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Bricks and Mortals: Ten Great Buildings and the People They Made

Tom Wilkinson. Bloomsbury, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-1-62040-629-8

Wilkinson takes readers on a lively tour through the ages by studying 10 world-wide architectural wonders. From ancient Babylon’s Tower of Babel, to a mercantile palazzo in Renaissance Italy, to a footbridge in contemporary Rio, Wilkinson focuses on what makes each structure specific to its time and place. Broadly exploring how architecture “shapes people’s lives and vice versa,” he uses each selection as a springboard to discuss the themes evoked. Designer Eileen Gray’s villa on the French Riviera, built in the 1920s for her lover, leads to musings on buildings and sex, while Henry Ford’s car factory in early 20th century Detroit connects architecture with mass production, and Nero’s Golden House inspires a thought-provoking discussion on the morality of architecture (Can a structure built by a bad ruler be good?). Concluding that today’s biggest challenge is the fact that the 21st century urban world “squats in squalor,” he urges political change, with architecture that benefits people, rather than “the developers, speculators, and corrupt bureaucrats who profit from it.” A witty, erudite narrator not shy about inserting his opinions, Wilkinson draws on his extensive knowledge of art, literature, history urban planning, sociology, and culture to explore the intimate relationship between architecture and society. Illus. Agent: Annabel Merullo, Peters, Fraser, and Dunlop (U.K.) (July)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Stitch ’n Swap: 25 Handmade Projects to Sew, Give & Receive

Generation Q Magazine, compiled by Jake Finch. C&T, $17.95 paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-60705-849-6

The publisher of Generation Q magazine presents a collection of projects from its pages with a clever twist—all are designed for swapping, in which the members of a group make and exchange the same pattern among themselves. Thus, the projects here are fairly simple and charming, from the Kaleidoscope pincushion pictured on the cover to a Coffee Cup Tool Caddy, which will transform a mug into a sewist’s assistant. A variety of techniques and materials are employed throughout: a diaper clutch uses oilcloth, while Parquet Pot Holders include insulation. Several simple small quilts are included as well. The swap conceit really only goes so far—how many quilting groups need multiple diaper clutches?—but all of the ideas here are accessible, well-designed, and clearly explained and illustrated. So long as the person attempting these has some basic knowledge of quilting, this book is a great addition to the home library, with lots of gift ideas to boot. Full color photos. (May)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism

Edited by Betsy Greer. Arsenal Pulp, $24.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-55152-534-1

Not a book of instruction but of inspiration, Greer’s follow-up to Knitting for Good is a compelling survey of the global, little-known world of crafting as activism. She’s organized the anthology so it moves “from the personal to the political” beginning with one Australian woman’s practice of “guerrilla kindness” by leaving little handmade prop cupcakes for strangers to find. By the end of the book, readers will meet Catherine West, whose U.K.-based Significant Seams “undertakes craftivist acts on issues important to our own community” of urban London; Carrie Reichardt, who makes amazing mosaic pieces on buildings in the U.K.; L.J. Roberts’s reflections on craft and queer theory; and Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet, who work together in Spain on text-based knitting machine projects. If this all sounds a little academic, it is a bit, and the book suffers somewhat from a sense of repetition in the author-penned pieces, which tend to make the same points about combining craft and activism. That said, the photos and interviews are astounding and powerfully inspiring. It’ll be hard not to want to knit a cupcake to leave on a nearby park bench—or think about the political ramifications of recycling craft materials after reading this book. Full-color photos. (May)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Emporia Rose Appliqué Quilts: New Projects, Historical Vignettes, Classic Designs

Barbara Brackman and Karla Menaugh. C&T, $27.95 paper (64p) ISBN 978-1-60705-890-8

Brackman (Quilts from the Civil War) and Menaugh, a quilt teacher, present seven new projects inspired by the still astonishing quilts made from the 1920s through the 1940s in Emporia, Kans. The projects celebrate the unique work of a group of Kansas quiltmakers whose quilts are world-renowned for their design and workmanship. The women included Rose Good Kretsinger and Charlotte Whitehill. Kretsinger’s appliquéd “New Rose Tree” inspired Brackman’s center block of the nine-block “Emporia Rose Sampler”; Whitehill’s “Calendula” shares commonalities with the “Spice Pink” block used in the sampler and a table runner. Brackman and Menaugh discuss the stunning original quilts and their makers in the first half of the book; the second half explores the modernized projects—bedcovers, pillows and pincushions—plus so-called “bonus” ideas, as well as advice for the advanced quilter. Although the book is more history than how-to, the techniques include the rudiments of appliquéing, piecing sawtooth, and mitering corners. The modern interpretations are especially appealing for their golden yellows and warm reds. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Cheat System Diet: Eat the Foods You Crave and Lose Weight Even Faster

Jackie Weeks. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-04469-3

Weeks, founder of successful online weight-loss network PEERtrainer.com, offers a method for moderate dietary “cheating”—eating enough of what’s good for you and indulging in only a little of what’s not. This is a diet for those who know what to eat, but aren’t doing so due to a lack of motivation or support. Weeks promises weight-loss success with the Cheat System’s “Three Essential Pillars”: high nutrient eating, limited cheats through small portions of unhealthy treats, and associated reduction in cortisol levels and inflammation. The cheat system provides lower overall caloric intake, reduced hunger and cravings, and increased fullness at every meal, but it works only if a dieter chooses foods from the PEERtrainer list of “Eats and Cheats” which is presented after random nutritional advice about good and bad fats, traditional and alternative protein, and other topics, plus a stress-busting exercise plan. The three-week, three-meal-a-day plan includes over 160 recipes and emphasizes the importance of tracking one’s food intake. Her strategy isn’t new, but readers may appreciate the huge online network of members who share tips, hints, and frustrations. Were Weeks’s book less scattered and repetitive, it might be as user-friendly as her website. Agent: Celeste Fine,Sterling Lord Literistic. (May)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of Crossfit and the Primal Future of Fitness

J.C. Herz. Crown Archetype, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-385-34887-4

New York Times columnist Herz presents a breathless, fervor-of-the-converted ode to the CrossFit empire. The “punk-rock hype” of the movement began in a Santa Cruz, Calif. gym frequently mainly by ex-Marines. The CrossFit routine focuses on short, intense workouts, based on a brutal Workout of the Day, usually named after women or soldiers killed in action, and clock in between three and 25 minutes. The idea is to attain true “functional” fitness, rather than machine-based fitness, which deprives practitioners of “the knowledge of what their bodies, as glorious machines, can do, and the competence and satisfaction of actually doing it.” Herz covers the biology of the routines, the ideals of founder Greg Glassman, the austere meat-based diet, and the tight-knit, competitive community surrounding this practice. Herz’s liveliest writing comes in passages depicting an achievement-oriented world in which women compete on the same level as men, often beating them. Herz’s overwrought adoration of the phenomenon is the book’s main shortcoming. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM Partners. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Jump Attack: The Formula for Explosive Athletic Performance, Jumping Higher, and Training Like the Pros

Tim S. Grover. Scribner, $16 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-4767-1440-0

Grover (Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable) is perhaps best known for training basketball legend Michael Jordan over the course of 15 years and six NBA championships. In this update of his self-published book, Grover presents the regimen Jordan used to increase his vertical jump from 38 to 48 inches. Leaping ability is not the goal, writes Grover. Rather, it’s about improving explosiveness. That quality can be applied throughout athletics, whether it’s coming off the line of scrimmage or stealing a base. Grover’s 12-week program consists of three phases with multiple workout sequences—Fire, Force, and Flight—that elongate the muscles before preparing them for game-time performance. The photographs and instructions clearly outline an intense routine that will hook athletic individuals eager to mimic Jordan’s work ethic. Casual gym members shouldn’t be intimidated. Even Grover’s individual moves can be used to take a workout up a notch, while the no-nonsense exercise and lifestyle advice—green apples are perfect snacks because you eat one and you’re done; loose hips drive athleticism—are easy to implement. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Yoga of Food: Wellness from the Inside Out

Melissa Grabau. Llewellyn, $16.99 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-0-7387-4015-7

Psychologist Grabau, who has battled eating disorders, uses the tenets of yoga to help readers develop a healthier relationship with food and their bodies. The book includes her experiences, anecdotes from her clients, and quotes from yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar. Although Grabau is trained as a yoga teacher, readers will find neither asana instruction nor recipes here, though she encourages readers to move from a “SAD” (standard American diet) to an alkalizing diet with more fiber, veggies, and complex carbs (she calls it “GLAD”—guzzling lettuce, arugula, and dates). Grabau wants readers to relate to food in a conscious, loving, and mindful manner. She lucidly explains why change is so difficult, using the yogic concept of “samskaras” (patterns or habits) that are deeply ingrained. Grabau shows readers how to become aware of these patterns and gradually work toward change, all the while treating the body with kindness. She encourages readers to put food “in its rightful place” instead of relying on it to soothe anger, sadness, or stress. Though based on ancient philosophy, this thoughtful text offers an innovative approach to weight management and health. Agent: Melissa Flashman, Trident Media Group. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Shape Up Sisters! What It Took for My Town in America’s Fattest and Poorest State to Lose 15,000 Pounds

Linda Fondren. Rodale, $14.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-62336-144-0

Fondren, owner and manager of Vicksburg, Miss.-based female fitness center Shape Up Sisters, offers a how-to on battling obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, as well as sharing the inspirational story of her life, family, and hometown. As one of 11 children, Fondren grew up in one of the poorest states with an “over-the-top” obesity rate; after losing several family members to obesity-related illnesses, she was determined to educate others about exercise and eating well, with an emphasis on community support as a key to long-term success. Fondren discusses the launch of Shape Up Sisters, follows with “Mother Wit” (advice on adjusting thought patterns to tap into emotional and physical strength), and concludes with a practical guide on nutrition and exercise using resources found in everyday life. The book provides accessible suggestions for beginners, especially those battling obesity. Fondren’s encouraging, urgent tone is infectious and will appeal to readers who want to change their lives. After hearing Fondren’s story and encouraging advice, it’s impossible not to feel empowered to focus on personal wellness, and to get others on the path to health as well. Agent: Lynn Johnston, Lynn Johnston Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Mommy Man: How I Went from Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad

Jerry Mahoney. Taylor (NBN, dist.), $24.95 (290p) ISBN 978-1-58979-922-6

Comedy writer Mahoney, author of the Mommy Man blog, answers the question, “Just how do two gay men become dads?” in this uproarious look at the world of surrogacy. Mahoney’s prologue is written in the form of a letter to his future child explaining that the circumstances of the child’s birth sound like a veritable “adventure story.” He recalls his closeted teen years in the 1980s, when “being a gay teen, like totally sucked, dude.” Later, his coming out proves to be painless, and after a brief period of awkward online dating, he meets his boyfriend Drew, whose conversational skills and generosity help the couple through many difficulties on their path to parenthood. Once they choose surrogacy over adoption, Mahoney enters the period he refers to as “the spermification of my life,” when “suddenly everyone I knew felt comfortable discussing the flagellating residents of my man junk.” Over $100,000 must be collected; Drew’s sister agrees to donate her eggs and the couple finds a terrific surrogate. Months of medical miracles and close calls follow, interspersed with humorous asides about Prop 8 and registering for a baby shower. By the end of this touching book, the proud dads feel that they are the luckiest people alive. Agent: Laurie Abkemeier, DeFiore and Company. (May)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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