Editors’ Picks for March 2022

9 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

book covers

Bettencourt, Luís M. A. Introduction to urban science: evidence and theory of cities as complex systems. MIT, 2021. 496p bibl index ISBN 9780262046008, $45.00; ISBN 9780262366441 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This is a book about urban scaling theory, a highly analytical and mathematical approach to modeling the state of cities. Using this approach, cities are defined as complex systems, “independent socioeconomic and spatial (infrastructural) networks that coevolve to support each other” (56), subject to growth and development patterns that are assumed to follow general laws. Drawing on these ideas, Bettencourt (Univ. of Chicago) has written a comprehensive, deeply considered assessment of urban development and the many theories that attempt to explain it. Among other topics, he considers urbanization, economic productivity and growth, neighborhood clustering, urban diversity, land rents, migration, and the origin of human settlements. Exploiting large data sets to test his hypotheses, Bettencourt finds that these urban qualities are responsive to the scale of cities; for example, productivity and neighborhood segregation increase with increasing city size. Of utmost importance are both urban connectivity and information, “the driver of temporal change” (373). Replete with complex diagrams, statistical tables, and differential equations, this is a challenging work. For those fascinated by cities who possess the requisite mathematical skills and are in search of what cities have in common, Introduction to Urban Science is a resource without peer. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students and faculty. —R. A. Beauregard, emeritus, Columbia University

Brennan, Timothy. Places of mind: a life of Edward Said. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021. 464p bibl index ISBN 9780374146535, $35.00.

Writing with insight and originality about the late Edward Said is no easy task. As both an icon and a lightning rod for a variety of scholars thinking and writing about Europe’s relationship with the larger world, the range and complexity of Said’s persona and ideological contributions to postcolonial studies seem to be already well known. Brennan’s investment in telling Said’s story anew provides an eye-opening gem that reveals what past scholarship on the Princeton-trained scholar of Palestinian heritage, who studied European literature and culture, overlooks. A former student of Said, Brennan (Univ. of Minnesota) draws on testimonies of adversaries and loving admirers alike, close members of Said’s family, and even FBI files to reveal Said’s impact from his position at Columbia University on events in his native Middle East and on Western politics. In this sympathetic biography, Brennan’s quest to afford more complexity to the already robust story around Said’s many intellectual and political battles proves intriguing and illuminating. Speculations as to the best tools to understand such a momentous figure—poetry instead of fiction—reveal much about the author’s engagement with a world his professor forged for him through his lessons. Rewarding, fresh insights await readers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers and advanced undergraduates through faculty. —I. Blumi, American University of Sharjah

Hall, Stuart. Selected writings on race and difference, ed. by Paul Gilroy and Ruth Wilson Gilmore. Duke, 2021. 376p index ISBN 9781478010524, $114.95; ISBN 9781478011668 pbk, $31.95; ISBN 9781478021223 ebook, contact publisher for price.

All research libraries should acquire Stuart Hall’s Selected Writings on Race and Difference. Editors Gilroy (Univ. College London, UK) and Gilmore (Graduate Center, CUNY) have done a great service in bringing together Hall’s works on representation in the media, the intellectual life and verve of activism, and the racialized dynamics of cultural productions. This collection of Hall’s essays and speeches, some familiar and some lesser known, reveals a long career of engagement with race and racism. By identifying the constitutive nature of racism, that is, the centrality of race to lived experience, Hall, with much intellectual curiosity and critical insight, engages with Black politics in Britain in ways that articulate steps toward justice applicable on an international stage. Hall’s work remains timely, and Selected Writings provides much-needed tools for intervening in the present moment. This collection should be of great interest to those working in cultural studies, media studies, philosophy, political theory, rhetoric, and social theory as well anyone with a commitment to learning more about the effects of racialization and racism. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —M. W. Westmoreland, Ocean County College

Kananoja, Kalle. Healing knowledge in Atlantic Africa: medical encounters, 1500–1850. Cambridge, 2021. 320p bibl index ISBN 9781108491259, $99.99; ISBN 9781108865302 ebook, $80.00.

Kananoja (Univ. of Oulu, Finland) has produced an important, insightful work on the place of African healing and knowledge in the larger Atlantic world. Though African healing in the Atlantic has been explored within the American plantation complex, it has been largely ignored in Africa, though Kananoja skillfully illustrates its important role there. Taking a more global approach, he explores the flow of medical knowledge into and out of West Africa—specifically West-Central Africa, Sierra Leone, and the Gold Coast—and the place of cross-cultural interaction within these exchanges. As Europeans arrived in a West African environment seen as a “white man’s grave,” they came to rely on local healers for treating disease, injuries, and other concerns. This reliance on African healers and knowledge counters traditional notions of knowledge creation and the common stereotype that local healers were sorcerers. Instead, the book focuses on how people shared knowledge and the larger consequences of those connections and documents the similarities among the medical knowledge and practices of West Africa, Europe, and the Americas. This similarity is most vividly seen in the use of plants as the basis for treatments. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty. —T. M. Reese, Univ. of North Dakota

McLaughlin, Robert L. Broadway goes to war: American theater during World War II, by Robert L. McLaughlin and Sally E. Parry. University Press of Kentucky, 2021. 300p bibl index ISBN 9780813180946, $35.00; ISBN 9780813181011 ebook, contact publisher for price.

How to find hope in a time of despair was the goal of the productions covered in this readable, engrossing study of Broadway plays dealing with some aspect of WW II. McLaughlin and Parry (both, Illinois State Univ.) start in 1933 with the rise of Nazism and continue through the war to its immediate aftermath. Facing and enduring the catastrophe of a worldwide war was a profound national test and these plays explored that cataclysm, usually pointing toward a hoped-for brighter tomorrow when the war’s tragedies subsided. The joy of this book is its depth and breadth. Many plays included will be familiar and expected—Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse’s Pulitzer Prize–winning State of the Union (1945), for example—but more valuable is coverage of plays little known today and rarely produced. McLaughlin and Parry provide enough plot synopsis to keep readers engaged, but the key content is the penetrating analysis of the themes found in the works discussed. And there are a surprisingly large number of productions, handily catalogued in a 66-page annotated year-by-year appendix. There are many excellent production photos, and the book is crammed with engaging, often moving analysis. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers. —J. Fisher, emeritus, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Politics and the environment in Eastern Europe, ed. by Eszter Krasznai Kovacs. Open Book Publishers, 2021. 344p bibl index ISBN 9781800641334, $41.95; ISBN 9781800641327 pbk, $31.95; ISBN 9781800641358 ebook, $31.95.

This edited collection helps fulfill the imperative of producing studies related to the environment, medicine, and politics in Eastern Europe. It complements, for example, Explorations in Baltic Medical History, edited by Nils Hansson and Jonatan Wistrand (CH, Nov’19, 57-0999); Dóra Vargha’s Polio across the Iron Curtain (CH, Jun’19, 56-4002); and Tracing Hospital Boundaries, edited by Jane Stevens Crawshaw (CH, Apr’21, 58-2272). Here, Kovacs (University College London) and colleagues address political economy and environmental issues in Eastern European history. Essays address, e.g., environmental movements in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, connecting diverse themes related to the landscape; nationalism in Poland and Romania; and legal frameworks, conservation, and agriculture. Contributing authors also address issues related to the Catholic Church and “place-based identity” as a prominent component in far-right environmentalist movements, showing how the politics affect livelihoods in varied communities across Eastern Europe. Renata Blumberg’s “A Geographical Political Ecology of Eastern European Food Systems” is particularly informative. This is an important book that addresses the environment of a neglected region undergoing socialist as well as capitalist upheavals. The history of the region is complex, and this collection will prove useful to specialists and scholars of Eastern Europe at all levels. It will also attract adult general readers with related interests. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. General readers. —J. P. Davis, Hopkinsville Community College

Stephenson, Craig Alan. Periodic orbits: F. R. Moulton’s quest for a new lunar theory. American Mathematical Society, 2021. 255p bibl index (History of mathematics, 45) ISBN 9781470456719, $120.00; ISBN 9781470465087 ebook, $120.00.

Students of celestial mechanics are familiar with the three-body problem, first recognized by Isaac Newton, which considers the orbital motions of three celestial bodies subject to their mutual gravitational influences. Unlike the corresponding two-body problem, this is considerably more complicated mathematically. Some of the greatest minds of the 18th century, such as Euler and Lagrange, tackled it. In the late19th and early 20th centuries the three-body problem drew the attention of a handful of mathematicians, among them George Darwin and Henri Poincaré. Then there was Forest Ray Moulton of the University of Chicago, who undertook the ambitious project of formulating an altogether new lunar theory. His technical mathematical work is known to few beyond a select group of specialists. Yet, it is a significant landmark in the history of celestial mechanics. This book recounts his work in all its complexity and technical detail, and therefore will be accessible only to the initiated. Aside from adding to the literature on the history of mathematics, this book could serve as an introduction to anyone aspiring to study the three-body problem, and it might also inspire some mathematicians to explore it even further. This would be a likely acquisition for libraries catering to graduate students in mathematics and astronomy. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students and faculty. —V. V. Raman, emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology

Villavicencio, Adriana. Am I my brother’s keeper?: educational opportunities and outcomes for Black and brown boys. Harvard Education Press, 2021. 240p ISBN 9781682536216, $60.00; ISBN 9781682536216 pbk, $33.00.

In Am I My Brother’s Keeper? Villavicencio (Univ. of California, Irvine) discusses the successes and shortcomings of the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI). A predecessor to President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program, ESI was designed to improve graduation rates and post-secondary outcomes for Black and Latinx boys in the New York City school district. Part 1 of the book focuses on the implementation of ESI, while part 2 analyzes how it addressed systemic inequalities. What sets Villavicencio’s remarkable book apart from others is how it provides recommendations for practice that are informed by both the achievements and the failures of ESI. In addition, the practical strategies offered in each chapter compel readers to reflect critically on how to address the disparities faced by students of color. Although this book is a must read for educators and school administrators, any college student or researcher interested in a refreshing perspective on the issue of inequities in the American educational system would appreciate and benefit from reading this work. Given the current social climate, Villavicencio’s timely volume is a much-needed source of hope. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —M. V. Breland Jr., Mercy College

The Woman’s Tribune. Accessible Archives, Inc., 2021. Contact publisher for pricing. Internet Resource.https://www.accessible-archives.com/collections/womans-tribune/

The Woman’s Tribune provides full-text access (in both digitized and text formats) to the [full run of the] biweekly newspaper of the same name published between 1883 and 1909,” which “was the second-longest-running women’s suffrage newspaper in the US,” as Erica Swenson Danowitz wrote for ccAdvisor. With content spanning “advertisements, book reviews, domestic news stories, editorials, poetry, recipes, and international coverage of suffragist issues … [t]his resource [will support] the research needs of faculty, advanced undergraduates, and graduate students,” particularly those researching American or international suffragist movements.

Mirroring other Accessible Archives products, the user interface is straightforward and easy to navigate, though occasional challenges with searching may arise, stemming from the current indexing. Search features include “facets that allow narrowing results by publication date, publication type, or particular collections, if available,” as well as truncation, wildcard, and proximity searching. “Users can also browse the entire contents of an issue,” Danowitz noted, adding that, once retrieved, “results also include a Keywords in Context link that allows finding the exact locations of searched text in documents.”

Containing “detailed articles about customs, the education of girls, and other topics, in addition to the suffragist movements in many areas of the world, including Australia, India, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the UK,” as well as debates on “issues from a bygone age, such as alternatives to the ‘compressing corset,’” The Woman’s Tribune “will be a great complement … to other collections available through Accessible Archives, especially the Women’s Suffrage Collection,” Danowitz concluded. Gale’s Nineteenth Century Collections Online and ProQuest’s Gerritsen Collection also offer the complete collection of The Woman’s Tribune, so “libraries interested in comparing these products may want to examine permanent access availability vis à vis subscription options with other vendors who offer this title to calculate cost differences.” Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty.

This review is a summary of a longer review by Erica Swenson Danowitz, Delaware County Community College, originally published in ccAdvisor.orgCopyright © 2021 by The Charleston Company.—Abstracted from, ccAdvisor