November 1, 2015 Booklist 35 www.booklistonline.com
and inspirational instruction that builds to
chapters on forgiveness, developing compas-
sion, cultivating inner peace, and accepting
personal responsibility for our own joy and
for that of others. In short, Mindfulness is
a culmination of the self-care and spiritual
teachings of the past, simply explained and
tied together with language that is always
clear and even, at times, beautifully poetic.
As such, it may be the last book his audience
of seekers will ever need, containing enough
wisdom to last a lifetime.
The Painful Truth: What Chronic
Pain Is Really Like and Why It
Matters to Each of Us.
By Lynn R. Webster.
2015. 231p. Webster Media, $27 (9780986140716). 616.
Through a series of illuminating vignettes,
this compassionate pain specialist addresses
the complicated and misunderstood aspects
of grappling with chronic
pain. The patient portraits
range from a woman who
survived a mall shooting
with lifelong major nerve
damage to a former Buffalo Bills linebacker who
suffered a spinal injury
during practice. Others
were devastated by pain treatments that led
to serious opiate addictions. Along with the
vignettes, the author discusses the many limitations of current pain treatments, notes how
patients suffer socially and emotionally when
those around them don’t believe how intense
their pain is, and laments the scarcity of pain
doctors. Webster, who leads research programs for promising pain therapies, presents
his narrative eloquently, beginning from the
book’s opening lines: “Pain is an unbidden
guest, humanity’s shadow companion down
through the ages. It is an interloper, a despoiler of dreams, a thief.” Powerful, engrossing
and clear-eyed, this is an important book for
those dealing with chronic pain—sufferers,
medical professionals, and caregivers alike.
Stop the Diet, I Want to Get Off!
By Lisa Tillinger Johansen.
2015. 350p. J. Murray, paper, $12.99 (9780996310208).
In this easy-to-read nutrition book for
Lord of Ten Thousand Years: The
those who want to get off the dieting merry-
go-round, the author, a registered dietitian,
breaks down every type of fad—from the pop-
ular paleo diet (eat like your ancestors) to the
latest craze, the 5: 2 diet (intermittent fasting).
She also weighs in on more sensible plans such
as Weight Watchers, offering practical ways
to assess which programs are most helpful.
Johansen argues against fad diets but doesn’t
necessarily oppose weight-loss programs that
lead to healthy lifelong choices. Her style is
friendly and approachable, whether giving
tips on how to read nutrition labels or offering
ideas for making changes (e.g., she notes that
putting half of a restaurant meal in a doggie
bag at the beginning, rather than the end, of
colors her hair and other moments of final-
ity, both funny and sweet, she finds a way “of
keeping track without letting the memories
take over.” Told with warmth, humor, and
insight, these stories are specific in locale but
universal in theme. Like the call of the Low
Country itself, Ladies in Low Places will draw
readers back again and again.
By Sidney Chan.
2015. 355p. Archway, paper, $22.95 (9781480817296).
Chan’s intriguing debut dramatizes the demise of the Ching dynasty and the political
power plays of its real-life imperial rulers. The
novel begins in 1899 with Emperor Kuang-hsu, 28, exiled from the
imperial palace in Peking
by Empress Dowager Tzu-hsi for agitating for reforms.
Tzu-hsi knows Kuang-hsu’s
revolutionary ideas have
some support, thereby
threatening her rule. Languishing in illness and
depression on a remote island, Kuang-hsu
yearns for the unlikely moment when he will
regain the throne and improve his country’s
state of affairs. Meanwhile, beyond Peking,
political unrest and anti-foreigner sentiment spread among the population, sparking
violence that turns fatal. An avid student of
classical Chinese literature and history, Chan
brings drama and life to the period. His succinct, clear prose captures the court’s pomp
and majesty, contrasting skillfully the empress
dowager’s ruthlessness with the delicate emperor’s vulnerability. Occasionally, passages
about the Boxer Rebellion and the Siege of
the International Legations briefly pull readers from the accomplished character-driven
narrative, but Chan overcomes this misstep
quickly, and readers will easily forgive the distraction. The epilogue hints at a sequel, which
would be most welcome.
Mindfulness: The Alchemy of Now.
By Felix Lopez.
2015. 208p. Merry Dissonance, paper, $14.95
Lopez has studied Buddhist meditation
and pranic healing in India and among the
hill tribes in Thailand. Here, he distills that
ancient knowledge into a contemporary
prescription for joy, good
health, and ethical action.
While our simplest survival
instincts trap us into ruminating on painful memories
of the past or fearful worries about the future, Lopez
invites readers to live in the
present. This is a common
theme of modern self-help, wellness, and
spirituality texts, but the author arms readers
with many tricks to make the elusive goal of
living in the moment possible. In just 208
pages, Lopez skillfully layers clear, gentle,
the meal takes it out of sight and mind—and
results in welcome leftovers). While the book
could use a tighter edit to eliminate wordiness, it’s nonetheless a valuable basic resource,
offering readers plenty of tools to help put
down the Doritos, get off the couch, and start
taking steps toward healthy eating.
By Veda Stamps.
2015. 298p. IMO, paper, $16.99 (9780996035705).
Everyone considers 11-year-old Summer’s
parents heroes. They’re both in the military,
having served multiple tours. But Summer
hates the instability of military life. “Heroes
don’t make their kids leave home,” she thinks
as she watches movers load a truck with her
family’s belongings—again. Her frustration
grows when she learns that her mother is
being redeployed. While Summer loves her
dad, little sister, and grandmother, facing so
many changes without her mom is unthinkable. Still, despite a rough start, Summer
dedicates herself to her new swim team. And
while her being African American, Japanese,
and “a bunch of other stuff” elicits rude comments, Summer’s growing skill as a swimmer,
her generosity, and her intelligence soon win
her new friends. Before long, she realizes that
“moms are not always there every time you
want them to be,” but that doesn’t mean you
are alone. This debut is a sensitive, honest exploration of the emotional life of the children
of active military personnel. Although Summer frequently behaves with an unnatural
maturity for an 11-year-old, Stamps’ heartwarming tale is richly diverse, engagingly
written, and deeply genuine.
By Cindy Helms. Illus. by the author.
2015. 34p. Set Free, $12.95 (9780996339704). PreS–K.
Illustrations are almost everything in
Helms’ picture book about a bird who finds
himself on the “outside” of things, looking for his friends. While the bird wonders,
“Where is everyone today?,” readers see
that the bird’s friends are crowded “inside”
a whimsical, mound-shaped home. The fun
comes in wondering what they are up to as
they hide in the darkened domicile. Helms
effectively employs alternating words and
images and just a few sentences to convey
the concepts of outside and inside, and to
build youngsters’ anticipation as pages turn.
Large, bold wording and quirky, whimsical,
and colorful illustrations add real appeal
to the production, as does the subplot: the
bird’s friends are creating a surprise party,
complete with a cake and gifts. Only on the
back cover are the bird’s name, Birdie, and
gender made clear. Despite this omission,
Helms’ upbeat, appealingly illustrated production makes a good choice for adults and
preschoolers to enjoy together.