| Web Exclusives|
|Editors' Picks. Choice, v.47, no. 10, June 2010.|
To highlight the wide range of publications reviewed in Choice, each month Choice editors feature some noteworthy reviews from the current issue.
Block, Eric. Garlic and other alliums: the lore and the science. Royal Society of Chemistry, 2010. 454p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780854041909,$49.95.
47-5636 QK495 MARC
Block (chemistry, Univ. at Albany-SUNY) presents an entertaining and informative account of the history of garlic, onions, and other alliums. This ethnobotanic work is truly interdisciplinary, intended for a wide audience of historians, sociologists, chemists, cooks, botanists, and naturalists. The reader will find information about how cultures worldwide viewed and used these plants for medicine and poison, how the chemistry of these plants works and affects our world, and how societies have incorporated these plants. For example, Block discusses the view of garlic as a representation of evil and, thus, that Orthodox church domes were designed with bulbous shapes to ward off evil. In another example, Block discusses the chemistry of cooking garlic and onions, how cells are comparatively structured, and how to cook them to release the flavor without the toxins. This book can benefit any student, whether freshman or senior, graduate or postgraduate. Researchers and teachers alike will also find it useful and delightful. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Academic, professional, and general libraries, all levels. -- L. Swatzell, Southeast Missouri State University
Burrowes, Robert D. Historical dictionary of Yemen. 2nd ed. Scarecrow, 2010. 533p bibl afp (Historical dictionaries of Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East, 72); ISBN 9780810855281, $120.00.
47-5397 DS247 2009-27643 CIP
As political conditions in Yemen have declined substantially over the past decade, this second edition provides a timely, critical update. Burrowes (emer., Univ. of Washington), the author of a number of books and articles on Yemeni politics, picks up with the 1994 civil war and ends in late 2009 with Yemen as a failing state. Entries are alphabetically arranged and cover key actors, events, and themes in Yemen's socioeconomic and political history. Most entries are substantive, ranging from a half page to several pages in length, with a focus on the 20th and 21st centuries. The dictionary makes extensive use of cross-referencing, particularly to address the problem of transliteration from Arabic to English. It also contains an in-depth historical overview, chronology that spans ca. 1200 BCE-2009, and an extensive 64-page bibliography covering nearly every aspect of Yemeni history, politics, economics, and culture. As Yemen continues to be of strategic importance in the global war on terrorism, this dictionary promises to be an invaluable reference tool for students and faculty. It is also the only work of its kind in English. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers. –
S. L. Tritt, Indiana University--Purdue University Fort Wayne
Cainkar, Louise A. Homeland security: the Arab American and Muslim American experience after 9/11. Russell Sage Foundation, 2009. 325p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780871540485, $35.00.
47-5960 E184 2009-3523 CIP
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have been perceived as a unifying moment for the US, one that brought people together regardless of political ideology or any other potentially divisive feature. Such a view ignores the experiences of Arab and Muslim Americans who found themselves the targets of much of this unity. Sociologist Cainkar (Marquette Univ.) provides a summary of these experiences, mixing general trends of persecution and prejudice with specific examples of those who lived it. Her aim is not to sensationalize Arab and Muslim American treatment in this era but rather to provide, as closely as possible, descriptions of authentic and everyday experiences. Central to this portrayal is the process of "de-Americanization," in which persons who are citizens have that status stripped away in the court of public opinion because of negative perceptions. Cainkar embeds this process in the larger historical context of how Arabs and Muslims have been perceived in the US. In doing so, she encapsulates previous work on the topic in a contemporary application, making this book an important contribution not only to Arab American studies but also to US history collections. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. -- G. C. David, Bentley University
Casey, John. After lives: a guide to heaven, hell, and purgatory. Oxford, 2009. 468p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780195092950, $35.00.
47-5579 BL535 2009-7204 CIP
This book is a sweeping study of Western concepts of the afterlife from the ancient Egyptians to the present. Casey (Cambridge Univ.) examines various views on immortality (most, but not all, religious) in a comparative study of beliefs about existence beyond death. Besides the obvious sources, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, he surveys ancient Mediterranean religions, Western literature, and modern groups as diverse as the Swedenborgians, Mormons, and spiritualists. Casey looks first at concepts of eternal punishment, or hell, from their origins in ancient Egypt through the 16th-century Reformations. He then charts the "decline" of hell as an overarching concept in the Enlightenment. After a chapter on the idea of purgatory, he returns to trace the concepts of heaven, or eternal reward, from the earliest records to the present. For Casey, this survey is more than just a speculative enterprise, for he argues that concepts of the afterlife and immortality give direct insight into societies that produce them. Concepts of heaven and hell are ultimately about present morality, justice, and goodness as much as they are about the afterlife itself. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. -- M. A. Granquist, Luther Seminary
Finke, Laurie A. Cinematic illuminations: the Middle Ages on film, by Laurie A. Finke and Martin B. Shichtman. Johns Hopkins, 2010. 445p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780801893445, $60.00; ISBN 9780801893452 pbk, $30.00.
47-5539 PN1995 2008-52304 CIP
Drawing on Slavoj Zizek's work on fantasy, Finke (women's and gender studies, Kenyon College) and Shichtman (English, Eastern Michigan Univ.) discuss contemporary fascination with the medieval world in terms of either nostalgia for a lost organic social unity (the Medieval Times restaurant chain in the film Cable Guy) or a dystopian site for contemplating the barbarity, superstition, and violence associated with the "Dark Ages" (the medieval pillagers in Capitol One commercials). Seeing fantasy not as an escape from reality but as a reworking of it that enables one to see the real through it, they read Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal as a parable about anomie in the nuclear age and Vincent Ward's The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey as a postapocalyptic saga of survival in a post-AIDS, postcolonial world. They also provide exemplary readings of films from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Lion in Winter, various Joan of Arc treatments, Camelot, and Braveheart to films about the crusades (Saladin, The Crusaders, Kingdom of Heaven). Thematic analysis is well supported with perceptive formal observations, e.g., Robert Bresson's use of sound in Lancelot du lac, Eric Rohmer's costume design in Perceval le Gallois, Hans-J^D”urgen Syberberg's set design in Parsifal. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. -- J. Belton, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick
FitzRoy, Felix R. An introduction to climate change economics and policy, by Felix R. FitzRoy and Elissaios Papyrakis. Earthscan Publications Ltd., 2010. 214p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781844078097, $112.00; ISBN 9781844078103 pbk, $31.95.
47-5761 QC903 2009-21281 CIP
Written by two UK academics, this concise volume provides an excellent introduction to the economic and policy dimensions of climate change. It begins with a basic overview of the science of climate change, followed by a chapter on agricultural issues, e.g., industrial agriculture systems, deforestation, pollution, and nonsustainable food production. It then considers economic issues, including economic well-being and growth. The authors report that while economic growth benefits the poor in all countries, it fails to generate economic well-being and environmental improvement for societies. They also note that the poor in developing countries disproportionately incur climate change costs. An entire chapter addresses ethical considerations, a topic often excluded in economic models. Final chapters cover the Kyoto Protocols and policies for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The authors believe that industrial nations must cut greenhouse gas emissions plus provide developing countries with the resources to reduce their emissions; that a successful emissions policy must eliminate carbon subsidies and practice stricter regulation; and that the costs of climate change mitigation have been overstated and the benefits understated. This work would benefit from a chapter solely devoted to the economic institutions and forces impeding the implementation of climate change policy. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; all levels of undergraduate students; professionals. -- B. F. Hope, California State University, Chico
Forbes, Peter. Dazzled and deceived: mimicry and camouflage. Yale, 2009. 283p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780300125399, $27.50.
47-5625 QH546 2009-23577 CIP
During the 19th century, explorers and naturalists began discovering unusual patterns of shapes, colors, and behaviors of animals and the plants on which they lived. Within the growing evolutionary framework, numerous thought-provoking ideas emerged wherein some species potentially vulnerable to predators were shown to resemble poisonous or otherwise inedible species and thus have a biological key to survival. Questions arose regarding how these species, especially butterflies, developed features that "disguised" them to potential predators. Additionally, as scientists and, surprisingly, professional artists developed more sophisticated weaponry in Europe, they applied what was learned from nature to military "science." This work details the disagreements, misunderstandings, and prejudices of many military men toward the use of camouflage. It provides an intense multidimensional examination and analysis of the work of many well-known naturalists and artists and of military officers. Writer and journalist Forbes, not a scientist but a man who has examined relationships between art and science, follows a very diverse set of breeding experiments and tests throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Chapters continually switch from genetics and biology to military problems and art, so as new research and techniques are reported, the reader must remember the earlier history. A critical historical analysis of important aspects of science and its real-world applications. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic and general audiences. -- D. Bardack, emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago
Fox, Justin. The myth of the rational market: a history of risk, reward, and delusion on Wall Street. HarperCollins, 2009. 382p index; ISBN 9780060598990, $27.99.
47-5763 HB3731 2008-52718 CIP
In Myth, respected editor and columnist Fox pits two heavyweight adversaries against each other: creators and adherents of the rational market versus their skeptical behavioral finance opponents. Scholars from many fields have produced a slew of recent books on individual and market rationality. Of those, Animal Spirits, by George Akerloff and Robert Shiller (CH, Jul'09, 46-6301), and The Irrational Economist, ed. by Erwann Michel-Kerjan and Paul Slovic (CH, May'10, 47-5135), are the closest to this book by virtue of their main focus--macroeconomics and risk management, respectively. But Fox's volume, with its tantalizing chronological exploration of the eggheads and practitioners (from Irving Fisher and Paul Samuelson to Gene Fama, Fisher Black, Robert Shiller, Warren Buffett, and Alan Greenspan) and ideas (random walks, the efficient market hypothesis, portfolio and option pricing) will bring smiles and tears to readers' faces and should be a required complement for anyone interested in these debates. Given that Fox is quite objective, this reviewer's only quibble is with the title: "Myths and Realities ..." might have been more descriptively accurate, but then the book would have sold less well, perhaps adding emphasis to those who believe in well-informed, rational decision makers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; students, upper-division undergraduate and up; researchers; professionals. -- A. R. Sanderson, University of Chicago
Harrison, Anthony Kwame. Hip hop underground: the integrity and ethics of racial identification. Temple University, 2009. 219p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781439900604, $74.50; ISBN 9781439900611 pbk, $26.95.
47-5739 ML3531 2009-6296 CIP
Hip-hop is global, often serving as the voice of the marginalized and dispossessed. Anthropologist Harrison writes about the San Francisco area's underground hip-hop scene--rap, break dancing, graffiti--created in opposition to the commercialized, ghettoized, black, and often misogynist mainstream. A true participant-observer, Harrison (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ.) rhymed as "Mad Squirrel." This is old-fashioned ethnography in the best sense: an ethnographer intimately familiar with the literature and the culture. Underground hip-hop is multiracial and ethnic, and in the Bay area, the Filipino/Filipina voice is especially strong. Recordings are primarily self-produced and distributed. Harrison examines and analyzes the changing dynamics and significance of race and ethnicity, "in which the salience of racial 'integrities' is being simultaneously fortified and dismantled," where ethnic "authenticity" has become less important than ethnic "sincerity." In spite of its foregrounding social and political issues and its embrace of social equality, underground hip-hop remains male dominated both as performance and as social scene. Harrison's analysis is nuanced and compelling, but it is also insular in not including comparative analysis (e.g., Charles Wagley and Marvin Harris's pioneering work on race in the Americas, Minorities in the New World, 1958). An important, well-written work in hip-hop and ethnic studies scholarship. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. -- F. J. Hay, Appalachian State University
Holm^D’en, Hans. Snakes in paradise: NGOs and the aid industry in Africa. Kumarian, 2010. 293p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781565493025, $75.00; ISBN 9781565493018 pbk, $24.95.
47-5766 HC800 2009-19065 CIP
The loaded title Snakes in Paradise is much more critical of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) than is the actual content of the book. Holm^D’en (social and economic geography, Univ. of Link^D”oping, Sweden) acknowledges the important role of NGOs but criticizes the development process overall, which tends to create dependencies and results in loss of local initiatives. As part of his examination of NGOs, Holm^D’en does an extensive literature review about the different types of NGOs and their successes and failures in sub-Saharan Africa. To limit his monumental task, Holm^D’en restricts his search to recent literature written in English about development-oriented NGOs. Unlike many previous studies that examine only the organization or particular projects undertaken by an organization, this work emphasizes the environment in which NGOs operate. For example, Holm^D’en explores the kinds of institutional settings that are responsible for NGO success or failure. In his conclusions, he emphasizes the need for an environment that creates the right incentives for African smallholders to establish their own organizations for development, and notes that donors can help facilitate this process but should not get directly involved. A valuable work, given the important role of NGOs in African development. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; all levels of undergraduate and graduate students; researchers and professionals. -- L. Daniels, Washington College
Houck, Oliver A. Taking back Eden: eight environmental cases that changed the world. Island Press, 2010. 235p index afp ISBN 1-59726-647-7, $35.00; ISBN 9781597266475, $35.00.
47-5892 K3585 2009-20226 CIP
This modest volume poignantly reminds the reader that environmental policy change is achieved not merely by amassing compelling scientific evidence or lobbying for new laws, but by protest that eventually finds its way into courts of law. Eight venerable cases of environmental reform that span several countries (India, the US, Japan, and Russia) as well as various issues (e.g., endangered species, forests, historic preservation, opposition to dam building) are framed in historical, political, and cultural contexts. Of special interest are the details of behind-the-scenes legal maneuvering, in some cases spanning many years, as well as citizen activism and the mixture of court action and reform that extends to other units of government. Houck (law, Tulane Univ.) concludes that environmental law is used in many countries and, as in the US, is driven by the idea that "ordinary citizens can ... make their governments protect the environment." He concedes that the process is never easy. Houck's conclusions are unfortunately too brief and thus ignore larger conceptual issues about the conditions that promote effective litigation. Nonetheless, this is a very useful and readable volume, accessible to lay as well as academic audiences. Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels.
– D. L. Feldman, University of California, Irvine
Mallon, Thomas. Yours ever: people and their letters. Pantheon Books, 2009. 338p bibl index; ISBN 9780679444268, $26.95.
47-5476 PN6131 2009-6315 CIP
Mallon's fine-tuned prose makes his musings on the art of letter writing a reader's delight. Drawing on full-scale editions of correspondence, Mallon (freelance writer) roams, footnote free, among eight categories of letters, ranging from those of love and confession to those written in prison and on the battlefield. His opinionated analyses move effortlessly from the chatty to wise reflection. Though this enterprise allows him to offer only tidbits from a literary buffet, his impulse--like that of one of his epistolary heroes, Charles Lamb--is to encourage readers to imagine a more ample banquet--the complete published letters. Among the volume's highlights: the tragic exchange of Heloise and Abelard; the Oedipal squabbles between Freud and Jung; the epistolary antics of Groucho Marx and Noel Coward; the folksy inspiration of Flannery O'Connor, rivaled only by John Keats's more worldly revelations; the loving dialogue between Winston and Clementine Churchill, and the more surprising warmth of Woodrow Wilson's courtship letters to Edith Bolling Galt; the tirades of the so-called Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski; and the proselytizing epistles of St. Paul. A master of the brief biographical sketch, Mallon makes his subjects accessible to a wide audience, from the specialist to the casual reader. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.
-- T. P. Riggio, University of Connecticut
Nelson, Craig. Rocket men: the epic story of the first men on the moon. Viking, 2009. 404p bibl index ISBN 0-670-02103-2, $27.95; ISBN 9780670021031, $27.95.
47-5617 TL789 2008-51175 CIP
Humans landed on the moon in July 1969, and the world was changed forever. The story of this technological triumph of the US in the Cold War era has been told many times, but this engaging account of the Apollo 11 mission is definitely worth reading. Writer/editor Nelson (The First Heroes, 2002) discusses the human side of the mission and tells the story of the three astronauts in riveting detail. Neil Armstrong was the consummate professional pilot and astronaut, but his taciturn personality made it difficult for him to face the responsibility of being the first man on the moon. Buzz Aldrin struggled with his own demons and addiction that occurred post-flight, described here with compassion. Michael Collins, the crew member who orbited the moon during the mission, ended up with the most "normal" and successful career after the fame of Apollo 11. Nelson provides a good presentation of the context of the mission relative to current issues with human spaceflight. NASA's conflict between engineering and science is the same today as it was in the late 1960s. The volume includes a section of glossy black-and-white photographs as well as detailed bibliographic references. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates and general readers.
-- J. Z. Kiss, Miami University
Ondaatje, Michael L. Black conservative intellectuals in modern America. Pennsylvania, 2010. 220p index afp; ISBN 9780812242065, $34.95.
47-5853 E185 2009-24358 CIP
At first glance, a "black conservative" presents an oxymoron: African American voters strongly reject conservative candidates. But as Ondaatje (Univ. of Newcastle, New Zealand) points out, a black conservative intellectual movement did take root and then flourished, especially during the Reagan years. The author of a previous study of black intellectuals in the US in general ("Counterfeit Heroes or Colour Blind Visionaries?: The Black Conservative Challenge to Affirmative Action in Modern America," The Australasian Journal of American Studies, v.23, no. 2, December 2004, pp. 31-50), he now deftly mixes biography with ideas and persuasions to explain why conservatism has appealed to some prominent and not-so-prominent figures. Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Clarence Thomas, Glenn Loury, and Shelby Steele loom foremost among his conservatives, but Robert Woodson, John McWhorter, Anne Wortham, Jay Parker, and Ward Connery also receive due notice. These individuals make common cause in attacking liberalism as a roadblock to the progress of African Americans, the proper reading of the Constitution, economic growth, and individualism. Yet their analyses, emphases, and prescriptions differ markedly in their stances on affirmative action, poverty, and education. While Ondaatje believes that black conservatives have been sometimes misguided and their arguments regularly undermined by critics and empirical evidence, he gives them the compliment of a detailed analysis rather than a partisan rant. An important book on an important subject. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. -- R. Muccigrosso, emeritus, Brooklyn College, CUNY
Sklenicka, Carol. Raymond Carver: a writer's life. Scribner, 2009. 578p bibl index; ISBN 9780743262453, $35.00.
47-5521 PS3553 2009-27291 MARC
Sklenicka's comprehensive, frightening story of Carver's brief, tortured life and career is a critical complement to Carver's work, including such titles as Collected Stories (2009) and Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose (2001). Sklenicka's meticulous account of the relationship between Carver and editor Gordon Lish shows Lish lacerating the hard-drinking writer and his art with a red pencil. Stephen King has already indicted Lish for insensitivity to Carver's genius and devils, and Sklenicka's evidence is overwhelming. Sklenicka also describes Carver's cruelty to those who loved him, including his mother and his supportive first wife, Maryann. Poet and writer, chronicler of the lost poor as they "talk of love," focused on working people, writing in language as spare as Hemingway's, Carver died of lung cancer in 1988 at the age of 50, leaving behind him many unswept corners--social, intellectual, and personal. Sklenicka maps Carver's life, with all its brilliance and startling baggage, better than anyone else has. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. -- R. H. Solomon, formerly, University of Alberta
Small Arms Survey. Internet Resource.
[Visited Mar'10] This multifaceted Web site on the elusive global trade in small arms, so-called light weapons, ammunition, and related equipment is remarkably relevant to a wide range of users, from criminal justice professionals to scholars, researchers, activists, and policy makers. Small arms are crucial to international and civil violence, conflicts, and crime. The well-regarded research center of the Swiss-based Graduate Institute of International Studies produces the most authoritative data, information, publications, and references on weapons types, identification categories, political and social effects, and both official legal and illicit or informal transaction networks. Timely country case studies and important topics such as the role of arms brokers are presented, and means of arms control are fully discussed as well. This is a vital resource for those interested in understanding and keeping track of armament transfers and regional or national violence patterns. While nonpartisan in nature, the site reflects an abiding concern with economic and human life costs and sociopolitical impacts. The institute also publishes the annual Small Arms Survey reflecting the latest research findings. This site is appropriate for the full gamut of readers and for public, governmental, corporate, and university libraries. Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels. -- F. S. Pearson, Wayne State University
Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Internet Resource.
[Visited Mar'10] For the scholar or student of Vincent van Gogh or of 19th-century literary history, this Web site is a unique treasure. Van Gogh's letters to his brother, Theo, were originally published in the Netherlands in 1914, followed by the publication of all known letters in the 1950s and a supplement of new discoveries at the 1990 centenary of the artist's death. In 1994, the Van Gogh Letters Project was jointly initiated by the Huygens Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam--keeper of the correspondence and the majority of Van Gogh's artworks--with the idea of putting the letters in correct order, translating them into English and French, and adding notations related to more current research. The result is this digital compilation of all known letters from 1853 to 1890, with 819 written by van Gogh and 83 written to him (the majority represent correspondence between Vincent and Theo). A six-volume print edition (2009), edited by L. Jansen, H. Luijten, and N. Bakker, is available from Thames & Hudson.
The letters are arranged by period, correspondent, place where the letter was written, and those containing sketches. Each letter can be viewed either in translation or as a facsimile of the original. Fields provided for advanced searches allow specific search requests, such as references to biblical passages cited and specific works of art. Cross-references provide a wealth of supplemental information related to names of individuals, locations, and art mentioned in the text of the letters; they are easily accessed by clicking on the word. Additional resources include a chronology, bibliography, concordance, and biographical information. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers. -- E. M. Hansen, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh
Zakaras, Alex. Individuality and mass democracy: Mill, Emerson, and the burdens of citizenship. Oxford, 2009. 252p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780195384680, $49.95.
47-5921 JC423 MARC
Zakaras (Univ. of Vermont) has written this book, in part, as a response to the concerns of contemporary social scientists that US citizens are "politically ignorant, apathetic, and self-involved." He argues that the 19th-century ideal of individuality could offer a response to this apparent indifference, drawing on the views of both Mill and Emerson to support this claim. His view of individuality is that it requires habits of mind such as receptivity and imagination. Given this, the view of deliberative democracy that he endorses, and that is based on this ideal of individuality, does not focus on the more standard view of a democratic citizen as one who participates in reciprocal deliberation, but, instead, on the individual's need to differentiate himself from mass conformity. Zakaras is sensitive to the concern that the political terrain of the 19th century is different from that of today, and addresses the differences where he considers them relevant. This volume concludes with a defense of Zakaras's view against the charge that individuality is inimical to political association. This is a very well-written, well-argued, and thoroughly researched volume. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. -- J. S. Taylor, The College of New Jersey
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