Editors’ Picks for June 2019

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

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Doepke, Matthias. Love, money & parenting: how economics explains the way we raise our kids, by Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilibotti. Princeton, 2019. 367p index ISBN 9780691171517, $29.95; ISBN 9780691184210 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This volume examines parenting—a topic of great interest to many—in conjunction with a key economic issue today, income inequality. Economists Doepke (Northwestern) and Zilibotti (Yale) examine how economic factors affect parenting styles, arguing that with low inequality, parents can be permissive when raising children because the costs of not succeeding are low—their children have only slightly lower incomes as adults. However, when inequality is high and relative position is not determined by status at birth, there are more authoritative “helicopter parents” due to the greater costs of children not succeeding in school. The authors use a broad array of data sets to provide empirical support for their hypothesis, as well as to draw out policy implications of their analysis. Following the tradition of Gary Becker, this book covers uncharted territory and crosses disciplinary borders by bringing economic analysis to a topic not traditionally regarded as within the purview of economics. Well written, researched, and argued, this work should interest a broad range of social scientists and students. Because it introduces a new avenue of research—an economic analysis of parenting—this work is a must acquisition for college and university libraries. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. —S. Pressman, Colorado State University

Fischel, Joseph J. Screw consent: a better politics of sexual justice. California, 2019. 267p bibl index ISBN 9780520295407, $85.00; ISBN 9780520295414 pbk, $34.95; ISBN 9780520968172 ebook, $34.95.

Powerful and provoking, Screw Consent demonstrates how talk surrounding sexual consent does not adequately deal with the problems of sexual violence in the US. In vivid detail, Fischel (Yale) charges that consent alone is not able to delineate moral acceptability in certain forms of sexual conduct; he argues instead that “progressive defenses of kink and laws against bestiality unjustifiably exceptionalize sex” (p. 29). In the process, Fischel raises several fundamental questions: Is sex or sexual violence special? When and why? Fischel focuses on transgressive forms of sex in order to offer a masterful critique of our views toward “ordinary” sex. Ultimately, the author reveals why sex is unique—and why sexual acts cannot be evaluated by the same principles as other activities. He calls for a transformation in moral, philosophical, legal, cultural, social, and public thinking about sexual behavior. Incorporating insights from philosophy, legal thought, sexuality, and gender studies, Screw Consent is a must-read for those vested in better understanding of sexuality, sexual violence, and sexual justice. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —M. G. Urbina, Sul Ross State University/Rio Grande College

Food on the move: dining on the legendary railway journeys of the world, ed. by Sharon Hudgins. Reaktion Books, 2019. 256p bibl ISBN 9781789140071, $35.00.

This charming volume details the culinary experiences of passengers making nine noteworthy train journeys around the world and through time, from the 19th-century Orient Express to contemporary South African luxury trains. For each well-researched chapter, a different author weaves various strands of history together to create a narrative about cuisine, culture, geography, and the train itself. Casual armchair travelers and train enthusiasts, as well as historians of travel and culinary students, will find many details of interest here. Editor Hudgins identifies herself in the introduction as a lifelong lover of trains, and the affection of all the authors for their subjects is very clear. Hudgins also contributes the chapter on the Trans-Siberian Railway; on her journey, she realized a lifelong dream. Food is the real focus of this book, and the many illustrations and photographs of historical and contemporary food preparation and dining aboard trains add substantially to the narrative. Recipes that recreate for today’s home cooks some of the dishes served aboard the trains are included, adding an experiential dimension to the book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —H. Corbett, Northeastern University

Jacob, Pascal. The circus: a visual history, tr. by Augusta Dörr. Bloomsbury, 2018. 239p bibl ISBN 9781350043107, $40.00.

Like the circus, this magnificent volume offers a cavalcade of color and dynamism, dizzying the eye with photographs, posters, and reproductions of ephemera from the “living spectacle.” Drawing heavily on the holdings at the French National Library, Jacob—a circus scholar, historian, and director—contextualizes the stunning kaleidoscope of images, many of which have never been previously published, with an accessible overview of circus development. The Circus: A Visual History works as a survey of the art form; from circus’ origins to contemporary incarnations, Jacob chronicles legendary families, powerful organizations, and iconic performers. Ideal for both scholars and aficionados of the circus, as well as those looking for a vibrant, engaging introduction to the form, this text moves from the circus’s origins through its integrations with equestrian forms, to its triumph as a major mode of entertainment in the 1800s. Twentieth-century excursions include the Soviet circus, Chinese performers, Fellini’s fascination with circus through cinema, and circus arts schools of today. Though the bibliography and glossary are minimal, this brilliant volume (rendered at times poetic by Augusta Dörr’s translation from French) will be appreciated by all, regardless of their background. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —S. B. Skelton, Kansas State University

Lipsitz, George. The possessive investment in whiteness: how white people profit from identity politics. 20th anniversary ed. Temple, 2018. 359p index ISBN 9781439916384, $91.50; ISBN 9781439916391 pbk, $341.95; ISBN 9781439916407 ebook, $31.95.

Lipsitz’s 20th-anniversary reissue has only shown how prescient and important this book was from first press. The book is predicated on the idea that race is a social fact, even though it is a biologic, cultural, and scientific fiction. White people benefit from their whiteness, and therefore have a vested interested in preserving racial hierarchies even when they appear to be tearing them down or instituting supposedly race-neutral policies and ideas. He argues that public policy and private prejudices mutually reinforce each other to develop an economic, social, and political value in being white and thus reify racial hierarchies. Placement on that hierarchy has implications for earnings, wealth, life expectancy, and well-being. Attempts to create a race-benign society cannot succeed without recognizing historical burdens. Weaving together literary references, scientific studies, and court cases, and using well-known contemporary events like Hurricane Katrina, police killings of young African-American men, the Charleston massacre, and many historical events that may be lesser known, he illustrates how white fear and failure are the sources for the development of ethnonationalism. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —R. A. Harper, York College

Pollin-Galay, Hannah. Ecologies of witnessing: language, place, and Holocaust testimony. Yale, 2018. 335p index ISBN 9780300226041, $50.00; ISBN 9780300235531 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The concept of this book is fascinating: that testimony from Holocaust survivors can and should be seen in a greater and different context based on elements that have not been considered before, such as where survivors moved after the war, the language used in interviews, the phrasing of questions by interviewers, and even where the interview is based. The book brings a new perspective to ethnographies and telling stories. The demonstration of the thesis, that these histories are part of a larger “ecology,” however, can get lost in the many short episodes describing survivor stories as well as some assumptions the author makes about interviewer or interviewee. What would have helped is a more complex discussion of the theory of how the ecologies were applied in different ways by using fewer examples and going deeper into the theories, thus reinforcing the ecologies of witnessing. Likewise, it seems that parts of the book were written at different times, and important information is sometimes missing or assumed, only to be proffered later or with insufficient discussion. Irrespective of these minor concerns, this is a very important contribution to Jewish studies, and the author has accomplished something deeply effective. Considering the interviews themselves as artifacts should give this book landmark status. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers and lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —R. Shapiro, City University of New York

Prior, Markus. Hooked: how politics captures people’s interest. Cambridge, 2018 (c2019). 398p bibl index Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 9781108420679, $105.00; ISBN 9781108430746 pbk, $37.99; ISBN 9781108359641 ebook, $30.00.

About 10 percent of people are extremely interested in politics, and another 25 percent are very interested. These constitute the “self-governing class,” which does the vast bulk of political actions of every kind, including voting. Political interest is very stable over the life course. Established in early adolescence, interest level solidifies in early adulthood. People who are more curious, open to experience, smarter, and from higher income families are more likely to be highly interested in politics. Prior (Princeton) turned to three massive panel studies in Britain, Germany, and Switzerland to try to answer the question, “Why are some people highly interested in politics, and some are not?” Ultimately, he could not answer the question. The tree seems to fork in early adolescence before most surveys begin. The bulk of the book is given over to niceties of technical method. He clears out a number of possible explanations, showing that events, personal or political, do little more than create a small, temporary bump in political interest. Having gone as far as survey methods are likely to go, this vital question needs qualitative work with children to get to an answer. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —B. Weston, Centre College

Shaver, Lisa J. Reforming women: the rhetorical tactics of the American Female Reform Society, 1834–1854. Pittsburgh, 2019 (c2018). 190p bibl index ISBN 9780822965480 pbk, $26.95; ISBN 9780822986461 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The relevancy of this text, which spans a 20-year period in the 19th century, is made clear in the epilogue—for issues stemming from lack of equality and double standards remain unresolved, and Shaver (Baylor Univ.) articulates the need for new rhetorical tactics. Reforming Women focuses on the American Female Moral Reform Society and its periodical Advocate of Moral Reform, demonstrating how a wide circle of women gained voice and expertise in rhetorical tactics. Tactics here refer to words, actions, and bodily presence. The need for rhetorical tactics is derived from the need for moral reform. Reform, in the face of inadequate laws and enforcement, centers on degradation of women: prostitution, abuse, lack of economic power, and lack of safety. Enumerating and explaining rhetorical tactics, Shaver also constructs an evolving history, constantly demanding changes in these tactics as well as establishment of women’s right to exercise voice and authority. She argues that in breaking silence and expressing righteous anger, women developed their own ethos, and brought their presence to places of suffering and injustice to argue for economic opportunity, moral justice, and for places of refuge, guidance, and education. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —T. B. Dykeman, formerly, Fairfield University

Steinhardt, Paul J. The second kind of impossible: the extraordinary quest for a new form of matter. Simon & Schuster, 2019. 387p index ISBN 9781476729923, $27.00; ISBN 9781476729947 ebook, $12.99.

In addition to being an engaging and accessible example of the scientific method in process in a great many of its modes (theory, experiment, collaboration, labwork, and fieldwork), this is also an important example of how even in the 21st century, scientists aren’t locked into one pursuit for their entire career. Steinhardt (Princeton) was previously known to this reviewer for his involvement in the inflationary cosmology model, which is rather different from solid-state physics. Yet Steinhardt did not abandon cosmology to study quasicrystals, as the narrative makes clear; he continued to work in both fields, alternating as need and opportunity arose. As a newcomer to many of the related fields he had to pursue in the quest for quasicrystals, Steinhardt is well positioned to offer a clear layperson’s view of them to the reader. Occasionally the terminology gets dense, especially regarding the many varieties of minerals, but these rough patches never last long. The text sometimes gives the impression that it was assembled from previously written essays, but the occasional repetition and recap help make this a casual and accessible reading experience. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —D. J. Van Domelen, Amarillo College

Woke gaming: digital challenges to opression and social injustice, ed. by Kishonna L. Gray and David J. Leonard. Washington, 2018. 306p bibl index ISBN 9780295744186, $95.00; ISBN 9780295744179 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9780295744179 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Gray (Univ. of Illinois, Chicago) and Leonard (Washington State Univ.) have assembled a courageous chorus of voices that challenge an industry emblematic of some of the most insidiously oppressive structures in American society. Contributors emphasize areas in which both the gaming industry and the larger society could be more introspective and proactive, particularly as they pertain to the popular culture representations and treatment of historically marginalized groups such as people of color, women, and LGBTQ individuals. Under major sections that include “Economics of Gaming,” “Feminist Gaming,” and “Empathetic and Inclusive Gaming,” this collection challenges the reader to probe the complex social forces undergirding the gaming industry and broader society. Of particular significance is Anderson-Barkley and Fogleson’s essay about activism in video games as an example of the contributors’ deep desire to confront and repair established forms of discrimination that manifest in popular culture. The authors’ articulated vision of the “potential of video games as instruments of change” captures the collection’s essence: to rectify recognized collective transgressions and to lay a discursive foundation for more equitable and humane spaces. A must-read for scholars and students in fandom studies, popular culture and media studies, critical and cultural studies, communication, and sociology. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates and above. —W. Alvarez, Southern Connecticut State University