Editors’ Picks for July 2019

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

book covers

Batson, C. Daniel. A scientific search for altruism: do we care only about ourselves?. Oxford, 2018 (c2019). 303p bibl index ISBN 9780190651374, $45.00; ISBN 9780190651381 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The author of this fine new book is one of the pioneers in the study of prosocial behavior, specifically altruism: helping another when there is a cost, sometimes significant, to oneself. Batson (emer., Univ. of Kansas) is the author of scores of papers and chapters on altruism and related subjects, including one of the most oft-cited articles on prosocial behavior in social psychology (“From Jerusalem to Jericho,” Darley and Batson, 1973); he has been particularly interested throughout his career in the relationship between empathy and altruism. Batson’s most notable contribution to the longstanding debate about whether humans are fundamentally selfish or fundamentally altruistic has been his use of various experimental methodologies to approach the problem. This book is a kind of busman’s tour of his own and other’s research into the empathy-altruism relationship, the twists and turns that research has taken, and the conclusions the author has drawn from it. Organized almost as a kind of scientific adventure story, the book provides an extraordinarily compelling history of research on altruism, as the author is a marvelously engaging storyteller and one of the scientists uniquely qualified to tell this amazing tale of who we are. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —R. R. Cornelius, Vassar College

Bell-Metereau, Rebecca Louise. Transgender cinema. Rutgers, 2019. 165p bibl index ISBN 9780813597348, $65.00; ISBN 9780813597331 pbk, $17.95; ISBN 9780813597355 ebook, $17.95.

This concise introduction to transgender cinema seems to be at the right place at the right time. Transgender rights and struggles have become amplified in the media, so a guide to the history and depth of transgender cinema is overdue. Bell-Metereau’s overview of the history of transgender film is succinct and valuable, but what is particularly important in this addition to the “Quick Takes” series is the author’s introduction of less-familiar and foreign transgender films to readers who may not be familiar with the mode. Bell-Metereau (Texas State Univ.) delivers in-depth analyses of Georgie Girl (2001), The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (2005), Boy I Am (2006), and Girl Inside (2007), among other films, and her thought-provoking descriptions make one want to run to Hulu or Netflix to find the films. She made the wise decision to discuss how the introduction of new platforms of delivery in the past decade has expanded options for viewing such films. She also includes a discussion of vocabulary, which will be extremely valuable to those who may not be familiar with the issues of personal identification at hand. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. —G. R. Butters Jr., Aurora University

Global perspectives on ADHD: social dimensions of diagnosis and treatment in sixteen countries, ed. by Meredith Bergey et al. Johns Hopkins, 2018. 400p bibl index ISBN 9781421423791 pbk, $64.95; ISBN 9781421423807 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has become a common psychiatric diagnosis for both children and adults in the US. While the disorder has long been the center of psychiatric and public health research and widespread consumer/media discussion in the US, only recently has it emerged as a diagnosis in countries around the world. ADHD is now diagnosed and treated in 16 different countries. However, as the diagnosis has been adopted internationally, definition and treatment have changed in the context of diverse psychiatric, medical, cultural, and social contexts. Recognizing this phenomenon, the authors have sought to illustrate how the diagnosis and understanding of the disorder vary—and importantly, how these variations determine medical interventions (or lack thereof) and treatment modalities. An international set of contributors includes sociologists, medical social scientists, and neuroscientists, ensuring a diversity of perspectives. In the US, medical intervention as a standard of care remains controversial; other countries have either adopted this approach or rejected it in favor of other care guidelines. This text demonstrates that a broader view of medical and non-medical treatments around the world, and careful examination of patient outcomes, could inform and improve strategies and rates of success going forward. Summing Up: Essential. Advanced undergraduates and above; professionals. —G. R. Innes, Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State

Gosetti-Ferencei, Jennifer Anna. The life of imagination: revealing and making the world. Columbia, 2018. 344p bibl index ISBN 9780231189088, $65.00; ISBN 9780231548168 ebook, $64.99.

For Gosetti-Ferencei (German, Johns Hopkins Univ.), imagination is a pervasive mental phenomenon that not only informs much of everyday cognitive experience but also enables people to move beyond the mundane to exceptional scientific discovery and artistic creation. Avoiding the reductionist tendency common in philosophical analyses of mental phenomena, Gosetti-Ferencei offers a broad-ranging account of imagination that casts it not as a single phenomenon or skill but rather as an aspect of mental life that involves multiple overlapping modes operating at multiple levels. Gosetti-Ferencei has the rare ability to draw effectively from both the Continental tradition and the analytic tradition. Her discussion moves seamlessly from historical treatments of imagination in Descartes and Kant and the employment of imagination by Coleridge and other Romantic poets to the development of the imaginary in Freud, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty and the contemporary analyses of imagination on offer in Anglo-American philosophy of mind and aesthetics. Neuroscientific and cognitive science literature inform the discussion throughout. Though there is much of interest here for specialists, the book should nonetheless be accessible to readers coming from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates and above; general readers. —A. Kind, Claremont McKenna College

Harootunian, Harry D. Uneven moments: reflections on Japan’s modern history. Columbia, 2019. 372p index ISBN 9780231190206, $105.00; ISBN 9780231190213 , $35.00; ISBN 9780231548779 ebook, $34.99.

Harootunian (emer., Univ. of Chicago) is one of the doyens of Japanese intellectual and cultural history, having written on early modern and modern Japan for half a century, and of Karl Marx. He is also considered by many to be one of the most controversial. During the 1960s and 1970s, when many, if not most, Japanese historians snubbed Marxian analysis and critical theory and largely ignored Japan’s fascist era, Harootunian pushed ahead with theory-based analysis of Japan’s history. This included 19th-century intellectual history and, later, analysis of everyday life and its connections to fascism. He was also a critic of Asian studies, and “area studies” more generally, because of the connection between scholars and politicians who wanted to use knowledge about Asia for geopolitical purposes. This volume is a collection of his most influential essays, which cover his career from the 1970s to the present. The text is a must read for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and scholars working in Japanese or Asian history; Harootunian’s ideas have aged well. Summing Up: Essential. Advanced undergraduates and above. —M. J. Wert, Marquette University

Mangum, Hugh. Where we find ourselves: the photographs of Hugh Mangum, 1897–1922, ed. by Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris. North Carolina, 2019. 166p bibl index ISBN 9781469648316, $45.00; ISBN 9781469648323 ebook, contact publisher for price.

An itinerant, self-taught photographer based in Durham, North Carolina, Hugh Mangum (1877–1922) traveled with his Penny Picture camera through the small towns of North Carolina and Virginia, making inexpensive portraits for anyone who came to his temporary studios. This type of practice hearkens back to the first years of photography in the US, but Mangum worked from 1897 to 1922, which is late for this sort of photography. One usually finds only a few scattered images from the total body of work of these photographers, but thanks to various accidents much, perhaps all, of Mangum’s work wound up in an archive, where it has been professionally preserved and managed. Mangum, who was white, photographed both black and white people with the same care. He was able to infuse the rigidly limited boundaries of his craft practice with a gentle, warm, and humane sensibility, which can only readily be seen when enough of his images are brought together. The several essays in this well-researched, well-written volume argue for a moderated understanding of racial relations of the period. Both Sartor and Harris are at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke, and the great care and thought they put into presenting Mangum’s work makes this book itself a work of art. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. —W. S. Johnson, George Fox University

Poverty and place: cancer prevention among low-income women of color, by Anjanette Wells et al. Lexington Books, 2018 (c2019). 174p bibl index ISBN 9781498521994, $90.00; ISBN 9781498522007 ebook, $85.50.

The places where an individual lives, works, and plays constitute the social determinants of health and have a role in the health and outcomes of population groups. Poverty and Place presents a unique blend of original research and the published literature to provide a balanced view of the societal factors that play a role in the incidence of cancer in low-income women of color. The volume focuses on the St. Louis metropolitan area to give an in-depth study of the environment, policies, economics, and social and cultural attitudes that result in health disparities for low-income women of color. The authors describe how social determinants in the research area impact health disparities but also gives brief overviews of the national scene, along with descriptions of definitions useful for those new to the public health field. References to previous chapters are also helpful. The text is highly recommended for undergraduate collections with degrees in public health or community education. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates and above. —J. A. Ohles, Moravian College

Stevenson, David S. Granite skyscrapers: how rock shaped Earth and other worlds. Springer/Praxis, 2018. 374p index ISBN 9783319915029, $37.99; ISBN 9783319915036 ebook, $29.99.

Stevenson (independent scholar) has crafted a superb amalgamation of decades of data and interpretations of international research, including his own, regarding complex geologic processes. The importance of granite and related rocks (granitoids) in the formation of continents and subsequent influence on continental plate movements, weather, climate, and evolution of life are explored along with their intimate association with the genesis of many metal deposits of high economic value. Included are in-depth discussions of the origin of granitoids by partial melting of mantle and ocean floor rock, partial and complete melting of sedimentary and previously formed felsic igneous rocks, and local assimilation of host units bordering intrusive melts. Stevenson’s review of the expansion and destruction of major continental masses through time is impressive, as is his projection of potential future plate tectonic events and related igneous activity based on the work of many qualified research scientists. The structures of other planetary bodies within Earth’s solar system and the universe are discussed, especially with respect to the potential habitability of those bodies and the linking of planetary geology with biological evolution. This outstanding book is recommended for a wide range of upper-level Earth science students and practicing professionals. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty and professionals. —M. E. McCallum, emeritus, Colorado State University

Watts, Laura. Energy at the end of the world: an Orkney Islands saga. MIT, 2019 (c2018). 421p bibl index ISBN 9780262038898, $35.00; ISBN 9780262349659 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The Orkneys are wild, windswept, lonely, and wave-battered—perfect for harvesting sustainable energy from wind and sea. Their former rural isolation has been broken by hordes of engineers, environmental experts, venture capitalists, and assessors of megaprojects. Watts (Univ. of Edinburgh) tells the story in poetic, evocative language, sometimes moving from surrealistic reality into initially believable fantasy. A range of distinctive characters and machines move across a landscape marked by 4000-year-old rings of giant stones, and an ancient mass tomb so stark that men have gone mad from taking shelter in it. This reviewer was waiting for the were-seals, central to Orcadian folklore, to appear (they arrive on page 340). The contrast between independent, mutually reliant Orcadians and the urban, sheltered outsiders is a theme of this work. Watts grounds her ethnography, unobtrusively but with expertise and depth, in modern literature on human responses to technology and environmental manipulation, from Donna Haraway to Susan Leigh Star. The book brought back powerful memories of those Orkney winds, and the spectral lines of windmills harnessing them in the sky. This book is for anyone interested in the coming of sustainable energy, and for anyone interested in Scotland’s islands. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates and above; general readers. —E. N. Anderson, emeritus, University of California, Riverside

Williams, Duncan Ryūken. American sutra: a story of faith and freedom in the Second World War. Belknap, Harvard, 2019. 384p index ISBN 9780674986534, $29.95; ISBN 9780674237087 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Since the end of WW II, hundreds of books, articles, and stories about the Japanese American internment have been published, collectively forming a rich and vibrant history. However, many of those studies focus on race and racism while offering just a cursory mention of religion as a contributing factor. Williams (Univ. of Southern California) delivers a pioneering reinterpretation and retelling of the internment through the lens of religion. He argues that practicing Buddhism made large numbers of the Japanese and Japanese American community appear even more un-American than their Christian counterparts—in essence, amplifying their “otherness” with a foreign, Asian religion in the midst of war. In 10 chapters, American Sutra confronts the question of whether persons of Japanese ancestry could be Buddhist and American at the same time. Despite crackdowns on Buddhism in Hawaii under martial law and restrictions on the faith while Japanese and Japanese American Buddhists were incarcerated or serving their country, they coped with injustice by way of that faith. It is worth noting that of the book’s 384 pages, only 258 account for the main content. In addition to being meticulously researched and cited, it is also a pleasure to read. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. —J. T. Rasel, Cuyahoga Community College