERS After graduating from college, Sean Aiken was overcome with pressure to live up to his potential. Still living in […]
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The cooler weather of fall signals a time to get closer to friends and family—and the animals that add spice to our lives and teach valuable lessons along the way.

SMALL WONDERS

The power of a 25-pound beast to alter a life is made evident in You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness. Julie Klam, a former intern for “Late Night with David Letterman” and Emmy-nominated writer for VH1’s “Pop-Up Video,” sees her solitary single life turn upside down after she rescues a fugly Boston terrier named Otto, who comes along at just the right time to remedy Klam’s status as a commitment-phobe. “It made me feel good to see him content,” Klam writes. “I took care of him and he took care of me. Within six months of adopting him, I grew up.” Klam eventually marries the producer of her VH1 show, a marriage that results in an adorable daughter, Violet, and a parade of foster dogs to and from their tiny apartment after she decides to volunteer for a Boston terrier rescue group. These little one-act adventures in the sacrifices and rewards of dog guardianship have humanity, occasional tragedy and sadness, and plenty of hilarity as this compact family in an even tinier space attempts to save the neurotic, unwanted and abandoned, including an elderly dog that provides a miracle just when the family least expects it.

PUPPY POWER

Fans of the best-selling memoir Merle’s Door: Adventures from a Freethinking Dog will be ecstatic to hear that Ted Kerasote has another dog. Kerasote, a warm and winning writer, is an equally gifted photographer who traces his new puppy’s early development in Pukka: The Pup After Merle. Their action-packed and tender moments, narrated from Pukka’s point of view and accompanied by more than 200 color photos, provide a coda and healing for those who remember Kerasote’s journey with another special yellow dog. From Pukka in front of the wood-burning stove in Kerasote’s beautiful cabin in Kelly, Wyoming, to exploring Yosemite National Park, rafting on rapids (complete with doggie life jacket) and hiking to the top of Jackson Peak, readers can follow the growth of a tiny puppy into an adventurous adolescent lucky enough to romp past some stunning scenery with an owner who appreciates him as deeply as any dog longs to be.

“If you can manage to make the world small enough—say the size of a miniature poodle—it becomes the universe.”

HOPE & HEALING

Sages come in all sizes. A miniature black poodle named Bijou serves as her owners’ “Canine Zen Master” in What a Difference a Dog Makes: Big Lessons on Life, Love, and Healing from a Small Pooch. Springing from New York Times editor Dana Jennings’ popular blog post about how his beloved elderly dog Bijou helped him recover from cancer (and get his son through a concurrent health crisis), the book expands on the joy of dogs and the healing aspects of the “simple gift of their presence.” In touching and mischievous sections like “You Take the Dog Out, I Have Cancer” and “The Holiness of Dogs,” Jennings adds simple Zen-like truths “by” his guru Bijou at the end of each chapter to illustrate the emotional power, insight and many blessings that one animal can provide. “Strangely enough,” Jennings writes, “if you can manage to make the world small enough—say the size of a miniature poodle—it becomes the universe.”

OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Journalist John Zeaman creates a masterpiece of contemplation in Dog Walks Man: A Six-Legged Odyssey. After becoming the de facto dog walker in his household, Zeaman discovers that the daily routine with standard poodle Pete moves from being a grind to serving as an inspirational return to boyhood and its “fringe places” like woods, abandoned lots and railroad right-of-ways. Pete shows a “boundless enthusiasm for the outside world [that is] like the reincarnation of that juvenile self.” As they set out each day with “anthropological curiosity,” like two innocent and hopeful vagabonds lost in the “aimlessness of childhood wandering,” they slow down and create a “space where things could just happen.” Their adventures, familiar to all dog walkers—from nasty weather and squirrel chases to prying a used “adult entertainment” item from Pete’s jaws—become extraordinary through Zeaman’s eyes. His droll observations on dog-walking combine insight, solace and meditation, taking readers into the heart of a routine task, dusting the ordinary with the divine. “At night, Pete and I would escape the sometimes suffocating sweetness of family life—the pajamas and stories, the smell of toothpaste and sheets, the damp goodnight kisses and prolonged hugs,” he writes. “We’d slip out into the silky night like a pair of teenage boys with high hopes for a Saturday night.”

The cooler weather of fall signals a time to get closer to friends and family—and the animals that add spice to our lives and teach valuable lessons along the way. SMALL WONDERS The power of a 25-pound beast to alter a life is made evident in You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me […]
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The theme of Women’s History Month 2011 is “Our History is Our Strength.” These new books present biographies full of intellect, tenacity, courage and creativity.

WOMEN BEHAVING BADLY
Actress and blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon puts readers smack in the middle of some incredible female lives with her blog, Scandalous Women. Her mini-biographies are now compiled in Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History’s Most Notorious Women. Mahon, a self-proclaimed “history geek,” reclaims history “one woman at a time” in short, lighthearted accounts of the lives of rich and famous—and ordinary—women who caused wars, created drama, “defied the rules and brought men to their knees.” Each chapter features five women who created whole genres of scandal, from Warrior Queens (Cleopatra, Eleanor of Aquitaine), Wayward Wives (Jane Digby, Zelda Fitzgerald), Scintillating Seductresses (Emma Hamilton, Mata Hari), Crusading Ladies (Ida B. Wells, Anne Hutchinson), Wild Women of the West (Calamity Jane, Unsinkable Molly Brown), Amorous Artists (Camille Claudel, Billie Holiday) and Amazing Adventuresses (Anna Leonowens, Amelia Earhart). While many of the facts surrounding these lives are familiar, Mahon weaves page-turner narratives from her passion and affection for these spectacular but often misrepresented women.

AN ENDURING LEGACY
The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963, was a controversial and groundbreaking book that turned the myth of the “content and fulfilled” housewife and mother on its head. The best-selling and radical book by Betty Friedan—often read undercover—inspired a generation of women to buck societal pressures and the prevailing belief that “women’s independence was bad for husbands, children, and the community at large” and seek change in their lives. In A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s, award-winning social historian Stephanie Coontz conducts interviews with nearly 200 women (and men) who were affected by Friedan’s book and traces its societal impact, including its influence on issues of gender equality today. Coontz examines the eras of relative freedom for women that predated the book, from getting the vote and the bobs and short dresses of the 1920s to hard-working Rosie the Riveters of the 1940s, and the erosion of those freedoms in postwar America. Friedan, “just another unhappy housewife” and writer for women’s magazines, conceived her book in the Mad Men era, when men had total legal control over the lives of their families and women couldn’t get credit in their own names. While other books of the time tackled similar problems, Friedan—a former activist—made readers feel passionate and validated in their frustration with their gilded cages. Packed with fascinating statistics and research on 20th-century American social history, including the effect of “liberation” on middle-class, working-class and African-American women, Coontz shines new light on a landmark work.


WOMEN WHO RULES BEFORE ELIZABETH
Elizabeth I ruled England with history-making style. But Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Margaret of Anjou and Matilda, granddaughter of William the Conqueror, were equally powerful, ambitious women who thrived in a cutthroat world well before her reign. Award-winning British historian Helen Castor (Blood and Roses) tells their extraordinary stories in She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth. “Man was the head of woman, and the king was the head of all,” Castor writes. “How, then, could royal power lie in female hands?” Castor answers that suspenseful question in dense, historically rich accounts that set out every detail of the complex social mores, political machinations, familial manipulations and feuds that formed their paths to power and influence. Women who claimed their earned power—even their birthright—outright during the 12th-15th centuries were seen as fanged, bloodthirsty “she-wolves.” “Freedom to act,” Castor writes, “did not mean freedom from censure and condemnation.” Their stories—like young French bride Isabella’s fight for her royal rights in England at the age of 12—featured subtle negotiations, covert confrontations, manipulations and sharp analysis worthy of any male ruler during such tumultuous, war-ravaged times, and She-Wolves makes for exceptional, even inspirational reading.
 

The theme of Women’s History Month 2011 is “Our History is Our Strength.” These new books present biographies full of intellect, tenacity, courage and creativity. WOMEN BEHAVING BADLY Actress and blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon puts readers smack in the middle of some incredible female lives with her blog, Scandalous Women. Her mini-biographies are now compiled […]
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New books on healthy living emphasize workouts and eating plans for different lifestyles and goals—whether you want to lose inches fast, make better choices at the drive-thru or simply minimize stress.

SHORT, EFFECTIVE WORKOUTS
Women’s Health and Men’s Health magazines are known for their bold design, clean layouts and solid information. The Women’s Health Big Book of 15 Minute Workouts and The Men’s Health Big Book of 15 Minute Workouts are chunky little powerhouses that feature those same elements while promising “433 ultra-effective exercises, 1 hard body: yours!” Recent research shows that brief workouts can be just as effective as pounding away at the treadmill or spin class for hours at a time; these books are packed with 85 super-fast workouts and hundreds of exercises that banish boredom and maximize results. Each exercise is clearly described with step-by-step photos that make it easy to achieve good form. From the Super-Fast Weight Loss System Workout and  Cardio Interval Training to exercises for Healing, Sports Training and Better Sex, these books target every possible fitness goal a man (see: Iron Glute, Deltoid Definer, Six-Pack Abs, The Flat Butt Fix workouts) or woman (see: Hourglass Body, Pushup Bra, Belly Pooch, Michelle Obama Arms workouts) could ever desire.

BETTER EATING ON THE GO
The influential Eat This, Not That! franchise introduced readers to the nutritional disasters hidden in supermarket aisles and behind restaurant menus, and the small swaps that promote better health and lower calories without dieting. The updated and expanded 2012 edition of Eat This, Not That! The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution features still-shocking entries in the Not That category (The Cheesecake Factory’s sautéed spinach side has the fat equivalent of 14 strips of bacon). However, it also includes new Eat This items offered by restaurants, thanks to shaming and pressure from anti-obesity crusader David Zinczenko, who co-authors the books with Matt Goulding. Back are the compact, color-coded spreads with product and menu-item comparisons in categories like fast food, chain restaurant and supermarket foods. Also included are Holidays and Special Occasions; foods marketed to kids; and an excellent Cook This section, with recipes for healthier versions of restaurant favorites. Zinczenko also shares Eat This success stories and a list of America’s 20 Worst Foods. While the best approach to eating healthfully is cooking from scratch, the book arms a typical American—who grabs breakfast from the drive-thru, lunch at a chain restaurant and dinner from the freezer most days of the week—with vital information they can use to find the health bonanzas and bombs.

GOOD STRESS AND BAD
Dr. Mehmet Oz and his sidekick Dr. Michael Roizen, authors of the best-selling You series (You on a Diet, You Staying Young) are back with You: Stress Less. This brief, useful and easily digestible book looks at good stress and bad stress—and provides tips beyond chocolate and bubble baths to minimize its destructive effects so you can live a happy, healthy life. Starting with the science behind stress, the docs take readers through healthy lifestyle basics including recipes for delicious healthy food, or “nature’s best medicine.” Stress management techniques are covered in sections on activity, relationships, pain management, good communication, managing anger, workplace stresses and the “Big Picture” of spirituality and giving, ending with a guide for developing your own stress plan—making this slim volume a mini-doctorate in preventative health care.

A SPUR TO GET ACTIVE
Working Out Sucks! (And Why It Doesn’t Have To): The Only 21-Day Kick-Start Plan for Total Health and Fitness You’ll Ever Need is an audacious approach to the challenges that keep people from getting fit. “Working out is a chore that ranks somewhere behind window washing, gutter cleaning and dog poop scooping,” writes author Chuck Runyon, CEO of Anytime Fitness, a chain of 1,600 health clubs across America. Aided by colleagues Brian Zehetner, a registered dietitian, and Rebecca A. DeRossett, executive coach and owner of Stillwater Psychological Associates, Runyon lays out the connection between good health and exercise, and the reasons the average person should develop fitness goals. Less a workout book and more an entertaining, kick-in-the-backside companion, Runyon “deprograms” fitness “brainwashing” of bad information, destructive attitudes and habits. His good-natured rants are followed by a section on changing defeatist attitudes, plus a 21-day kick-start plan including daily meal and workout suggestions. “While vanity may provide the initial motivation,” Runyon writes, “it’s the internal reward—the regular dose of accomplishment and pride—that turns regular people into fitness addicts.”

DANCE-INSPIRED FITNESS
The Physique 57® Solution isn’t for sissies, but the subtitle does promise “A Groundbreaking 2-Week Plan for a Lean, Beautiful Body.” Authors and dancers Tanya Becker and Jennifer Maanavi were devotees of the Lotte Berk Method, a strengthening and stretching technique created by Russian ballerina Lotte Berk. After her studio closed, the pair adapted her methods as Physique 57®, a combination of interval training, isometric exercises and orthopedic stretches that aims to lengthen and sculpt muscles for a lean body. Aimed at women with a promise to help them “lose up to 10 inches fast,” the regimen uses a process called “Interval Overload” to bring muscles to the point of fatigue—“where it starts to burn and shake”—to provide “the greatest possible stimulus” for greater results with fewer reps. The book’s 57-minute workouts are illustrated with black and white photographs, and the exercises are followed by a “kitchen diva” section with nutrition tips and recipes for a “macro-nutrient-rich approach to weight loss.” Those familiar with Pilates and other dancer-inspired workouts won’t shy away from this challenging path to an enviable body.

New books on healthy living emphasize workouts and eating plans for different lifestyles and goals—whether you want to lose inches fast, make better choices at the drive-thru or simply minimize stress. SHORT, EFFECTIVE WORKOUTSWomen’s Health and Men’s Health magazines are known for their bold design, clean layouts and solid information. The Women’s Health Big Book […]
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One day, we won’t need to set aside a month to honor women’s contributions to history, since their accomplishments won’t be considered exceptions. Until then, we’ll wait each year for March to bring new histories and biographies to savor. This year, new books highlight the diverse lives of three exceptional women.

ON MADISON AVENUE . . .

The Lucky Strike-puffing, martini-fueled “mad men” of the glamorous heyday of advertising are sexy again, thanks to the hit TV show. But “mad women” were also making their mark in the testosterone-dominated advertising industry of the 1960s and ’70s, producing sharp copy, courting big clients and making shrewd business moves while the other hand slapped away the pinches and grabs. In Mad Women, advertising exec Jane Maas dishes the juicy details of a long career that began in 1964 as copywriter at the legendary agency Ogilvy & Mather. After rising to O&M creative director and moving on to other storied agencies, eventually running her own shop, Maas capped her award-winning career by directing the famous “I Love New York” campaign (she still works as a consultant for the industry). With zany dashes from tidbit to tangent in sections including Sex in the Office, Get the Money Before They Screw You and The Three-Martini Lunch and Other Vices, Maas is the embodiment of Kay Thompson’s character from Funny Face, a woman who can say, “I was the first woman to wear a pantsuit to the office. It was 1965, and I caused quite a stir,” yet doesn’t hesitate to admit that her husband selected all of her clothes for her. Part respectful homage to a glamorous and golden age, part good gossip over lunch at 21, Mad Women proves that behind every man’s career, another successful woman is pedaling even faster to get where she is today.

. . . AND ON THE FRONT PAGE

Privileged and politically connected men controlled the influential newspaper and magazine businesses of the 19th and early 20th centuries. So it was quite surprising to find a woman at the helm of two major English-language papers. Enter The First Lady of Fleet Street. Rachel Beer’s fascinating story begins as a descendant of the House of Sassoon, a Jewish Indian family that made its fortune in opium and cotton. Born in Bombay in 1858, Rachel Sassoon later moved with her family to England, where they became one of London’s most prominent immigrant families. In “a union of the East and West in flourishing Victorian London,” she married Frederick Beer, whose family came from the Frankfurt ghetto to make their fortune in railroads and telegraphy. Contending with a climate unfriendly to Jews, the families found that “money was a powerful tool for breaking down the barriers of the class system.” Rachel Beer became owner of the Sunday Times and the Observer during the rise of the “so-called New Woman” who emerged on the verge of the 20th century asking for equality and the vote. She ran her papers “with the woman reader in mind,” yet wrote challenging editorials on weighty world affairs—even getting involved in a scandal of the time—while still fitting in a lavish social life and philanthropic work. With The First Lady of Fleet Street, authors Eilat Negev and Yehuda Koren illuminate a small but fascinating period of Jewish and British history.

SCOUTING OUT A NEW PATH

There are few American women who didn’t experience formative times as a Brownie or Girl Scout. In the delightful new biography Juliette Gordon Low, historian Stacy A. Cordery peeks into the life of a cheerful, imaginative, slightly dotty girl who became an accidental reformer, feminist and leader of one of the most influential organizations of the 20th century. Juliette was the daughter of a proud independent mother and rebel soldier father who moved back and forth between Savannah and Chicago during the Civil War. She grew up to make a bad marriage to philandering British/American aristocrat Willy Low, who died before she could divorce him, then remained in Britain, looking for a way “to do good in the world.” Enter the dashing General Sir Robert Baden-Powell, whom she met in 1911 after he left the British army to form the Boy Scouts. His great experiment to teach boys “soldiering” modeled after samurai and chivalry inspired Low to become involved in the British female version, the Girl Guides. She brought the idea home to Savannah the following year, under the name Girl Scouts. Cordery traces how Low’s peripatetic upbringing formed her patriotism, practicality and love of fun, adventure and the outdoors, and her grown-up leadership skills and passion for the potential in all young women made her uniquely poised to embody Scouting values for generations of women around the world.

One day, we won’t need to set aside a month to honor women’s contributions to history, since their accomplishments won’t be considered exceptions. Until then, we’ll wait each year for March to bring new histories and biographies to savor. This year, new books highlight the diverse lives of three exceptional women. ON MADISON AVENUE . […]
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Who else but Anna Quindlen could make the short life of an ordinary Labrador retriever so profound? Good Dog. Stay. is a short, elegiac book of black-and-white photographs sprinkled with text, based on a popular Newsweek column by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author (A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Object Lessons).

Barely touching upon the predictable shoe-chewing antics of Lab puppy Beau, a 40th birthday present, she dwells most movingly on the more difficult aspects of aging alongside her dog, noting creaky legs, clouding eyes and the fleeting bittersweet arc of a life that follows children growing up and leaving home. When it comes time to say goodbye, Quindlen lays Beau on their patterned carpet favored as it hides the dirt that a sick, old dog creates surrounded by her now grown children and watches as the dog is put down while her husband's tears fall like raindrops on her head. "Occasionally someone will tell me that they won't have pets because they're messy, and I suppose there's some truth to that," Quindlen writes. "I have to choke down the temptation to respond that life is messy, and that its vagaries go down hardest with those who fool themselves into thinking that they can keep it neat."

STREET SMARTS
The messy, brutal and random lives of strays is the compelling subject of fine art photographer Traer Scott's latest book, Street Dogs. Scott, whose previous collection was the bestseller Shelter Dogs, shot her captivating sepia-tones on the streets of Puerto Rico and Mexico, revealing enigmatic expressions on the faces of animals that reproduce, roam and forage on the streets due to overwhelmed animal control agencies. Scott captures more than 90 close-ups including an exhausted young dog digging a hole in the sand to keep cool on Puerto Rico's Dead Dog Beach and a litter of puppies huddled at dusk in a lot in San Felipe, Mexico (whose rescue caused Scott to get bitten). Despite abuse, neglect and illness, the dogs still wag their tails. While it should be depressing, Scott's work reaffirms the decency of all living beings, the daily miracles worked by shop owners and rescuers who feed, water and rehabilitate the dogs for adoption in the United States, and the indefatigable canine spirit. A portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

HELLO KITTY
Cats live on a higher plane, of course, and now they have their own Planet Cat. More than 400 lists of head-scratching and fascinating feline facts, advice and trivia are packed into this entertaining cat-alog, illustrated with line drawings and black-and-white photos. The culture of cats through history, including feline saints, famous cat lovers (and haters) and cats in ancient art is followed by short useful sections and sidebars about cat anatomy, behavior and training, from how to read a cat's eyes, ears and tail, to the reason Chloe bites, has litter box problems, or hates swallowing a pill (Chloe being the most popular female cat name, according to the book). Tons of amusing trivia, including famous cartoon, television and film felines, British pub signs featuring cats, and the nine kitties that have won acting awards, round out this fun blast through Planet Cat.

When you can make yourself vulnerable by lying on your back in the sun then curl and bite the hand that pets your soft tummy you know you're a cat brought to life in a cartoon drawn by Suzy Becker. This updated version of her best-selling All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat (and Then Some) features old favorites plus nearly 50 new cartoons drawn by Binky, Becker's mischievous kitty sage. The delicate, one-panel drawings contrast with dry and sometimes wicked captions, from a cross-section of the place where no one can find you (under the bed) and a time-lapse of litter box antics, to illustrations of how to drink from the toilet ( Challenge yourself ), recycle trash, commune with the birds by splaying yourself across a window pane, build your own bed out of warm, clean laundry and recognize the toy in everything. With advice on helping with the dishes (insert sandpaper tongue here) and accepting the fact that not all company will like you, Becker's cartoons are subtle enough to win the hearts of sophisticated literary magazine readers, and funny enough to win the hearts of animal lovers everywhere.

HORSE SENSE
Owning land and a few horses is a common city-dweller fantasy, but learning to care for livestock can come with a steep learning curve for those not raised in the country. Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac: The Essential Month-by-Month Guide for Every Horse Owner puts a metaphoric arm around novices on the way to the barn. Hill, who runs Long Tail Ranch in northern Colorado, covers every aspect of horse ownership, broken down into tasks for each month and season, including buying, conditioning and feeding a horse, lifting a hoof and calling the vet, dealing with muddy pastures and electric fencing, stable flies, flooding, trailer loading and foaling, and setting up the tack room and farm office. Add illustrations and fascinating sidebars on horse history and trivia and you have an indispensable resource for any new or aspiring horse owner.

NEW TRICKS FOR OLD DOGS
These days, domesticated dogs are more likely to dine on organic kibble and be toted about in frilly pink satchels than to roll in dead skunk or chase down prey. Present and former staffers at satirical online newspaper The Onion, writing as Rex and Sparky, come to the rescue of these pampered pooches in The Dangerous Book for Dogs: A Parody, illustrated by Emily Flake. Advice for uncovering latent canine rebellion includes chapters on Things You Can Chase; Begging: A Primer; and Poop: An Indelicate Discussion. Rex and Sparky also take canine wimps through building a doghouse (clue: a hammer won't be involved), escaping fenced areas, picking a pill out of peanut butter, handling a thunderstorm, escaping humiliating costumes, managing territory and taking epic walks. Bound in a retro library binding and dripping with faux-nostalgic tone, these observations are driven home with a wicked funny bone, buried correctly, of course (see page 72, How to Bury a Bone ). Owners who long to let their pets roam free or feel a twinge of guilt over a box of $10 designer biscuits will wallow in this ode to old-school dog.

Who else but Anna Quindlen could make the short life of an ordinary Labrador retriever so profound? Good Dog. Stay. is a short, elegiac book of black-and-white photographs sprinkled with text, based on a popular Newsweek column by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author (A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Object Lessons). Barely touching […]
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Brassier than Gloria Steinem in the NOW era, Deborah Copaken Kogan, an international photojournalist who wielded her camera throughout the '80s and part of the '90s, has written a vivid, spirited account of the remarkable career that took her around the world. A rollercoaster ride of a read, Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War is an accomplished narrative told with the wisdom of a woman who lived many lives in a single decade. A Harvard graduate whose work has appeared in Time and Newsweek, Kogan shot everything from the wars in Pakistan and Afghanistan to the collapse of the Romanian government. Shutterbabe follows the course of her career a succession of extraordinary assignments interspersed with intense, sometimes simultaneous, love affairs. Indeed, a veritable United Nations of men appear in the narrative, some of whom accompanied Kogan on her travels and aided in her transformation from girl to woman. It's hard to say what is more remarkable about this memoir the lively adventures of Kogan or the reasoned look at history she presents via her reckless personal experiences. By book's end, she struggles to balance the responsibilities of work and motherhood perhaps her toughest assignment yet.

Brassier than Gloria Steinem in the NOW era, Deborah Copaken Kogan, an international photojournalist who wielded her camera throughout the '80s and part of the '90s, has written a vivid, spirited account of the remarkable career that took her around the world. A rollercoaster ride of a read, Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War is […]
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The search for a soulful and completing love is a theme as old as stories, and recent bestsellers have struggled to convey that theme in all its universal, weighty and romantic glory. Jonathan Hull, in a gorgeous debut novel, achieves that feat gracefully and simply, with a spare structure full of compassionate ideas and astounding metaphors.

Losing Julia is narrated by Patrick Delaney, an 81-year-old World War I veteran dying in the Great Oaks assisted living community. The story begins with his recollection of his first trip back to France 10 years after the war. Delaney brings his wife and son overseas for the unveiling of a memorial etched with names of friends His killed in a horrific battle, but his wife can't bear the idea, and he attends the service alone. The moment the cloth is pulled down, he looks across the crowd and recognizes the beautiful Julia, a painter and the intended fiancée of his mentor Daniel, who was killed on the battlefield. Delaney had only heard Julia described by Daniel, but he knows her at once. Shyly introducing themselves, they realize that they have a few days to visit with each other before Delaney must return to his wife and young son waiting in Paris, and Julia to her daughter in America. She is desperate to know about Daniel's last days, and Delaney yearns to reveal everything in his soul about war and loss and how life will never be the same for him.

Julia's intelligence and warmth remind Delaney of Daniel, and he falls deeply in love for the first time in his life—the one thing that his best friend said could change his world forever. As Delaney the elder looks back on a love rooted in tragedy and a friend's aborted life, the time frame shifts subtly between a young man's innocence and disillusionment, a married man's desire for consuming passion, and an old man's wisdom about their connection.

Delaney's memories return him again and again to the memorial, to France, and to both the horrors and transformational love he experienced there. Delaney comes full circle at the end of his life, realizing that even unrequited love can be a positive life force, as long as it's a true melding of souls and the most intimate self. Hull's confidence and mastery turn an economy of words and emotions into art. Scenes of war and making love are described with an equal and stunning starkness, leaving space for infinite longing and meaning.

Deanna Larson is a reviewer in Nashville.

The search for a soulful and completing love is a theme as old as stories, and recent bestsellers have struggled to convey that theme in all its universal, weighty and romantic glory. Jonathan Hull, in a gorgeous debut novel, achieves that feat gracefully and simply, with a spare structure full of compassionate ideas and astounding […]

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