Editors’ Picks for December 2017

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

Alumkal, Antony William. Paranoid science: the Christian Right’s war on reality. New York University, 2017. 243p bibl index ISBN 9781479827138, $35.00; ISBN 9781479866250 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Alumkal (sociology of religion, Iliff School of Theology) examines in detail the approach to science adopted by a considerable portion of the Christian Right. The author looks at four particular areas in which the Christian Right comes up against the findings of science. Going against Darwinian evolutionary ideas and what the author terms Darwinist culture, Christian Right groups have proposed an alternate theory identified as the intelligent design movement. In the face of contemporary society’s willingness to accept the claims of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and communities, Christian Right groups persist in supporting claims that a person’s sexual orientation can be changed. They write off embryonic stem cell research, human genetic engineering, and euthanasia. They reject climate science and environmentalism and accuse advocates of such views of politicizing science. Alumkal believes that in taking these positions a considerable portion of the Christian Right has adopted a paranoid style: they incorrectly assume that scientific thought is driven by anti-Christian forces bent on undermining religious faith. Alumkal’s argument about paranoia, an idea he credits to Richard Hofstadter, may seem subjective, but his documentation of the religious Right’s anti-scientific views is detailed and accurate. This is a volume for those who seek a better understanding of the US’s contemporary cultural conflict. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. —S. C. Pearson, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

Anderson, G. M. Thermodynamics of natural systems: theory and applications in geochemistry and environmental science. 3rd ed. Cambridge, 2017. 413p bibl index ISBN 9781107175211, $94.99; ISBN 9781316805893 ebook, $76.00.

Anderson’s third edition of Thermodynamics of Natural Systems is a streamlined, updated version of previous editions (CH, Mar’96, 33-3913), but designed as a more applied introduction suited to undergraduate and beginning graduate students in Earth and environmental sciences. The value and limitations of thermodynamic applications to natural systems are clearly expressed. Excellent examples of common mineralogical and organic compound reactions are provided, accompanied by numerous informative illustrations. The basic concepts of thermodynamics are presented in a readily understandable, graphical manner. Helpful examples are provided throughout the text, and useful exercises (with answers) appear at the end of each chapter—both are designed to enhance the student’s understanding of various processes. Appendixes, a subject index, and an up-to-date list of references are provided at the conclusion of the work. This reviewer regrets not having had a book of this high caliber when he introduced the application of thermodynamic principles to his igneous and metamorphic petrology classes many years ago. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —M. E. McCallum, Colorado State University

Brown, Jason. Counseling diversity in context. Toronto, 2017. 251p bibl index ISBN 9781442635302, $81.00; ISBN 9781442635296 pbk, $36.94; ISBN 9781442635326 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Brown (Western Univ., Canada) has compiled a magnificent monograph to assist mental health students and professionals to become inclusive, empowered, and multiculturally competent in a time when there is a dire need to serve diverse clients in holistic frameworks. Brown mindfully explores a client’s sociopolitical existence under a dominant culture and how types of oppression affect determinants of mental health. Socially just psychology informs counselors in understanding the facets of clients’ sociopolitical environments, empowering professionals to become key figures in advocating for social justice via a “community change model” and gain know-how in properly evaluating their efforts. This book is a refreshing departure from past multicultural counseling books that categorize minority groups into fixed boxes according to shared general characteristics. This book is superbly organized: each chapter begins with a detailed outline and ends with discussion questions that can be used in a classroom setting or allow readers to further reflect on discussed ideas. Useful web resources and key terms are listed at the end of each chapter. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; faculty and professionals. —J. E. Perez, Florida International University

Foster, Kathleen A. American watercolor in the age of Homer and Sargent. Philadelphia Museum of Art/Yale, 2017. 496p index ISBN 9780300225891, $65.00.

Foster’s magisterial study of the rise of American watercolor painting during the nation’s Gilded Age awes the reader with its intellectual depth, topical breadth, fluid prose, and sheer beauty. The result of decades of engagement, this beautiful exhibition catalogue stands as Foster’s magnum opus on a subject that deserves to be foregrounded in the history of American art. Organized as much around the history of the emergence of the American Watercolor Society (formed in 1866)—with its crucial exhibitions and influential players—as around the artistic giants of the period (Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Thomas Eakins), the volume affords a detailed understanding of the full range of watercolor creation in the US through the first quarter of the 20th century. Homer rightly appears throughout due to his prolific and inventive production, which constantly responded to others in surprising ways. The English origins of the watercolor movement in the models of J. M. W. Turner and Ruskin are reconfirmed as Rome, Munich, and Paris emerged as sites of influence. With its prodigious color illustrations, appendixes, and extensive notes—and an essay by Rebecca Pollak on the manufacturing of watercolor paint in the US—this is a landmark contribution to the field. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers. —J. Simon, University of Georgia

Jamison, Douglas W. Venture investing in science, by Douglas W. Jamison and Stephen R. Waite. Columbia Business School, 2017. 280p index ISBN 9780231175722, $35.00; ISBN 9780231544702 ebook, $34.99.

Genentech, Amgen, Chiron, and Biogen were four major giants from early biotechnology. All four received early funding from venture capital firms, and all four enjoyed successful IPOs. Where are today’s biotechnology companies funded by venture capital and ready to do the same? No one knows—today’s venture capital environment has substantially shifted away from “deep science” firms. In Venture Investing in Science, Jamison and Waite are concerned that the amount of money flowing into deep science has decreased and flows instead into consumer software. The irony is that more opportunities for deep science innovation are available today than ever before, but if funding decreases, then innovation will slow. This work is an excellent history of biotechnology financing and lays out a clear case for concern. The authors discuss structural reasons why capital has flowed away from deep science, including the need for micro-capital for nascent exploration. Because of their size, venture capital firms must pursue bigger bets, whereas most biotechnology starts very small. The book concludes with an excellent financing case study. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —J. J. Janney, University of Dayton

Jett, Stephen C. Ancient ocean crossings: reconsidering the case for contacts with the pre-Columbian Americas. Alabama, 2017. 508p bibl index ISBN 9780817319397, $49.95; ISBN 9780817390754 ebook, $49.95.

Evidence for pre-Columbian contact with the Americas has long been debated in academic and non-academic circles. Geographer Jett (emer., Univ. of California, Davis), a major scholar of contact across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, provides an exhaustive discussion of the evidence in support of diffusion of a wide variety of items flowing into and out of the Americas by boat. He presents an in-depth discussion of early watercraft, their types and capabilities for ocean travel; navigational skills, accidental and drift voyages; experimental voyages, such as Kon Tiki; domesticated plant and animal transferals; and DNA evidence and art portrayals of foreign arrivals to Mesoamerica and South America. Jett points to confirmed evidence of contact, such as Andean sweet potatoes in Polynesia and Asian chickens in Chile, as well as a wide range of other probable and possible items introduced between the New and Old Worlds. This 508-page well-researched and written book has 33 pages of notes and a 60-page bibliography. For those interested in pre-1492 long-distance travel and contact over the world’s oceans, this book is a must. Summing Up: Essential. All public and academic levels/libraries. —J. B. Richardson III, University of Pittsburgh

Pimpare, Stephen. Ghettos, tramps, and welfare queens: down and out on the silver screen. Oxford, 2017. 342p bibl index ISBN 9780190660727, $34.95; ISBN 9780190660734 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Pimpare (American politics and public policy, Univ. of New Hampshire) explores subjects in film that often get little attention but can say more about the American psyche than do popular genres such as the Western and gangster film. The author organizes the book by subject rather than strict chronology—thus, depictions of social workers and charity reformers, inspirational and lifesaving teachers, rural people in poverty, and villainous tramps all have their separate chapters. This ingenious schemata makes for accessible, stand-alone chapters that will certainly be used in the college classroom. Another of the volume’s strengths is its broad appeal: it will serve multiple audiences, from historians to social workers and of course scholars of film studies. The preponderance of film stills and advertising materials and the filmographies and bibliography are important resources. In addition the author writes in a breezy, nonacademic style, and the book is all the stronger for that. But perhaps its greatest strength is the author’s desire not to segregate films from their audiences or their makers. This makes for a book that reflects deeply held beliefs about those less fortunate. Pimpare’s conclusion offers separate lessons for filmgoers, filmmakers, policy makers, and journalists—a strong way to end the volume. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —G. R. Butters Jr., Aurora University

Pira, Timothy M. La. Revolving door lobbying: public service, private influence, and the unequal representation of interests, by Timothy M. La Pira and Hershel F. Thomas III. University Press of Kansas, 2017. 258p bibl index ISBN 9780700624508, $39.95; ISBN 9780700624515 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Highly publicized cases and investigative reports have convinced most Americans that Washington lobbyists use cash and offers of lucrative jobs to get Congress to write favorable legislation. La Pira and Thomas present a very different picture, based on an exhaustive analysis of quantitative data and helpful case studies. They conclude that lobbyists are “not in the business of buying policy outcomes” and that “quid pro quo deal making … is extraordinary.” Instead, lobbyists provide a kind of “political insurance” for their employers by giving information to legislators and by informing their employers about government actions likely to affect them. Wealthy interests use this information to reduce the harm and maximize the benefits from public policies. Perhaps the book’s greatest contribution is its explanation for the growing number of “revolving door lobbyists” during recent decades. The authors attribute this growth to a decline in the analytic capabilities of Congress and to the rise of centralized party leadership. Former legislators have become highly prized as lobbyists because organized interests need representatives who can navigate the evermore exclusive decision-making process among party leaders. The book is an excellent contribution to understanding lobbying in contemporary American politics. Summing Up:Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. —M. E. Ethridge, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee

Schlichtman, John Joe. Gentrifier, by John Joe Schlichtman, Jason Patch, and Marc Lamont Hill. Toronto, 2017. 242p bibl index ISBN 9781442650459, $29.95; ISBN 9781442623835 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Urban landscapes change as residents move in and out of cities. Who gains and who suffers in this process of gentrification has come to be viewed both as regenerating decaying communities with upwardly mobile families, and dispossessing the most vulnerable residents priced out of their communities. The authors make two very important contributions. The first chapter, “Tools,” is an exploration of how to understand a complex process. The authors ask how to balance the systemic forces at play with a perspective that considers the needs of those seeking better living options and potentially benefiting from increases in property values. The next three chapters provide rich ethnographic information. “Dispatches” puts a human face on the aspirations of those seeking reasonable housing. “Invasions” reverses the gaze by focusing on residents in gentrifying communities. “Columbus” explores the inevitable cultural clashes between new and old residents. The final chapter, “Collisions,” is a synthesis that leaves readers with a better understanding of a complex process. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —D. Fasenfest, Wayne State University

Willis, Jim. Tweeting to freedom: an encyclopedia of citizen protests and uprisings around the world, by Jim Willis and Anthony R. Fellow. ABC-CLIO, 2017. 367p bibl index ISBN 9781440840043, $89.00; ISBN 9781440840050 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Willis (Azusa Pacific Univ.) and Fellow (California State Univ., Fullerton) present a snapshot of the use—in 2016—of the internet and social media by activists promoting political, environmental, and social agendas and the positive or negative reactions to such activity by government. Each of the 32 essays covers an individual country and includes a historical and political overview of that nation, current economic and social conditions, media and internet activity, and political and physical threats to journalists. An excellent introductory essay provides an overview of international internet and social media activity to promote political and personal freedom, reforms deemed necessary for the greater good, or, in the case of the Islamic State, the promotion of hate and terrorism. The work draws on online media accounts, government documents, reports from nongovernmental organizations, and scholarly works. Many entries include short sidebars on issues specific to that nation, such as protests against Kentucky Fried Chicken in China or the WikiLeaks release of nearly 20,000 e-mails within the Democratic National Committee. Each chapter closes with a short bibliography, and the book ends with a selected bibliography. The study provides readers with an excellent overview of the state of internet and social media activism and serves as a convenient starting point for further study. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries. All levels. —S. L. Hupp, West Virginia University at Parkersburg