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Editors’ Picks July 2008. Choice, v.45, no. 11, July 2008.

To highlight the wide range of publications reviewed in Choice, each month Choice editors feature some noteworthy reviews from the current issue.


Acting civically: from urban neighborhoods to higher education, ed. by Susan A. Ostrander and Kent E. Portney.  Tufts/University Press of New England, 2007.  208p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781584656609  , $65.00; ISBN 9781584656616 pbk, $29.95. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6308 JK1759 2007-25158 CIP

This is an excellent addition to the burgeoning literature in the social sciences on social capital and civic engagement, more broadly conceived than the narrow voting and lobby focus in traditional political science. All but one of the authors are based in the Massachusetts area, but with fine empirical research and normative analysis the volume speaks to an interdisciplinary national audience. Most authors question the dismal findings from late-20th-century research on the decline of engagement, and they distinguish between the individual and structural causes and solutions for the seeming decline of engagement. Ostrander (sociology, Tufts Univ.) and Portney (political science, Tufts Univ.) pose questions in their introductory chapter, divided into two parts, on the “why, how, who and with what effect people engage.” The first part deals with local and neighborhood issues, while the second part deals with education and health institutions. The authors give attention to class, gender, and “race,” with two chapters on the Chinese community. In the intriguing final chapter, Ostrander discusses declining trends in major philanthropic funding for civic engagement programs in higher education. The volume complements Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone (CH, Dec’00, 38-2454) and Steven Macedo et al.’s Democracy at Risk (CH, Apr’06, 43-4944). Summing Up: Highly recommended. Students of all levels, researchers, and professionals. — K. Staudt, University of Texas at El Paso


Campaign advertising and American democracy, by Michael M. Franz et al.  Temple University, 2008.  197p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781592134557, $74.50; ISBN 9781592134564 pbk, $24.95. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6440 JK2281 2007-22655 CIP

The Wisconsin Advertising Project has been cataloging political ads since 2000. It knows where and when the ads have been run, the subject matter discussed, the tone, and which candidates and groups ran the ads. It can tell, for example, that seven in ten ads aired in the 2004 presidential race were at least partially geared toward attacking an opponent. Or that their estimates suggest a 40-year-old woman in St. Louis saw more political ads in 2000 than anyone else in the country. Armed with this unique and capacious data set, the authors take aim at the notion that 30-second ads are some kind of bogeyman of democracy. Instead, the authors assert that political ads are the equivalent of vitamins, a useful information supplement for a political diet. The bottom line for political ads, they find, is that they increase viewers’ information about candidates and interest in the election. The essence of this argument has been advanced before (e.g., Patterson and McClure’s The Unseeing Eye, 1976) but never with nearly this depth and quality of data. The book is required reading for scholars interested in political campaigns. Summing Up: Essential. Graduate and research collections. — D. Niven, Ohio State University


Carson, Iain.  Zoom: the global race to fuel the car of the future, by Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran.  Twelve, 2007.  336p bibl index ISBN 0-446-58004-X, $27.99; ISBN 9780446580045, $27.99. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6290 HD9710 2007-11373 CIP

This is a highly readable, very timely, general audience book by two experienced Economist magazine writers who argue for US energy independence by weaning cars off oil. Most oil used in the US is for transportation, mostly in cars. The authors convincingly state that “oil is the problem, not cars,” and that increasing supply by more domestic drilling is not the solution. The book contains excellent chapters on US energy politics; the role of big oil and US auto companies in promoting consumer addiction to oil; and the undesirable political, military, and financial consequences the US is currently experiencing because of this dependence on oil. On the other hand, the authors include a chapter describing the race to find oil replacements outside the US in Japan, China, and India. The book ends on a quite hopeful note describing the “grassroots movement sweeping across America … to level the playing field for clean energy and the car of the future.” It includes excellent descriptions of fuel cells, hydrogen, plug-in technology, energy storage devices, etc., their domestic developers, and how US energy politics is changing from the bottom up, rather than the top down. Excellent bibliography. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels of readers. — D. Brand, formerly, Harvard University


Chambers, Jason.  Madison Avenue and the color line: African Americans in the advertising industry.  Pennsylvania, 2008.  322p index; ISBN 9780812240474, $39.95. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6274 HF5813 MARC
 
The history of African Americans is reflected in various economic pursuits. Starting from the early 20th century, this book examines blacks as consumers and as participants in the advertising industry. Chambers (Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) begins with campaigns targeting blacks as an identifiable market segment. John H. Johnson, for example, launched Ebony magazine to compete with its white counterpart, Life. Johnson believed that brands such as Cadillac appealed to blacks as “a sign of affluence and standing in the black community.” The Civil Rights Movement of the 1940s produced an upsurge of “Jackie Robinsons of advertising and selling,” who established their own agencies or provided important consulting services for white companies. With the next wave of civil rights activism led by such organizations as the Congress of Racial Equality, advertising firms began to employ larger numbers of blacks, and many black entrepreneurs launched their own firms. Between the mid-1960s and 1970s, the industry attained a “golden age” of African American participation. As of 2006, however, Chambers notes this progress had slowed to a state of “continued underrepresentation” of social diversity. Overall, the study is a cogent analysis of an important aspect of race relations in the US. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate through professional collections. — R. L. Hogler, Colorado State University


Harris, Roy J., Jr.  Pulitzer’s gold: behind the prize for public service journalism.  Missouri, 2007.  473p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780826217684, $39.95. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-5983 PN4798 2007-31461 CIP

One-time Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee called it the Big Casino, “the cream of the cream.” New Orleans Times-Picayune editor Jim Amoss called it simply “the Pulitzer.” Both these top journalists were referring to the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the most prestigious of the Pulitzers and the subject of this book. Harris looks at the background, intrigue, turns and twists, rivalry, and unapologetic joys surrounding that gold medal. Few people, even those on the staffs of winning newspapers, know much about the publications honored with the public service prize, and Harris’s intent is to offer evidence–through research and critical assessment–that newspapers are indeed public servants. He succeeds very well. The treatment is not chronological. Harris begins with coverage of Hurricane Katrina and moves through sexual abuse by priests, wrongdoing by the Los Angeles city government, exposure of secret land deals in eastern Long Island, investigation of Synanon, and neglect and abuse of children with mental retardation. With this volume, Harris adds significantly to the legacy of Joseph Pulitzer. A companion to John Hohenberg’s The Pulitzer Diaries: Inside America’s Greatest Prize (CH, Nov’97, 35-1335), the book includes abundant photographs, comprehensive lists of all the Pulitzer prizes, and an excellent bibliography. Summing Up: Essential. All readers, all levels. — S. W. Whyte, Montgomery County Community College


Kagan, Jerome.  What is emotion?: history, measures, and meanings.  Yale, 2007.  271p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780300124743, $27.50. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6464 BF538  2007-27381 CIP

A recognized expert on temperament, emotion, and cognitive development, Kagan (emer., Harvard) offers a wide-ranging treatise that addresses all of the big questions about emotions. How should emotion be defined? What is the relationship between emotion and language? Are there basic categories of emotion? How do social variables affect emotional appraisals? Kagan’s approach is unabashedly psychological rather than biological, and he focuses on relationships among descriptions of emotion at different levels of analysis, namely verbal self-report, observable behavior, and states of the nervous system. He argues that descriptions at these levels are not commensurable. He also contends that simple verbal labels of states such as “fear” can hinder progress in the field by unwittingly masking complex, diverse processes. The strengths of the book are Kagan’s accessible writing style and far-reaching knowledge across subfields of psychology, biology, and anthropology. Although justifiably arguing that there is more to emotion than can be gleaned from a brain scan, Kagan occasionally lapses into dualistic language, and his argument for appreciating complexity does not always yield clear directions for tractable research. Nevertheless, everyone interested in emotion will find something stimulating and provocative here. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. — R. Compton, Haverford College


Kelsay, John.  Arguing the just war in Islam.  Harvard, 2007.  263p index afp ISBN 0-674-02639-X, $24.95; ISBN 9780674026391, $24.95. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6421 BP190  2007-11930 CIP

Islamic jihad is often counterpoised to Western just war, but this outstanding work investigates the in-house clash between Muslim militants and nonmilitants over the true nature of Islamic just war. Kelsay (religion, Florida State Univ.) employs Sharia reasoning, Islam’s primary method of jurisprudence, to evaluate the claims of both sides. He explains the sources and processes of Sharia reasoning and then traces its application to the criteria for just war from Muhammad forward in time, noting cultural connections and adaptations to changing circumstances, including the current “democratization” of the Sharia process. Kelsay’s meticulous historical research offers readers a fascinating encounter with gifted thinkers from Islam’s past. Current Islamic personalities also figure prominently; the reasoning of al-Qaida’s bin Laden and al-Zawahiri and Iran’s Ahmadinejad, for example, are contrasted with those of Islamic scholar Abdulaziz Sachedina. This is a seriously substantive and lucid inquiry into the conceptual underpinnings of al-Qaida, Hamas, and other militant Muslim groups and how their reasoning differs from that of nonmilitant Muslims. Kelsay has provided precisely what is needed to further Islamic just war studies. This is a timely must read for serious upper-level students, academicians, and policy makers. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, research, and professional collections. — A. C. Wyman, Missouri Southern State University


Kiernan, Ben.  Blood and soil: a world history of genocide and extermination from Sparta to Darfur.  Yale, 2007.  724p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780300100983, $40.00. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6328 HV6322 2007-1525 CIP

Yale historian Kiernan seeks to draw comparisons between genocides throughout world history, enabling scholars and lay readers to understand the individual examples of mass murder and to see the commonalities and related links between the horrific episodes. The author finds that certain ideological features appear during most genocides, such as racism, the desire for agricultural expansion, and the dream for a utopian society based on the skewed and often irrational conception of a more perfect world absent “subhuman” elements. “Racism becomes genocidal when perpetrators imagine a world without certain kinds of people in it,” he observes. Although modern technology has in many ways made mass murder easier, humans prior to the 20th century often and willingly participated in the extermination of their neighbors. Kiernan treats some genocides in Asia, both ancient and modern, with more attention than he does some in Europe, but he illustrates some very interesting links between the various regimes. In many cases, the instigators of the genocide envision a mythic past and justify their murderous deeds with lofty goals, and most brutal governments are both authoritarian and arrogant. Kiernan concludes with a brief section on al Qaeda, which, like many of its predecessors, has combined “ethnoreligious violence with territorial expansionist ambitions that resemble those of other genocidal movements.” Summing Up: Highly recommended. Useful for many different disciplines and readers at all levels. — G. R. Sharfman, Manchester College
 
 
Launius, Roger D.  Robots in space: technology, evolution, and interplanetary travel, by Roger D. Launius and Howard E. McCurdy.  Johns Hopkins, 2008.  313p index afp ISBN 0-8018-8708-9, $35.00; ISBN 9780801887086, $35.00. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6136 TJ211  2007-19374 CIP

This latest addition to the “New Series in NASA History” investigates the role of robotics in the anthropocentric approach to space exploration. Launius (formerly, NASA Chief Historian) and McCurdy (public affairs, American University) discuss the robot/human dichotomy, believing that the two entities need to work collaboratively to meet the demands of learning the space surrounding (and challenging) humankind. Whereas sending humans is (still) impossible beyond, say, Mars, machines can help us get there by coupling with their remote-control coagents on Earth. But at the same time, robotic structures must be highly autonomous, as the signals take time to travel, and actions the robots take need instant decisions in certain situations, many of which cannot possibly be foreseen and planned for at the time of launch. The first five chapters discuss the current debate on how and who/what to send in space given the current state of the art of the appropriate technologies. Chapters 6 and 7 look into the future past the Homo sapiens and biological universe as it is known today. Excellent, eye-opening, horizon-broadening reading! Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty. — G. Trajkovski, Algoco Consulting


Lipczynski, John.  Little book of big ideas: business.  Chicago Review, 2008 (c2007).  126p index; ISBN 9781556527494, $14.95. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6281 HC29  MARC

Lipczynski (London Metropolitan Univ., UK) presents brief profiles of 50 influential people in business and industry from the 18th to the 20th century, as well as ten important business trends, providing an interesting, readable introduction to key business concepts. The profiles and trends are organized into seven chapters: pioneers (e.g., Ray Kroc, Charles Babbage); industrialists (e.g., Richard Arkwright, Andrew Carnegie); entrepreneurs (e.g., Sam Walton, Mary Kay Ash); financial geniuses (e.g., J. P. Morgan, Warren Buffett); mavericks (e.g., Jack Welch, Larry Page, Sergei Brin); strategists (e.g., Michael Porter, Kenichi Ohmae); and theorists (e.g., Peter Drucker, Tom Peters). The ten important trends discussed include the production line, branding, monopolies, mergers and acquisitions, and multinationals. Lipczynski’s depth of knowledge as an author, teacher, and researcher in the field of business and economics guided his selection of businesspeople and trends to highlight. A short index lists concepts that are not listed as trends but are mentioned in individuals’ profiles. The book lacks bibliographies and suggestions for further research, but the featured individuals and trends can easily be researched in standard reference sources in any library. See related, Ciaran Parker’s The Thinkers 50: The World’s Most Influential Business Writers and Leaders (CH, Feb’07, 44-3375). Summing Up: Highly recommended. General and beginning business students. — L. Hickey, Austin College
 
 
Loomis, William F.  Life as it is: biology for the public sphere.  California, 2008.  247p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780520253575, $24.95. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6147 QH333  2007-27034 CIP

This book examines life as it is viewed now in the beginning of the 21st century–from the molecular level through the higher organizational stages and finally to its global implications. In a very readable narrative, microbiologist Loomis (Univ. of California, San Diego) exposes the controversies that arise from differing perceptions of what life is, while presenting the research findings that shape current perspectives. Contemporary technology has introduced genetic engineering, embryonic stem cell production, designer genes, in vitro fertilization, cloning, and other procedures that provoke both admiration and censure. The studies of the brain and behavior, kinship and altruism, and consciousness invite more reflections of what makes our species human. Current biotechnology challenges natural evolution with its cutting-edge genetic manipulation. Overpopulation and resource abuse has compromised the carrying capacity of the ecosphere. These are some of the issues presented for the general public to consider in making decisions needed to improve life. A timely book. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals. — R. A. Hoots, emeritus, Sacramento City College


Lovink, Geert.  Zero comments: blogging and critical Internet culture.  Routledge, 2008.  312p bibl index afp ISBN 0-415-97315-5, $95.00. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6247 HM851  2007-5611 CIP

Dutch media theorist Lovink provides a penetrating, deeply informed analysis of Web 2.0–a collective reimaging of the collaborative social, political, and aesthetic possibilities of the Internet. He offers a theory of blogging that goes beyond the counterjournalism perspective and explores its philosophical, psychological, and literary roots. Lovink addresses the history, current state, and future of new media art, as well as distributed aesthetics and social activism. This book will appeal to the insider, serious practitioner segment of the Internet cultural community. It also constitutes an invaluable resource for academics who want to explore the many aspects of Internet-related social life that escape the dominant paradigms of explanation. For example, under what kind of postcopyright intellectual property regime could the writer or artist make a living working as a content producer on the Internet or in computer gaming networks? Lovink’s style in some ways evokes the blogger’s voice–punchy, creative language, distinctive structural metaphors, and a high level of quotation and shared production of ideas and expression. But the author also combines a strong historical account of the phenomenon with his evaluative comments, so that his book has the authority of participant observation-based ethnography. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Most levels/libraries. — A. Arno, University of Hawaii at Manoa
 

Northcott, Michael S.  A moral climate: the ethics of global warming.  Orbis Books, 2007.  336p index; ISBN 9781570757112  pbk, $20.00. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6092 BT695  MARC

Northcott (Univ. of Edinburgh) offers a finely researched, clearly written analysis of the moral dimension of the global climate crisis. It might at first appear to be yet another religious rant against the sinfulness of humankind’s ways insofar as it is framed as an analogy with the writings of Jeremiah, who lamented the destruction of nature resulting from the failure of the Jews to live according to the principle of the Sabbath (which called for moral limits to the human uses of the land). But Northcott’s brilliant integration of extensive and detailed information about the effects of the vast system of industrial food production within the context of global capitalism is no rant. A lucid account of the need to return to local, sane, and moral management of the ecosystem, it draws connections between past and present; rich and poor; and technological fix-mentality and the increasing sickness and distress of people and animals. Complementing works such as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006), Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress (2005), and Thomas Homer-Dixon’s The Upside of Down (CH, May’07, 44-5116), A Moral Climate offers a richly wholesome moral perspective. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. — S. A. Mason, Concordia University
 

Smelser, Neil J.  The faces of terrorism: social and psychological dimensions.  Princeton, 2007.  285p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780691133089, $29.95. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6251 HV6431 2007-4837 CIP

World-renowned sociologist and expert on terrorist violence Smelser (emer., Berkeley) offers an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the causes and conditions of terrorism, its perpetrators, their motives and operational strategies, and policy responses. He synthesizes behavioral and social science research and builds general explanations of unconventional violence. In particular, chapters on the causes and conditions of terrorism, its ideological bases, and motivational factors give the book a thoroughness that makes it an unrivaled study in the field. Smelser goes beyond the Durkheimian model of monocausal explanation of social reality to build a complex of causality that helps readers understand terrorism in all its complexity. As a lifelong scholar of collective behavior, the author mines past and present research on the subject and documents it in this compact volume. In particular, he draws upon the latest research in anthropology, economics, history, psychology, psychiatry, and sociology to comprehend the phenomenon of terrorism. Written in a highly accessible language for both general and specialized audiences. Summing Up: Essential. Undergraduate/graduate collections in terrorism or risk assessment studies. Highly recommended. Behavioral sciences collections. — T. Niazi, University of Wisconsin


Thompson, J. William.  Sustainable landscape construction: a guide to green building outdoors, by J. William Thompson and Kim Sorvig.  2nd ed.  Island Press, 2008.  381p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781597261432  pbk, $45.00. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6160 TH380  2007-26192 CIP

This book emphasizes sustainable landscape principles; it is not a how-to book with detailed step-by-step instructions on constructing individual components of a landscape, such as retaining walls. Instead, Thompson (editor, Landscape Architecture) and Sorvig (Univ. of New Mexico) offer ideas on how to adapt to new situations, materials, regulations, and client demands, along the lines of environmental stewardship. The book discusses principles such as the protection of sites prior to construction, restoration of damaged landscapes, the use of living materials in construction instead of strictly engineering hard structures, protection of water resources, alternatives to paving, the origin of building materials, the influences of design on energy use, light and noise pollution, and sustainable maintenance. Compared to the first edition (CH, Apr’01, 38-4460), which this reviewer has read cover to cover, this work contains vastly expanded discussions on green roofs–a concept that has grown immensely in the US since the first edition was published in 2000–as well as global warming. Each chapter still offers resource lists of organizations, Web sites, publications, and suppliers for additional information. The book is essential for landscape architects, engineers, contractors, or anyone involved in landscaping. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers/libraries. — B. Rowe, Michigan State University


Wolfendale, Jessica.  Torture and the military profession.  Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.  249p bibl index ISBN 0-230-00182-3, $80.00; ISBN 9780230001824, $80.00. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6099 U22 2007-16442 CIP

Wolfendale (Univ. of Melbourne) offers a timely, thorough investigation of the tension between military ethics and military training concerning torture. Wolfendale argues that military training works to undermine moral agency in favor of obedience, discipline, and loyalty. Such training renders any ethics based on moral agency, any modern ethic, problematic. Military command has changed little since ancient times, but politics and morality have changed, especially notions of moral agency and individual responsibility. In training, soldiers learn that those who question command are disloyal members of the military who lack discipline and should expect reprisals. Only the loyal survive. Wolfendale’s analysis explains why ordinary people who are the victims of military training behave instead like sadists when ordered to torture or murder. They are the expected product of military training. Yet society punishes the products for crimes of obedience, rather than the producers. The author raises serious questions about whether military command, including the war on terror, is compatible with democratic life and modern morality. One wonders whether Wolfendale’s analysis can be extended to other areas of professional ethics: business, law, and education. And we wonder how the Nazis were possible. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels. — R. Werner, Hamilton College
 
 
Yaszek, Lisa.  Galactic suburbia: recovering women’s science fiction.  Ohio State, 2008.  234p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780814210758, $71.95; ISBN 9780814251645  pbk, $22.95. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-6099 U22  2007-16442 CIP

Like Eric Leif Davin’s Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965 (CH, May’06, 43-5120), this volume makes the case for the importance of women writers of science fiction in the 1940s-60s. And in so doing it challenges the popular perception that women were not very involved in the genre until the late 1960s. But Yaszek (Georgia Institute of Technology) does far more than set the historical record straight. She offers clear analysis of the cultural circumstances that gave rise to and provided the context for such writers as Carol Emshwiller, Judith Merril, and Shirley Jackson. She also discusses the participation of women in science and engineering programs in the period, including NASA. The nuanced, well-argued close readings of individual works are a key strength of this study. The writing is clear and persuades with solid evidence from culture and history, e.g., the rise of consumerism, the bizarre elevation of the home as a bulwark against communism during the Cold War, and the widespread use of the feminine mystique as an opiate-like substitute for women’s ambition to rejoin the postwar work force. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and researchers. — S. Bernardo, Wagner College


Zipf, Catherine W.  Professional pursuits: women and the American arts and crafts movement.  Tennessee, 2008 (c2007).  229p bibl index afp ISBN 9781572336018, $39.95. Reviewed in 2008jul CHOICE.
45-5969 NK1149 2007-5163 CIP

Zipf (Salve Regina Univ.) offers a volume of fascinating, important scholarship. Documenting the work of women in design and architecture has been a slow process. Although thousands of women contributed to the development of the design professions in the 19th century, very little of this work has made its way into survey histories. Exclusion has occurred for many reasons, including the often anonymous nature of the work, the tendency to ignore the contributions of female partners (Margaret MacDonald and the Glasgow School come to mind), and copying of the visual canon announced in earlier flawed histories. This book repairs some of that damage. The author engagingly and intelligently explores the careers of five arts and crafts movement women who made significant contributions that should be understood and appreciated. The example of Irene Sargent is illuminating. She was the designer and editor of the hugely influential magazine The Craftsman; however, when the magazine’s pages are reproduced in histories, one hears nothing of Sargent or her career. Zipf’s book, in documenting the work of five women, makes a beginning. As a model for work that remains to be done, it should be available to all students of visual history and architecture. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. — R. M. Labuz, Mohawk Valley Community College

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