Category Archives: Non-Fiction

An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence by Barry Spivack and Patricia Saunders

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence” is not your casual mid-afternoon read. It is a thought-provoking and in-depth presentation of a still-controversial topic, Transcendental Meditation (TM). The authors, Barry Spivack MA and Patricia Saunders Ph.D. have created a monumental piece by critically analyzing decades worth of scientific research on the social effects of the practice. After a careful evaluation of evidence, the authors conclude that there is indeed an antidote to violence.

This universal antidote is accessible to all and completely free. While this might sound like oversimplifying a vastly complex and far reaching issue, that is not necessarily so. While researchers have linked group meditation to measurable growth in social welfare (under different forms), they do not consider the TM effect the sole cause of these measures. Rather, they view it as part of a complex web of forces which govern the world and life as we know it, yet, often fall beyond our regular conscious grasp.

To those less familiar with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his teachings, there is ample opportunity to acquaint yourself throughout the pages of the book. Barry Spivack and Patricia Saunders take a peek behind appearances and explore the science behind this elusive phenomenon. They gradually walk the reader through different scientific experiments and statistical analyses of growing complexity to answer a set of questions and consequently ask new ones.

By bringing to the forefront a series of socio-psychological experiments that offer perceivable proof of decrease in violence and increase of social welfare, “An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence” aims to attract the attention of both individuals and governments to this feasible antidote. Organized groups have ventured into volatile war zones to bring outer peace through their inner tranquility. And they seemingly succeeded time and time again.

The authors discuss in-depth the implication of paradigms in the history of ideas, mainly paradigm shifts. Discoveries and systems of thought that did not conform to the mainstream view of the time were often first ostracized before being accepted as groundbreaking leaps. The historical contextualization outlined by the authors acts as a possible explanation of why the TM continues to be met with resistance by so many. It simply does not comply with our modern Occidental view on reality and the self.

An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence” is somewhat similar to a meta-analysis, in that it collects a vast body of academic literature and analyzes the data and results presented. However, it is far from being a sterile statistical account, as it is deeply infused with the passion of the authors. Although starting from different fields (Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and Music respectively), both Barry Spivack’s and Patricia Saunders’ life journeys merge in the blossoming universe of Transcendental Meditation.

The Living Room: A Lung Cancer Community of Courage by Bonnie Addario with Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“It’s not treatable,” one doctor said told Bonnie Addario in 2004.

As you’ll learn in THE LIVING ROOM: A Lung Cancer Community of Courage, though, the book’s author Bonnie Addario is not one to give up. Diagnosed with stage 3B lung cancer at age 55 in 2004, the hard-charging Addario, a genuine force of nature, took on the disease with the moxie and resolve of an underdog boxer facing down the champion in the center of the ring.

The upset she ultimately scored is wondrously chronicled in THE LIVING ROOM, along with the stories of twenty other survivors of advanced stage lung cancer. I plunged into this book figuring it must be more fiction than fact. After all, other than the occasional miracle, no one ever beats lung cancer, right?

Wrong.

As we learn in THE LIVING ROOM, lung cancer has very much become a survivable and manageable disease—not always, but often enough to provide hope where none existed just a few short years ago. But that’s not the only surprise the book offers and not all of them are nearly as positive. Did you know more non-smokers get lung cancer than smokers? How about the fact that many of those non-smokers are under the age of thirty?

Neither did I. THE LIVING ROOM, named after a decade-plus in-person (and now virtual as well) support group Addario started, is a myth-buster of the highest order in that respect. And that’s mostly a good thing, as we get to know the survivors profiled as if they were long-lost friends.

Like Gina Hollenbeck, a not yet forty-year-old and the non-smoking mother of two boys, who looked the picture of health when she walked into the ER holding her X-rays under her arm and had to convince the doctors that something was seriously wrong with her. Or Matt Hiznay, a lifelong nonsmoker was only twenty-four when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Early treatment saved his life. Then there’s Juanita Segura, a 51-year-old healthy eater and active in a training regimen known as CrossFit. The first doctor diagnosed her with asthma and prescribed an inhaler. Then the wheezing turned into a horrible cough. The next doctor had to deliver the news that she had lung cancer.

“Dude,’ she told him, “I don’t even smoke.”

The positive nature of those profiled is truly mind-boggling, making this is the perfect book for someone living with cancer of any kind, not just lung, as well as those close to them—in other words, just about everyone. THE LIVING ROOM is a seminal triumph of storytelling that tugs at our heartstrings even as it brings a smile to our lips with its overriding message of hope over despair and triumph over tragedy. When it comes to books that matter and bear long-lasting relevance accessible to tens of millions, this one is off the charts.

100 Seconds to Midnight: Conversations at a Seminar by Surendra Kumar Sagar

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

100 Seconds to Midnight: Conversations at a Seminar is the latest intriguing and eye-opening book by the often prophetic and always interesting author, Surendra Kumar Sagar. The provocative title references the so-called Doomsday Clock and how close the hands of it have moved towards midnight, the time when Doomsday will supposedly happen and all of mankind will potentially perish.

In 100 Seconds to Midnight, Sagar illustrates how close we have come to midnight and the roles he feels that the Trump administration and the Deep State have played in moving the hands ever closer to the fatal hour through a series of fictitious conversations held by Hollywood and Bollywood actors portraying famous dead intellectual personages such as Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrodinger, Leonardo Da Vinci, Diogenes of Alaska and himself, at a seminar. Though the topics and possible conclusions of the conversations at the seminar are, as the author calls them, “mind exercises,” they are meant to both enlighten the readers of 100 Seconds to Midnight and to urge them to get involved and do whatever they can to help ensure the continuation of intelligent life on Earth.

Kudos to the author for including the topic of COVID-19 in his book, and the ramifications the rampant spread of it and its variants, as well as the fatality rate of the virus, has had upon the entire world. The response that the countries of the world, and the somewhat initial delayed response of the United States, has pushed the hands of the Doomsday Clock somewhat closer to midnight, though it is heartening that vaccines have been invented to combat the disease, and that they are fairly effective against it.

Politically speaking, Surendra Kumar Sagar does not appear to take any side, as far as if he leans more towards Republican or Democrat points of view when it comes to who is more at fault in advancing the hands of the Doomsday Clock. Both sides are at fault, along with the Deep States and political leaders of the other countries of the world. What is more important than who is at fault is what can be done to reverse the trends and actions that have caused the hands to steadily approach Doomsday. While there are numerous disconcerting things that the fictitious versions of famous historical figures discuss in the seminar that Sagar depicts in 100 Seconds to Midnight, the author is not all gloom and doom. There is still a chance to reverse some of the deleterious trends and slow down the Doomsday Clock’s steady ticking towards midnight.

The Unopened Letter: A Dose of Reality Changes a Young Man’s Life Forever by RW Herman

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Richard William Herman was dealing with challenging life situations, which led him to drop out of college and reevaluate his life. Not long afterward, he received a draft notice. The year was 1965 during the Vietnam War Era. Rather than serve his time in the Army, he enlisted in the Navy for a four-year stint. The Unopened Letter is about the experiences that RW Herman went through as a young man who made a commitment to the United States Military at the age of nineteen. Herman attended boot camp in San Diego, California, where he demonstrated an aptitude for leadership. He volunteered to be the company yeoman and excelled at the job. After successfully graduating from basic training, Herman received his orders and found out he would be going to school for training as a radioman. At the end of training, Herman attained the rank of Radioman Seaman (RMSN) and was ordered to report for duty on the naval vessel USS Cambria stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. While serving his tour of duty, Herman became a tremendous asset in the communications division and got quick promotions. Although Herman never saw combat, he not only participated in a number of training exercises that prepared Marines for deployment to Vietnam, but he also experienced historical moments and life-changing events.

One Voice, Two Lives by David Wisnia

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

This book is an amazing memoir that will keep you turning the pages.

David Wisnia and his family lived in Sochaczew, Poland. He came from a well-to-do family. His father owned a factory that manufactured folding beds and upholstered furniture. However, soon after David’s Bar Mitzvah everything changed when Germany occupied Poland. David’s family was murdered and he was left by himself and had to run to avoid getting captured by the Nazis.

In time David ended up in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. David tells the readers many stories about what happened there. So many times, he thought he was going to die but partially through his singing voice he was given special perks. He tells of his relationship with Rose and how she also helped him.

Overcoming: Lessons in Triumphing Over Adversity and the Power of Our Common Humanity by Dr. Augustus White III (Author), David Chanoff (Author), Jon Land, Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski (Foreword)

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

I wonder when the esteemed African-American orthopedic surgeon Augustus White III conceived the idea for his book OVERCOMING if he had any idea how current events would conspire to make this an absolute must-read. Indeed, the combination of political turmoil (putting it mildly) coupled with a raging pandemic have left all of us with challenges we’ve never faced before. Something to overcome, in other words.

This is a book a man of Dr. White’s background and repute is uniquely suited to write, given his own inspirational and groundbreaking history. Known as “the Jackie Robinson of orthopedics,” he was the first African-American medical student at Stanford, the first black surgical resident at Yale, the first black professor of surgery at Yale, and the first black chief of service at a Harvard teaching hospital. Dr. White has truly lived a life of “firsts,” breaking barriers and overcoming adversity every step of the way. And now he’s sharing the lessons of that journey with all of us, on the occasion of Black History Month no less.

I so enjoyed his own story in OVERCOMING, but this is not a book that focuses on him. Instead, the attention turns to twenty everyday heroes who’ve overcome levels of often incredible adversity, usually with the help of others who may be friends or strangers. That’s where the “Common Humanity” part of the subtitle stems from.

There are athletes in the form of a paralyzed wrestler who recovered to become a champion and a female football player who went on to become the first ever Division One college football position coach. There are doctors in the form of the first African-American orthopedic surgeon and an oncological orthopedist who also served as an astronaut. One of the Lost Boys of the Sudan is featured, along with a transgender young man, a blind psychotherapist, two sets of parents who lost children, a family raising a disabled needs child, a one-armed female champion weightlifter, an advanced stage lung cancer survivor and a whole bunch more who make our everyday problems pale by comparison.

In these turbulent times, they are examples for us all, serving to make OVERCOMING the first must-read book of 2021. Not only do the twenty profiles entertain, they also inform. We come away with a unique appreciation for the strength and power of the human spirit, reinvigorated ourselves by the hope these stories provide. If the subjects of this book can overcome the likes of the examples above, then we can plow through the residue of political strife and a pandemic that won’t let go.

And that’s the whole point of OVERCOMING. The legendary Studs Terkel used a similar approach with both “The Good War” and “American Dreams Lost and Found,” and I haven’t found another comparably themed book that approached the greatness of those until OVERCOMING. Its message will inspire you, its lessons will leave you humbled, and its stories will stay with you long after the final page is flipped. Here is a tour de force of style and substance, a contemporary classic on the human condition that will be read for many years, and crises, to come.

Playing Soldier by F. Scott Service

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Playing Soldier” is a raw and masterfully written memoir by F. Scott Service. The book is dedicated to the personal experience of war. The author starts with the motivation that may lead someone to participate, takes us through a fragment of war, and ending his tale with the aftermath.
Our journey along Scott starts at the very beginning with his childhood. He was raised in a loving home, but not a perfect home. An only child, he finds refuge from daily life in fiction and play. One day he finds the old field jacket of his father which sparks a new narrative for him, playing soldier. Dressed up in his father’s jacket and armed with a BB gun, he shares the battlefield with the neighborhood kids. School fails to hold Scott’s attention; he would rather continue to explore the many worlds of fiction. He was dreaming of becoming a literary world-builder himself but was repeatedly pulled toward more practical career alternatives.

The next stage of his life slowly ushers in and Scott marries his college sweetheart, Rita with whom he raises Spazzy, their beloved cat. Hand in hand they were slowly building their future together. But the sparkly surface blinds Scott from a dark truth that lurks in the corner of his consciousness as there is no substance to this projection of life together. The I became lost in us, or just in her. So, when offered the chance to join the National Guard, Scott, with his wife’s blessing, decides to follow his inner child’s call to adventure. The military still has an almost magical hold on him; it is shrouded in romanticism and thrill. What is more, the recruiter also flaunts the perspective of good pay and better employment opportunities.

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

Whenever we read a book like this, we wonder if the work was written just for the money or for a reason like revenge. It would have to take a lot of convincing to make readers believe Mary Trump was not writing the book for either of these reasons.

Mary Trump has written a book about her uncle, Donald Trump. Her father, Fred, was the oldest of the Trump sons but no matter what he did, it just didn’t please his father, Fred Trump, Sr. His father always favored Donald and Fred instilled into Donald that losing was a sign of weakness.

As a child, Mary Trump spent a great amount of time at her grandparents’ house. It is here that she observed Donald and his siblings. Mary tells us of the many holiday get- togethers and some funny things that happened at these events.

We have to agree that Mary Trump does have the professional credentials to write a book to try and explain some of her uncle’s behavior. And she also has first hand knowledge of the family.

This is a well-written book and Mary Trump makes many points that will make the reader ponder her thoughts. The main question is does she do a good job of convincing readers that what she is saying is true? I must admit she convinced me. When you read her words and then look at the way her uncle has acted throughout his presidency, it is my opinion that she has written a credible book.

Tales from the Other Side by Paul Corson

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Tales from the Other Side” by Paul Corson was designed as a companion piece to his “Regaining Paradise: Forming a New Worldview, Knowing God, and Journeying into Eternity”. While, the books are strong enough to stand as independent reads, when taken together, their message is elevated to the next level.

But first off, a few words about “Regaining Paradise”. This daring book goes beyond the curtain of materiality to tackle some of the biggest existential questions relying on personal experience, science, and rationality/logic, sprinkled with a little bit of imagination. Although the spark for this intellectual and spiritual quest lies in the three lived transcendental experiences of the author, he heavily relies on science to argue his perspective.

In “Tales from the Other Side”, Paul Corson delves deeper into his personal life, revealing instances of when the “Other Side” seeped into this side. These confessions and stories will enable the reader to have a more holistic view of the thought-process of his spiritual journey. The book is segmented into seven magical parts, of which five are autobiographical, the next part is a rather out of the ordinary conversation (between space travelers and stargazers) and the last part consists of fiction stories that form allegories.

The Little Breadwinner: War and Survival in the Salvadoran Heartland by Lucia Mann

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

The Little Breadwinner: War and Survival in the Salvadoran Heartland” is a harrowing tale about the many faces of war, written by Lucia Mann. The book folds and unfolds the narratives of several generations across different lands and times, but perhaps the biggest feat of the read is that it offers an account of the civil war of El Salvador. What is more, the author was on location at the time of the civil war so the subject has an added personal resonance.

If you are not familiar with the Salvadoran Civil War (1979-1992), this is a great opportunity to learn about it. At the beginning of the book, you can find a map and chronology of the events that serve as a general guideline for the pages that follow. The two sides that were in conflict for more than 12 years were the military-led junta government and a coalition of left-winged groups, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The US-funded government death-squads conducted a methodic terror campaign against civilians that added up to a long list of human rights violations (forceful recruiting of child soldiers, massacres, attacks, and rapes). A lot of people were killed and a lot of people simply disappeared. Their exact number remains unknown, but the UN reports a victim count of over 75,000, as far as those killed during the long civil war. It all finally ended with the Chapultepec Peace Accords.

“The Little Breadwinner” encompasses the civil war, but goes beyond it and captures some of the late after-effects of a tough decade. Lucia Mann starts with some apparently disjointed cold facts about the Salvadorian Civil War, but as the pages progress, her approach turns more personal as she tells us a multi-generational story. She frequently interjects with personal observations and comments that sometimes jolt the reader out of the immersive experience.

One of the main characters is Estrella Godwin Lozano, a person with a short stature that becomes “the little breadwinner” for her family living in poverty. She is the descendant of the Waorani tribe from the Amazonian rainforest. Her birth mother was a gifted tribe member and her gift passed down between generations being particularly strong in Estrella’s case. Yet, this special soul was not ordained for an easy life; she faced many hardships and challenges, the worst of which was brought on by the civil war.

The Little Breadwinner” reveals the personal narratives of the victims of the Salvadorian Civil War. The book is based on real events but presents these in a fictionalized form. Lucia Mann, a passionate and worldly activist, a prolific writer, tells yet another unique story about the oppressed and suffering trying to fight against the current of fate.