Editors’ Picks for March 2024

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.


This accessible volume is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the ways in which Toni Morrison’s fiction offers political practices and ideals necessary for the current moment.

—D. E. Magill, Longwood University

Balfour, Katharine Lawrence. Toni Morrison: imagining freedom. Oxford, 2023. 240p bibl index ISBN 9780190673284, $35.00; ISBN 9780190673314 ebook, contact publisher for pricing.

Morrison’s passing has led to a spate of scholarly works assessing her profound legacy in American letters. Balfour (Univ. of Virginia) has produced one of the best examinations of Morrison’s oeuvre to date. Focusing intently on the concept of freedom, Balfour connects multiple works (fiction and nonfiction) to explore Morrison’s vision of freedom as inherently complicated by the racial and gendered oppressions prevalent throughout US history. She explores these difficult political concepts in Morrison by grounding the discussion within the texts’ own specificities, teasing out the tensions that Morrison constantly evokes surrounding responsibility and rights, mobility and situatedness, home and displacement, all with an eye toward understanding Morrison’s constant questioning of abstract notions of freedom in a concretely unequal world. Though not a literary critic per se, Balfour combines her acute political knowledge with keen readings of Morrison’s prose, capturing the multiple layers of connotation that drive Morrison’s fiction. This accessible volume is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the ways in which Toni Morrison’s fiction offers political practices and ideals necessary for the current moment. Balfour’s work is not one to pass on. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —D. E. Magill, Longwood University


Cottrell’s extensive research and engaging writing style result in an engrossing and straightforward narrative detailing an ugly period in Major League Baseball’s history.

—C. M. Smith, Cabrini University

Cottrell, Robert C. The year without a World Series: major league baseball and the road to the 1994 players’ strike. McFarland, 2023. 265p bibl index ISBN 9781476692470, $39.95; ISBN 9781476650234 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Cottrell (emer., California State Univ., Chico) provides an intriguing analysis of the 1994 players’ strike that led to the cancelation of that year’s World Series and echoed issues at the heart of labor disputes within Major League Baseball over the previous century. To trace the strike’s deep roots, Cottrell takes his readers on a long journey back to the formation of Major League Baseball in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As he shows, players had long bristled at the power of owners who sought to maximize profits at the expense of the players and tended to paint the league’s financial picture in very dire terms. Cottrell’s extensive research and engaging writing style result in an engrossing and straightforward narrative detailing an ugly period in Major League Baseball’s history. He does not shy away from relating how both sides in the labor dispute drew ire from baseball writers and fans. This is a welcome addition to the literature on Major League Baseball and it will hopefully lead to more research on the relative power of the MLB Players Association compared to other unions for professional athletes. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers. —C. M. Smith, Cabrini University


Contributors to this edited volume provide perspectives on the historical origins of the concept, along with how it is viewed through the lenses of a variety of scientific disciplines.

—J. A. Hewlett, Finger Lakes Community College

Evolvability: a unifying concept in evolutionary biology?, ed. by Thomas F. Hansen et al. MIT, 2023. 406p bibl index ISBN 9780262545624 pbk, $65.00; ISBN 9780262374705 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Much of the modern understanding of evolutionary theory can be traced back to the 19th century and Charles Darwin. Even with the emergence of the “modern synthesis,” Darwin’s core principles of evolutionary theory have stood the test of time. It was not until 1990 that the scientific community recognized the concept of evolvability, the disposition or capacity to evolve. The science of evolvability focuses on the biological promoters of this capacity and the constraints on the scope and scale of this disposition. Contributors to this edited volume provide perspectives on the historical origins of the concept, along with how it is viewed through the lenses of a variety of scientific disciplines. While readers will find much of the narrative philosophical and primarily focused on the semantic nature of the concept, several of the essays posit ways that evolvability can be quantified. Readers will benefit from a strong background in evolutionary theory. The volume is replete with references and fully indexed. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —J. A. Hewlett, Finger Lakes Community College


Its user-friendly interface and comprehensive text-mining capabilities make it an excellent addition to the digital humanities research landscape.

—C. R. Hilburger, State University of New York at Fredonia

Gale Digital Scholar Lab. Gale, part of Cengage Learning, 2023. Contact publisher for pricing. Internet Resource.
https://www.gale.com/primary-sources/digital-scholar-lab

The Gale Digital Scholar Lab is a cloud-based platform designed to facilitate text and data mining and analysis of primary source materials. It serves as an extension of Gale Primary Sources with the flexibility to also work with users’ own documents. This versatile platform has a Learning Center with tutorials, sample projects, and teaching activities, making it a valuable resource for researchers and educators alike. With its user-friendly interface, this product can serve as an entry point for text mining and digital humanities research. It caters to a diverse audience, from students exploring text mining for the first time to more advanced analysis tools for more seasoned researchers. The platform’s intuitive interface encourages exploration and engagement with the digital sources from Gale that many libraries already subscribe to, however, the available corpus content will vary from campus to campus depending on those subscriptions. The Gale Digital Scholar Lab’s six analysis tools allow users to quickly analyze materials using prevalent methods like clustering, named entity recognition, n-grams, parts of speech tagger, sentiment analysis, and topic modeling, and make these methods accessible to those unfamiliar with the techniques. Educators will appreciate the inclusion of sample projects as a particularly valuable aspect of the Gale Digital Scholar Lab. These sample projects serve as practical examples for teaching and learning the various stages of research in the digital humanities, including building content sets, cleaning texts for computational analysis, and content analysis and visualization. The examples can be used to guide students through the process, helping them gain a better understanding of digital tools and methods, and as a way to meaningfully engage with library resources. The platform excels in presenting content, metadata, and OCR confidence ratings, fostering critical engagement with digital sources. Users can easily compare OCR text with the original documents, enhancing the reliability of their research. The option to export tabular data is a vital feature for ensuring research reproducibility. This suite of tools is suitable for a broad audience, including undergraduate and graduate students, as well as scholars. It also serves as an effective teaching tool for introducing students to text mining, data visualization, and an introduction to digital research methods. Its user-friendly interface and comprehensive text-mining capabilities make it an excellent addition to the digital humanities research landscape. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —C. R. Hilburger, State University of New York at Fredonia


Healey demonstrates how religious and political radicalization during the 1640s ultimately led to the abolition of the monarchy, the House of Lords, and the episcopacy, followed by a brief era of republican government and a written constitution under the Protectorate.

—D. R. Bisson, Belmont University

Healey, Jonathan. The blazing world: a new history of revolutionary England, 1603–1689. Knopf, 2023. 512p bibl index ISBN 9780593318355, $38.00; ISBN 9780593318362 ebook, contact publisher for price.

“As death is the greatest evil that can befall a person, monarchy is the worst evil that can befall a nation.” This statement by the republican martyr Algernon Sidney might serve as the epigraph to this book. Healey (Univ. of Oxford, UK) focuses on the high politics of the Stuart kings, who are revealed to be as autocratic as they were incompetent. The narrative captures the drama of well-known episodes like the Gunpowder Plot, which Sidney’s contemporary Edward Montagu celebrated as England’s deliverance from “malignant and devilish Papists, Jesuits and Seminary Priests,” and Charles I’s fateful failed attempt to arrest his opponents in the Long Parliament—he famously remarked, “all my birds have flown.” The motivating power for conflict was ideology. Healey demonstrates how religious and political radicalization during the 1640s ultimately led to the abolition of the monarchy, the House of Lords, and the episcopacy, followed by a brief era of republican government and a written constitution under the Protectorate. While the chapter devoted to “the last revolution” of 1688 is a rushed and disjointed account, sprightly prose and persuasive assessments of the leading figures of the time keep the story flowing. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —D. R. Bisson, Belmont University


Lummis contends that the turn away from war requires collective action that withdraws consent to the right of belligerency.

—L. Steffen, Lehigh University

Lummis, Charles Douglas. War is hell: studies in the right of legitimate violence. Rowman & Littlefield, 2023. 252p bibl index ISBN 9781538174203, $110.00; ISBN 9781538174210 pbk, $39.00; ISBN 9781538174227 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Against the Hobbesian view that war is the original state of nature, Lummis (independent scholar) argues in this provocative study of war that peace is the ordinary state of affairs for human beings, that violence is violence, and that the right of legitimate violence is “modern warfare’s grand enabling clause” (p. xiii). Historically grounded discussions fill in this framework, with attention given to a variety of war-related topics: the role of religion, the meaning of just war, the dehumanization of enemies, the role that rape and pillage play in gendered warfare, and post-traumatic syndrome as a consequence of authorized killing. In conversation with Aquinas, Machiavelli, Weber, and Arendt, Lummis offers an in-depth discussion of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which banned the right of belligerency, and then concludes with a discussion of Gandhi’s vision of a radically different political configuration able to generate power and build community through nonviolent noncooperation. Lummis contends that the turn away from war requires collective action that withdraws consent to the right of belligerency. This well-researched, challenging, and original work should be of interest to students of history, international relations, political science, and ethics. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty. —L. Steffen, Lehigh University


Filled with excellent examples of model lessons and units, any social studies educator will find this book a valuable addition to their professional library.

—W. R. Fernekes, Rutgers Graduate School of Education

Lesh, Bruce A. Developing historical thinkers: supporting historical inquiry for all students. Teachers College Press, 2023. 312p bibl index ISBN 9780807768778, $120.00; ISBN 9780807768761 pbk, $39.95; ISBN 9780807781937 ebook, $31.96.

Building on the ideas from his earlier book, “Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?” (2011), Lesh (high school teacher) deeply probes how to help teachers reorient their daily practice by having students engage in authentic historical thinking. Rejecting what he terms the “drive-by” approach to professional development, Lesh advocates for long-term partnerships with colleagues to examine their practices and overcome resistance by both school personnel and students to the challenging process of historical investigation using both primary and secondary sources. In seven chapters and a conclusion, Lesh presents the theoretical grounding for engaging students as historical thinkers, examines how students can develop meaningful questions for inquiry and engage in reflective discussion, and demonstrates how teachers can use alternative assessment techniques to truly determine if students are becoming historical thinkers. The book is thoroughly documented and has a detailed index. Filled with excellent examples of model lessons and units, any social studies educator will find this book a valuable addition to their professional library. Highly recommended for social studies educators from middle through secondary schools and teacher educators. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —W. R. Fernekes, Rutgers Graduate School of Education


Using the scientific method, this book busts myths, evaluates multifaceted, key takeaways, and addresses the power differentials bolstering the veneer of meritocracy.

—S. E. Wiegand, Saint Mary’s College

Munoz, Lisa M. P. Women in science now: stories and strategies for achieving equity. Columbia, 2023. 352p bibl index ISBN 9780231206143, $24.95; ISBN 9780231556347 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Science writer and consultant Munoz presents a lucid compilation of evidence, including diverse first-person accounts, to illustrate women scientists within their communities. Scientists are human, i.e., prone to implicit biases that refute the way they would like to think of themselves. This book adds to the growing literature on why there are still too few women in science. A social justice lens demands reflections on the ways gender and intersectionality influence whose voice is heard. Knowing about (and experiencing) bias is an additional factor in the recruitment and retention of women and minorities. Therefore, each data-informed chapter concentrates on how to fix the system rather than “fixing” women. Some solutions include starting early, developing a “constellation” of mentorship, and implementing civility interventions. Munoz emphasizes the impacts of policy on enacting real change. Using the scientific method, this book busts myths, evaluates multifaceted, key takeaways, and addresses the power differentials bolstering the veneer of meritocracy. Juxtaposing current, diverse realities with historical practice results in a dynamic, well-orchestrated blueprint for positive change. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. —S. E. Wiegand, Saint Mary’s College


Parsons’s use of first-person voice and accessible examples (the reader tours, among other sites, a garment factory, a landfill, and an upscale sock store) make this an especially readable introduction and will be valuable for undergraduates in the social sciences.

—Z. Albertson, Western Washington University

Parsons, Laurie. Carbon colonialism: how rich countries export climate breakdown. Manchester University Press, 2023. 248p bibl index ISBN 9781526169181, $24.91; ISBN 9781526169174 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Parsons’s lively and accessible synthesis debunks the myth of a livable and just future under carbon colonialism, which he defines as “the system in which the environmental cost of wealth generation is paid in places far from where that wealth is accumulated.” For Parsons (geography, Univ. of London), the green growth strategy is not “environmental progress” but rather “environmental trade”—an export of the concealed externalities that produce climate security for wealthy nations. Eight chapters draw on critical political economy literature to unpack the spatial politics of greenwashing and carbon capitalism. Additionally, Parsons deftly integrates insights from science and technology studies to discuss the role of technical evidence, risk assessment, and climate science in the context of these problems and their solutions to remind the reader that “the social narratives we use to interpret, explain, and justify the world play a crucial role in what we do and don’t see about environmental breakdown.” Parsons’s use of first-person voice and accessible examples (the reader tours, among other sites, a garment factory, a landfill, and an upscale sock store) make this an especially readable introduction and will be valuable for undergraduates in the social sciences. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates and general readers. —Z. Albertson, Western Washington University


The book doesn’t merely frame challenges—it offers solutions.

—D. M. Moss, University of Connecticut

Windschitl, Mark. Teaching climate change: fostering understanding, resilience, and a commitment to justice. Harvard Business Review Press, 2023. 296p bibl index ISBN 9781682538340 pbk, $38.00; ISBN 9781682538357 ebook, contact publisher for pricing.

This volume serves as an essential guide for educators seeking to empower students to engage deeply with the multifaceted challenges underpinning climate change science and foster engaged and socially minded members of society. The book inspires and educates the reader across the well-written and accessible chapters. In particular, chapter 4, “Solutions: Helping Students Envision Sustainability and Resilience,” goes beyond the typical rhetoric common in the field and opens up new possibilities for curriculum and learning. The book doesn’t merely frame challenges—it offers solutions. The graphics and images enhance the narrative and add to both the exploration of climate science and the teaching of it. The development and use of models and modeling for impactful learning in chapter 9 represent best practices for teaching in the field. Teaching Climate Change is comprehensive and informative, and will quickly emerge as the “go to” resource within the field of climate change education for both practicing teachers and educational leaders alike. Additionally, it should be a must read for any science teacher in training, as it embodies authentic inquiry and is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. Summing Up: Essential. Undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —D. M. Moss, University of Connecticut