Book Reviews: No Fiction At All

“Where are we going?”
“Vasquez Rocks.”
“Yeah, he DOES!” she woohooed, then looked perplexed. “Who’s Vasquez? And where are we GOING?”

Nonflict: The Art of Everyday Peacemaking
The title tells it like it is, or how it wishes it was.
Most of this book features examples, stories told by people close to the authors. Some of them pretty good, and are the best part of this book. The rest of it is not nearly as coherent as it claims to be.
There’s some good stuff here, but because its points deal with optimism, the expectations are too high; hard to believe they would work in real life.

Countdown to Pearl Harbor
The start is all bios, which had me yawning. It wasn’t till the author did a good job of humanizing Yamamoto that things picked up, so that the Stark and Kimmel bios felt much better.
There are two main points that run throughout the book, and occasionally come together:
1. “For the first time in history, there existed a carrier force comprising enough aircraft to do strategically meaningful things on the battlefield.”
2. American complacency, if not outright racism.
“Japan’s fortuitous realization could never have produced such success if not for American complacency, anchored in a belief that its Asian adversary lacked the military deftness and technological proficiency to pull off something so daring and so complicated, and a belief that Japan knew and accepted how futile it would be to go to war with a nation as powerful as the United States of America. Assumption fathered defeat.”
When discussing his methodology in the intro, the author doesn’t pull any punches: “When conflicts (in the stories) arose, it seemed logical to weigh the evidence based on whose reputation had the most to gain or lose, and to rely on recollections given soon after the attack, rather than those from several years later.” He even brings the funny occasionally. “‘There was no training for intelligence officers in those days,’ an intelligence officer in those days said.” Did not expect to find genuine snark in a book like this: “‘He might have asked me for a clarification,’ said Stark, who might have provided one on his own.”
The epilogue describes what the “characters” did during and after the war. Acknowledgements and notes take up a solid quarter of the book, along with the 5% that is the bibliography at end.
All in all, this tome was more matter of fact on the subject than most I’ve read, going out of its way to avoid conjecture.

Many years ago on a radio show Harlan Ellison was interviewing Robert Silverberg about his new book. When asked if it was a human book, that old rascal Silverberg replied, “It’s more than human.” And while I could almost hear Ellison’s eyes rolling, it stuck with me enough that I thought about it as I read this book by former astronaut Dr. Mike Massimino.
“Mass” is more famous for making fun of Howard on The Big Bang Theory than his actual exploits in space. (He acknowledges this in the book.) He comes across as a bit of a bully there, so perhaps he wrote this in order to correct that reputation. And indeed throughout it he comes across as a nice guy, though of course since this is an autobiography you’d hardly expect him to make himself look bad.
The prologue is a shuttle launch; it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The story of his father’s illness, and what he learned about being an astronaut from it, is the best, closely followed by the hesitant Hubble handrail.
This turned out to be a surprisingly easy smooth read. Highly recommended even if you’re not a space buff.

60 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds (or More)
The people who put out these books assume you will not take the time to count if there are actually 60 ways listed here.
The first part is all about diseases made worse by being overweight; not what this book claims to be about. Later it tells about ways to lose weight that the doctor himself doesn’t recommend, like surgeries and pills. But it’s the talk about surgery, especially bariatric, that takes up the biggest section; wonder why. It’s all very technical and boring. And lastly there are long articles on binge eating, anorexia, and bulimia. At least these are important, but still, where’s the title?
At different points he mentions reductions in carbohydrates and calorie intake, as well as vitamin D supplements. So there’s three out of 60. Yippee.
This same author has written 60 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure, 60 Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol, and so on. Yep, he’s got it bad for that number, but I’ll bet those were lies too.
So this was almost exclusively what not to do to prevent gaining weight, and very little on how to lose weight, which is what the title describes. Almost comes across as fraud. . .



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