Nonfiction Short Take: Driving Miss Norma – Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle

Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying “Yes” to Living (9780062664327) by Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle. $26.99 hardcover. 5/2/17 on sale.

It’s not often that I think it’s worth looking at a Facebook page to consider whether or not to buy a book–but there’s an exception to every rule. Take a look at the FB page Driving Miss Norma and you’ll get a sense of what this is the charming, uplifting memoir has to offer.

At 90, newly widowed Norma Bauerschmidt learned she had uterine cancer. Deciding against chemotherapy she instead hit the road for a year with her son and his wife in their RV—which they called an “mobile assisted living home”—and gave Norma the adventure of her life.

The story has been widely covered already—in People, The Washington Post and the NYT, on the CBS Evening News and the Today show. You won’t be surprised to know that the movie rights have been sold. I can’t wait to see it on screen—but in the meantime we have Miss Norma on the page in this generous recollection by her son and daughter-in-law.

This is an inspirational book for the ages; I’d put it on everything from Graduation and Mother’s Day tables to this fall’s holiday tables. It’s a great gift of inspiration for so many situations.

“For the first time, as [Norma’s son] writes in this endearing memoir, they got to know one another as adults, and their trip transformed into a warm, thoughtful, and meaningful conversation on family, aging, caretaking, and what happens when you look to other ways to heal besides Western medicine….The months on the road were nourishing for Norma, who saw some of her symptoms disappear, and also very therapeutic for Tim and Ramie, who had led itinerant lives free of obligations for years. Tim, Ramie, and Norma’s travels are joyful and moving….Norma’s willingness to be fearless and open to whatever comes her way, even trying cannabis cream, offers profound insights into how we choose to live.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Nonfiction Short Take: How to Win at Feminism – Reductress

From the creators of the website Reductress, this parody in the voice of a typical women’s magazine offers sly, smart, wickedly funny commentary on how the media has co-opted feminism in a strange and absurd ways.  Fans of The Onion will appreciate the approach—not to mention any woman jujitsued by a culture that uses feminist language to perpetuate sexism.

“The writers behind the hilarious satirical website The Reductress skewer the most ridiculous tropes and clichés of millennial-era feminism in this send-up of advice books targeted at women. An ‘official timeline of feminism’ sets the tone, marking women’s suffrage and the birth of Beyoncé as equally relevant….The writers provide shrewd commentary on the divisiveness of feminist culture in which women are pitted against and ordered to support one another at the same time. Hillary Clinton tops a list of ‘bad feminists’ because ‘her Twitter is whack.’….The text is accompanied by stock photos curated for maximum absurdity, funny fake advertisements, and graphs….[Readers who] are tired of hearing about ‘having it all’ will enjoy the irreverence.”
Publishers Weekly

How to Win at Feminism: The Definitive Guide to Having It All—And Then Some! (9780062439802) by Reductress. $22.99 trade paper original. 10/25/16 on sale.

New Nonfiction: Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars – Stephen Prothero

The title is a provocative claim–and it’s backed by what turns out to be a very engaging American cultural history from one of the very best explainers around.

Prothero is a Professor of Religion at Boston University and was called by Newsweek, “the kind of professor who makes you want to go back to college.” His Religious Literacy was a NYT bestseller that made the argument that a basic understanding of all major religions is a prerequisite to good citizenship and confronting the challenges of the modern world. He has appeared on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Oprah and contributes regularly to periodicals like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

This new book is the kind of “big picture” writing he does best. In Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars, Prothero puts our very divisive current political moment into historical context.  He shows that we’ve been doing this over and over again since the 17th century and that our culture wars have always been religious wars. He also makes the hopeful claim that this is how we work out our “Americanness.”

Culture wars, Prothero writes, provoke change, serving as the catalyst for American democracy despite the nasty public disputes between conservatives and liberals over moral, religious, and social issues….Prothero’s illuminating and absorbing take on America’s growing pains reveals that when ‘each of our cultural battles comes to an end, we are left with a more inclusive country.’”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Prothero brilliantly shows how the same groups drive conflicts year after year and often lose–and how the results eventually make us stronger. Useful, instructive reading for all voters in the upcoming election.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Prothero offers a timely social history that illustrates that the current conflicts are actually part of a much larger story….His thesis is that conservatives tend to instigate individual culture wars owing to anxiety that their world is passing away….This book provides social, political, and historical context to the current culture wars and offers constructive and hopeful ideas for defueling the cycle, ideas that are pertinent to liberals and conservatives alike.”
   — Library Journal

 Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections): The Battles That Define America from Jefferson’s Heresies to Gay Marriage (9780061571299) by Stephen Prothero. $26.99 hardcover. 1/5/16 on sale.

Short Take: The Study Quran – Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Editor in Chief

At $60, not every bookstore will have this masterly resource on its shelves–but it’s certainly something every good Indie should know about. I suspect at least a few customers will looking for it.

This is the first effort in the West to make available to a wide readership an in-depth exploration of the theological, metaphysical, historical, geographical and linguistic background of the Quranic revelation—all in a new English translation. Seyyed Hossein Nasr and a team of editors offer a critical understanding of the Quran, along with conveying its enduring spiritual power. This is a gorgeously designed, two-color volume that looks likely to be a definitive general reference for some time to come.

This scholarly yet accessible work speaks directly to the tensions and misunderstandings of our gravely polarized world. It should be on the shelves of libraries and universities throughout the English-speaking world. The contributors guide the reader through the intricacies of the sacred text in a way that lays bare the superficiality, selectivity and inaccuracy of some modern interpretations of the Quran at a time when this is sorely needed.”
— Karen Armstrong

“A stupendous achievement! The Study Quran contains everything a reader needs to know about this difficult and beautiful scripture. Muslim readers will benefit as much as non-Muslim readers. The translation is both lucid and eloquent and the extensive commentaries offer continuous insight into the text. Even more impressive, the various essays appended to the book cover virtually every aspect of the Qur’an that a reader needs to know. I believe that this will prove to be the indispensable handbook to the sacred text.”
— Eric Ormsby, Deputy Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications at The Institute of Ismaili Studies

The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary (9780061125867) by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Editor in Chief. $59.99 hardcover. 11/17/15 on sale.

Book of the Week: Grounded – Diana Butler Bass

Bass is a religion writer and journalist who has been following American spiritual culture for some time. She’s been a columnist for the NYT, Washington Post and Huffington Post. Her last book, Christianity after Religion, was something of a breakout and this new book is the logical extension of the issues explored in that book.

“I’m spiritual but not religious” is a phrase so familiar in the last forty years that it now verges on cliché. But Bass digs in and enlivens it, examining what exactly this position means for contemporary Christianity.

And the news is good. While people may be increasingly turning away from the traditional Church, it’s clear that they are not turning away from a spiritual life. Bass combines current research with a deep knowledge of history and theology. The result is a well-constructed blend of news, trends, data, and pop culture with stories of peoples’ individual spiritual journeys. What she finds is a radical change in the way many people understand God and how they practice faith—but one that is no less committed.

“In cogent, convincing arguments, [Bass] declares the current state of religion as not dying but transforming….Her conclusion comes with the revelation and defense of ‘an ongoing spiritual evolution.’ She often quotes fellow religious writers (from Sam Harris to Hildegard) and tells transformative stories (from finding her Quaker roots, to mourning with a man on a plane). Bass’s biblical and effusive style, always mixing the personal with the political and scriptural, finds a deeper, more profound register in this latest book. It is a call to arms, sure to inspire Bass’s intimate fan base committed to a Christian revolution.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“An absolutely gorgeously written book about real faith in the real world.”
— James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage

Grounded: Finding God in the World–A Spiritual Revolution (9780062328540) by Diana Butler Bass. $26.99 hardcover. 10/6/15 on sale.


Video: Simple Sabotage – Robert Galford, Bob Frisch and Cary Greene

This little management book is both wincingly hilarious and genuinely useful. It’s based on an actual 1944 OSS manual about how to sabotage enemy organizational efforts. The wincing part comes in when you start to flip through the book and see how much of now seems to be standard operating procedure in most organizations. It’s a management book with a great hook and this fun video really sells it.


Simple Sabotage: A Modern Field Manual for Detecting and Rooting Out Everyday Behaviors That Undermine Your Workplace (9780062371607) by Robert Galford, Bob Frisch and Cary Greene. $23.99 hardcover. 9/29/15 on sale.

Publicity: The Alchemist – Paolo Coehlo

Hard to believe that The Alchemist is enjoying its seventh year on the NYT bestseller list. To celebrate, Harper One will run a full page four-color advertisement for the book on August 26 in the NYT arts section.

In addition, the book has been selected for The Diane Rehm Show’s September Readers’ Review on Wednesday, September 23. Coehlo has been sharing the news of the anniversary with his almost four million social media followers.

The Alchemist (9780062315007) by Paulo Coehlo. $16.99 trade paperback. Available.