Philosophy & Psychology
Grit: The Power of Passion and
By Angela Duckworth.
May 2016. 352p. Scribner, $28 (9781501111105);
e-book, $28 (9781501111129). 158.1.
Psychology professor Duckworth’s previous work with the competitive global
management firm, McKinsey & Company,
and a prestigious MacArthur fellowship
attest to her own grittiness as she presents a solid foundation for an engaging
investigation into “grit”—that is, how the
combination of determination and desire affects chances of reaching a chosen goal. With
research on activities ranging from sports to
spelling bees and contestants from children
to adults, Duckworth presents data, charts,
and notes connected to real people who
showed exceptional achievement in various
areas as she assesses proof of a person’s grit
factor in predicting success. Discussions
about the daily commitment required to
sustain high degrees of excellence and the
consistency of key insights across disciplines
further illustrate the author’s conclusions.
Unlike innate talent, grit is a quality that can
be increased by individuals and also encouraged to grow in others. With strong appeal
for readers of Daniel H. Pink, Malcolm
Gladwell, and Susan Cain, this is a must-have. —Stacey Hayman
Pathways to Possibility: Transforming
Our Relationship with Ourselves, Each
Other, and the World.
By Rosamund Stone Zander.
June 2016. 272p. Viking, $26 (9780670025183). 153.
Zander expands on the work she and her
husband, Benjamin, began in their long-influential best-seller, The Art of Possibility
(2000). Here therapist Zander focuses on
how to become open to possibility. Using
examples from her patients and groups she’s
counseled, Zander reveals that most adults
navigate life using assumptions they made
about the world when they were children,
defense mechanisms created to avoid danger
or pain. But for self-sufficient adults, these
assumptions only serve to inhibit growth.
The second half of the book is devoted to
rethinking the Freudian ego as the essential
part of our identity and embracing, instead,
the constantly evolving and dynamic possibilities our relationships with others create.
Easier said than done, but Zander outlines a
rubric for ways to begin the process. Though
it might seem the book espouses values similar to those found in other self-help books,
Pathways to Possibility reads as anything
but—Zander’s writing is fresh, compelling,
and uplifting. A well-written and accessible
model for self-examination for even the most
well-adjusted adult. —Sarah Grant
Camino Divina—Walking the Divine Way:
A Book of Moving Meditations with
Likely and Unlikely Saints.
By Gina Marie Mammano.
June 2016. 176p. SkyLight Paths, paper, $16.99
Journalist and retreat leader Mammano offers
an introduction to meditative walking. Each of
the 12 chapters briefly highlights an author and
introduces a short walk and discussion that can
be undertaken in a small group and a longer
walk with more directly guiding questions
for interior reflection. The author choices are
interesting, ranging from the expected Hildegard of Bingen and Annie Dillard to the more
surprising T. S. Eliot and Flannery O’Connor.
Unfortunately, Mammano’s author introductions are short, with a couple of quotations
from each. The majority of the narrative is given over to her own favorite walking landscapes,
found poetry from spiritual groups she has led,
and well-considered questions to guide readers’ meditative efforts. Not to be confused with
guides to pilgrimages in Rome and Spain, such
as Sibley’s The Way of the Stars (2012), or more
sophisticated meditation-and-hiking works like
Lane’s Backpacking with the Saints (2014), this
nonetheless offers a way to take the first step in
meditative walking. —Francisca Goldsmith
The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity,
and the Unmaking of the American Dream.
By Chris Lehmann.
May 2016. 416p. Melville, $28.95 (9781612195087). 261.8.
Lehmann’s intellectual history of the long
association between Christian faith and the
pursuit of the materially good life makes enthralling reading. If the earliest Puritan and
Calvinist settlers aimed to build a model
Christian society, the barren (to them) wilderness they’d chosen compelled them to thrive.
They came to regard thriving as ipso facto
morally superior, which eroded the Protestant
cornerstone of salvation by grace. If some
prospered more than others, it was because
they’d learned something special, perhaps hidden though not inaccessible to most believers.
Such occult knowledge lies at the heart of individual salvation urged so successfully in the
eighteenth-century Great Awakening, the early
nineteenth-century Cane Ridge revival, Mormonism (melding individual and community
prosperity), Transcendentalism, the forgotten
but very influential Businessman’s Revival of
1858, the twentieth-century’s nondenominational mass-evangelists, right down to the
name-it-and-claim-it prosperity gospels of
today. Lehmann is presenting a four-centuries-old historical development, not attacking it,
even though he can’t help rhetorically asking,
now and then, how a particular practice of the
money cult he decries squares with the words
of Christ. —Ray Olson
Answering the Call: An
Autobiography of the Modern
Struggle to End Racial Discrimination
By Nathaniel R. Jones.
May 2016. 432p. New Press, $35 (9781620970751).
In his autobiography, Jones, a trailblazing
African American judge, delivers an urgently
needed perspective on American history by
shining a light on such racial inequities as the
1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which called
for “separate-but-equal” treatment for blacks
and whites yet in practice led to systematic discrimination against
and segregation of African
Americans in every phase of
life. Jones moves on to track
the changes brought about
under the landmark leadership of Thurgood Marshall
in his role as general counsel for the NAACP and with
the passage of Brown v. Board of Education in
1954, which opened doors, most importantly in education, employment, and housing.
Jones recounts his own experiences serving
as NAACP general counsel and fighting for
the school desegregation stipulated by Brown,
and as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit. But Jones did not write his story to cite his own accomplishments; instead,
his mission is to call attention to the rolling
back of earlier legal victories, including the
2013 gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
He convincingly argues throughout this passionate and informative account that the rule
and force of law achieved through Brown v.
Board of Education must be upheld, or we
face a return to the racial injustices of the
past. —Valerie Hawkins
Engineering Eden: The True Story
of a Violent Death, a Trial, and the
Fight over Controlling Nature.
By Jordan Fisher Smith.
June 2016. 384p. Crown, $28 (9780307454263). 333.78.
This is not the sort of exposé national-park
enthusiasts might hope to see as the National Park Service celebrates its centenary. But
longtime park ranger Smith’s (Nature Noir,
2005) fervent investigation into bear attacks
in Yellowstone is not a lurid retelling of tragic
encounters between naive humans and abused
wildlife. Instead it is a dramatic, eye-opening
chronicle of the struggle to preserve wilderness
while making it accessible to
the public. The driving narrative force is Smith’s avid
coverage of the 1975 trial
in which the Alabama farming family of Harry Walker,
a hardworking 25-year-old
killed by a grizzly near Old
Faithful, sued the National
Park Service, a case featuring testimony by top
wildlife scientists: A. Starker Leopold, son of