Editors’ Picks for December 2018

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

Editors' picks' book covers, Dec. 2018

Bacon, Tricia. Why terrorist groups form international alliances. Pennsylvania, 2018. 344p index ISBN 9780812250169, $69.95; ISBN 9780812295023 ebook, $69.95.

This is one of the best books written on how terrorist groups operate internationally. Bacon, a former State Department analyst, provides a unique study of terrorist groups that closely follows the stakeholder analysis on a spectrum of competition to non-competition. Based on their respective views of one another, as overlapping interests of political markets, Bacon demonstrates how terrorist groups come together for mutual objectives. However, this cooperation is not simple or easy, as such groups face tremendous difficulties because of their size, scope of reach, resources, and lack of trust. In a series of case studies, Bacon sheds light on alliances formed by such groups as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Al Qaeda, the Red Army Faction, Jihadist groups of Egypt, and others in a fresh analytic framework. Her approach, which closely resembles expected utility analysis of bargaining/decision-making, provides a fresh look at how these groups ought to be studied. Future researchers could learn much from Bacon’s work and further advance this research by adopting rigorous stakeholder decision-making analysis. Works of Jacek Kugler or Bruce Bueno de Mesquita would be useful in further advancement of this research. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. —B. A. Yesilada, Portland State University

Garfinkel, Yosef. In the footsteps of King David: revelations from an ancient biblical city, by Yosef Garfinkel, Saar Ganor, and Michael G. Hasel. Thames & Hudson, 2018. 240p bibl index ISBN 9780500052013, $34.95.

Archaeological monographs are not often enticing reading for non-specialists, but In the Footsteps of King David proves to be exceptional. This well-written study focuses on excavations in Israel at Khirbet Qeiyafa, which researchers conclude is what remains of biblical Shaaraim and was probably destroyed by the Philistines. Located at the edge of the Elah Valley in Judea, this 10th-century BCE excavation provides strong evidence of an Israelite presence and lacks the cultic evidence of human-like figurines and other symbols associated with Canaanite and Philistine worship. Written by the researchers who excavated the site, this volume examines both macro and micro details, including the objects and artifacts found at the site, and it references other finds in Judea and elsewhere in Israel. The connection to the Davidic period and the intersection of data with biblical sources is engaging. While biblical archaeology asks and responds to questions of an order different from anthropological archaeology, the authors do speak to such issues as tool use, household construction and use, implications of social order, religious life, etc. Well referenced and indexed, this work should be of interest to specialists and non-specialists alike. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —L. D. Loeb, emeritus, University of Utah

Glausser, Wayne. Something old, something new: contemporary entanglements of religion and secularity. Oxford, 2018. 206p bibl index ISBN 9780190864170, $29.95; ISBN 9780190864200 ebook, contact publisher for price.

It is now commonplace in secularity studies to hear that the secular and the religious are entangled categories: they are not separate and distinct but intertwined in complicated ways. Rarer, however, are beautifully written, concise, wide-ranging accounts that illuminate everyday concrete examples of that entanglement. Glausser (English, DePauw Univ.) has written such an account. He shows that the so-called new atheists cannot escape the very religiosity they disdain and looks at how Pope Francis relies on Satan and Catholic materiality as he crafts a decidedly more catholic Catholic vision of humanity. Glausser twins economic accounts of erstwhile sins such as greed and envy with Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. In his most moving chapter, which speaks to his own diagnosis with terminal cancer, the author draws connecting tendrils between recent scientific trials of drug therapy for the dying and the Roman Catholic sacrament of last rites. The result is not simply a mesmerizing study of the way religion persists in modernity. Glausser implicitly asks a more challenging question: how can one retain one’s humanity in political, social, and personal life without creatively attending to and nurturing religious resources? Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. —J. Kahn, Vassar College

Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups, ed. by William M. Bukowski, Brett Laursen, and Kenneth H. Rubin. 2nd ed. Guilford, 2018. 748p bibl indexes ISBN 9781462525010, $95.00; ISBN 9781462533015 ebook, conatct publisher for price.

In the second edition of this handbook, editors Bukowski (Concordia Univ., Quebec, Canada), Laursen (Florida Atlantic Univ.), and Rubin (Univ. of Maryland) have assembled an impressive team of leading scholars, delivering revised and new topics on peer interactions, relationships, and groups. Half the content of the book is new to the second edition, and chapters cover established topics of interest (including bullying and romantic relationships) as well as new topics related to conceptual and methodological advances (e.g., play, neuroscience). Several chapters are dedicated to diversity in peer experience, each examining an intersection of peer relationships and inequality, culture, gender, and race. Another set of new chapters focuses on applied issues, such as school adjustment and youth activity participation. Each chapter follows a comprehensive outline, first positing the conceptual main issue and theoretical considerations, then delving into measures and methods, research findings, implications, and future directions. The handbook is a must read for academics with interest in peer interactions and relationships. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —I. I. Katzarska-Miller, Transylvania University

Harris, Stephen A. Sunflowers. Reaktion Books, 2018. 240p bibl index ISBN 9781780239262, $27.00.

Harris (Oxford) presents a vast and complicated group of plants in a well-organized and beautiful volume. Sunflowers explores the historical significance and scientific value of a plant family that mystifies many: the Asteraceae. The first chapter (titled “Amazing”) introduces the biology and beauty of the Asteraceae family for readers not trained in the nuances of plant systematics. Despite the unity that ties the family together, the second chapter (“Varying”) presents the incredible genetic diversity that has excited gardeners for generations. The flower’s resulting adaptability has fostered the successful establishment of the sunflower all over the world, as discussed in the third chapter (“Surviving”). Mechanisms for dispersal are just one of the topics which Harris explores in this chapter. Whether to cure or to kill, the Asteraceae constitute a complex chemical storehouse, which Harris discusses in vivid detail in chapter 4 (“Curing”). Subsequent chapters discuss culinary uses, the sunflower industry, their cultural impact, and the future of scientific research into the flowers. Well documented and thoroughly indexed, Sunflowers is a fascinating resource for anyone who appreciates these beloved plants. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —T. Johnson, Spring Valley Public Library

Mettler, Suzanne. The government-citizen disconnect. Russell Sage Foundation, 2018. 241p bibl index ISBN 9780871546685 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9781610448727 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Mettler (Cornell) argues that American voters have largely lost faith in public benefits despite evidence that a larger proportion of the population depends on them to a greater extent than ever before. Using evidence drawn from reputable surveys, she shows that federal transfers of money have increased steadily over the years since the 1980s. Yet the degree of support for these programs by those who vote has declined. This is due to the decline in voting by those who benefit from such programs and the continued voting by those who benefit the least, or benefit from programs that depend on distributions that come from third parties, such as state and local governments and financial institutions. Thus the playing field is tilted in favor of those who can survive on their own resources even though they have also benefited from similar programs in the past and still do. The answer is increased voting participation by those who benefit most, coupled with a more complete understanding by those who continue to vote for the benefits that they do receive. This book should be read by those in many disciplines. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —W. C. Johnson, emeritus, independent scholar

Su, Li. The constitution of ancient China, ed. by Zhang Yongle and Daniel Bell, tr. by Edmund Ryden. Princeton, 2018. 292p bibl index ISBN 9780691171593, $39.95; ISBN 9781400889778 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Su Li (pen name of Professor Zhu Suli), a scholar of jurisprudence and sociology, provides an engaging, highly readable explanation of the social forces that led to ancient China’s formation as a political community. Readers need not be familiar with Chinese history to understand his sociological, theoretical research on the uniqueness of ancient China’s development. Rejecting the modern Western notion of a constitution as a formal legal document, Su Li studies the institutions of ancient China that form an “effective constitution.” The institutions he considers are the standardization of pronunciation in Mandarin and the selection of a political elite. Taking a pragmatic, consequential approach, he examines the trial-and-error process by which China’s effective constitution led to its unique political, economic, and cultural integration. Su Li’s study of the constitution of historical China will have direct practical significance for contemporary China. The book consists of Su Li’s introduction, three related chapters, essays by four commentators, and Su Li’s response to the commentators. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —A. J. Trevino, Wheaton College

Travers, Ann. The trans generation: how trans kids (and their parents) are creating a gender revolution. New York University, 2018. 263p bibl index ISBN 9781479885794, $25.00; ISBN 9781479879939 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Whether due to a general lack of understanding or consistent misinterpretations of definitions, gender and identity can be challenging topics for many individuals. Travers (Simon Fraser Univ.) helps combat this confusion by exploring aspects of gender and identity research that are often perplexing for students. Travers presents an innovative exploration of the experiences of transgender children, offering concrete definitions of terminology and fresh approaches to discussing gender, sex, and identity. To some, these definitions and explanations might seem inconsequential, but they can be invaluable to those less informed about gender research. The text goes beyond simply discussing issues related to gender and children by listing resources for children, parents, lawmakers, and educators as well as providing policy recommendations for healthcare and education professionals. The book contains a complete list of references and notes for further details on claims and statements made throughout the text. Also included are a glossary, comprehensive index, and multiple appendixes that provide excellent source material for research on gender. This illuminating text will be an appreciated addition to any library collection, especially those supporting sociology, psychology, gender studies, or criminology and criminal justice programs. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —D. R. Kavish, Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Varel, David A. The lost black scholar: resurrecting Allison Davis in American social thought. Chicago, 2018. 301p index ISBN 9780226534886, $45.00; ISBN 9780226534916 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Born in 1902, Davis grew up in the era of Jim Crow, and though he lived for two decades after its de jure dismantling by the Civil Rights Movement, its bitter legacy could not be extricated. A person of remarkable achievement—he was the first African American to receive a full-time appointment at a major white university (the University of Chicago)—his success came at a cost. Moreover, his place among other members of the intelligentsia—white and black—has been, as the title of this book suggests, lost. Varel (Univ. of Mississippi) tasked himself with “resurrecting” Davis’s career and has done so in a perceptive, informative, engaging book. Davis began as a writer with links to the Harlem Renaissance but made an abrupt career change by becoming an anthropologist. In that capacity, he launched his career as a part of the W. Lloyd Warner team of researchers that produced the classic ethnographic study of Natchez, Deep South. Shortly thereafter, Davis wrote another classic with John Dollard, Children of Bondage, a study of black adolescents in the urban South. Varel traces Davis’s long subsequent career, producing a valuable, overdue reevaluation. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students and researchers. —P. Kivisto, Augustana College (IL)

Wehrle, Edmund F. Breaking Babe Ruth: baseball’s campaign against its biggest star. Missouri, 2018. 290p bibl index ISBN 9780826221605, $29.95; ISBN 9780826274090 ebook, contact publisher for price.

For many people, the name Babe Ruth brings to mind an image akin to a cartoon character, whose superficial traits are larger than life. Wehrle (history, Eastern Illinois Univ.) introduces readers to a Ruth whose life was much deeper and more complex than the general public was led to believe. Throughout his career, Ruth battled with baseball’s establishment over the top-down order that the owners and commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis sought to bring to the game in the early 20th century. Ruth was an avid supporter of player rights in disputes with management and criticized a number of baseball’s unfair labor practices. Yet most of Ruth’s comments in these areas went unreported thanks to collusion between baseball’s owners and sportswriters, who successfully managed to portray Ruth to the world as something of an overgrown buffoon. This media portrayal of Ruth as an almost mythical character kept the owners in power while creating the first sports media superstar, who increased ticket sales wherever he went and made money for many in the business of baseball. This is a well-written, readable book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —J. R. Bailey, Arkansas State University