Nonfiction: Illicit Money, Conversation, Mentoring, Failed Justice, Nick Nolte, Bad Habits | Xpress Reviews

Findings of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on what became known as the Panama Papers; an insightful look into the unique nature of human conversation; sharing secrets for success and meaning; valuable to those with a very serious interest in business innovation; Logan challenges a rule that requires attorneys to maintain confidentiality at another's expense; through all the tragedies in his life, Nolte has emerged a strong survivor; Vermeulen provides some clear advice for breaking out of the bad habit rut

Week ending February 2, 2018


Bernstein, Jake. Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite. Holt. 2017.  notes. index. ISBN 9781250126689. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781250126696. ECON

Journalist Bernstein’s book is a timely one. The recent money laundering indictment of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager, involves offshore accounts. This book explains them and is the second work to cover the titular investigation, after Bastian Obermayer’s The Panama Papers. Interested readers should pair Bernstein’s book with Brooke Harrington’s Capital Without Borders, which studies the wealth managers who orchestrate these plans. This book discusses the findings of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in obtaining records of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which became known as the Panama Papers (and won a Pulitzer Prize). The firm was a leading provider of offshore accounts, which helped shelter legal and illegal income from creditors and taxing authorities. Bernstein describes the history of the firm and tours tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Nauru, and Delaware. The first half of the book is a series of vignettes describing how the wealthy avoided scrutiny. The other half is ICIJ’s emergence as a stand-alone investigative organization. Well sourced and nontechnical, this work reads like the script to the next James Bond film. For a complete picture, the reader should visit the website

Verdict For those interested in current affairs and economics.—Harry Charles, St. Louis


Enfield, N.J. How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation. Basic: Perseus. 2017. 272p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780465059942. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780465093762. LANG

Enfield, a professor of linguistics at the University of Sydney, Australia, provides an insightful look into the unique nature of human conversation and how the “ticks” and markers of human conversational interactions work. Words and utterances such as “huh,” “um,” and “uh” have important roles in interpreting human discourse. For example, because time moves quickly in conversations, it is important that others know they “have failed to understand.” Hence, the universal “huh,” which is understood and pronounceable in all languages. Humans have an innate knowledge of linguistic principles that sets them apart from other species. What differentiates human conversation is that no other “animal shows [its] defining properties: finely timed cooperative turn-taking, mechanisms for repair, and communicative traffic signals.” These concepts and others discussed in this short volume make a strong and convincing case as to why conversation is the fundamental and essential place in which the uniquely human aspects of language are to be found.

Verdict Recommended.—Herbert E. Shapiro, Lifelong Learning Soc., Florida Atlantic Univ., Boca Raton


starred review starFerriss, Timothy. Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World. Houghton Harcourt. 2017. 624p. ISBN 9781328994967. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781328994974. SELF-HELP

In his latest book, Ferriss (The 4-Hour Body; Tools of Titans) pulls together life lessons, career guidance, and personal anecdotes from more than 100 brilliant people (e.g., tennis star Maria Sharapova, author Arianna Huffington, and Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz) to deliver this knockout book of inspiration. All the participants responded to the same 11 questions, for example: “What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made, what advice would you give to a smart college student about to enter the ‘real’ world, and what advice would you ignore?” The answers make for fascinating reading as these people share their secrets for success and meaning.

Verdict Highly recommended.—Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ


Hoffman, Steven. Make Elephants Fly: The Process of Radical Innovation. Center Street. 2017. 320p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781478992943. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781478992936. BUS

Hoffman (CEO of business incubator Founders Space) aims to provide guidance in “creating new multi-billion-dollar businesses” through what he calls radical innovation, i.e., the creation of “an entirely new product category or market” à la Uber or Apple’s iPhone. After a mediocre first section, “The Essence of Innovation,” the book goes into high gear and is chock-full of ideas, advice, and real-life examples. Hoffman’s tone is that of a demanding yet encouraging and likable schoolteacher. He quite clearly presents the difficulties involved and the hard work required. He offers practical, concrete suggestions, at the same time eschewing oversimplification. Hoffman particularly emphasizes the usefulness of a general curiosity about life and the importance of basing decisions upon data. While maintaining that radical innovation is much easier to do in the context of start-ups, the book has a section on radically innovating within established companies as well.

Verdict This insightful book will be valuable to those with a very serious interest in business innovation, high ambitions, and a willingness to work hard, even obsessively.—Shmuel Ben-Gad, Gelman Lib., George Washington Univ., Washington, DC


Johnson, Kimberly Ann. The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions & Restoring Your Vitality. Shambhala. 2017. 360p. bibliog. ISBN 9781611804003. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9780834841086. WOMEN’S HEALTH

While there are a plethora of books about pregnancy and delivery, few discuss self-care after the baby is born. Johnson, cofounder of the STREAM School for Postpartum Care, aims to fill that gap with this comprehensive guide to a transitional time. Using a holistic perspective, Johnson addresses everything from preparing one’s body for birth to rebuilding and healing afterward. She details the medical realities new mothers face as well as possible changes in marital relationships. For every problem, the author provides clear solutions and encouraging counsel.

Verdict Particularly helpful for women who are interested in the traditions of ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and the like.—Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ


Logan, Alton with Berl Falbaum. Justice Failed: How “Legal Ethics” Kept Me in Prison for 26 Years. Counterpoint. 2017. 160p. notes. index. ISBN 9781619029927. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781619029941. LAW

This work recounts the infamous case of former inmate Logan, who coauthored this powerful book with former Detroit News journalist Falbaum. In simple, unadorned prose, Logan tells his story of the gravely flawed justice system that imprisoned him, an innocent man, for nearly three decades. While, tragically, this sort of miscarriage of justice is not unprecedented, Logan’s case was fraught with wrongdoing on the part of police and prosecutor. What makes his case unique, though, is that the actual shooter confessed to the crime in a signed affidavit submitted to his lawyers, who withheld this confession until after the death of their client. Meanwhile, Logan languished in prison. The book’s subtitle raises the central issue as Logan attacks the paradox inherent in the attorney-client confidentiality duty mandated by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the ethical code of attorneys. Logan challenges the justice of a rule that requires attorneys to maintain confidentiality of their clients’ disclosures, even when such confidences harm innocent individuals.

Verdict A powerful argument that will appeal to readers of Michael Morton’s Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace.—Lynne Maxwell, West Virginia Univ. Coll. of Law Lib., Morgantown

Nolte, Nick. Rebel: My Life Outside the Lines. Morrow. Jan. 2018. 272p. photos. ISBN 9780062219572. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062219596. FILM

Heartthrob Nolte proves in this memoir that he is not just another Hollywood pretty boy but serious about his craft. Born into a distinguished Iowa engineering family headed by a World War II hero father, Nolte grew up questioning the status quo. His first love was football, but an unfortunate prank closed the doors on a pro career. He became interested in acting and read and studied as much as he could, getting a late start in the business. Nominated for an Academy Award for his part in 1998’s The Thin Red Line and Golden Globes for other films, his deep need to immerse himself in the character he was playing and easygoing ability to make friends made his hard-drinking and complicated personality likable to many in the business. Through all the tragedies in his life, he has emerged a strong survivor.

Verdict Should be read by young actors as Nolte the mentor. Recommended for film collections and film buffs.—Ellen Bates, New York


Vermeulen, Freek. Breaking Bad Habits: Defy Industry Norms and Reinvigorate Your Business. Harvard Business Review. 2017. 272p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781633693821. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781633693838. BUS

In graduate school, Vermeulen (strategy & entrepreneurship, London Business Sch.; Business Exposed) wanted to know why all newspapers were printed on such large sheets. Most industry professionals he asked told him “that’s the way it’s always been done.” It turns out the paper size was a dodge against an old tax law. In this work, Vermeulen examines how different industries rely on best practices, even when those practices may be outdated, harmful, or unfavorable to innovation. The first section explores the reasons why bad practices continue to thrive in marketplaces designed to allow only the best ideas survive. The second part outlines how to check if best practices have turned bad. The last section offers a series of self-assessment exercises for bringing the right type of change into your organization. Each segment includes case studies from a variety of industries to illustrate how “the way it’s always been done” was holding companies back. The book ultimately tasks all of us to shake the best practice foundations to see if they are truly solid or just based on long-forgotten rules and regulations.

Verdict The case studies are varied enough to provide an interesting read. Vermeulen also provides some clear advice and strategies for breaking out of the bad habit rut. Highly recommended.—John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston

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