Editors’ Picks for May 2024

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

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Even so, this outstanding contribution to understanding alliance behavior and US foreign relations is a must read.

—J. P. Smaldone, Georgetown University

Blankenship, Brian D. The burden-sharing dilemma: coercive diplomacy in US alliance politics. Cornell, 2023. 210p bibl index ISBN 9781501772474, $47.95; ISBN 9781501772481 ebook, $30.99.

A recurring theme in postwar US foreign policy has been how to optimize burden-sharing within multiple-alliance relationships. This involves complicated and changing calculations, deft diplomacy, and mixtures of inducements and threats. America’s mixed record of successes, failures, and foregone opportunities has challenged analysts seeking explanations and patterns—until now. Blankenship (Univ. of Miami) disentangles multiple strands and dimensions of burden-sharing to reveal what determines whether the US explicitly attempts it, and if so, with what results. Briefly, he elaborates an “alliance control theory,” in which capabilities (especially military) of the US and its allies, their external threat perceptions, allies’ resource limitations, and the preservation of US influence explain variations in US efforts and outcomes. Detailed case studies of West Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Iceland support this theory better than alternatives. An outstanding concluding chapter summarizing the findings and discussing wider research and policy implications is a model for monographs. One small caveat: although extensively researched and documented, the book relies on declassified government records and secondary sources, but not interviews with former officials who may still be alive and able to provide unique information and insights. Even so, this outstanding contribution to understanding alliance behavior and US foreign relations is a must read. Summing Up: Essential. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —J. P. Smaldone, Georgetown University


Freeman is to be commended for this pioneering study of disarmament in the 1980s, which simultaneously considers big-power diplomacy and small-power disarmament activism.

—A. M. Mayer, emeritus, College of Staten Island/CUNY

Freeman, Stephanie L. Dreams for a decade: international nuclear abolitionism and the end of the Cold War. Pennsylvania, 2023. ISBN 9781512824223, $45.00; ISBN 9781512824230 ebook, $45.00.

Freeman (historian, US Department of State) has written a ground-breaking study of the decade 1979–89, covering issues of the disarmament movement and diplomatic attempts to reduce or outright ban nuclear weapons. She shows how the actions of American, Western European, and Eastern European activists in the anti-nuclear movement influenced Western and Eastern European blocs like NATO and the Warsaw Pact. She effectively traces the Reagan and Bush administrations’ policies toward nuclear disarmament and Gorbachev’s efforts on the Soviet side by examining policy issues and the summits of Geneva (1985), Reykjavik (1986), Washington, D.C. (1987), Moscow (1988), and Malta (1989). Reagan had expressed the desire to denuclearize even while governor of California in the 1960s, but had to wait for an initiative from Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 to begin his policies in earnest. In 1986, the two leaders came close to banning nuclear weapons for good. The later summits in Washington, D.C., and Moscow provided treaties for INF and START limitations on both sides. However, Bush changed course as president, desiring parity on nuclear weapons issues; his Malta summit with Gorbachev was largely unsuccessful. Freeman is to be commended for this pioneering study of disarmament in the 1980s, which simultaneously considers big-power diplomacy and small-power disarmament activism. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty. —A. M. Mayer, emeritus, College of Staten Island/CUNY


Importantly, he examines many of the controversies regarding the guns themselves as well as their deployment, with assessments provided—everything from infantry versus artillery officers’ battery control to gunner training and fuse failure.

—M. J. Smith Jr., emeritus, Tusculum University

Hess, Earl J. Civil war field artillery: promise and performance on the battlefield. Louisiana State, 2022 (c2023). 440p bibl index ISBN 9780807178003, $50.00; ISBN 9780807178669 ebook, contact publisher for price.

A highlight of battlefield tours and Civil War movies, US land cannon of the 1860s are usually described as military hardware with big bullets. Little scholarly attention has been paid to artillery strategy, unit organization and usage tactics, battle effectiveness, manufacture, or logistical and equine support. In his earlier volumes, Civil War Infantry Tactics (2015), Civil War Logistics (CH, Mar’18, 55-2573), and Civil War Supply and Strategy (2020), Hess (emer., Lincoln Memorial Univ.) employed a detailed thematic approach to his topics of study. Here he applies a similar approach, becoming the first to offer significant description of and insight into the many aspects of Civil War field artillery within a single volume. Importantly, he examines many of the controversies regarding the guns themselves as well as their deployment, with assessments provided—everything from infantry versus artillery officers’ battery control to gunner training and fuse failure. Including photos, charts, and an extensive bibliography, this work is excellent for all audiences, from enthusiasts to postgraduates. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty. —M. J. Smith Jr., emeritus, Tusculum University


Lewin’s arguments will broadly appeal to anyone interested in topics related to the societal and sociological aspects of science as a profession.

—J. A. Hewlett, Finger Lakes Community College

Lewin, Benjamin. Inside science: revolution in biology and its impact. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2023. 325p index ISBN 9781621825012, $29.50.

The COVID-19 pandemic coexisted with what many science writers refer to as an epistemic crisis, in which individual opinions and evidence-based scientific conclusions were often conflated. Some of this was attributed to a general lack of understanding for how science is conducted. Lewin, a molecular biologist, takes a historical approach to helping readers understand the value and epistemological power of science as a practice. He draws examples from the golden age of molecular biology, during which time he was acting as editor of the journal Cell, which he founded in 1974. Lewin also argues that science, as with all human endeavors, has limitations. Some of these are firmly rooted in human nature; others are constructs of the infrastructure created to support the scientific community. He highlights the increasing pressures to publish in peer-reviewed journals, a shift in conducting scientific practice from individuals to large scientific teams, and constraints associated with the operations of the funding structures. Lewin’s arguments will broadly appeal to anyone interested in topics related to the societal and sociological aspects of science as a profession. This volume is replete with references. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals. —J. A. Hewlett, Finger Lakes Community College


This is a groundbreaking work on moral motivation.

—S. A. Mason, emerita, Concordia University

Motivation and morality: a biopsychosocial approach, ed. by Martha K. Berg and Edward C. Chang. American Psychological Association, 2023. 278p bibl index ISBN 9781433838729 pbk, $83.98; ISBN 9781433838736 ebook, contact publisher for price.

What is moral motivation and how does it differ from other motivations? Are there universal moral rules that motivate people or do moral motivations vary culturally? What are norms and how are they developed? This interdisciplinary collection, which compiles essays by researchers in psychology, social psychology, sociology, neurobiology, and philosophy, contributes richly to an understanding of moral motivation. As this book makes evident, this emerging field of research covers issues of great complexity which can accessed through the specific methodological tools offered by the aforementioned disciplines. Supported by copious references, the chapters address such issues as the nature of self, identity, emotion and morality; evolutionary accounts of the emergence of the human senses of fairness, justice, and reciprocity; the role of guilt, blame, and punishment in enforcing norms; the distinction between moral and conventional motivation; cultural variation in the concepts of vice and virtue; variations in individual sensitivity to moral norms; the philosophy of virtue and the role of empathy in moral motivation; and the application of neuroscience methods to the study of moral learning. This is a groundbreaking work on moral motivation. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty. —S. A. Mason, emerita, Concordia University


While acknowledging identitarianism’s appeal, Mounk, a professed philosophical and political liberal, urges its transcendence.

—D. Schaefer, College of the Holy Cross

Mounk, Yascha. The identity trap: a story of ideas and power in our time. Penguin Random House, 2023. 416p bibl index ISBN 9780593493182, $32.00; ISBN 9780593493199 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Mounk (international affairs, Johns Hopkins Univ.) challenges the so-called identity myth which encourages people to conceive of themselves chiefly as members of competing racial, ethnic, or sexual groups, rather than as individuals equally entitled to the rights that classic liberalism upholds. Emphasizing group identity prevents people from “broaden[ing] their allegiances” so as to promote “sustainability, solidarity, and social justice” (p. 14). It also misleads individuals about how to attain “the sense of belonging and social recognition” they seek, while alienating those who seek mutual understanding or do not fit neatly into one group—e.g., mixed-race individuals (p. 15). Instead of reducing identitarianism to a form of cultural or race Marxism as other critics have done, Mounk traces its origin to “the rejection of grand narratives” (including Marxism) by postwar French intellectuals such as Michel Foucault and Jean-Paul Sartre, who influenced critical legal theorists disaffected with the American Civil Rights Movement like Derrick Bell and Kimberlé Crenshaw (p. 19). At the extreme, advocates like Gayatri Spivak simultaneously affirm and deny the reality of essentialist categories like sex, depending on strategic imperatives. Mounk stresses social media’s role in popularizing such esoteric doctrines. While acknowledging identitarianism’s appeal, Mounk, a professed philosophical and political liberal, urges its transcendence. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals. —D. Schaefer, College of the Holy Cross


This admirable monograph includes many well-chosen illustrations.

—D. M. Fahey, emeritus, Miami University (Ohio)

Ornelas-Higdon, Julia. The grapes of conquest: race, labor, and the industrialization of California wine, 1769–1920. Nebraska, 2023. 292p bibl index ISBN 9781496224279, $60.00; ISBN 9781496239518 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9781496237873 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Ornelas-Higdon (California State Univ., Channel Islands) broadens the study of California wine chronologically, geographically, and ethnically in this major contribution to Mexican American history. Historians of California wine usually focus on the years following WW II and on Italian American wine makers such as Mondavi and Gallo, obscuring the Spanish and Mexican heritage of California wine. By contrast, this volume encourages readers to focus on vineyard laborers, rather than owners. Ornelas-Higdon begins with the 18th-century Franciscan missions that produced wine for sacramental purposes. Native Americans, who were prohibited from buying alcohol by legislation passed in 1832, worked in the vineyards. Over time, demographic changes precipitated by Mexican independence and a decline in the Native population led to more Mexicans joining the industry—rich Mexicans became the owners while poor Mexicans became vineyard workers. However, after the US annexed California, vineyards were rarely owned by Mexicans. Poor Mexican Americans and more recent immigrants from Mexico made up most of the workforce. Chinese laborers who had come to California to build railroads also began working in vineyards. Wine grapes were originally grown mostly near Los Angeles, but over time vineyards began moving north to Napa and Sonoma. This admirable monograph includes many well-chosen illustrations. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —D. M. Fahey, emeritus, Miami University (Ohio)


This well-researched discussion reveals that such practices were well respected some 100 years ago, and indeed modern-day dowser can be found.

—M. S. Field, formerly, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Plazak, Dan. Doodlebugs and dowsers: a history of unusual ways to search for oil. Texas Tech, 2023. 304p bibl index ISBN 9781682831779 pbk, $27.95; ISBN 9781682831786 ebook, $9.95.

A professional hydrogeologist with some experience in the petroleum industry, this reviewer never expected to read, never mind enjoy, a book like Doodlebugs and Dowsers. To a hydrologist the very concept of dowsing is blasphemous. He was pleasantly surprised. One learns from this book that dowsing psychics have a long and respected history: they began with oil and mineral exploration long before the technique was used for water exploration. For many decades geologists were considered worse than useless for oil exploration, and so was developed the doodlebug, a specialized instrument designed for oil detection. This well-researched discussion reveals that such practices were well respected some 100 years ago, and indeed modern-day dowser can be found. Including endnotes and some interesting illustrations, this book is should be read by anyone interested in the history of oil exploration. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —M. S. Field, formerly, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Taking a different approach, authors Zalman (founder) and Neumann (venture capitalist) illustrate the debate between start-up entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in this book.

—J. J. Janney, University of Dayton

Zalman, Elizabeth. Founder vs investor: the honest truth about venture capital from startup to IPO, by Elizabeth Zalman and Jerry Neumann. HarperCollins Leadedrship, 2023. 258p ISBN 9781400242764 pbk, $29.99.

Observing a Venn diagram comparing the objectives of investors and start-up founders, an entrepreneurship rookie might assume they overlap heavily. Forced-out founders might assume they don’t overlap whatsoever. Who is right? Most texts primarily emphasize arguments from either the investor or the entrepreneur. Taking a different approach, authors Zalman (founder) and Neumann (venture capitalist) illustrate the debate between start-up entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in this book. The authors debate seven topics. The writing shows that each coauthor read the other’s work as they revised their own. The liveliest chapter is on contract terms and why both authors think each term is included in an agreement. The most insightful chapter is on growth and how the authors look at mistakes that founders make. Zalman strongly recommends getting a start-up’s “playbook” resolved before hiring anyone to execute it (it’s more likely to fail otherwise). The debate approach works because it is respectful, even as the authors disagree. Readers can see much more clearly both sides to the arguments. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; practitioners.—J. J. Janney, University of Dayton


This masterful work brings together scholarship in several interrelated realms to reimagine the basis—and ends—of the democratic project.

—S. P. Duffy, Quinnipiac University

Zúñiga, Didier. Pluralist politics, relational worlds: vulnerability and care of the earth. Toronto, 2023. 240p bibl index ISBN 9781487547387, $95.00; ISBN 9781487548391 pbk, $35.95; ISBN 9781487551209 ebook, $35.95.

If political theory and philosophy provide an ethical framework within which to engage in the liberatory project of politics while ensuring human flourishing, the current domination of the field by liberalpolitical thought contains limitations that impair applications of this framework to the major challenges of the present: anthropogenic climate crisis and ecological collapse. Zúñiga (philosophy, McGill Univ., Canada) argues for “an ethics that aims to incite the kind of care that is expressed in collective efforts to nurture and sustain [all] life on earth” (p. 195). Confronting hierarchical conceptions of worth embedded in Rawlsian liberalism, he engages the work of MacIntyre, Taylor, Tully, Escobar, Puig de la Bellacosa, and others. Following the feminist ethics of care and new materialism, Zúñiga argues for centering embodied vulnerability and relational connection at the heart of a more inclusive politics: a politics aimed at the flourishing of all forms of human and more-than-human life. This masterful work brings together scholarship in several interrelated realms to reimagine the basis—and ends—of the democratic project. While he engages in sophisticated reasoning around complex philosophical questions, Zúñiga does so in a way that is clear and easily followed. Summing Up: Essential. Advanced undergraduates through faculty. —S. P. Duffy, Quinnipiac University