Book List

Best Indie Nonfiction of 2019

An engaging tribute to the heart, soul, and ingenuity of solo moms.

WE GOT THIS

SOLO MOM STORIES OF GRIT, HEART, AND HUMOR

Seventy-five writers share the experiences, hardships, and triumphs of single motherhood.

In 2015, Lindholm, a contributor to and one of four co-editors of this collaborative debut anthology, founded Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere, a social platform and “informative community for single moms, who currently raise 22 million American children.” This was the genesis for this collection, which seeks to eliminate the stigma of solo motherhood by combatting outdated stereotypes. Along the way, the essays show the writers’ grace, their humor, and even their mistakes. Readers will find some of the authors’ names familiar, although their stories may not be. Ariel Gore, the award-winning writer and founding editor of the periodical Hip Mama, shares lies that she told in the Sonoma County welfare office in order to keep both her child and her creativity alive. Iraqi writer Faleeha Hassan recalls fleeing her home country after appearing on dangerous militants’ “death lists”; in Turkey, she struggled to enroll her children in school—not just for their education, but for the warmth that their unheated apartment couldn’t provide. Amy Poehler of Parks and Recreation fame breaks down divorce with heartbreaking and sidesplitting hilarity. Among these and other well-known names are emerging writers, poets, and performers. They include writers with ties to ESME, authors of color, military mothers, and LGBTQ parents and those who were raised by them. The well-curated collection is divided into seven chapters with strict, but never restrictive, themes, such as raising children, seeking help, and dating while single. Readers will be able to revisit these essays for laughs, inspiration, or a cathartic cry.

An engaging tribute to the heart, soul, and ingenuity of solo moms.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-656-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

A wise and realistic program for instilling genuine self-esteem in children.

KID CONFIDENCE

HELP YOUR CHILD MAKE FRIENDS, BUILD RESILIENCE, AND DEVELOP REAL SELF-ESTEEM

A guide to increasing children’s confidence and helping them realize their full potential.

In this book, clinical psychologist Kennedy-Moore (What’s My Child Thinking?, 2019, etc.) promises readers a wide range of practical and effective parenting strategies. But first, the author takes pains to debunk some key concepts of contemporary child-rearing philosophy—the worst of which, she says, is the idea that one must compulsively and universally offer kids uninterrupted affirmation in order to build up their self-esteem. Kennedy-Moore cites recent studies that hint at the problems of such an approach, and her tone is refreshingly blunt as she does so: “self-help gurus and inspirational articles often promote the idea that we have to love ourselves to have a happy, fulfilling life,” she writes. “This is nonsense.” In the place of this concept, she lays out a comprehensive set of guidance tips, designed to help parents to understand their kids’ needs and encourage them with direct communication and honest assessment—not blanket assurances that everything that they do is perfect in every way. Each of the book’s sections offers helpful subheadings, and a separate “Take-Home Points” graphic is designed to summarize key items from the text as a whole. Kennedy-Moore addresses the topics of making parental connections, assessing and building children’s competencies, and helping kids to become more decisive and deal with bullying. Throughout, she employs a clear, concise prose style and an unfailing directness, typified in lines such as “As parents, we can’t protect our children from having bad things happen to them.” Kennedy-Moore has written many books on the subject of parenting and is on the advisory board of Parents magazine, and her expertise is obvious on every highly detailed page of this smart and assured manual. She buttresses each of the book’s subsections, and all of its points of contention, with ready citations as well as a comprehensive 19-page bibliography. On every topic, from sibling rivalry to cyberbullying to proper hygiene, the author’s tone is always staunchly realist (“Winning feels good, but it’s unrealistic for any of us to believe that we will win every contest”) and specifically practical (“To avoid [a] no-win battle, reach for the feelings behind the complaints, and try to tie them to a particular situation or a specific time”). Along the way, she always maintains the tone of quiet compassion that animates the book throughout. The author’s focus returns again and again to her conception of children’s self-esteem, which aims to anchor their sense of self-worth more solidly that other parenting guides tend to do. As a result, crucial insights abound in these pages. For instance, Kennedy-Moore acknowledges the extensive research into what many parents already know—that children have the potential to be incredibly mean—and she offers several helpful tips on countering bullying. At the same time, however, she stresses that children can also bully themselves with a pattern of self-criticism and that parents can help them to counter this tendency.

A wise and realistic program for instilling genuine self-esteem in children.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68403-049-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: New Harbinger Publications

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

A clear, concise, and thoughtful introduction to Islam.

WHY DO THEY HATE US?

MAKING PEACE WITH THE MUSLIM WORLD

An exploration of Islamic beliefs and history that aims to challenge American Islamophobia.

Debut author Slocum, a former Christian missionary to Kazakhstan, writes that he was horrified at ignorant depictions of Muslims in American media after the 9/11 attacks. During his years as a missionary, he “never changed anyone’s mind to become a believer in the Bible,” he says, but his newfound Muslim friends left an indelible mark on his own life—particularly, the fact that their culture prized hospitality toward strangers. The book begins by subverting popular American conceptions of Sharia law by rooting it in social justice, centered on protecting the poor and weak. Similarly, Islam’s “greater jihad,” he says, is not a literal holy war (a term first coined by Christian Crusaders) but rather “the internal struggle of living a life that is pleasing to God.” The book’s middle chapters offer a survey of Islamic history from Muhammad through the present day, highlighting both the wonders of the Islamic Golden Age and the horrors of European colonialism. To Slocum, the birth of the “dark blight” of Wahhabism in the 18th century marked a decisive turning point. Although the moderate Muslim majority rejected this absolutist ideology, he says, it gained traction in Saudi Arabia at the same approximate time that the West undergirded a Saudi monarchy linked with Wahhabism. Central to the book’s analysis of radical Islam is the notion that it’s a force of the West’s own making, from their support of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan to their installation of a brutal monarch in Iran. In doing so, Slocum is particularly deft at challenging the tropes that Islamic radicals hate American freedom or that Islam is an inherently violent religion. Although many in the West tend to associate Islam with Arabs, this book highlights not only the faith’s ideological diversity, from Sunnis to Shias to Ahmadis, but also Muslims’ ethnic diversity; only about 10% of the world’s Muslims hail from Arabic nations. Of course, none of this will be new to Islamic scholars or historians of the Middle East, but to many Americans who are unfamiliar with the topic, this is a first-rate primer.

A clear, concise, and thoughtful introduction to Islam.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9986838-6-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Top Reads Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

An exceptional parenting book with clear-cut applications.

MY TODDLER'S FIRST WORDS

A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO JUMP-START, TRACK, AND EXPAND YOUR TODDLER'S LANGUAGE

From the My Toddler's First Words series , Vol. 1

Scanlon (Gratitude Journal for Kids, 2019, etc.), a pediatric speech-language pathologist, presents a guide to help parents understand, analyze, and enhance their children’s language development.

Learning one’s native tongue is an integral part of childhood—and one that often worries parents. Scanlon has created a rich handbook and workbook to give parents “competence and confidence” in language instruction. She begins by educating readers about early childhood language in order to show parents what to expect from their children and thus select appropriate “target words” for them. The author also provides four work sheets, designed to quickly analyze a toddler’s current level of language learning and determine directions for future growth. The next section is vital, as it lays out eight techniques to elicit first words (such as “Pause in Anticipation” and “Imitate, imitate, imitate”) as well as tips on creating a language-rich environment. Parents may already be employing some of these techniques on their own, but Scanlon effectively demonstrates each one to give readers clear notions of her language-enriching tools. The ideas for creating a language-rich environment, such as “hanging interesting pictures, postcards, maps, or photographs on walls…and chatting about them,” seem particularly beneficial. Finally, Scanlon provides a 30-day workbook that includes weekly planning sections and reviews and simple, repeated questions for each day, such as “What three things did I do today to encourage my toddler’s first words?” and “What will I do tomorrow to stimulate or further develop my toddler’s first words?” Throughout, the author draws heavily on peer-reviewed research, yet she always makes the material easy to comprehend. The tone is consistently positive and encouraging even when the author discusses touchy topics, such as limiting screen time. Lastly, the work’s intuitive organization and creative formatting make it a comfortable reading experience.

An exceptional parenting book with clear-cut applications.

Pub Date: May 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-978371-90-3

Page Count: 146

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

Impeccable writing and practical, relevant, planet-friendly alternatives to reducing water consumption in cooking and...

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    Best Books Of 2019

EAT LESS WATER

THE SOLUTION TO WORLDWIDE WATER SHORTAGES IS IN OUR KITCHENS

A fascinating cornucopia of methods to reduce water use through organic propagation and preparation.

In exploring efforts toward reducing global consumption of the Earth’s most precious commodity, writer, blogger, and public policy researcher Ramirez has developed a bountiful, delectable road map of farming innovation and conservationist food preparation. The Earth is two-thirds water, mostly saline, and by 2030, it’s estimated that half the world will experience freshwater scarcity. Preservation is a key conservation concern, writes the author, who regularly attends Earth Day events and promotes water-saving items like shower timers. After focusing on water-waste prevention in bathrooms, Ramirez, recognizing that “seven out of every ten gallons of water is used for food production,” redirected her efforts to the kitchen, where much more could be saved. In a text bolstered by documentation and suffused with a true creative passion for resource preservation, the author presents a series of chapters on the interaction and integration of water with a variety of foods, liquids, production processes, and “on-the-edge farming.” Ramirez fully immerses herself in her subject with eye-opening field trips to resourceful water-sustainable croplands across America. Among them, a California dry biodynamic wheat farm thriving through the advent of cover cropping, a trailblazing rice farm, an aquaponic ranch in the Texas Plain, a “green” egg farming operation, and a Hawaiian organic shade-grown coffee plantation. Concerned conservationists, environmental and agricultural activists, and everyday farmers and consumers alike will be enticed by Ramirez’s passionately delivered and convincing combination of charming narrative, strategic resource preservation techniques, and pages of recipes ideas from crustless cheesecake to spinach quiche and chicken tortilla soup. “Be part of a change that will make a difference in creeks, rivers, groundwater, and oceans across the planet,” she encourages. “Start tonight at your kitchen table.”

Impeccable writing and practical, relevant, planet-friendly alternatives to reducing water consumption in cooking and agricultural production.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59709-039-1

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Red Hen Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

A strong argument that deserves a spot in every Civil War buff’s library.

BOOTH'S CONFEDERATE CONNECTIONS

This thorough appraisal of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination addresses the theory that John Wilkes Booth was part of a multifaceted conspiracy directed by Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin.

Prindle (Revolution II, 2012, etc.) begins with the 1864 Dahlgren affair. After a failed Union raid on Richmond, Southerners published documents found on Union Army Lt. Col. Ulric Dahlgren’s corpse that mentioned a plan to destroy the city and kill Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet. Prindle sets aside the enduring debate over their authenticity but asserts that Benjamin, who directed the Confederate Secret Service, believed them to be genuine. Prindle argues that Confederates were involved in a plot to kidnap Lincoln, spirit him to Richmond, and ransom many prisoners, which then led to retributive schemes to decapitate the Union government. Through 17 brisk chapters, the author sketches the Confederate officials, undercover operatives, and civilians who advanced the conspiracy. He tracks clandestine activities from Virginia to Maryland to Canada, connecting dots while adding detailed context. Prindle effectively captures the complexity and chaos of the war’s final months: Battlefield losses mounted, Lincoln won reelection, Confederate desperation grew, and after Richmond fell, a kidnapping plot became untenable. Booth found his own plot competing with another to blow up a portion of the White House during a Cabinet session. Prindle identifies the only official who could have authorized either plan, other than Davis himself: Benjamin, who escaped to England with a fortune from the Confederate treasury. Prindle, an author of three novels, displays fluent storytelling, rendering familiar history as a page-turner. His abundant endnotes and synthesis of obscure details ably reflect his 30-year avocation of studying and lecturing about the Civil War as an independent scholar. A retired justice of the peace, Prindle’s granular accounting of the military tribunal, the executions of the conspirators, and the legal aftermath showcases his full skill set and typifies his discerning approach. Throughout, he gives competing views their due and carefully supports his own. Prindle’s conclusion relies on an “unbroken chain of circumstantial evidence,” as he admits, but readers need not be wholly persuaded to find it worthwhile reading.

A strong argument that deserves a spot in every Civil War buff’s library.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4556-2473-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A gorgeous photographic tribute to striking animals.

THE WILD HERD

A VANISHING AMERICAN TREASURE

A stunning photo essay illuminating the lives and behavior of wild horses in the American West.

Debut author and professional photographer Kalas owned her first pony at age 6. Now in her 60s, she still rides six days a week. She tracked groups of wild horses—mostly at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and at the Return to Freedom Sanctuary in California—to craft this exquisite photographic record of a year in the horses’ lives. She introduces each seasonal chapter with brief observations on such topics as the formation of family units and the struggle to find food in winter, but it’s the photos that really tell the stories. Readers see horses fighting, rolling in the dust, and sheltering under a rock ledge; at one point, a missing ear tip reveals the danger of frostbite. But there are comical moments, too, such as horses resting their muzzles on each other’s backs, magpies perched on horses’ rumps, and a colt affectionately biting its mother’s ear. Kalas knows all of her horse subjects by name but avoids cluttering the pages with captions. Instead, identifying information, including birth years (and death years where applicable), is listed in an appendix that repeats images as thumbnails. The author’s admiration for these beautiful creatures is clear. Only once does she edge toward anthropomorphism, when she imagines that two horses “had a few words together.” The slightly ornate, italic typeface sometimes distracts. However, the lighting and definition are crisp throughout, with frozen motion injecting dynamism and the colors of the scrub and hills often complementing the horses’ markings. The photos are mostly shot at eye level, but they occasionally employ unusual points of view, as when the photographer watches from above as horses move from the bottom left to the upper right of the frame. The landscape shots are just as impressive, and glimpses of a bison herd accentuate the wildness of the setting. Kalas ends with notes on wild horse behavior and offers details of three organizations working to protect them.

A gorgeous photographic tribute to striking animals.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9976405-9-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Val de Grâce Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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