Friday, April 27, 2012

New Bestsellers are @ your library

The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards by William J. Broad

Kirkus Reviews -

A fair, well-reasoned assessment of the many extraordinary claims made for yoga. Based on ancient ideas about the effect of body positions and breath control on mind and spirit, yoga first flowered in India as the centerpiece of Tantric cults that searched for enlightenment in sexual ecstasy. Its mostly male practitioners claimed the art endowed them with not only sexual prowess but also magical powers. One famous 19th-century yogi astonished his noble patron by seeming to come alive after being sealed for 40 days in a tomb with no food or water. Early-20th-century Indian rationalists proved many of those feats to be nothing more than magic tricks, but the art had a second flourishing in the West in the form of mostly low-impact exercise and meditation. Modern yogis and yoginis (their female counterparts) have continued to claim extraordinary powers for the new varieties of yoga, calling them miracle exercises that are completely safe and more aerobic and slimming than even running or swimming. New York Times senior writer Broad (The Oracle: The Lost Secrets and Hidden Messages of Ancient Delphi, 2006, etc.), who has practiced yoga since 1970, carefully pulls apart these claims, citing decades of scientific research and medical practice. Even the most energetic poses, such as the Salutation to the Sun, writes the author, are barely more aerobic and trimming than sitting and watching those poses performed on TV. The author also shows that yoga, far from being "completely safe," can often result in serious injuries, including stroke, brain and nerve injury and even death. However, Broad makes a convincing argument, firmly rooted in science, for yoga's powers to heighten concentration, inspire creativity, improve moods--even to cure some physical conditions like torn rotator cuffs.

A fascinating, persuasive case for demythologizing yoga and recognizing its true value to mind and body.

Robert Ludlum's The Janson Command by Paul Garrison

Overview -

Reformed from his days of as a covert operative and assassin for the US government, Paul Janson has a new mission and a new partner. Working independently with highly-skilled sharpshooter Jessica Kincaid, Janson only takes operations he believes contributes to the world's greater good. When his latest job rescuing a doctor abducted in international waters by African pirates goes haywire, Janson realizes he's caught in the middle of something much bigger.

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler

Kirkus Reviews -

Forget Club of Rome gloom and doom. If the future isn't necessarily bright enough for shades, then, write high-tech pioneer Diamandis and science journalist Kotler (A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life, 2010, etc.), things are going to work out just fine. The title speaks volumes. A tenet of capitalism is that resources are scarce, which justifies our scramble to get what we can. Yet, write the authors, "when seen through the lens of technology, few resources are truly scarce, they're mainly inaccessible." So drinking water is scarce and getting scarcer? There's a big ocean out there; what remains to be done is to develop some method to desalinate the ocean's water "in the same way that electrolysis easily transformed bauxite into aluminum." Of course, there is also a major shortage of fossil fuels--but no shortage of sunlight, and in fact more than 5,000 times as much solar power available as we could possibly use in our wildest dreams. It will bring some readers up short to contemplate the abundance that Diamandis and Kotler project in the face of the stark reality that there may well be 10 billion humans on the planet by the year 2050, but that doesn't daunt the authors much, given the human talent for engineering our way out of trouble. Engineering is a major part of their program, as "the purview of backyard tinkerers has extended far beyond custom cars and homebrew computers, and now reaches into once esoteric fields like genetics and robotics." What about the health-care crisis? Well, nothing a few generations of robotic surgeons can't help, if not cure. Food crisis? Just 150 vertical-farm skyscrapers could feed all of New York City. And so on, to the point that there seems to be no problem that the authors find insurmountable, or even especially daunting. A nicely optimistic look at a matter that usually brings out the darkest thoughts among prognosticators--if a touch starry-eyed, at least a dream worth nurturing.

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