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|Editors' Picks April 2009. Choice, v.46, no. 08, April 2009.|
To highlight the wide range of publications reviewed in Choice, each month Choice editors feature some noteworthy reviews from the current issue.
Archer, David. The long thaw: how humans are changing the next 100,000 years of Earth's climate. Princeton, 2009. 180p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780691136547, $22.95.
46-4457 QC981 MARC
Global climate change is the subject of thousands of books; this short volume is distinctive in multiple ways. Archer (Univ. of Chicago) is a geophysicist (and a look-alike--except for stubble--for late British actor David Niven), whose scientific background lets him place climate change in the context of its variations in geological history. He points out that the Earth's orbital cycles had poised it to enter a new ice age when human influences began to override natural forces. In the last part of his book, divided into "Present," "Past," and "Future," Archer states that the rapid release of stored carbon could cause the Earth to reach the highest temperatures in millions of years. The author's acknowledgment of gaps in climate science and his grasp of many relevant scientific fields help provide credibility for educated guesses about future developments. Efforts to use colloquial language and colorful analogies limit content, but they help Archer's goal of conveying the complexities and urgency of dealing with climate change to a wide readership with little scientific knowledge. A few references per chapter guide readers to more detail. This work is valuable for introductory courses on climate change. Archer also wrote Global Warming (CH, Nov'07, 45-1516). Summing Up: Highly recommended. All undergraduate and general readers. -- F. T. Manheim, George Mason University
Brown, Christopher. Inequality, consumer credit and the saving puzzle. E. Elgar, 2008. 183p bibl index; ISBN 9781847205094, $100.00.
46-4551 HG3755 MARC
Brown (Arkansas State Univ.) makes an important contribution to the field of consumer credit by presenting a broad view of the issues and problems associated with growing consumer credit habits, culture, and institutions. An important thesis he puts forth is that expanding income inequality has resulted in increased demand for credit and, consequently, consistently rising debt levels. This has produced both practical lending channels and predatory lenders. The author discusses many of these issues, giving an overarching presentation that explains the growth of the consumer credit market and development of new credit products. Most importantly, he describes how this expansion in credit was a demand-side phenomenon, because with decreasing (or stagnant) real median wages, people used credit as a substitute for lost income. However, credit expansion was also the result of supply-side effects. Changes in lending laws made it possible for banks (and other institutions) to extend more credit to more borrowers--and more importantly, to riskier borrowers. This book effectively uses a heterodox methodology, which will appeal to a wide audience of social scientists. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, and professionals. -- R. H. Scott, Monmouth University
Coffey, Patrick. Cathedrals of science: the personalities and rivalries that made modern chemistry. Oxford, 2008. 379p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780195321340, $29.95.
46-4449 Q180 2007-48304 CIP
Cathedrals of Science is an engaging, well-written, balanced account of 13 chemists who built modern chemistry. The principal figures are Arrhenius, Nernst, Lewis, Langmuir, Haber, and Pauling. Although there have been numerous biographies about many of these icons, Langmuir has often been overlooked. Coffey (visiting scholar, Univ. of California, Berkeley) addresses that deficiency, though his focus is really on Gilbert N. Lewis and why the Nobel Prize eluded him. In addition to weaving their stories and discoveries together, Coffey develops two major themes: established chemists' forays into other scientific fields and priority claims (or assignment of credit). The former was often without success, which is ironic since their initial successes were often a result of being "outsiders." Coffey discusses priority claims with respect to discoveries, publications, and the politics behind the awarding of the early Nobel Prizes in Chemistry. Recent biographies of the principal figures include E. Crawford's Arrhenius (CH, Mar'97, 34-3830), H. Bartel's Walther Nernst (CH, Jun'08, 45-5587), E. Lewis's A Biography of Distinguished Scientist Gilbert Newton Lewis (CH, Mar'99, 36-3914), D. Charles's Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber (CH, Feb'06, 43-3362), and T. Hager's Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling (CH, Apr'96, 33-4467). Summing Up: Highly recommended. General and academic collections, all levels. -- D. E. Hubbard, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Depression and narrative: telling the dark, ed. by Hilary Clark. State University of New York, 2008. 262p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780791475690, $75.00.
46-4219 PN56 2007-47994 CIP
Clark (English, Univ. of Saskatchewan) has assembled an impressive collection of 16 essays treating the broad psychological topic of depression and how stories shape and dismantle it. Contributors from the disciplines of literature, psychology, social work, and philosophy examine the ways in which media--including fiction, poetry, television, memoir, and film--give meaning to the state of depression. Essays look, for example, at how depression is gendered in the poetry of Sylvia Plath, how the Internet conveys depression, how depression is tied to history in the fiction of W. G. Sebald, and how drug addiction and depression relate in the memoirs of Elizabeth Wurtzel. Clark's splendid introduction looks at the linkages of depression and narrative. This collection will further the current academic interest in disability and illness studies and will appeal to readers across a range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. -- M. Uebel, University of Texas
Edery, David. Changing the game: how video games are transforming the future of business, by David Edery and Ethan Mollick. FT Press, 2009. 218p bibl index afp ISBN 0-13-235781-X, $24.99; ISBN 9780132357814, $24.99.
46-4539 HD9993 2008-22302 CIP
Your next job may depend on your ability to play video games like Sims or navigate in the virtual world of Second Life. Game specialists Edery (worldwide manager, Microsoft Xbox LIVE Arcade) and Mollick (researcher, MIT Sloan School of Management) describe how job recruiting, evaluation, and training are more likely to be game or virtual reality based, forcing workers to have new survival skills. The authors survey how video and online games and simulations are irrevocably changing the business landscape. Products are incomplete without Web site extensions and virtual communities/chat boards or the ability to personalize products. "Adver-games" capture lucrative e-mails and user preference, as well as gather design feedback by letting customers customize products. Using games/simulations to recruit and screen applicants is common, despite creating age and gender bias barriers. The underlying premise of all these applications is that the game/software creators understand real-world situations well enough to accurately model all possible situations, choices, and consequences. The authors are adamant that Web site hackers are pervasive and persistent and that rather than fight them, a better strategy is to embrace and exploit them. End-of-chapter notes augment the survey content of each chapter. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate through professional collections. -- N. J. Johnson, Metropolitan State University
Ferguson, Niall. The ascent of money: a financial history of the world. Penguin, 2008. 441p bibl index; ISBN 9781594201929, $29.95.
46-4555 HG171 MARC
This is a work of extraordinary breadth of scholarship and penetrating judgments, and there is nothing that equals it. Ferguson (Harvard Univ.; Oxford Univ., UK) provides expansive coverage of the birth of debt, banking, bankruptcies, and people's repeated indulgence in them. Written in a graceful, flowing style, this book is a judicious blend of elegantly simplified economic theory and history. This reviewer concurs with the author's verdict that the theory of economics and finance is consummate in mathematics but devoid of history and consequently lacks a touch with reality. Anyone who wants to understand financial history traversing through institutional mutation and natural selection will be enlightened by reading this work. Books are written to be read, but Ferguson's book is written to be read, reread, and savored. Summing Up: Essential. All levels. -- C. J. Talele, Columbia State Community College
Frick, Daniel. Reinventing Richard Nixon: a cultural history of an American obsession. University Press of Kansas, 2008. 331p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780700615995, $34.95.
46-4698 E856 2008-20141 CIP
In this interesting, exhaustive review, Frick (English, Franklin and Marshall College) explores the many ways Richard Nixon has been represented, and represented himself, in American political life and culture. The thoroughness of Frick's analysis can be easily demonstrated: there are 44 pages of footnotes in his text and 30 pages of bibliography. Frick examines the myths that Nixon used to frame his political career and to reinvent himself post-Watergate, and that have emerged in American political life regarding Nixon's life and times. These are situated in the broader context of American political cultural history. Each is illustrated through reference to, and thoughtful reflection on, a staggering array of literary, professional, and journalistic accounts of Nixon's life, including those from Nixon's own work. The text also contains a broad array of editorial and social cartoons that usefully illustrate Frick's theses. This is an essential work for anyone interested in the multiple dimensions of Nixon's political career and public reactions to it. It is also an excellent example of cultural analysis. Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels. -- A. L. Crothers, Illinois State University
Iran today: an encyclopedia of life in the Islamic Republic, ed. by Mehran Kamrava and Manochehr Dorraj. Greenwood, 2008. 2v bibl index afp; ISBN 9780313341618, $149.95.
46-4206 DS253 2008-19488 CIP
Iran Today delivers a fresh perspective into this complex country that has been surrounded in mystery and controversy since the 1978-1979 Islamic revolution, which transformed the country's society and culture and redefined its social life. The encyclopedia provides up-to-date, authoritative information on the contemporary history, politics, economics, society, and culture of one of the most controversial countries of the Middle East. It offers detailed information on the richness and complexity of Iran's society, and its pervasive conflict between modernity and tradition. Entries range from the country's ethnic mosaic, the social role of women, the educational system, sports, the arts and literature, to regionalism, urban development, the oil industry, agriculture, the banking system, class structure, and economics. A chronology, selected bibliography, and photographs complement the work. Editors Kamrava (author of Revolution in Iran, 1990; The Political History of Modern Iran, CH, May'93, 30-5237; and The Modern Middle East, 2005) and Dorraj (author of From Zarathustra to Khomeini, CH, Oct'90, 28-1137) have also published several articles on Iran and the Middle East and have served as editors for other works on the region. This two-volume set will serve as great background reading for titles on the contemporary history of the region, such as R. Schulze's A Modern History of the Islamic World (2000), and N. R. Keddie's Modern Iran (CH, Apr'04, 41-4839). Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level history undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers/faculty. -- L. J. Gonzalez, Hunter College Libraries
Kaminsky, Amy K. Argentina: stories for a nation. Minnesota, 2008. 282p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780816649488, $67.50; ISBN 9780816649495 pbk, $22.50.
46-4313 PN56 2008-11877 CIP
From sensual tangos to fabulous wealth and economic disaster, from Jorge Luis Borges to Diego Armando Maradona, from Evita to the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, from the violence of the white slave trade and kosher brothels to the jaundiced visions of V. S. Naipaul, Argentina impinges on Western consciousness in a fabulous variety of images created both in the country and about it. Kaminsky (Univ. of Minnesota) rightly reads such complexity as the interactive process creating a national identity. She uses literary texts from the US, Poland, France, England, Germany, Spain, and Argentina and also international feature films, advertisements, jokes, and newspaper presentations to enhance understanding of Argentina in the global imagination. The study follows a loose chronology through Argentine history as a product of European colonialism; the vexed issues of sex, race, and ethnicity; the international response to dictatorship and the "Dirty War" that, in turn, produced a counterculture of resistance in and outside Argentina; and the persistence of formulaic--and anachronistic--constructs in foreign films that continue into the present. This is an intelligent, immensely readable "travelogue" to be enjoyed by readers of all stripes. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers, all levels. -- K. M. Sibbald, McGill University
Pearson, David. Books as history: the importance of books beyond their texts. British Library/Oak Knoll, 2008. 208p bibl index; ISBN 9781584562337, $49.95.
46-4167 Z4 2008-39127 MARC
The digital age has brought the prospect of the world's texts being available at the click of a mouse. Whether this will be realizable or not remains to be seen, but most prognosticators assume that it will be so. Where this leaves the usefulness of physical books thus becomes a matter of some urgency, and in this context Pearson (Univ. of London) offers one answer: the consideration of books as historical artifacts. Books as History introduces readers to some of the many ways that books can speak to people beyond their texts. Chapters are devoted to design, production, ownership, binding, and library collections. Also included is a section on future library policies, along with a case study of copy variation, in this case Francis Bacon's Historie of the Raigne of King Henry the Seventh (1622). The whole effort is richly illustrated with the kind of superlative examples that one might imagine at the command of a London bookman at the top of his game. Books as History is an absolute must for all libraries supporting information science or the study of book history. Schools with strong liberal arts programs will want to add this to their collections as well. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers; general readers. -- P. L. Holmer, Southern Connecticut State University
Philosophy looks at chess, ed. by Benjamin Hale. Open Court, 2008. 236p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780812696332 pbk, $19.95.
46-4361 GV1314 2008-12485 CIP
This anthology offers a remarkable variety of perspectives on chess and the many questions it raises. It will captivate enthusiasts for chess and philosophy, and it might intrigue some who didn't realize they had an interest in either. The more than 200 references cited in the dozen essays reveal their scope and diversity. A majority of citations are not to works on chess, and virtually no overlap exists among them. Does a victory over a chess grand master suggest computers might supplant human thinking? Can chess clarify problems of strategy in warfare and social policy? Can it elucidate puzzles of freedom and determinism or of meaning in language games? What is the common theme? The editor suggests that the volume, "in the true spirit of both philosophy and chess," serves no particular method or doctrine. It presents rather playful reflections and speculations that demonstrate why many thinkers have looked to the game of chess as a rich source of metaphors to illuminate the games of life. This book is for all those interested in games, which hardly excludes anyone. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. -- H. C. Byerly, emeritus, University of Arizona
Pimpare, Stephen. A people's history of poverty in America. New Press, 2008. 322p bibl index; ISBN 9781565849341, $27.95.
46-4745 HC110 2008-16259 CIP
Pimpare (social work, Yeshiva College) writes passionately about poverty in the US. Departing from the usual way of writing history, the author puts the microphone in the hands of the poor and lets them speak about their experience of poverty. Pimpare is convinced that the non-poor in the US do not understand poverty. Government welfare and charities have depersonalized the ones they claim to help. Programs to aid the poor have made them ashamed, taken their freedom, and essentially imprisoned them. Restrictions and rules have tended to keep people in poverty. A constant refrain is that poor people want to work, not receive crumbs from the tables of the rich. Poverty in the US led to food riots and violence, and laws were enacted to control tramps, vagrants, beggars--the poor. Pimpare does not give anything approaching linear history. He might have improved his book if he had not allowed the poor to have the microphone so long. The book's anecdotal style makes it somewhat fragmented, repetitive, and difficult to follow, but the voices of the poor give valuable insights into the experience of poverty. Summing Up: Recommended. Most undergraduate libraries. -- J. W. McCant, emeritus, Point Loma Nazarene University
Queer youth cultures, ed. by Susan Driver. State University of New York, 2008. 307p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780791473375, $83.50; ISBN 9780791473382 pbk, $27.95.
46-4746 HQ76 2006-37443 CIP
Social sciences professor Driver (York Univ.) has compiled a unique, thoughtful collection on queer youth subcultures, framed by a commentary drawing strongly on queer theory. These articles, ranging across theoretical complexity, disciplinary perspectives, accessibility, and political engagement, are presented within three themes: articles in "Performative Queer Youth Cultures, Embodiments, and Communities" consider queer youth involvement in counter-culture bands, video creation, transgender zines, Web sites, and photography; "Desiring Youth and Un/Popular Cultures" considers queer readings of Archie comics, Boys Don't Cry, and gay porn production; and "Transforming Political Activism" includes analysis of youth-produced videos, trans youth activism (e.g. FIERCE!), and a community drag show. The collection unpacks clear categories of gender, sexuality, and age, and challenges the ubiquitous victim narrative currently framing queer youth. Instead, queer youth subcultures provide creative, resilient spaces within which young people talk back to the wider, marginalizing culture; articles by Angela Wilson and Ziysah Markson are particularly strong in this regard. Several articles also foreground intersections of class, nation, and racialization. Methodologies are occasionally unclear, and some contributions seem somewhat tangentially related to "queer youth culture," yet these are mere quibbles for this well-edited, engaging, and politically important collection. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. -- R. C. Raby, Brock University
Rashid, Ahmed. Descent into chaos: the United States and the failure of nation building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Viking, 2008. 484p index; ISBN 9780670019700, $27.95.
46-4684 DS371 2008-2949 CIP
Pakistani journalist Rashid offers yet another lucid, insightful, and highly readable tome on the existent and emergent threats in Central Asia--a region that he effectively demonstrates is a volatile yet essential front in the war between modernizers and militant Islam. Because of his unrivaled access to both official and tribal leaders (largely in Afghanistan and Pakistan), Rashid is uniquely able to paint a vivid, urgent picture of a region on the precipice of anarchy. This experiential perspective is complemented by a great volume of secondary research, which both broadens and deepens his analysis. Perhaps the most scandalous (though perhaps unsurprising) revelation that Rashid offers is the overwhelmingly military approach to the region's problems: monies designated for aid have gone almost entirely toward armaments and troops at the expense of rebuilding and development programs. Most of the author's scorn in this regard is directed at the US, but ultimately NATO and EU nations are also indicted for their failure to respond, as is the malignant neglect of the international community as a whole. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. -- M. O'Gara, Rocky Mountain College
Roversi, Antonio. Hate on the Net: extremist sites, neo-fascism on-line, electronic jihad, tr. by Lawrence Smith. Ashgate, 2008. 146p index; ISBN 9780754672142, $99.95.
46-4747 HT1521 2007-34132 CIP
This translation from late Italian sociologist Roversi is a highly original analysis of right-wing political extremist organizations and individuals who use the Web to foster hate and violence against groups, individuals, or ideologies. This often includes categorical rejection of long-established, fundamental records of history, e.g., the WW II Jewish Holocaust. Roversi examines the development of the Internet and especially the widely held assumption that it enables almost anyone to present ideas worldwide. He argues that this is frequently regarded as inherently democratic, but explains that the widespread existence of heavily ideological Web sites, both Left and Right, does not foster democratic ideals. Such sites "offer us only closed universes of values which are accepted or rejected en bloc. Which is not really a good example of democratic communication." Right-wing hate sites in Italy and Europe receive the greatest attention, but Roversi includes parallel hate sites in the US. Considerable analysis focuses on the hate sites of right-wing Islamic groups, with some brief but insightful special attention to Osama bin Laden. The author also discusses Arabic contributions to world culture. Translator Smith deserves appreciation for verifying in the text and footnotes the continued availability of the hundreds of Web sites. Good index and extensive footnotes. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. -- S. H. Hildahl, emeritus, Wells College
Shulman, George. American prophecy: race and redemption in American political culture. Minnesota, 2008. 315p index afp; ISBN 9780816630745, $75.00; ISBN 9780816630752 pbk, $25.00.
46-4693 JA75 2008-17607 CIP
Shulman (New York Univ.) offers up a provocative analysis of prophecy in American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Political Culture. What is the role of prophecy? Does prophecy serve as a corrective on human behavior, a predictive model of what happens when man defies the will of God, or a tale essential to bolstering faith in a time of struggle? Shulman argues that American history supports a complex role for prophecy--Americans consistently acknowledge the moral imperative perceived to be at the root of prophetic declarations in American political culture. The use of moral force as an effective tool of persuasion rests on the assumption of prophecy as a legitimate part of the heritage of the US. Through a critical analysis of American prophets Henry Thoreau, Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, Shulman explores the multiple definitions of prophecy in the foundations of political change in US history. This is a challenging, exceptional work that is an excellent contribution to American political thought and African American studies. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collections. -- K. Anderson, Eastern Illinois University
Sundquist, Eric J. King's dream. Yale, 2009. 295p index afp; ISBN 9780300118070, $26.00.
46-4259 E185 2008-14499 CIP
Book-length studies of single speeches are rare, but this is such a one. Author of several other books on related subjects, including the outstanding To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature (CH, Jun'93, 30-5455), Sundquist (literature, Univ. of California, Los Angeles) weaves together history and rhetorical criticism to offer a compelling account of Martin Luther King Jr.'s August 28, 1963, "I have a dream" speech, which was delivered at the Lincoln Memorial and climaxed that day's March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The author explores the antecedents and planning for the event in detail, and the speech itself receives an insightful, close critical reading. The book includes extensive endnotes and an excellent name and subject index. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. -- P. E. Kane, emeritus, SUNY College at Brockport
Wallach, Wendell. Moral machines: teaching robots right from wrong, by Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen. Oxford, 2009. 275p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780195374049, $29.95.
46-4493 TJ211 2008-11800 CIP
Humans are fascinated by the promise seen in robots. It is not unlikely that soon there will be at least one robot in every household. However, from movies and books, people have also learned to fear them. As scientists build these sophisticated machines, are Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics sufficient for them to ethically function? Probably not. After all, these laws are from the (then) sci-fi literature of the 1940s. The question now is how one builds moral machines, or how one embeds (human) ethical principles in the decision making of machines that scientists build to do things instead of humans. Wallach (writer and consultant, Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics) and Allen (history and philosophy of science and cognitive science, Indiana Univ.) do not argue that they have the answers to the how-to question. But in this holistic volume, they raise many questions on what scientists need to consider when building robots. Written with an abundance of examples and lessons learned, scenarios of incidents that may happen, and elaborate discussions on existing artificial agents on the cutting edge of research/practice, Moral Machines goes beyond what is known as computer ethics into what will soon be called the discipline of machine morality. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Academic and public libraries, all levels. -- G. Trajkovski, Laureate Higher Education Group
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