Linda Stankard

As John Ruskin so insightfully wrote, “There is in every animal’s eye a dim image and a gleam of humanity.” Perhaps our fascination with animals lies in our awareness of a basic kinship and our realization of each animal’s unique ability to teach us something about ourselves.

For those who want to learn something more about their pets and possibly themselves this summer, we have sifted through the season's pet books and selected a few of the best. This collection offers a wide range of animal-related material; you'll find everything from practical pet care strategies to amusing cat autobiographies, but however light-hearted the approach, all these books share an underlying respect and love for the animals who look to us humans for their well-being.

An excellent reference book for serious feline fans or the newly initiated about to take on the responsibility of a kitten is The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Cat Care by Wendy Christensen and the staff of the Humane Society. The comprehensive text covers all aspects of cat care, from the smallest details, like getting your cat's collar size correct, to larger issues such as proper nutrition, grooming and choosing the right veterinarian. Not surprisingly, this text advocates getting your pet from your local animal shelter not only will an animal's life be saved, but the authors hope that people who see first-hand the abundance of unwanted, innocent life sitting on death row will be more motivated to spay or neuter their animals helping to break the sad cycle of throw-away pets.

A chapter is devoted to stray (lost) and feral (never owned) cats, but for a more complete study, Living in Shadows: How to Help the Stray Cat in Your Life (Without Adding to the Problem) by Ann K. Fisher offers an analysis of this complicated problem and a step-by-step guide for tackling it. Fisher provides an invaluable service not only to the millions of homeless cats living in shadows, on the outside looking in, but also to the people willing to reach out to them.

If you're a puppy person or you want a gift for a new puppy parent, The Good Life: Your Dog's First Year by Mordecai Siegal and Matthew Uncle Matty Margolis is a wonderful month-by-month guide that follows a dog's development from birth to adulthood, ending with a chapter containing 10 lessons in training fundamentals. Siegal and Margolis are experts in the field with numerous other canine collaborations to their credit, and they write with an engaging, down-to-earth style. Like the books above, The Good Life contains photographs and will help the new puppy parent become a veritable Dr. Dolittle, with advice on everything from feeding to first aid.

For a true veterinarian's perspective on animal care, Real People Don't Own Monkeys: And Other Stories of Pets, Their People and the Vets Who See It All by J. Veronika Kiklevich D.V.M. with Steven N. Austad is an eye-opening collection of warmly humorous, though often poignant, stories of the animals (iguanas, turtles, pigs and pythons along with the traditional cats and dogs) Kiklevich has doctored. More than mere entertainment, these engaging tales also serve to illuminate the personalities of the human owners these pets are either blessed with or subjected to and the result is captivating, provocative and sometimes disturbing reading.

 

Linda Stankard was adopted years ago by a dog named Sweetie and lately by a cat who has just given her four grand-kitties. They all live with two fish who keep a tight rein on them.

As John Ruskin so insightfully wrote, “There is in every animal’s eye a dim image and a gleam of humanity.” Perhaps our fascination with animals lies in our awareness of a basic kinship and our realization of each animal’s unique ability to teach us something about ourselves.

Glamour has called them “the Saints of Somalia, equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo.” It’s a fitting description of Dr. Hawa Abdi and her two doctor daughters. Their must-be-heard story, told by Dr. Abdi with Sarah J. Robbins in Keeping Hope Alive, is one ofincredible humanitarian effort coupled with fierce courage, even as they face violent extremists. But it is also Dr. Abdi’s private story—her trials and tribulations as a Somali woman, as a mother, as a wife—as one small person with a big dream for peace.

In spite of the atrocities she has witnessed, Dr. Abdi writes with a lyrical gentleness about her homeland. Her grandmother, she tells us, came from “the region called Lafole, where the sandy roads of Mogadishu meet the soft brown earth of the Shabelle River basin.” Lucky to be raised by parents who had a then-rare “marriage of love,” she was able to become an educated woman, a lawyer and the first female gynecologist in Somalia. When civil war broke out in 1990, she also became a hero and a legend: the unwavering protector of tens of thousands.

As “victims and survivors flooded the main road that led out of Mogadishu,” many came to her farm and clinic. “I took them in, and I gave them whatever I had—cool water, a place to sleep, a portion of our farm’s harvest.” As the unrest continued, her 1,300 acres became a camp for up to 90,000 displaced people. With help and recognition from the United States and other countries, her clinic grew into a hospital; the children are now being educated, and there is hope, but the dangers persist.

In 2010, insurgents kidnapped Dr. Abdi, invading and destroying much of the hospital and her personal possessions. “These young men are our own sons as well—an entire generation that has grown up without law and order,” she writes. Public outcry helped secure her release, but she worries for the future when so many are born into a world of hate, growing up knowing only division, violence and poverty. “A Somali proverb,” she writes, “says that you don’t deliver a child, you deliver a society.”

A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Dr. Hawa Abdi has sent an urgent message to the world in Keeping Hope Alive. Read it; heed it; pass it on.

Glamour has called them “the Saints of Somalia, equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo.” It’s a fitting description of Dr. Hawa Abdi and her two doctor daughters. Their must-be-heard story, told by Dr. Abdi with Sarah J. Robbins in Keeping Hope Alive, is one ofincredible humanitarian effort coupled with fierce courage, even as they face […]

“The blunt truth is that men still run the world.” A baker’s dozen years into the 21st century, despite all the strides women have made toward equality (and despite being half the population), the female gender remains starkly underrepresented in leadership roles. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a rallying cry for both genders to continue the hard work of previous generations toward a more equitable division of voice, power and leadership.

Currently the chief operating officer at Facebook, Sandberg also had a high-intensity position at Google when her first child was born, and she fully recognizes the hurdles involved, and the balancing act required, when a woman has a career and a family. After a brief three months “off,” she recalls the heartache of separating from her newborn: “I was returning to a job I loved, but as I pulled the car out of the driveway to head to the office for my first full day back, I felt tightness in my chest and tears started to flow down my cheeks.” But she heralds both Google and Facebook as progressive, flexible companies, and believes that other industries, seeing the success of these family-friendly models, are following suit. Improvements in technology that allow work to be done from anywhere with an Internet connection are also changing the way companies think about office hours and working from home.

Men’s roles are evolving, too, which Sandberg celebrates. “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes. I believe that this would be a better world,” she writes. She admits that a perfect 50/50 division of labor at home is not an easy accomplishment, but she unabashedly credits her husband’s willingness to be an equal partner as they tackle life and career challenges together as being essential to her peace of mind and success.

Told with candor and filled with a mix of anecdote and annotated fact, Lean In inspires women to find their passion, pursue it with gusto and “lean in” to leadership roles in the workplace and the world. “Women should be able to pursue professional success and personal fulfillment—and freely choose one, or the other, or both,” she says. And with chapters such as “The Myth of Doing It All,” “Seek and Speak Your Truth” and “Make Your Partner a Real Partner,” she lays out a practical, tangible (but flexible!) framework for making that possible.

“The blunt truth is that men still run the world.” A baker’s dozen years into the 21st century, despite all the strides women have made toward equality (and despite being half the population), the female gender remains starkly underrepresented in leadership roles. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a rallying cry for both genders to continue […]

Fresh Off the Boat, the new memoir by rising culinary star Eddie Huang, is one roller coaster of a ride. Written with headlong ferocity, the book takes us from Huang’s early Taiwanese taste bud revelations (“Soup dumplings, sitcoms, one-night stands—good ones leave you wanting more”) to the establishment of his restaurant Baohaus, a realization of his vision for a youth-culture-oriented hot spot in the East Village where no one would “kick you out, call the cops, or serve you shitty 7-Eleven pressed Cubans.”

But it isn’t a swift or easy ride; like many bright, talented, angry and angst-filled young people, Huang struggles to discover and embody his authentic self—a struggle compounded by his Asian upbringing in American culture. He vows to “detox” his identity and cleanse it of everything he doesn’t consciously want or choose. But the fight isn’t only internal; he takes it to the streets, is constantly in trouble and hopscotches through five schools in seven years. At 13 he was already hustling, “running NCAA pools, taking bets on NFL games and selling porno,” and by the time he’s in college it’s skirmishes with the law. One night, the situation gets out of hand and there’s a trip to Orlando’s 33rd Street Jail, and a conviction. Rather than “sit at home on felony parole,” Huang takes a hiatus to Taiwan for a while, where he is relatively free and able to contemplate his future.

By the time he returns, he’s on a mission: finding a place for himself in the world, “or making one.” Food is a lifelong interest, but before Baohaus materializes, Huang “samples” many other venues: hip hop, law school and stand-up comedy among them. But “the sky broke and everything was clear” once he knew he was going to open a restaurant—one that specialized in Taiwanese gua bao and, even more importantly, one that would be the manifestation of his “friends, family, and memories.”

Though much of Huang’s writing is raw and intense, there are dollops of tenderness and zen-like wisdom when he writes about someone or something he loves, such as his mother, his grandmother or well-prepared food: “The best dishes have depth without doing too much. It’s not about rounding up all the seasonal ingredients you can find, it’s about paying close attention to the ones you already have.”

Like the dishes he describes as “jumping off the plate,” Huang’s memoir jumps off the page. Its flavors are “big, deep, kid-dynamite-Mike-Tyson-knock-you-out-of-the-box” intense and will leave you wanting more!

Fresh Off the Boat, the new memoir by rising culinary star Eddie Huang, is one roller coaster of a ride. Written with headlong ferocity, the book takes us from Huang’s early Taiwanese taste bud revelations (“Soup dumplings, sitcoms, one-night stands—good ones leave you wanting more”) to the establishment of his restaurant Baohaus, a realization of […]

We Americans have long been privy to the peaks and valleys in the Kennedy family story; we’ve watched them on TV, read about them, listened to their speeches and, at times, been appalled by their actions. The bright promise of JFK’s presidency, and the awful end of a would-be fairytale, have become a part of our collective American consciousness. Still, a comprehensive portrait entailing so many players is a tall order, which may be why J. Randy Taraborrelli considers his 17th book, After Camelot, his most challenging endeavor to date.

In After Camelot, Taraborrelli expands on his best-selling Jackie, Ethel, Joan and brings the whole Kennedy clan onstage. They are, he explains, “a family of complex, fascinating, and sometimes troubled personalities,” but despite unspeakable tragedy and loss, the Kennedys as a family “tried to hold on to the sense of hope, promise, and national service that had been so integral to the public personas of their fallen heroes.”

That struggle, despite its difficulties, is at the heart of Taraborrelli’s behind-the-scenes tale. In a fascinating chronicle that sweeps across a lengthy and tumultuous time period, from the impact of the inscrutable Kennedy patriarch, Joseph Kennedy, to his children, their spouses and the ensuing generation, Taraborrelli draws on extensive interviews and research to give each persona a distinct voice. We can hear Ted Kennedy inspire his audience when, with what must have been a heavy heart, he announced his withdrawal from the presidential race at the Democratic National Convention in 1980: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

The Kennedy ability to inspire, to find strength at times of intense sorrow or shame, and to uphold each other as a family, is perhaps what we admire most about them, and what makes After Camelot such a page-turning, emotionally riveting saga.

We Americans have long been privy to the peaks and valleys in the Kennedy family story; we’ve watched them on TV, read about them, listened to their speeches and, at times, been appalled by their actions. The bright promise of JFK’s presidency, and the awful end of a would-be fairytale, have become a part of […]

“If you go back far enough,” Megan Smolenyak points out in her latest book, Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing, “we’re all cousins.” In fact, “mathematically, we all have millions of cousins.” That’s a lot of connections to wade through before even taking into consideration grandparents, parents, siblings, friends and long-lost loves!

Still, the exact nature of those connections often date back to pre-documented times, so while some hereditary mysteries may never be solved, Smolenyak, the former chief family historian for Ancestry.com and the author of five other books, including Who Do You Think You Are?, is renowned for her success at genealogical sleuthing. From tracing Barack Obama’s roots to the small town of Moneygall, Ireland, to lifting an obscure slave boy’s story to front-page news when she revealed his intricate connection to both Strom Thurmond and Al Sharpton, Smolenyak has a proven track record of unearthing ancestral secrets and solving perplexing problems. Working closely with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which strives to recover, identify and bury soldiers from any conflict, she has helped solve cases from WWI, WWII, Korea and Southeast Asia.

She shares her complex investigative adventures in a straightforward, evidence-driven manner that allows readers to feel the excitement of being hot on the trail, the disappointment of a dead end and the ultimate thrill of a new discovery. Whether it’s an old case, such as the story of Annie Moore, considered the first to arrive at Ellis Island, or one of current import, such as tracing First Lady Michelle Obama’s roots, Smolenyak attributes a large measure of her success to hands-on research. Everything apparently is not on the internet: “Countless insights to our collective past remain hidden in local, underfunded repositories, and even in our sophisticated twenty-first century, the only way to find these treasures is to get in the car or hop on a plane and do some intensive digging.” That intensive digging even turned up a puzzling question regarding her own family tree: Who fathered her uncle? The genetic impossibility of it being the man she knew as her grandfather has sent her on a DNA quest of personal proportions!

With provocative chapter titles like “Skeletons in the Turret” and “Paralyzed Prostitute,” Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing is a page-turner that simultaneously informs, intrigues and leaves you wanting more!

Learn five things you didn’t know about your DNA on The Book Case.

“If you go back far enough,” Megan Smolenyak points out in her latest book, Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing, “we’re all cousins.” In fact, “mathematically, we all have millions of cousins.” That’s a lot of connections to wade through before even taking into consideration grandparents, parents, siblings, friends and long-lost loves! Still, the exact […]

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