How to Love
Gordon Livingston, M.D. (DaCapo Press, 240 pages, $19.95)
For Gordon Livingston, M.D., a Maryland psychiatrist and marriage counselor, empathy isn't just the secret of a happy marriage; it's also the secret of happiness. In his fourth book, he explains how we learn to love ourselves by loving others and becoming less self-absorbed. If you cultivate in yourself the characteristics you value in others, he says, you will find material success, enlightenment and marital happiness. As he puts it simply yet profoundly, "Become the person you long to love. All of life's most important searches ... turn out to be journeys within." Livingston writes clearly, knowledgeably and with a wry humor as he discusses personality types to avoid (narcissists are No.1), virtues to look for and to inculcate in ourselves (flexibility ranks high) and ways to improve relationships (try reciprocal kindness). With the U.S. divorce rate at about 50 percent, Livingston's message is a must-read. If nothing else, it suggests that when you're deciding on a marriage partner, appearances can be deceptive.
The Baltimore Elite Giants
Bob Luke (Johns Hopkins Press, 192 pages, $29.95)
Three of the major leagues' black pioneers - Roy Campanella, Joe Black, and James "Junior" Gilliam - got their start with the Baltimore Elite Giants. Yet few people know a great deal about the team, which was considered one of the best in the Negro Leagues. Sportswriter Bob Luke tries to rectify this by offering a history of the Elite (pronounced E-Light) Giants, from its beginning in Nashville to its years in Detroit, Columbus, Washington and, finally, Baltimore - 1938 to 1951. Luke shows how the team succeeded despite the pressures of segregation and discrimination in 1940s Baltimore, which affected everything from finances to finding a ballpark. Interviewing former players and Baltimore residents, as well as researching articles from newspapers - including The Baltimore Sun and The Afro-American, Luke attempts to give the team its rightful place in baseball history as he offers a compelling argument for a permanent memorial at the entrance to Camden Yards.
Garrett J. Brown (Briery Creek Press, 69 pages, $10.95)
Does what we wish to see prevent us from seeing what is? The question informs Garrett J. Brown's poetry. A Baltimore native who received an Art Institute of Chicago Writing Fellowship, Brown explores contradictory ways of seeing in these 30 poems. Part musing on everyday objects and part memoir with references to Baltimore (where Brown grew up), this book was winner of the 2009 Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry. Writing with precise details and razor-sharp metaphors - reminiscent of Marianne Moore - Brown interweaves past and present. He reminisces about spring cleaning in Baltimore, for example, where with "a yellow bucket sloshing with soapy water" and his father's old bowling shirt, he washed the marble steps of his home on Pratt Street, intent on removing visible city grime. Now, he wonders whether this marble block, as with Michelangelo's, contained art that called out for release.
Diane Scharper teaches English at Towson University.