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The Digital Mystique: How the Culture of Connectivity Can Empower Your Life%E2%80%94Online and Off

Sarah Granger. Seal, $17 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-58005-514-7

Entrepreneur Granger explores the effects of the Internet on day-to-day life with this well-researched and thought-provoking tome. She also doles out advice for managing one's reputation online, especially on Facebook and Twitter and how to build and roll out a digital media strategy for personal branding. Other topics include the importance of setting family digital policies and how they keep children safe and how the Internet revolutionized modern business. Tips and takeaways are offered at the end of each chapter, and the book is peppered with surprising statistics: 90% of all the data in the world has been generated over the last two years; on average, an Internet user today is exposed to more information in one day than someone living in the 1500s was exposed to in an entire lifetime. This is a helpful primer on all things digital for anyone new to or overwhelmed by Internet culture. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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How to Be a Husband

Tim Dowling. Penguin/Blue Rider, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-399-17293-9

In this witty collection, Dowling, a London resident and columnist for the Guardian, offers wry observations on marriage and fatherhood that are sure to resonate with readers on both sides of the pond. Drawing on over 20 years as a husband, Dowling opens with his courtship of his wife-to-be ("When we met... we had no shared interests beyond smoking and drinking") and their wedding, and then goes beyond to offer a series of anecdotes, tales, and observations. A gifted storyteller, he is quick to point out his own foibles during shared adventures such as running out of money mid-honeymoon ("I'll be back," his wife says as she dashes to the bank, "don't eat anything") as well as the everyday drama of life with three kids in tow. Topics include advice for successful arguing (he's a big fan of the "whatever" response, since "everybody walks away with something"), how to handle manly duties such as home repair ("you cannot make the problem worse; you can only move it forward to a stage where professional intervention becomes urgently advisable"), as well as unspoken rules (such as the freedom to steal small amounts of money from each other). This lighthearted romp through married life will have many readers nodding in recognition. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe

Mick Wall. St. Martin's, $27.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4668-6969-1

Veteran U.K. rock writer and broadcaster Wall (Enter Night) sets his sights on his biggest subject yet: groundbreaking band Black Sabbath. With solid research and impressive writing, he delivers a book worthy of the band's legacy. Four lads from a quiet British suburb outside of industrial Birmingham create a new sound that would launch heavy metal music. But the rock 'n' roll dream quickly devolves into a nightmare of alcohol abuse, mountains of cocaine, personality clashes, shady management, fiscal misdeeds, breakups, new lineups—and, in the end, a successful reunion. The band's two outsize personalities especially come to life. Bandleader and guitarist Tony Iommi dabbles in the occult, and his iron-fist paranoid perfectionism and drug abuse leads him to tear the band apart. Ozzy Osbourne, the charismatic singer, would resurrect his career from the boozy and drug-addled depths more than once—first in a solo career with ill-fated guitarist Randy Rhoads, and later as a reality TV star. As he did in his biography of Led Zeppelin, When Giants Walked the Earth, Wall rises to the occasion of writing the story of a band so tightly cloaked in legend, resulting in a quintessential rock biography. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Lighten Up, Y'all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome

Virginia Willis. Ten Speed Press, $24.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-60774-573-0

The latest folksy effort from Willis (Bon Appetit, Y'all; Basic to Brilliant, Y'all; etc.) aims to help readers lower the caloric intake of American Southern classics without sacrificing flavor or authenticity. For the most part she succeeds, using lighter or low-fat versions for key ingredients, and substituting lighter proteins for the fattier staples. Her riff on the classic pimiento cheese, for example, uses bold sharp cheddar as well as light cheddar, light mayonnaise, and Greek yogurt to cut the calories. Ground turkey is a stand-in for ground beef in meatballs, chili, and meat loaf, and for pork in traditional pork sausage. Items that are traditionally fried, such as onion blossoms and Chicken-on-a-Stick, are baked in order to retain the crispy exterior. And readers may be pleasantly surprised to see that they can have their bacon and eat it too, provided they use the leaner center-cut variety. Not every dish will satisfy as soulfully as the classics (her pulled pork tenderloin would induce cries of outrage in certain areas of the country), but lovers of Southern cuisine will surely pick up a few valuable tips to lighten their meals. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll: The Science of Hedonism and the Hedonism of Science

Zoe Cormier. Da Capo, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-306-82393-0

Cormier's alluring title seductively draws in the reader, but it's a shallow, disappointing trip. Rambling from one topic to another, Cormier regales readers with tales of orgasms, "monkey balls and millionaires," monogamy, LSD, laughing gas, musical monkeys, and the "sonic spiral staircase" of the ear, among many others. She tells the oft-told tale of the ways that various brilliant young scientists' use of drugs opened their doors to discovery and perception; the familiar story of Masters and Johnson and their search for the secret to orgasms; and the manner in which different varieties of drugs influence different musical genres—"jazz musicians were notoriously enamored with opiates." All of this leads to a less than startling conclusion: that sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll all "comprise important facets of the human condition," and that in the course of human evolution these three activities have become defining traits of the human species. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. B&w photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction

Pat Shipman. Harvard Univ./Belknap, $29.95 (278p) ISBN 978-0-674-73676-4

Why did Neanderthals go extinct while modern humans flourished? Was it the invasion of modern human populations or a changing climate that pushed Neanderthals into extinction? These are the main questions that Shipman (The Animal Connection) addresses. She summarizes much of what is known about diets, hunting behavior, and lifestyles of both Neanderthals and humans, while examining ancient climate change and recent advances in dating technology. She concludes that the data does not support the idea that climate change alone can account for the extinction of our cousin species. Focusing on the ecological concept of species invasion, Shipman contends that as humans expanded their range, their dietary flexibility and technological innovations permitted them to outcompete other major carnivores, including Neanderthals, cave bears, lesser scimitar cats, cave lions and cave hyenas. Shipman makes a strong case, but fails to find evidence for the title's premise, the idea that dogs played a significant role in the extinction of the Neanderthals. Indeed, as she points out, Neanderthals were likely extinct by the time the first evidence for canine domestication appears. Nonetheless, there is still ample evidence that dogs played a significant role in human evolution, and Shipman addresses this role creatively. Illus. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Galileo's Telescope: A European Story

Massimo Bucciantini, Michele Camerota, and Franco Giudice, trans. from the Italian by Catherine Bolton. Harvard Univ., $35 (344p) ISBN 978-0-674-73691-7

Putting Galileo's celestial discoveries in the context of the world from 1609 to 1612 is an interesting concept, but the execution of this investigation never quite matches it. The authors, professors of the history of science at various Italian universities, follow the development of the telescope from the Netherlands to the city-states of Italy, Prague, England, and eventually China. Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and Nikolaus Copernicus are mentioned often, and Kepler's support of Galileo aided early excitement over the latter's discoveries of Jupiter's moons and craters on Luna. While these breakthroughs were approvingly discussed by the intelligentsia of the period, dissent arose—not on religious grounds, but over belief that the observations were due to "tricks of the lenses and not real phenomena." This attempt to paint the world surrounding Galileo's achievements is laced with interesting information. However, it is badly organized and replete with convoluted sentences, murky political background, and interruptive technical digressions on the minutiae of lens making. Avid students of the period may enjoy this book, but it's not for general readers. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Cake My Day! Easy, Eye-Popping Designs for Stunning, Fanciful, and Funny Cakes

Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-544-26369-7

Tack and Richardson (Hello, Cupcake!) continue their over-the-top whimsy and creativity with decorating ideas suitable for homemade and store-bought cakes. The cover's Abominable Unbaked Alaska monster includes devil's food cake, vanilla ice cream, Oreos, Junior Mints, and spice drops, among other confections. Scratch cakes can be outfitted with "surprises," including donut-holes placed within batter in a springform pan to create polka dots, and layered batters used in the Zebra Cake. A variety of animal cakes—sheep, cow, goat, goldfish, and ladybug—make for great birthday centerpieces for younger children, whereas less conventional and widely imaginative options such as the Leopard Skin Purse Cake, Slot Machine Cake, and Stump Cake can be crowd-pleasers for the adult set. Holiday selections include the Fabergé Egg Cake and Bedazzled Christmas Tree Cake. Easy numbered steps and enthusiastic headnotes are sure to inspire anyone to go beyond a basic yellow layer cake. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader

Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. Crown Business, $30 (464p) ISBN 978-0-385-34740-2

The late Apple CEO changes from brilliant, erratic, insufferable jerk to steady, perspicacious, tolerable jerk in this shrewdly admiring biography. Journalist Schlender and Fast Company editor Tetzeli focus on the years after Jobs's 1985 ouster from Apple and then on his 1997 return to guide the company's resurgence with a string of hit iProducts. They depict a spiritual journey, with Jobs wandering in the wilderness at NeXT Computer, where his confused, tyrannical fiats almost sank the company, and then at Pixar, where he learned the art of not interfering with talented subordinates; he emerged a more patient man with a tempered strategic outlook and an ability to listen to underlings when they screamed back at him. Schlender and Tetzeli's account is unusually intimate thanks to voluminous interviews and Schlender's many personal encounters with Jobs over decades of covering him, and a reverential tone sometimes surfaces—as when Jobs's lieutenant Tim Cook offered Jobs his own liver for a transplant—in this corrective to Walter Isaacson's more jaundiced biography. But the authors are clear-eyed about Jobs's flaws and give lucid, detailed analyses of his maneuverings and product initiatives; theirs is one of the most nuanced and revealing assessments of Jobs's controversial career. Photos. Agent: Kris Dahl, ICM. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Blood, Sweat, and My Rock n' Roll Years: Is Steve Katz a Rock Star?

Steve Katz. Lyons, $26.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-4930-9999-3

Legendary guitarist Katz is—or at least was—definitely a rock star: a pioneer of the blues-rock genre with his early 1960s band, the Blues Project; a founder in the late 1960s of the groundbreaking and hugely popular jazz-rock big band Blood, Sweat & Tears; and the producer of Lou Reed's best-selling and still-influential live LP Rock ‘n' Roll Animal (as well as its follow-up Sally Can't Dance, Reed's only top-10 album). Katz engagingly recounts fascinating stories in an insightful, intelligent, sometimes wistful and sometimes funny style that makes this one of the few rock memoirs worth reading from beginning to end. Highlights include his early days getting lessons from blues guitar genius Rev. Gary Davis in a "little clapboard shanty" in the South Bronx; the birth of Blood, Sweat & Tears despite Katz's contentious relationship with co-founder and Dylan collaborator Al Kooper ("Al never liked my guitar playing and I never liked his voice"); the phenomenal success—with Kooper's replacement singer, David Clayton-Thomas—of BS&T's second self-titled LP with hits such as "Spinning Wheel"; and later, "David's transformation from soul singer to slinger of schmaltz." Katz also reveals that the audience sound on Reed's live LP was lost and then replaced by the audience track from a John Denver live LP, a priceless story for all Reed fans or detractors. (May)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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