Reviewed: PW 27 Aug. 2018 p. 108. Description: The first full life–private, public, legal, philosophical–of the 107th Supreme Court Justice, one of the most profound and profoundly transformative legal minds of our time; a book fifteen years in work, written with the cooperation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself and based on many interviews with the Justice, her husband, her children, her friends, and associates. In this large, comprehensive, revelatory biography, Jane De Hart explores the central experiences that crucially shaped Ginsburg’s passion for justice, her advocacy for gender equality, her meticulous jurisprudence: her desire to make We the People more united and our union more perfect. At the heart of her story and abiding beliefs–her Jewish background. Tikkun Olam, the Hebrew injunction to “repair the world,” with its profound meaning for a young girl who grew up during the Holocaust and World War II. We see the influence of her mother, Celia Amster Bader, whose intellect inspired her daughter’s feminism, insisting that Ruth become independent, as she witnessed her mother coping with terminal cervical cancer (Celia died the day before Ruth, at 17, graduated from high school). From Ruth’s days as a baton twirler at Brooklyn's James Madison High School, to Cornell University, Harvard and Columbia Law School (first in her class), to being a law professor at Rutgers University (one of the few women in the field and fighting pay discrimination), hiding her second pregnancy so as not to risk losing her job; founding the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, writing the brief for the first case that persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down a sex-discriminatory state law, then at Columbia (the law school's first tenured female professor); becoming the director of the women’s rights project of the ACLU, persuading the Supreme Court in a series of decisions to ban laws that denied women full citizenship status with men. Her years on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, deciding cases the way she played golf, as she, left-handed, played with right-handed clubs–aiming left, swinging right, hitting down the middle. Her years on the Supreme Court. A pioneering life and legal career whose profound mark on American jurisprudence, on American society, on our American character and spirit, will reverberate deep into the twenty-first century and beyond. (publ.)
Reviewed: CHE 2 Sept. 2018 (author interview) Description: Hardly a week goes by without another controversy over free speech on college campuses. On one side, there are increased demands to censor hateful, disrespectful, and bullying expression and to ensure an inclusive and nondiscriminatory learning environment. On the other side are traditional free speech advocates who charge that recent demands for censorship coddle students and threaten free inquiry. In this clear and carefully reasoned book, a university chancellor and a law school dean (both constitutional scholars who teach a course in free speech to undergraduates) argue that campuses must provide supportive learning environments for an increasingly diverse student body but can never restrict the expression of ideas. This book provides the background necessary to understanding the importance of free speech on campus and offers clear prescriptions for what colleges can and can't do when dealing with free speech controversies. (publ.)
Reviewed: LR June 2017 p. 46; TLS 8 Sept. 2017 p. 3; NYT/BR 1 July 2018 p. 15. Description: We live in the age of the individual. We are supposed to be slim, prosperous, happy, extroverted and popular. This is our culture’s image of the perfect self. We see this person everywhere: in advertising, in the press, all over social media. We’re told that to be this person you just have to follow your dreams, that our potential is limitless, that we are the source of our own success. But this model of the perfect self can be extremely dangerous. People are suffering under the torture of this impossible fantasy. Unprecedented social pressure is leading to increases in depression and suicide. Where does this ideal come from? Why is it so powerful? Is there any way to break its spell? Novelist and journalist Will Storr tells the extraordinary story of the person we all know so intimately – our self.
Reviewed: TLS 1 June 2018 p. 28. Description: For an extraordinary year, authors Carl Cederström and André Spicer threw themselves headlong into the multifarious and often bizarre world of self-optimization, a burgeoning movement that seeks to transcend the limits placed on us by merely being human. As willing guinea pigs in an extraordinary (and sometimes downright dangerous) range of techniques and technologies, our heroic protagonists used apps that deliver electric shocks in pursuit of improved concentration, wore headbands designed to optimize meditation, attempted to boost their memory through associative techniques (and failed to be admitted to MENSA), trained for weightlifting competitions, wrote a Scandinavian detective story under the influence of mind enhancing drugs, enrolled in motivational seminars and tantra sex workshops, attended new-age retreats and man-camps, underwent plastic surgery, and experimented with vibrators that stimulated parts of the body they barely knew existed. Somewhat surprisingly, the two young professors survived this year of rigorous research and have drawn on it to produce a hilarious and eye-opening book. (publ.)
Description: Gathered here are forty top researchers on the topic to provide both the foundational tools and the evidence to better understand conspiracy theories in the United States and around the world. Each chapter is informed by three core questions: Why do so many people believe in conspiracy theories? What are the effects of such theories when they take hold in the public? What can or should be done about the phenomenon? (publ.)
Reviewed: TLS 4 May 2018. Description: Throughout history, women (and men) have applied make-up to enhance, alter, conceal and even to disguise their appearance. Also, to a greater or lesser degree over time, cosmetics have been used as a visible marker of social status, gender, wealth, and well-being. A closer look at the world of make-up gives us not only a mirror reflecting day-to-day life in the past, but also an indicator of the culture and politics of earlier periods in history. (publ.)
Reviewed: LJ 1 Nov. 2018 p. 78. Description: Four experts on the American presidency review the only three impeachment cases from history–against Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton–and explore its power and meaning for today. Impeachment is rare, and for good reason. Designed to check tyrants or defend the nation from a commander-in-chief who refuses to do so, the process of impeachment outlined in the Constitution is what Thomas Jefferson called “the most formidable weapon for the purpose of a dominant faction that was ever contrived.” It nullifies the will of voters, the basic foundation of legitimacy for all representative democracies. Only three times has a president’s conduct led to such political disarray as to warrant his potential removal from office, transforming a political crisis into a constitutional one. These three cases highlight factors beyond the president’s behavior that impact the likelihood and outcome of an impeachment: the president’s relationship with Congress, the power and resilience of the office itself, and the polarization of the moment. This is a realist, rather than hypothetical, view of impeachment that looks to history for clues about its future–with one obvious candidate in mind. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 16 Apr. 2018 p. 83 Description: Dr. Paul A. Offit shares hard-earned wisdom on the do's and don’ts of battling misinformation. For the past twenty years, Offit has been on the front lines in the fight for sound science and public heath. Stepping into the media spotlight as few scientists have done—such as being one of the first to speak out against conspiracy theories linking vaccines to autism—he found himself in the crosshairs of powerful groups intent on promoting pseudoscience. (publ.) Paul A. Offit is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as well as the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. (publ.)
Reviewed: LJ 1 Sept. 2018 p. 76. Description: This book is a resource for understanding the reasons for and consequences of mass shootings in America. It includes essays about key issues surrounding the phenomenon of mass shootings and a collection of opinion pieces that provide insights into debates surrounding gun laws and other issues related to mass shootings. The book also features an encyclopedia section containing entries on every mass shooting in the United States from 1966 to 2016 and a collection of primary documents pertaining to mass shooting events and the broader problem of violence in American society. (publ.)
Reviewed: TLS 15 June 2018 p. 39 Description: “This book is written in the belief that the average English-speaking man or woman has remarkably little knowledge of French history. We may know a bit about Napoleon or Joan of Arc or Louis XIV, but for most of us that’s about it. In my own three schools we were taught only about the battles we won: Crécy and Poitiers, Agincourt and Waterloo. The rest was silence. So here is my attempt to fill in the blanks...” John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) finally wrote the book he always wanted to write, the extremely colorful story of the country he loved best. From frowning Roman generals and belligerent Gallic chieftains, to Charlemagne (hated by generations of French children taught that he invented schools) through Marie Antoinette and the storming of the Bastille to Vichy, the Resistance and beyond, it is packed with heroes and villains, adventures and battles, romance and revolution. (publ.)
Description: One of the fundamental rights granted in the United States is religious freedom, but does this mean that religion should be entirely re-moved from politics or that all religious voices should be considered equally? The separation of church and state was established in the Constitution, but the fact that as of 2015, 84 percent of Americans hold some sort of religious belief means that this is easier said than done. Religious morality frequently colors debates surrounding various policy issues, ranging from reproductive rights to education. This volume exposes readers to the ways in which religion inflects policymaking and the varying perspectives about religion's role in politics. Note: Library Standing Order.
Reviewed:NYT/BR 25 Nov. 2018 p. 1; FA 97(6) Nov./Dec. 2018 p. 217; LR Dec. 2018/Jan. 2019 p. 26. Description:Based on ten years of research and a vast cache of primary sources located in archives in Warsaw, Paris, London, New York, and Washington, D.C., this book is a corrective work intended to dispel the many myths and legends that continue to surround Chopin, and an intimate look into a dramatic life. Of particular focus are Chopin’s childhood and youth in Poland, which are brought into line with the latest scholarly findings; his often-times troubled romantic life with George Sand, with whom he lived for nine years; and his untimely death at age thirty-nine, which inspired three thousand people to flock to the Madeleine Church in Paris for his funeral. Written in highly readable prose, Fryderyk Chopin wears its scholarship lightly: this is a book suited as much for the professional pianist as it is for the casual music lover. (publ.)
Reviewed: TLS 30 Nov. 2018 p. 3. Description: To translate the journey from a living cow to a glass of milk into tangible terms, Kathryn Gillespie set out to follow the moments in the life cycles of individual animals—animals like the cow with ear tag #1389. She explores how the seemingly benign practice of raising animals for milk is just one link in a chain that affects livestock across the agricultural spectrum. Gillespie takes readers to farms, auction yards, slaughterhouses, and even rendering plants to show how living cows become food. The result is an empathetic look at cows and our relationship with them, one that makes both their lives and their suffering real. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYT/BR 21 Oct. 2018 p. 15; PW 28 May 2018 p. 84; LJ 1 Sept. 2018 p. 68. Description: By the end of the nineteenth century, food in America was increasingly dangerous–lethal, even. Milk and meat were routinely preserved with formaldehyde, a practice based on the embalming of corpses. Beer and wine were preserved with salicylic acid, a pharmaceutical chemical; canned vegetables were greened-up by copper sulphate, a toxic metallic salt; rancid butter was made edible with borax, best known as a cleaning product. This was not by accident; food manufacturers had rushed to embrace the rise of industrial chemistry and were knowingly selling harmful products. Unchecked by government regulation, basic safety, or even labeling requirements, they put profit before the health of their customers. By some estimates, in New York City alone, thousands of children were killed by adulterated and chemically “improved” milk. Citizens–activists, journalists, scientists, and wornen’s groups–began agitating for change. But although protective measures were enacted in Europe, American corporations blocked even modest regulations. Then in 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the United States Department of Agriculture, and the agency began methodically investigating food and drink fraud, even conducting shocking human tests on groups of young men who came to be known as the Poison Squad. Over the next thirty years, a titanic struggle took place, with the courageous and inimitable Dr. Wiley campaigning tirelessly for food safety and consumer protection. (publ.)
Reviewed: LJ 1 Apr. 2018 p. 80; TLS 23 Nov. 2018 p. 32. Description: When Edward M. Hallowell was eleven, a voice out of nowhere told him he should become a psychiatrist. A mental health professional of the time would have called this psychosis. But young Edward (Ned) took it in stride, despite not quite knowing what “psychiatrist” meant. With a psychotic father, alcoholic mother, abusive stepfather, and two so-called learning disabilities of his own, Ned was accustomed to unpredictable behavior from those around him, and to a mind he felt he couldn’t always control. The voice turned out to be right. Now, decades later, Hallowell is a leading expert on attention disorders and the author of twenty books, including Driven to Distraction, the work that introduced ADD to the world. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 2 Apr. 2018 p. 56. Description: Shows you how to identify deceptive information as well as how to seek out the most trustworthy information in order to inform decision making in your personal, academic, professional, and civic lives. You will learn how to identify the alarm bells that signal untrustworthy information, understand how to tell when statistics can be trusted and when they are being used to deceive, & inoculate yourself against the logical fallacies that can mislead even the brightest among us. (publ.)
Description: In 1776 Fanny von Arnstein, the daughter of the Jewish master of the royal mint in Berlin, came to Vienna as an 18-year-old bride, bringing with her the intellectual sharpness and vitality of her birthplace. In her youth, she was influenced by the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, a family friend who spearheaded the emancipation of German Jewry. She married a financier to the Austro-Hungarian imperial court, and in 1798 her husband became the first unconverted Jew in Austria to be granted the title of baron. Soon Fanny hosted an ever more splendid salon which attracted the leading figures of her day, including Madame de Staël, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Nelson, his lover Lady Hamilton and the young Arthur Schopenhauer. (publ.) Note: Christine Shuttleworth is the author’s daughter. A discussion of this text by the translator can be found at http://newvesselpress.com/blog/shuttleworth-reflection/ Note (2): Originally published as: Fanny von Arnstein: oder, Die Emanzipation; ein Frauenleben an der Zeitenwende, 1758-1818 (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fisch-er, 1962)
Reviewed: NYT/BR 16 Sept. 2018 p. 21; PW 11 June 2018 p. 55; NYRB 21 Feb. 2019 p. 19; LJ Aug. 2018 p. 113. Description: : During Sarah Smarsh’s turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, the country’s changing economic policies solidified her family’s place among the working poor. By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves, Smarsh challenges us to examine the class divide in our country and the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less. Her personal history affirms the corrosive impact intergenerational poverty can have on individuals, families, and communities, and she explores this idea as lived experience, metaphor, and level of consciousness. Born a fifth-generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side and the product of generations of teen mothers on her maternal side, Smarsh grew up in a family of laborers trapped in a cycle of poverty. Whether working the wheat harvest, helping on her dad’s construction sites, or visiting her grandma’s courthouse job, she learned about hard work. She also absorbed painful lessons about economic inequality. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYT/BR 25 Nov. 2018 p. 14; NYRB 20 Dec. 2018 p. 55; TLS 4 Jan. 2018 p. 16; LJ 15 Oct. 2018 p. 64. Description: After growing up in a middle-class Catholic family on Long Island, Colvin studied with the legendary journalist John Hersey at Yale, and eventually started working for The Sunday Times of London, where she gained a reputation for bravery and compassion as she told the stories of victims of the major conflicts of our time. She lost sight in one eye while in Sri Lanka covering the civil war, interviewed Gaddafi and Arafat many times, and repeatedly risked her life covering conflicts in Chechnya, East Timor, Kos-vo, and the Middle East. Colvin lived her personal life in extremis, too: bold, driven, and complex, she was married twice, took many lovers, drank and smoked, and rejected society’s expectations for women. Despite PTSD, she refused to give up reporting. Like her hero Martha Gellhorn, Colvin was committed to bearing witness to the horrifying truths of war, and to shining a light on the profound suffering of ordinary people caught in the midst of conflict. Lindsey Hilsum’s book is a devastating and revelatory biography of one of the greatest war correspondents of her generation. … She was killed in Syria in 2012, and her life story formed the basis of the feature film A Private War, starring Rosamund Pike as Colvin. (publ.)
Reviewed: LR May 2018 p. 29 Description: In Seeds of Science, eco-activist Mark Lynas lifts the lid on the controversial story and misunderstood science of GMOs. In the mid-1990s, as the global media stirred up a panic about the risks of genetically modified crops, Lynas destroyed crop fields and spoke out in the press…until he realized he was wrong. This book explains why. Starting out as one of the leading activists in the fight against GMOs–from destroying experimental crop fields to leading the charge in the press–in 2013 Lynas famously admitted that he got it all wrong. Lynas takes us back to the origins of the technology, and examines the histories of the people and companies who pioneered it. He explains what lead him to question his assumptions on GMOs, and how he is currently tracking poverty by using genetic modification to encourage better harvests. (publ.)
Description: The moment Kathi Koll received the call from her husband Don telling her he was on his way to the hospital she knew her world was about to change forever. Don a successful real estate developer, Eagle Scout and former U.S. Air Force pilot was the epitome of health and strength. Kathi a successful contractor was his perfect match. Together they built their dreams and traveled the world but this day changed everything. … As Kathi crossed a dividing line saying goodbye to their old carefree life she selflessly set out to find a “new normal” where she and Don could still live each day to its fullest finding joy and seeking adventure in a whole new way. Kathi shares with honesty and welcome humor the realities of being a full-time caregiver from the complications of turning their home into a mobile hospital to her desires to maintain an intimate relationship with her husband. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYRB 8 Nov. 2018 p. 35. Description: Katja Petrowskaja wanted to create a kind of family tree, charting relatives who had scattered across multiple countries and continents. Her idea blossomed into this striking and highly original work of narrative nonfiction, an account of her search for meaning within the stories of her ancestors. In a series of short meditations, Petrowskaja delves into family leg-ends, introducing a remarkable cast of characters: Judas Stern, her great-uncle, who shot a German diplomatic attaché in 1932 and was sentenced to death; her grandfather Semyon, who went underground with a new name during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, forever splitting their branch of the family from the rest; her grandmother Rosa, who ran an orphanage in the Urals for deaf-mute Jewish children; her Ukrainian grandfather Vasily, who disappeared during World War II and reappeared without explanation forty-one years later–and settled back into the family as if he’d never been gone; and her great-grandmother, whose name may have been Esther, who alone remained in Kiev and was killed by the Nazis. How do you talk about what you can’t know, how do you bring the past to life? To answer this complex question, Petrowskaja visits the scenes of these events, reflecting on a fragmented and traumatized century and bringing to light family figures who threaten to drift into obscurity. (publ.) Note: Originally published as: Vielleicht Esther (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2014).
Reviewed: PW 9 Apr. 2018 p. 66 Description: The American frontier is one of our most cherished and enduring national images. We think of the early settlers who tamed the wilderness and built the bones of our great country as courageous, independent–and white. In this groundbreaking work of deep historical research, Anna-Lisa Cox shows that this history simply isn't accurate. In fact, she has found a stunning number of black settlements on the frontier–in the thousands. Though forgotten today, these homesteads were a matter of national importance at the time; their mere existence challenged rationalizations for slavery and pushed the question toward a crisis–one that was not resolved until the eruption of the Civil War. Blending meticulous detail with lively storytelling, Cox brings historical recognition to the brave people who managed not just to secure their freedom but begin a battle that is still going on today–a battle for equality. (publ.)
Reviewed: TLS 7 July 2018 p. 24. Description: A mid-level official in a provincial town, Friedrich Kellner kept a secret diary from 1939 to 1945, risking his life to record Germany's path to dictator-ship and genocide and to protest his countrymen's complicity in the regime's brutalities. Just one month into the war he is aware that Jews are marked for extermination and later records how soldiers on leave spoke openly about the mass murder of Jews and the murder of POWs; he also documents the Gestapo's merciless rule at home from euthanasia ca-paigns against the handicapped and mentally ill to the execution of anyone found listening to foreign broadcasts. … The author’s writings are interspersed with contemporary clippings from the German press. (publ.)
Reviewed: TLS 5 Oct. 2018 p. 35. Description: In 1941, 14-year-old Dalia and her family are deported from their native Lithuania to a labour camp in Siberia. As the strongest member of her family she submits to twelve hours a day of manual labour. At the age of 21, she escapes the gulag and returns to Lithuania. She writes her memories on scraps of paper and buries them in the garden, fearing they might be discovered by the KGB. They are not found until 1991, four years after her death. This is the story Dalia buried. The immediacy of her writing bears witness not only to the suffering she endured but also the hope that sustained her. It is a Lithuanian tale that, like its author, beats the odds to survive. … This is an outstanding piece of literature which should be read by anyone who wishes to understand the Soviet repression. (publ.) Note: Originally published as: Lietuviai prie Laptevu Juros: Atsiminimai, Min-iatiuros, Laiskai (Vilnius: Lietuvos Rasytoju Sajungos Leidykla, 1997).
Reviewed: TLS 5 Oct. 2018 p. 32. Description: Traces the late 1950s to 1968, chronicling Condé’s life in Sékou Touré’s Guinea to her time in Kwame N’Krumah’s Ghana, where she rubbed shoulders with Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Julius Nyerere and Maya Angelou. Accusations of subversive activity resulted in Condé’s deportation from Ghana. Settling down in Senegal, Condé ended her African years with close friends in Dakar, including filmmakers, activists and Haitian exiles, before putting down more permanent roots in Paris. Condé’s story is more than one of political upheaval, however; it is also the story of a moth-er raising four children as she battles steep obstacles, of a Guadeloupean seeking her identity in Africa, and of a young woman searching for her freedom and vocation as a writer. Maryse Condé was born in Guadeloupe, a French territory of the Caribbean. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 25 June 2018 p. 29. Description: In the first episode of her “Bad With Money” podcast, Gaby Dunn asked patrons at a coffee shop two questions: First, what’s your favorite sex position? Everyone was game to answer, even the barista. Then, she asked how much money was in their bank accounts. People were aghast. “That’s a very personal question,” they insisted. And therein lies the problem. Dunn argues that our inability to speak honestly about money is our #1 barrier to understanding it, leading us to feel alone, ashamed and anxious, which in turns makes us feel even more overwhelmed by it. In this book, she reveals the legitimate, systemic reasons behind our feeling of helplessness when it comes to personal finance, demystifying the many signposts on the road to getting our finances together, like how to choose an insurance plan or buy a car, sign up for a credit card or take out student loans. (publ.)
Description: A call for action on one of the most talked about issues of our time: how skyrocketing rents and home values are pricing out the working and middle-class from urban America. Telling the stories of tenants, developers, politicians, homeowner groups, and housing activists from over a dozen cities impacted by the national housing crisis, this book criticizes cities for advancing policies that increase economic and racial inequality. Shaw also exposes how boomer homeowners restrict millennials’ access to housing in big cities, a generational divide that increasingly dominates city politics. Defying conventional wisdom, Shaw demonstrates that rising urban unaffordability and neighborhood gentrification are not inevitable. He offers proven measures for cities to preserve and expand their working- and middle-class populations and achieve more equitable and inclusive out-comes. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYT 12 Aug. 2018 (op/ed ref.) Description: Long-haul trucks have been described as sweatshops on wheels. The typical long-haul trucker works the equivalent of two full-time jobs, often for little more than minimum wage. But it wasn’t always this way. Trucking used to be one of the best working-class jobs in the United States. This book explains how this massive degradation in the quality of work has occurred, and how companies achieve a compliant and dedicated workforce despite it. Drawing on more than 100 in-depth interviews and years of extensive observation, including six months training and working as a long-haul trucker, Viscelli explains in detail how labor is recruited, trained, and used in the industry. He then shows how inexperienced workers are convinced to lease a truck and to work as independent contractors. He ex-plains how deregulation and collective action by employers transformed truckings labor markets–once dominated by the largest and most powerful union in US history–into an important example of the costs of contemporary labor markets for workers and the general public. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYT/BR 1 July 2018 p. 13; LR June 2018 p. 50; TLS 27 July 2018 p. 3. Description: Does your job make a meaningful contribution to the world? David Graeber asked this question in a playful, provocative online essay titled On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs. He defined a bullshit job as “a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence, even though as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.” After a million views in seventeen different languages, people all over the world are still debating the answer. ... Graeber, in his singularly searing and illuminating style, identifies the five types of bullshit jobs and argues that when 1 percent of the population controls most of a society’s wealth, they control what jobs are “useful” and “important.” ... Graeber illustrates how nurses, bus drivers, musicians, and landscape gardeners provide true value, and what it says about us as a society when we look down upon them. Using arguments from some of the most revered political thinkers, philosophers, and scientists of our time, Graeber articulates the societal and political consequences of these bullshit jobs. Depression, anxiety, and a warped sense of our values are all dire concerns. He provides a blueprint to undergo a shift in values, placing creative and caring work at the center of our culture, providing the meaning and satisfaction we all crave. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 25 June 2018 p. 33; 14 May 20128 p. 47. Description: For a generation, roughly from 1945 to 1970, business and government leaders embraced a vision of an American workforce rooted in stability. But over the last fifty years, job security has cratered as the postwar institutions that insulated us from volatility–big unions, big corporations, powerful regulators–have been swept aside by a fervent belief in “the market.” Temp tracks the surprising transformation of an ethos which favored long-term investment in work (and workers) to one promoting short-term re-turns. A series of deliberate decisions preceded the digital revolution and upended the longstanding understanding of what a corporation, or a factory, or a shop, was meant to do. Temp tells the story of the unmaking of American work through the experiences of those on the inside: consultants and executives, temps and office workers, line workers and migrant laborers. It begins in the sixties, with economists, consultants, business and pol-icy leaders who began to shift the corporation from a provider of goods and services to one whose sole purpose was to maximize profit--an ideology that brought with it the risk-taking entrepreneur and the shareholder revolution and changed the very definition of a corporation. With Temp, Hyman explains one of the nation's most immediate crises.
Description: Adam Reich and Peter Bearman examine how workers make sense of their jobs at places like Walmart in order to consider the nature of contemporary low-wage work, as well as the obstacles and opportunities such work-places present as sites of struggle for social and economic justice. They describe the life experiences that lead workers to Walmart and analyze the dynamics of the shop floor. As a part of the project, Reich and Bearman matched student activists with a nascent association of current and former Walmart associates: the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). They follow the efforts of this new partnership, considering the formation of collective identity and the relationship between social ties and social change. They show why traditional unions have been unable to organize service-sector workers in places like Walmart and offer provocative suggestions for new strategies and directions. Drawing on a wide array of methods, including participant-observation, oral history, big data, and the analysis of social networks, this book is a sophisticated reconsideration of the modern workplace that makes important contributions to debates on labor and inequality and the centrality of the experience of work in a fair economy. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 17 Dec. 2018 p. 139. Description: Long time residents of Mrs. Barrett’s adoption shelter, Felipe (a grumpy cat) and Claudette (a hyperactive dog) seem like they will never find a forever home, and Felipe is convinced that it is all Claudette’s fault–but when the dog is finally adopted, Felipe is so depressed that he hides on adoption day, and it turns out that Claudette also misses her friend. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 11 June 2018 p. 64. Description: When a puppy in need of a friend follows a kind girl into town, he lands himself into all sorts of trouble. He gets lost. He’s nearly run over. And he gets chased out of a bakery for being a “bad dog.” But when the pup and the girl reunite in the park and she leaves behind her favorite doll, the puppy has a chance to prove just what a good dog he really is! (publ.)
Description: Having eaten his only friend, a monster seeks a new companion but each creature he meets has a good reason not to serve as a replacement. (publ.) Note: Standing Order; Junior Library Guild.
Reviewed: NYT/BR 21 Oct. 2018 p. 26 Description: Turning the traditional idea of an alphabet book on its head, P is for Pterodactyl is perfect for anyone who has ever been stumped by silent letters or confused by absurd homophones. This whimsical, unique book takes silent letter entries like “K is for Knight” a step further with “The noble knight’s knife nicked the knave’s knee.” Lively illustrations provide con-text clues, and alliterative words help readers navigate text like “a bright white gnat is gnawing on my gnocchi” with ease. Everyone from early learners to grown-up grammarians will love this wacky book where “A is for Aisle” but “Y is definitely not for Why.” (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 8 Oct. 2018 p. 62. Description: Two dinosaurs whose species are sworn enemies want to become friends. Romeosaurus and Juliet Rex get along perfectly well until they realize that their families should be mortal enemies! … With two families up in arms (very short ones for Juliet Rex) the two friends run away, determined not to let family baggage determine who their friends should be. (publ.)
It's the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can't wait to meet her classmates. But it's hard to make human friends when they're so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all...
Reviewed: TLS 13 July 2018 p. 11; NYT/BR 12 Aug. 2018 p. 12. Description: Metabolism, behavior, sleep, mood swings, the immune system, fighting, fleeing, puberty, and sex: these are just a few of the things our bodies control with hormones. Armed with a healthy dose of wit and curiosity, medical journalist Randi Hutter Epstein takes us on a journey through the unusual history of these potent chemicals from a basement filled with jarred nineteenth-century brains to a twenty-first-century hormone clinic in Los Angeles. Brimming with fascinating anecdotes, illuminating new medical research, and humorous details, Epstein introduces the leading scientists who made life-changing discoveries about the hormone imbalances that ail us, as well as the charlatans who used those discoveries to peddle false remedies. She exposes the humanity at the heart of hormone science with her rich cast of characters, including a 1920s doctor promoting vasectomies as a way to boost libido, a female medical student who discovered a pregnancy hormone in the 1940s, and a mother who collected pituitaries, a brain gland, from cadavers as a source of growth hormone to treat her son. Along the way, Epstein explores the functions of hormones such as leptin, oxytocin, estrogen, and testosterone, demystifying the science of endocrinology. (publ.)
Description: What does university teaching–as a craft–look like? What changes does a craft perspective suggest for higher education? Peter Lindsay addresses these questions in both a general sense–and with respect to the practical, everyday tasks of university professors, such as the use and misuse of technology, the handling of academic dishonesty, the assignment of course reading, and the instilling of enthusiasm for learning. Intended for professors of all academic disciplines who either enjoy teaching or wish to enjoy it more, this book is a provocative and accessible book containing practical advice gleaned from the academic literature on pedagogy. (publ.)
Description: Let’s start with two truths about our era that are so inescapable as to have become clichés: We are surrounded by more readily available information than ever before. And a huge percentage of it is inaccurate. Some of the bad info is well-meaning but ignorant. Some of it is deliberately deceptive. All of it is pernicious. With the internet at our fingertips, what’s a teacher of history to do? Sam Wineburg has answers, beginning with this: We can’t stick to the same old read-the-chapter-answer-the-question snoozefest. If we want to educate citizens who can separate fact from fake, we have to equip them with new tools. Historical thinking, Wineburg shows, has nothing to do with the ability to memorize facts. Instead, it’s an orientation to the world that cultivates reasoned skepticism and counters our tendency to confirm our biases. Wineburg lays out a mine-filled landscape, but one that with care, attention, and awareness, we can all learn to navigate. (publ.)
Reviewed:TLS 7 Sept. 2018 p. 32. Description: Laura Esther Wolfson’s literary debut draws on years of immersion in the Russian and French languages. In prose spangled with pathos and dusted with humor, Wolfson transports us to Paris, the Republic of Georgia, up-state New York, the Upper West Side, and the corridors of the United Nations, telling stories that skewer, transform, and inspire. (publ.)
Note: Winner of the 2017 Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction.
Reviewed:LR Nov. 2018 p. 64. Description:In 1979 Bridget Doyle has one goal left in life: for her family to produce the very first Irish pope. Fired up by John Paul II’s appearance in Phoenix Park, she sprinkles Papal-blessed holy water on the marital bed of her son and daughter-in-law, and leaves them to get on with things. Nine months later her daughter-in-law dies in childbirth and Granny Doyle is left bringing up four grandchildren: six-year-old Peg, and baby triplets Damien, Rosie and John Paul. Thirty years on, it seems unlikely any of Granny Doyle’s grandchildren are going to fulfil her hopes. Damien is trying to work up the courage to tell her that he’s gay. Rosie is a dreamy rebel who wants to save the world but isn’t quite effective enough to pull it off. And irrepressible John Paul is a chancer and charmer and the undisputed apple of his Granny’s eye–but he’s not exactly what you’d call Pontiff material. None of the triplets have much contact with their big sister Peg, who lives over 3,000 miles away in New York City, and has been a forbidden topic of conversation ever since she ran away in disgrace at the age of seventeen. But that’s about to change …(publ.)
Reviewed:NYT/M 13 Jan. 2018 p. 14 (excerpt). Description: In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption. In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis's soul. (publ.)
Reviewed: LR Oct. 2018 p. 63; TLS 22 June 2018 p. 7. Description: An epic array of short fictional tales reflecting the fifteen year that Varlam Shalamov spent in the Soviet Gulag. This is the first of two volumes (the second to appear in 2019) that together will constitute the first complete English translation of Shalamov’s stories and the only one to be based on the authorized Russian text. Shalamov spent six years as a slave in the gold mines of Kolyma before finding a less intolerable life as a paramedic in the prison camps. He began writing his account of life in Kolyma after Stalin’s death in 1953. His stories are at once the biography a rare survivor, a historical record of the Gulag, and literary work of unparalleled creative power, insight, and conviction. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 24 Sept. 2018 p. 78. Description: Now entering its nineteenth year, the Caine Prize for African Writing is Africa’s leading literary prize, and is awarded to a short story by an African writer published in English, whether in Africa or elsewhere. This collection brings together twelve short stories–the five 2018 shortlisted stories, along with others written at the 2018 Caine Prize Writers’ Workshop that took place in Rwanda. The collection showcases young writers who go on to publish successful novels, for instance: Leila Aboulela, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sefi Atta, Brian Chikwava and Helon Habila. The prize was launched in 2000 to encourage and highlight the richness and diversity of African writing by bringing it to a wider audience internationally. The focus on the short story reflects the contemporary development of the African storytelling tradition. (publ.)
Reviewed: LJ 15 Apr. 2018 p. 74; NYT/BR 8 July 2018 p. 26. Description: This collection takes its title from Rembrandt’s painting, a dark emblem of femininity, violence, and the viewer’s own troubled gaze. In Diane Seuss’s new book, the notion of the still life is shattered and Rembrandt’s painting is presented across the book in pieces—details that hide more than they reveal until they’re assembled into a whole. With invention and irreverence, these poems escape gilded frames and overturn traditional representations of gender, class, and luxury. Instead, Seuss invites in the alienated, the washed-up, the ugly, and the freakish–the overlooked many of us who might more often stand on a Walmart parking lot than before the canvases of Pollock, O’Keeffe, and Rothko. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYT/BR 25 Nov. 2018 p. 26. Description: This debut collection is a complicated love letter to Washington, DC, and to those who call it home: a TSA agent who’s never flown, a girl braving new worlds to play piano, and a teacher caught up in a mayoral race. These characters navigate life’s “training school”–with lessons on gentrification and respectability–and fight to create their own sense of space and self. Camille Acker’s writing has appeared in Hazlitt and VICE, among others. Raised in Washington, DC, she currently lives in Chicago. (publ.)
Description: Though his fame was later eclipsed by peers such as Bertolt Brecht, Bruckner was the celebrity dramatist of his time, and a new generation of readers is discovering his groundbreaking plays known for their strong cultural critique and unflinching portrayals of social ills, outcasts, and misfits. Youth Is a Sickness (1924) explores the lives of Germany’s “lost generation,” those who grew up during and after the cataclysm of the First World War, devoid of hope and ideals, lost in a haze of sex and drugs. Criminals (1926) traces several court cases about a failed double suicide, theft, abortion, and homosexual blackmail, controversial topics for the audience of its time and even today. Its innovative staging and interwoven storylines illuminate the imposed social tensions and legal injustice faced by the characters. (publ.)
Reviewed: TLS 26 Oct. 2018 p. 27. Description: In June 1897, the young Constantine Cavafy arrives in Paris on the last stop of a long European tour, a trip that will deeply shape his future and push him toward his poetic inclination. With this lyrical novel, tinged with an hallucinatory eroticism that unfolds over three unforgettable days, celebrated Greek author Ersi Sotiropoulos depicts Cavafy in the midst of a journey of self-discovery across a continent on the brink of massive change. He is by turns exhilarated and tormented by his homosexuality; the Greek-Turkish War has ended in Greece’s defeat and humiliation; France is torn by the Dreyfus Affair, and Cavafy’s native Alexandria has surrendered to the indolent rhythms of the East. A stunning portrait of a budding author—before he became C.P. Cavafy, one of the 20th century’s greatest poets. (publ.) Note: Originally published as: Τι Μενει απο τη Нυχτα: Мυθιστορημα = Ti Menei apo tē Nychta: Mythistorēma (Athens: Ekdoseis Patakē, 2015).
Reviewed: TLS 17 Aug. 2018 p. 10. Description: When Lieutenant Uhura took her place on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek, the actress Nichelle Nichols went where no African American woman has ever gone before. Yet several decades passed before many other black women began playing significant roles in speculative (i.e. science fiction, fantasy, and horror) film and television--a troubling omission, given that these genres offer significant opportunities for reinventing social constructs such as race, gender, and class. Challenging cinema's history of stereotyping or erasing black women on-screen, Denison University professor Diana Mafe showcases twenty-first-century examples that portray them as central figures of action and agency. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 16 Apr. 2018 p. 83 Description: Dr. Paul A. Offit shares hard-earned wisdom on the do's and don'ts of battling misinformation. For the past twenty years, Offit has been on the front lines in the fight for sound science and public heath. Stepping into the media spotlight as few scientists have done—such as being one of the first to speak out against conspiracy theories linking vaccines to autism—he found himself in the crosshairs of powerful groups intent on promoting pseudoscience. (publ.) Paul A. Offit is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as well as the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. (publ.)
Description: Located at the intersection of Asia and the Middle East, Afghanistan has been strategically important for thousands of years. Its ancient trade routes and strategic position between India, Inner Asia, China, Persia and beyond has meant the region has been subject to frequent invasions. Modern Afghanistan is a culturally and ethnically diverse country, but one divided by conflict, political instability and by mass displacements of its people. Jonathan L. Lee places the current conflict in Afghanistan in its historical context and challenges many of the West’s preconceived ideas about the country. Lee chronicles the region's monarchic rules and the Durrani dynasty, focusing on the reigns of each ruler and their efforts to balance tribal, ethnic, regional and religious factions, moving on to the struggle for social and constitutional reform and the rise of Islamic and Communist factions. He offers new cultural and political insights from Persian histories, the memoirs of Afghan government officials, British government and India Office archives, recently released CIA reports and WikiLeaks documents. Lee also sheds new light on the country’s foreign relations, its internal power struggles and the impact of foreign military interventions such as the “War on Terror.” (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 9 Apr. 2018 p. 66; LJ 15 May 2018 p. 66. Description: The American frontier is one of our most cherished and enduring national images. We think of the early settlers who tamed the wilderness and built the bones of our great country as courageous, independent–and white. In this groundbreaking work of deep historical research, Anna-Lisa Cox shows that this history simply isn't accurate. In fact, she has found a stunning number of black settlements on the frontier–in the thousands. Though forgotten today, these homesteads were a matter of national importance at the time; their mere existence challenged rationalizations for slavery and pushed the question toward a crisis–one that was not resolved until the eruption of the Civil War. Blending meticulous detail with lively storytelling, Cox brings historical recognition to the brave people who managed not just to secure their freedom but begin a battle that is still going on today–a battle for equality. (publ.)
Reviewed: LR July 2018 p. 18; TLS 7 Sept. 2018 p. 28. Description: Uses the prism of George Washington’s life to bring focus to the great Native leaders of his time–Shingas, Tanaghrisson, Bloody Fellow, Joseph Brant, Red Jacket, Little Turtle–and the tribes they represented: the Iroquois Confederacy, Lenape, Miami, Creek, Delaware; in the process, he re-turns them to their rightful place in the story of America’s founding. This book spans decades of Native American leaders’ interactions with Washington, from his early days as surveyor of Indian lands, to his military career against both the French and the British, to his presidency, when he dealt with Native Americans as a head of state would with a foreign power, using every means of diplomacy and persuasion to fulfill the new republic’s destiny by appropriating their land. By the end of his life, Washington knew more than anyone else in America about the frontier and its significance to the future of his country. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 25 June 2018 p. 61; PW 24 Sept. 2018 p. 97. Description: In August 1955, the fourteen-year-old Chicago boy supposedly flirted with a white woman named Carolyn Bryant, who worked behind the counter of a country store, while visiting family in Mississippi. Three days later, his mangled body was recovered in the Tallahatchie River, weighed down by a cotton-gin fan. Till’s killers, Bryant’s husband and his half-brother, were eventually acquitted on technicalities by an all-white jury despite overwhelming evidence. It seemed another case of Southern justice. Then details of what had happened to Till became public, which they did in part because Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted that his casket remain open during his funeral. In 2005, fifty years after the murder, the FBI reopened the case. New papers and testimony have come to light, and several participants, including Till’s mother, have published autobiographies. Using this new evidence and a broadened historical context, Elliott J. Gorn delves more fully than anyone has into how and why the story of Emmett Till still resonates, and always will. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 17 Dec. 2018 p. 132 (author interview p. 131) Description: Because of our shared English language, as well as the celebrated origin tales of the Mayflower and the rebellion of the British colonies, the United States has prized its Anglo heritage above all others. However, as Carrie Gibson explains with great depth and clarity, the nation has much older Spanish roots–ones that have long been unacknowledged or marginalized. The Hispanic past of the United States predates the arrival of the Pilgrims by a century, and has been every bit as important in shaping the nation as it exists today. El Norte chronicles the sweeping and dramatic history of Hispanic North America from the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century to the present–from Ponce de Leon's initial landing in Florida in 1513 to Spanish control of the vast Louisiana territory in 1762 to the Mexican-American War in 1846 and up to the more recent tragedy of post-hurricane Puerto Rico and the ongoing border acrimony with Mexico. (publ.)
Description: Between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries in Europe, not all women fit the stereotype of passive housewife and mother. Many led bold and dynamic lives. In this collection of historical portraits, Maria Teresa Brolis tells the fascinating tales of fashion icons, art clients, businesswomen, saints, healers, lovers, and pilgrims–both famous and little known–who challenge conventional understandings of the medieval female experience. Drawing on evidence from literary works and archival documents that include letters, chronicles, trials, testimonials, notary registers, contracts, and wills, Brolis pieces together an intricate overview of sixteen women’s lives. Note: Originally published as: Storie di Donne nel Medioevo (Bologna: Società Editrice Il Mulino, 2016).
Reviewed: NYT/BR 25 Nov. 2018 p. 12; TLS 23 Nov. 2018 p. 11 (2018 Book of the Year); TLS 16 Nov. 2018 p. 26. Description: Vietnam became the Western world’s most divisive modern conflict, precipitating a battlefield humiliation for France in 1954, then a vastly greater one for the United States in 1975. Max Hastings has spent the past three years interviewing scores of participants on both sides, as well as researching a multitude of American and Vietnamese documents and memoirs, to create an epic narrative of an epic struggle. He portrays the set pieces of Dienbienphu, the 1968 Tet offensive, the air blitz of North Vietnam, and much less familiar miniatures such as the bloodbath at Daido–where a US Marine battalion was almost wiped out–together with extraordinary recollections of Ho Chi Minh’s warriors. Here are the vivid realities of strife amid jungle and paddies that killed two million people. Many writers treat the war as a US tragedy, yet Hastings sees it overwhelmingly as one for the Vietnamese people, of whom forty died for every American. US blunders and atrocities were matched by those committed by their enemies. While all the world has seen the image of a screaming, naked girl seared by napalm, it forgets countless eviscerations, beheadings, and murders carried out by the communists. The people of both former Vietnams paid a bitter price for the Northerners’ victory in privation and oppression. Here we are given testimony from Vietcong guerrillas, Southern paratroopers, Saigon bar girls, and Hanoi students alongside that of infantrymen from South Dakota, Marines from North Carolina, and Huey pilots from Arkansas. (publ.)
Reviewed: LJ 15 Sept. 2018 p. 66. Description: After the death of her son, Eric Garner, at the hands of New York City police officers on Staten Island went viral, Gwen Carr’s life changed forever. The illegal chokehold that took Garner’s life has been seared into the public consciousness forever as the large black man struggled to breathe while a white policeman held him down on a hot concrete sidewalk. His death set the tone for a new normal where young black men and women now automatically document police interactions with their cell phones for fear of brutality and even death. As one of the Mothers of the Movement, Gwen Carr, a retired transit train operator, now dedicates her time to fighting for racial equality, especially the way law enforcement treats blacks in the United States. (publ)
Description: The English language is rich with eponyms–words that are named after an individual–some better known than others. This book features 150 of the most interesting and enlightening specimens, delving into the origins of the words and describing the fascinating people after whom they were named. Eponyms are derived from numerous sources. Some are named in honor of a style icon, inventor or explorer, such as pompadour, Kalashnikov and Cadillac. Others have their roots in Greek or Roman mythology, such as panic and tantalize. A number of eponyms, however, are far from celebratory and were created to indicate a rather less positive association–into this category can be filed boycott, Molotov cocktail and sadist. Encompassing eponyms from medicine, botany, invention, science, fashion, food and literature, this book uncovers the intriguing tales of discovery, mythology, innovation and infamy behind the eponyms we use every day. (publ.)
Reviewed: LJ 1 May 2018 p. 83; NYRB 27 Sept. 2018 p. 32. Description: Until the 21st century, most of our activities were private by default, public only through effort; today anything that touches digital space has the potential (and likelihood) to remain somewhere online forever. That means all of the technologies that have made our lives easier, faster, better, and/or more efficient have also simultaneously made it easier to keep an eye on our activities. Or, as we recently learned from re-ports about Cambridge Analytica, our data might be turned into a propaganda machine against us. In 10 crucial legal cases, [this book] explores the tools of surveillance that exist today, how they work, and what the implications are for the future of privacy. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 14 Jan. 2019 p. 43. Description: You know that feeling of being at the wrong end of the table? Like you’re at a party but all the good stuff is happening out of earshot (#FOMO)? That’s life–especially for an immigrant. What happens when a shy, awkward Arab girl with a weird name is uprooted from her comfortable (albeit fascist-regimed) homeland of Iraq and thrust into the cold, alien town of Columbus, Ohio–with its Egg McMuffins, Barbie dolls, and kids playing doctor everywhere you turned? This is Ayser Salman’s story. First comes Emigration, then Naturalization, and finally Assimilation–trying to fit in among her blonde-haired, blue-eyed counterparts, and always feeling left out. On her journey to Americanhood, Ayser sees more naked butts at pre-kindergarten daycare that she would like, breaks one of her parents’ rules (“Thou shalt not participate as an actor in the school musical where a male cast member rests his head in thy lap”), and other things good Muslim Ar-ab girls are not supposed to do. And, after the 9/11 attacks, she experiences the isolation of being a Muslim in her own country. It takes hours of therapy, fifty-five rounds of electrolysis, and some ill-advised romantic dalliances for Ayser to grow into a modern Arab American woman who em-braces her cultural differences. (publ.)
Description: “Hate speech” censorship proponents stress the potential harms such speech might further: discrimination, violence, and psychic injuries. However, there has been little analysis of whether censorship effectively counters the feared injuries. Citing evidence from many countries, this book shows that “hate speech” laws are at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive. Their inevitably vague terms invest enforcing officials with broad discretion, and predictably, regular targets are minority views and speakers. Therefore, prominent social justice advocates in the U.S. and beyond maintain that the best way to resist hate and promote equality is not censorship, but rather, vigorous “counterspeech” and activism. … We hear too many incorrect assertions that “hate speech”–which has no generally accepted definition–is either absolutely unprotected or absolutely protected from censorship. Rather, U.S. law allows government to punish hateful or discriminatory speech in specific contexts when it directly causes imminent serious harm. Yet, government may not punish such speech solely because its message is disfavored, disturbing, or vaguely feared to possibly contribute to some future harm. When U.S. officials formerly wielded such broad censorship power, they suppressed dissident speech, including equal rights advocacy. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 15 Oct. 2018 p. 134. Description: A miraculous alchemy occurs when one person reads to another, trans-forming the simple stuff of a book, a voice, and a bit of time into complex and powerful fuel for the heart, brain, and imagination. Grounded in the latest neuroscience and behavioral research, and drawing widely from literature, The Enchanted Hour explains the dazzling cognitive and social-emotional benefits that await children, whatever their class, nationality or family background. But it’s not just about bedtime stories for little kids: Reading aloud consoles, uplifts and invigorates at every age, deepening the intellectual lives and emotional well-being of teenagers and adults, too. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYT/BR 10 Mar. 2019 p. 10 Description: A collection of previously published essays and profiles by the legendary critic Janet Malcolm. The title piece of this wonderfully eclectic collection is a profile of the fashion designer Eileen Fisher, whose mother often said to her, “Nobody's looking at you.” But in every piece in this volume, Malcolm looks closely and with impunity at a broad range of subjects, from Donald Trump’s TV nemesis Rachel Maddow, to the stiletto-heel-wearing pianist Yuja Wang, to “the big-league game” of Supreme Court confirmation hearings. In an essay called “Socks,” Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky are seen as the “sort of asteroid [that] has hit the safe world of Russian Literature in English translation,” and in “Dreams and Anna Karenina,” the focus is Tolstoy, “one of literature's greatest masters of manipulative techniques.” This book also includes “Pandora’s Click,” a brief, cautionary piece about e-mail etiquette that was written in the early two thousands, and that reverberates–albeit painfully–to this day. (publ.)
Description: Argues that literary analysis can enhance our historical understanding of race and Reconstruction. The standard view that Reconstruction ended with the Compromise of 1877 is a retrospective construction. Works of literature provide the perspective of those who continued to see possibilities for its renewal well past 1877. … Literature’s political allegories allow us to recreate debates rather than view the end of Reconstruction as a foregone conclusion. Because many of the issues raised by Reconstruction remain unresolved, those debates continue into the present. Chapters treat how the racial issues raised by Reconstruction are interwoven with debates over state v. national authority, efforts to combat terrorism (the KKK), the paternalism of welfare, economic expansion, and the question of who should rightly inherit the nation’s past. Thomas examines authors who opposed Reconstruction, authors who supported it, and authors who struggled with mixed feelings. (publ.) Contents: Introduction: not in plain black and white – 1. Reconciliation and reunion: clasping hands over the bloody chasm – 2. Federalism: thinking nationally, acting locally – 3. The Ku Klux Klan: the necessity of extreme measures – 4. Of mules and men: African American manhood and the paradox of paternalism – 5. Ruiz de Burton and railroads: the westward course of reconstruction – 6. Working with the heritage of the Old South – 7. Inheriting a shadow and a dream.
Description: Acclaimed Scottish singer Jean Redpath (1937-2014) is best remembered for her impressive repertoire of ancient ballads, Robert Burns songs, and con-temporary folk music, recorded and performed over a career spanning some fifty years, from the 1960s until her death in 2014. Mark Brownrigg helps capture Redpath’s idiosyncratic and often humorous voice through his interviews with her during the last eighteen months of her life. Here Redpath reflects on her humble beginnings, her Scottish heritage, her life’s journey, and her mission of preserving, performing, and teaching traditional song. A native of Edinburgh, Redpath was raised in a family of singers of traditional Scots songs. She broadened her knowledge of the tradition through work with the Edinburgh Folk Society and later as a student of Scottish studies at Edinburgh University. Prior to graduation, Redpath abandoned her studies to follow her passion of singing. Her independent spirit took her to the United States, where she found commercial success amid the Greenwich Village folk-music revival in New York in the 1960s. There she shared a house and concert stages with Bob Dylan and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Often praised for her unaccompanied, gentle voice, Redpath received a rave review in the New York Times, which launched her career and lead to her wide recognition as a true voice of traditional Scottish songs. As a regular guest on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show, Redpath endeared herself to millions with her soft melodies and amusing tales. Her extensive knowledge of traditional Scottish music history led to appointments as artist in residence at universities in the United States and Scotland, where she taught courses on traditional song. Among her final performances was a 2009 appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. (publ.)
Description: As of 2017, 55 percent of American households included at least one pet. Pets are ubiquitous and often considered part of the family, but are they content in a domestic setting? Is there a way for us to tell if we are giving pets a suitable standard of living? Many factors must be considered when looking at the ethics of pet ownership, including what rights animals should possess, where the animals come from, and what species of animals should be kept as pets. Readers will gain a better understanding of the many ethical considerations surrounding pet ownership. (publ.) Note: Library Standing Order.
Reviewed: NYT/BR 11 Nov. 2018 p. 13. Description: In modern warfare no deployment meets the expectations laid down by stories of Appomattox, Ypres, Iwo Jima, or Tet. Stuck behind a desk or the wheel of a truck, many of today’s veterans feel they haven’t even been to war though they may have listened to mortars in the night or dodged improvised explosive devices during the day. When a drone is needed to verify a target’s death or bullets are sprayed like grass seed, military offensives can lack the immediacy that comes with direct contact. After Combat bridges the gap between sensationalized media and reality by telling war’s unvarnished stories. Participating soldiers, sailors, marines, and air force personnel (retired, on leave, or at the beginning of military careers) describe combat in the ways they believe it should be understood. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 7 May 2018 p. 59 Description: A fascinating sociological assessment of the damaging effects of the for-profit partnership between government and corporation on rural Americans. Why is government distrust rampant, especially in the rural United States? This book offers a simple explanation: corporations and the government together dispossess rural people of their prosperity, and even their property. Based on four years of fieldwork, this eye-opening assessment by sociologist Loka Ashwood plays out in a mixed-race Georgia community that hosted the first nuclear power reactors sanctioned by the government in three decades. This work serves as an explanatory mirror of prominent trends in current American politics. Churches become havens for redemption, poaching a means of retribution, guns a tool of self-defense, and nuclear power a faltering solution to global warming as governance strays from democratic principles. In the absence of hope or trust in rulers, rural racial tensions fester and divide. The book tells of the rebellion that unfolds as the rights of corporations supersede the rights of humans. (publ.)
Reviewed: FA 97(5) Sept./Oct. 2018 p. 224. Description: Discusses the new political climate in Europe and the United States where xenophobia and racism have voted Britain out of the EU and catapulted Donald Trump to the presidency. Opportunistic politicians have exploited the economic crisis, terrorist attacks, and an unprecedented influx of refugees to bring hateful and reactionary views from the margins of political discourse into the mainstream. Openly xenophobic ideas are becoming state policy. How did we get here? Polakow-Suransky chronicles how the backlash against refugees and immigrants has reshaped our political landscape. He argues that the greatest threat comes not from outside, but from within, and established democracies are at risk of betraying their core values and falling apart. (publ.)
Reviewed: LR June 2018 p. 9; TLS 4 Jan. 2018 p. 28. Description: The authors reveal six essential strategies that dictators use to undermine the electoral process in order to guarantee victory for themselves. Based on their firsthand experiences as election watchers and their hundreds of interviews with presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, election officials, and conspirators, Cheeseman and Klaas document instances of election rigging from Argentina to Zimbabwe, including notable examples from Brazil, India, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States–touching on the 2016 election. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYT 13 Sept. 2018 p. C4. Description: Chronicles the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby ruling, which allowed districts to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice. Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening details she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans as the nation gears up for the 2018 midterm elections. (publ.)
Reviewed: TLS 13 July 2018 p. 11. Description: Despite inevitable questions about gun control, there is a sharp increase in firearm sales in the wake of every mass shooting. Yet, this kind of DIY security activism predates the contemporary gun rights movement–and even the stand-your-ground self-defense laws adopted in thirty-three states, or the thirteen million civilians currently licensed to carry concealed firearms. As scholar Caroline Light proves, support for “good guys with guns” relies on the entrenched belief that certain “bad guys with guns” threaten us all. This book explores the development of the American right to self-defense and reveals how the original “duty to retreat” from threat was transformed into a selective right to kill. Light traces white America’s attachment to radicalized, lethal self-defense by unearthing its complex legal and social histories–from the original “castle laws” of the 1600s, which gave white men the right to protect their homes, to the brutal lynching of “criminal” Black bodies during the Jim Crow era and the radicalization of the NRA as it transitioned from a sporting organization to one of our country's most powerful lobbying forces. (publ.)
Reviewed: FA 97(5) Sept./Oct. 2018 p. 232; TLS 4 Jan. 2018 p. 29; Lancet 392(10152) 22 Sept. 2018 p. 996. Description: Those who championed globalization once promised a world of winners, one in which free trade would lift all the world’s boats, and extremes of left and right would give way to universally embraced liberal values. The past few years have shattered this fantasy, as those who’ve paid the price for globalism’s gains have turned to populist and nationalist politicians to express fury at the political, media, and corporate elites they blame for their losses. The United States elected an anti-immigration, protectionist president who promised to “put America first” and turned a cold eye on alliances and treaties. Across Europe, anti-establishment political parties made gains not seen in decades. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. And as Ian Bremmer shows in this book, populism is still spreading. Globalism creates plenty of both winners and losers, and those who’ve missed out want to set things right. They've seen their futures made obsolete. They hear new voices and see new faces all about them. They feel their cultures shift. They don’'t trust what they read. They’ve begun to understand the world as a battle for the future that pits “us” vs. “them.” (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 25 June 2018 p. 122. Description: In this collection of original essays, experts in political science, the hard sciences, philosophy, history, and other disciplines examine contemporary anti-science trends, and make a strong case that respect for science is essential for a healthy democracy. They note that a contradiction lies at the heart of modern society. On the one hand, we inhabit a world increasingly dominated by science and technology. On the other, opposition to science is prevalent in many forms–from arguments against the teaching of evolution and the denial of climate change to the promotion of alternative medicine and outlandish claims about the effects of vaccinations. Adding to this grass-roots hostility toward science are academics espousing postmodern relativism, which equates the methods of science with regimes of “power-knowledge.” … Contributors contend that such views are actually destructive of a broader culture appropriate for a democratic society. This is especially true when facts are degraded as “fake news” and scientists are dismissed as elitists. Rather than enhancing the capacity for rational debate and critical discourse, the authors view such anti-science stances on either the right or the left as a return to premodern forms of subservience to authority and an unwillingness to submit beliefs to rational scrutiny. Beyond critiquing attitudes hostile to science, the essays in this collection put forward a positive vision for how we might better articulate the relation between science and democracy and the benefits that accrue from cultivating this relationship. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYRB 25 Oct. 2018 p. 20. Description: If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to mil-lions of people, distract them from important issues, energize hatred and bigotry, erode social trust, undermine respectable journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook. Of course, none of that was part of the plan. Siva Vaidhyanathan explains how Facebook devolved from an innocent social site hacked together by Harvard students into a force that, while it may make personal life just a little more pleasurable, makes democracy a lot more challenging. It’s an account of the hubris of good intentions, a missionary spirit, and an ideology that sees computer code as the universal solvent for all human problems. (publ.)
Reviewed: Economist 1 Dec. 2018 p. 72 (2018 Best Books of the Year in Science & Technology) Description: An exhilarating tour of the contemporary quantum landscape, this is a book about what quantum physics really means–and what it doesn’t. Science writer Philip Ball offers an up-to-date, accessible account of the quest to come to grips with the most fundamental theory of physical reality, and to explain how its counterintuitive principles underpin the world we experience. (publ.)
Description: Why just play video games when you can build your own game? Follow the steps in this book to learn a little about code, build a few graphics, and piece together a real game you can share with your friends. Who knows? What you learn here could help you become the next rock-star video- game designer. So set your controller aside and get ready to create! Author Patrick McCabe shows how to build some basic knowledge of how computer code drives video games; create simple graphics and learn how to put them in motion; & put your knowledge together to put your modern twist on a classic game. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 30 Apr. 2018 p. 54. Description: Algorithms are running our society, and we don’t really know what they are up to. Our increasing reliance on technology and the internet has opened a window for mathematicians and data researchers to gaze through into our lives. Using the data they are constantly collecting about where we travel, where we shop, what we buy and what interests us, they can begin to predict our daily habits. But how reliable is this data? Without understanding what mathematics can and can’t do, it is impossible to get a handle on how it is changing our lives. In this book, David Sumpter takes an algorithm-strewn journey to the dark side of mathematics. He investigates the equations that analyze us, influence us and will (maybe) become like us, answering questions such as: Who are Cambridge Analytica? And what are they doing with our data? How does Facebook build a 100-dimensional picture of your personality? Are Google algorithms racist and sexist? Why do election predictions fail so drastically? Are algorithms that are designed to find criminals making terrible mistakes? What does the future hold as we relinquish our decision-making to machines? (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 25 June 2018 p. 120, 179. Description: Many of science’s greatest minds have grappled with the simple yet elusive “double-slit” experiment that Thomas Young devised in the early 1800s to show that light behaves like a wave. Decade after decade, hypothesis after hypothesis, scientists have returned to this experiment to help them answer deeper and deeper questions about the fabric of the universe. Ananthaswamy travels around the world and through history, to examine quantum mechanics from the perspective of this experiment and its variations. … This is the story of quantum mechanics told through the lens of the “double-slit” experiment, showing how light passing through two slits cut into a cardboard sheet first challenged our understanding of light and the nature of reality almost two hundred years ago–and continues to do so. (publ.)
Description: It is well established that all humans today, wherever they live, belong to one single species. Yet even many people who claim to abhor racism take for granted that human “races” have a biological reality. Rob DeSalle and Ian Tattersall provide a lucid and forceful critique of how scientific tools have been misused to uphold misguided racial categorizations. … They demonstrates conclusively that modern genetic tools, when applied correctly to the study of human variety, fail to find genuine differences. While the diversity that exists within our species is a real phenomenon, it nevertheless defeats any systematic attempt to recognize discrete units within it. The stark lines that humans insist on drawing between their own groups and others are nothing but a mixture of imagination and ideology. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYT 6 Jan. 2019 p. SR7 (author op/ed). Description: In the last few decades, any hope of economic progress for black Americans has been slowly and steadily undermined. This quiet crisis was only exacerbated by the recession, which cut black households’ wealth by over 30 percent. Black millennials watched their parents try to play by the rules, buying homes and aspiring to the trappings of middle-class life, only to sink deeper and deeper into debt. Now, in the post-Obama era, young black Americans face a critical turning point, as they try to realize dreams too long deferred ... Allen interweaves reflections on defining moments, from Hurricane Katrina to the murder of Michael Brown to the election of Donald Trump. Together, the lives and reflections in these pages offer a portrait of a generation on the brink, tracing their efforts to build their own futures and write their own history. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYT/BR 16 Sept. 2018 p. 19; LJ Aug. 2018 p. 111. Description: Pundits and politicians are calling for us to come together, to find common purpose. But how, exactly, can this be done? In this book, Eric Klinenberg suggests a way forward. He believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks where crucial, sometimes life-saving connections, are formed. These are places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. Klinenberg calls this the “social infrastructure”: When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves. (publ.)
“…Klinenberg finds in libraries ‘the textbook example of social infrastructure in action,’ a shared space where everyone from schoolchildren doing homework to the video-gaming elderly can get to know one another better. For him, the presence of destitute or mentally ill visitors is a feature, not a bug, of libraries, because it requires people to confront radical differences in a shared space.” (NYT)
Reviewed: NYT 26 Aug. 2018 p. SR3 (Excerpt/Op. ed.); NYT/BR 26 Aug 2018 p. 1; Economist 26 Jan. 2019 p. 76. Description: Former New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas takes us into the inner sanctums of a new gilded age, where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can--except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it. We see how they rebrand themselves as saviors of the poor; how they lavishly reward "thought leaders" who redefine "change" in winner-friendly ways; and how they constantly seek to do more good, but never less harm. We hear the limousine confessions of a celebrated foundation boss; witness an American president hem and haw about his plutocratic benefactors; and attend a cruise-ship conference where entrepreneurs celebrate their own self-interested magnanimity. Giridharadas asks hard questions: Why, for example, should our gravest problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions it erodes by lobbying and dodging taxes? He also points toward an answer: Rather than rely on scraps from the winners, we must take on the grueling democratic work of building more robust, egalitarian institutions and truly changing the world. A call to action for elites and everyday citizens alike. (publ.)
Reviewed: NYT/BR 11 Nov. 2018 p. 50; LJ 1 Sept. 2018 p. 70. Description: Why is it difficult for so many women to fully identify with the word “feminist”? How do our personal histories and identities affect our relationship to feminism? Why is intersectionality so important? Can a feminist movement that doesn’t take other identities like race, religion, or socioeconomic class into account even be considered feminism? How can we make feminism more inclusive? Seventeen established and emerging writers from diverse backgrounds wrestle with these questions, exploring what feminism means to them in the context of their other identities–from a hijab-wearing Muslim to a disability rights activist to a body-positive performance artist to a transgender journalist. (publ.)
Reviewed: LR Oct. 2018 p. 54. Description: Whether dealing with finding the ideal word, building a sentence or constructing a paragraph, Joe Moran informs by light example: much richer than a style guide, it can be read not just for instruction but for pleasure and delight. And along the way it shows how good writing can help us notice the world, make ourselves known to others and live more meaningful lives. It’s an elegant gem in praise of the English sentence. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 14 Jan. 2019 p. 40. Description: : Pigs are everywhere in United States history. They cleared frontiers and built cities (notably Cincinnati, once known as Porkopolis), served as an early form of welfare, and were at the center of two nineteenth-century “pig wars.” American pork fed the hemisphere; lard literally greased the wheels of capitalism. J.L. Anderson has written an ambitious history of pigs and pig products from the Columbian exchange to the present, e-phasizing critical stories of production, consumption, and waste in American history. He examines different cultural assumptions about pigs to provide a window into the nation’s regional, racial, and class fault lines, and maps where pigs are (and are not) to reveal a deep history of the American landscape. This is an accessible, deeply researched, and often surprising portrait of one of the planet's most consequential interspecies relationships (publ.)
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