Editors’ Picks for December 2023

9 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.


What was a shorter book in 2017 is now longer, much improved, and more valuable.

—M. D. Ericson, University of Maryland Global Campus

Atkins, E. Taylor. A history of popular culture in Japan: from the seventeenth century to the present. 2nd ed. Bloomsbury Academic, 2022. 408p bibl index ISBN 9781350195936, $100.00; ISBN 9781350195929 pbk, $32.95; ISBN 9781350195943 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This is not your father’s version of a second edition in which some words are added to supposedly bring the text up to date. Instead, Atkins (Northern Illinois Univ.) has crafted a gem of a revised, updated, and expanded second edition of his original volume (CH, May’18, 55-3303). New to this edition are 50 more pages of text; a new chapter on the popular culture of the Edo Period; a new section on pre-Tokugawa culture; an expanded treatment of interwar and postwar popular culture; an expanded discussion of recent pop culture phenomena such as TV game shows and J-pop music; and a new, much-appreciated glossary of terms (including their kanji). Ten new images also add to readers’ understanding of popular culture in Japan. What was a shorter book in 2017 is now longer, much improved, and more valuable. Libraries and readers with the first edition should replace it with this second edition, which is an excellent volume for all readers interested in Japan and Japanese culture and for college courses on modern Japan. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —M. D. Ericson, University of Maryland Global Campus


The authors analyze the effectiveness of Trump’s skill in promoting the idea of government as an authoritarian business.

—A. Kolin, Hilbert College

Corruption and illiberal politics in the Trump era, ed. by Donna M. Goldstein and Kristen Drybread. Routledge, 2022 (c2023). 326p bibl index ISBN 9780367715861, $170.00; ISBN 9780367715878 pbk, $48.95; ISBN 9781003152729 ebook, $48.95.

Given the enormous proliferation of books and articles on Trump and Trumpism, it might be tempting to dismiss yet another book on Trump. However, with its emphasis on the role corruption played in the administration’s policy making, this book makes an original contribution. It presents corruption as the favoring of private interests over the public interest. The authors explain that the goal of policy making in the administration was to sidestep the rule of law. They discuss the destructive politics of Trump, rooted in policies intended to cause harm—the most striking example of which was the administration’s response to COVID-19. The authors provide examples of how the heads of state in Nigeria, Brazil, and the Russian Federation use Carl Schmitt’s friend/enemy distinction as undermining the public good in favor of authoritarian rule. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump identified diversity as a threat to the goal of achieving a homogenous society. The authors analyze the effectiveness of Trump’s skill in promoting the idea of government as an authoritarian business. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; general readers; professionals. —A. Kolin, Hilbert College


This book shows some of the best minds engaged in the analysis and practice of cyber operations grappling with the question of how to think about data and influence.

—D. McIntosh, emeritus, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Deter, disrupt, or deceive: assessing cyber conflict as an intelligence contest, ed. by Robert Chesney and Max Smeets. Georgetown University, 2023. 318p bibl index ISBN 9781647123307, $110.95; ISBN 9781647123260 pbk, $36.95; ISBN 9781647123253 ebook, $36.95.

Data are more essential than tangible assets for every dimension of power: military, economic, and political. Without access to fast, reliable, secure data, the modern world stops. However, this access is constantly contested in a gray zone conflict that works to inflict damage by a million cuts. This book shows some of the best minds engaged in the analysis and practice of cyber operations grappling with the question of how to think about data and influence. Working from multiple perspectives—analytical, national, and comparative—this volume shows that thinking with categories such as “war” and “deterrence” is insufficient. In addition, despite an emphasis on states and intelligence operations, the book suggests both may be too small for the problem. Conflict in the cyber domain has its own character—just like operations on land, sea, and space—which shapes behavior. Privately owned infrastructure, critical data in the hands of transnational corporations, non-state hackers probing for targets of opportunity, and the need for putative enemies to maintain the battlefield in which they operate mean that states do not yet have adequate frameworks for cyber conflict. This book is a significant step toward creating one. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers. —D. McIntosh, emeritus, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania


This carefully researched, meticulously documented study will be of interest to students of literary and cultural history as well as to scholars of the history of science.

—J. D. Vann, emeritus, University of North Texas

Finger, Stanley. Mark Twain, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the head readers: literature, humor, and faddish phrenology. Cambridge, 2023. 332p bibl index ISBN 9781009301299, $39.99; ISBN 9781009301282 ebook, $39.99.

Finger (emer., Washington Univ., St. Louis) traces the work of Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828) and his assistant Johann Gaspar Spurzheim (1776–1832) as they developed and popularized their theories on phrenology. In separate sections of the book, he turns to Mark Twain and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., including their first exposures to and growing interest in phrenology; their comments on it in letters, notebooks, and publications; and their growing distaste at the showmanship and hucksterism of peripatetic “head readers” who preyed on a gullible public. Both writers tested the head readers and used humor to ridicule phrenology, as Twain did, for example, in portraying the “King” and “Duke” in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Finger carefully analyzes the two writers’ acceptance of some aspects of phrenology, also explaining the ways in which their views diverged. The book contains valuable additions to knowledge, such as Holmes’s previously overlooked influence on Twain’s views concerning the pseudoscience of reading skull shapes. This carefully researched, meticulously documented study will be of interest to students of literary and cultural history as well as to scholars of the history of science. The text contains 51 tables and figures and a 21-page bibliography that will be helpful for further research. Readers will find the author’s conversational tone appealing. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students and faculty. General readers. —J. D. Vann, emeritus, University of North Texas


Jacobs combines sociological categories and vignettes of over 30 people to examine the complexity of these two groups’ identities.

C. T. Vecsey, Colgate University

Jacobs, Michelle R. Indigenous memory, urban reality: stories of American Indian relocation and reclamation. New York University, 2023. 304p bibl index ISBN 9781479837588, $89.00; ISBN 9781479849123 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9781479833382 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Jacobs (Wayne State Univ.) has written a splendid analysis of contemporary urban Indigenous and Indigenous-identifying residents in the area around Cleveland, OH, living under the conditions of white domination. Centuries after Native Ohio inhabitants were displaced, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Urban Relocation Program, beginning in 1952, brought thousands of Indians seeking economic viability to northeast Ohio and many other cities across the county. Today about 75 percent of Indigenous people in the US live off their home reservations. Jacobs distinguishes two types of Indigenous dwellers in the Cleveland area—“relocators” who are Indigenous, now several generations deep, whose memories and tribal enrollments are grounded in reservation experiences, requiring maintenance; and “reclaimers” whose Native identities are amorphous, requiring ritualized search on the road to becoming Indigenous, subject to acceptance, mentoring, and contestation from the “relocators.” Jacobs combines sociological categories and vignettes of over 30 people to examine the complexity of these two groups’ identities. She analyzes their identities in relation to concepts of nation, race, and ethnicity; their protests of pervasive mascot imagery by MLB’s erstwhile “Cleveland Indians”; their participation in pan-Indian powwows and other forms of enactive spirituality; and the tensions within and between the two groups. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals. —C. T. Vecsey, Colgate University


Overall, Nichols’s book is among the very best contemporary studies of Aristotle.

—M. Blitz, Claremont McKenna College

Nichols, Mary P. Aristotle’s discovery of the human: piety and politics in the Nicomachean ethics. Notre Dame, 2023. 356p bibl index ISBN 9780268205454, $65.00; ISBN 9780268205447 ebook, $51.99.

Aristotle’s Discovery of the Human is an impressive and accomplished study of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Nichols (emer., Purdue Univ.) explores each of the ten books of the Ethics in detail and concludes with a brief chapter, “Aristotelian Piety for a Liberal Politics.” Her discussions are intelligent and careful, although almost inevitably there are areas—such as the activity involved in prudence—that could have been explored further. In general, Nichols presents Aristotle as describing and defending a human freedom and self-rule that do not fade in the glare of the philosophic life. Theoretical excellence honors the mind that is divine in people, but does not do so exclusively. One might argue that Nichols’s wish to show how “Aristotle provides support for liberal institutions” leads her to downplay the challenge to Aristotle presented by pious otherworldliness or by modern teachings on equality of rights, economic growth, entrepreneurship, separation of powers, and similar matters. This moderation, however, does not obviate the several ways that Nichols clarifies how Aristotle should guide people today. Overall, Nichols’s book is among the very best contemporary studies of Aristotle. Summing Up: Essential. Advanced undergraduates through faculty. —M. Blitz, Claremont McKenna College


The authors have successfully shown how normalizing discussions on tough topics can begin to eliminate the forces that hinder dialogues of healing.

—J. E. Perez, University of Miami

Speaking the unspoken: breaking the silence, myths, and taboos that hurt therapists and patients, by Kenneth S. Pope et al. American Psychological Association, 2023. 190p bibl index ISBN 9781433841590 pbk, $49.99; ISBN 9781433841606 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Effective psychotherapists need to embrace the challenging work required to address taboo topics that often remain unspoken during classroom discussions, patient sessions, supervision, community advocacy, and within the profession in general, particularly in today’s highly sensitive milieu. This monograph offers specific strategies aimed at helping therapists build knowledge and courage to engage in more open and honest discussions, in order to enhance their handling abilities while strengthening the entire field of psychotherapy, in the process building awareness and proactive measures. Pope, a licensed practitioner recognized for distinguished contributions, and four professional colleagues present opportunities for an in-depth understanding of historical and systemically embedded influences that perpetuate cultures of silence. The text discusses valuable tools needed to further this work, such as role-playing scenarios, group discussions, case studies, and reflective exercises, that can assist practitioners in gaining theoretical knowledge when used in practical situations. The text offers nine thought-provoking topics, including physical differences and disability, oppression, money and fees, sexual and affectional orientation, and white supremacy culture, examining each closely to initiate the reader’s self-reflection practice and inspire discussions in a myriad of learning environments. The authors have successfully shown how normalizing discussions on tough topics can begin to eliminate the forces that hinder dialogues of healing. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. —J. E. Perez, University of Miami


The collection is an elegant synthesis of historical and contemporary scholarship on climate justice and urban justice studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; general readers.

—T. Niazi, University of Wisconsin

Urban climate justice: theory, praxis, resistance, ed. by Jennifer L. Rice, Joshua Long, and Anthony Levenda. Georgia, 2023. 284p bibl index ISBN 9780820363769, $114.95; ISBN 9780820363769 pbk, $34.95; ISBN 9780820363783 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This invaluable collection sets out to pursue the imaginary of the “climate-just city.” Climate justice, to the volume editors and contributors, is the equal protection of all urbanites from meteorological hazards and the even distribution of the benefits from climate security. The volume’s 12 chapters—distributed across sections on theory, praxis, and resistance—underscore that the abiding concern of climate justice is predicated on economic, racial, and social justice. The collection’s overarching argument is that climate injustices are the accumulation of economic, racial, and social injustices that continue into urban injustices. Building on this premise, the volume’s editors and contributors bind climate justice to urban justice. Just as redlining, bluelining, and greenlining kept communities of color and low-income families from owning homes, so will “carbon gentrification” and “climate-proof neighborhoods” drive their flight. Green gentrification results from sundering ties between climate and urban justice. The editors connect climate change and its implications for urban justice to “the persistent histories of (settler) colonization, environmental racism, and heteropatriarchy that structure our cities.” The collection is an elegant synthesis of historical and contemporary scholarship on climate justice and urban justice studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; general readers. —T. Niazi, University of Wisconsin


The single best source for understanding the current Supreme Court, the book succeeds admirably in its overtly political purpose: educating citizens on the threats posed by the new ‘supermajority’ and sounding a wake-up call to liberals to rethink this critical institution.

—A. B. Cochran, emeritus, Agnes Scott College

Waldman, Michael. Supermajority: the year the Supreme Court divided America. Simon & Schuster, 2023. 400p bibl index ISBN 9781668006061, $29.99; ISBN 9781668006085 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Waldman (law, NYU) provides an effective primer on the current Supreme Court, placing the Court in its larger historical context but emphasizing the recent events that have led to the creation of a six-three supermajority of conservative justices. The book is entertaining as well as illuminating, with astounding facts, revealing quotations, and refreshingly astute political judgments. The author not only provides a larger institutional framework for understanding judicial politics but also describes the personal and political facets of Supreme Court relationships, filling the gap since Jeffrey Toobin’s popular The Nine (2007) and updating Ian Millhiser’s dissection of the Roberts court’s jurisprudence in The Agenda (2021). Especially valuable are chapters on the most shocking decisions of 2022 (on guns, abortion, and climate controls) and the preliminary discussions of several 2023 cases on race and religion decided post-publication. The single best source for understanding the current Supreme Court, the book succeeds admirably in its overtly political purpose: educating citizens on the threats posed by the new “supermajority” and sounding a wake-up call to liberals to rethink this critical institution. Summing Up: Essential. Undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers. —A. B. Cochran, emeritus, Agnes Scott College