Editors’ Picks for May 2021

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

Food and Drink in History. Adam Matthew, 2020.
Internet Resource.

Dorais, Louis-Jacques. Words of the Inuit: a semantic stroll through a northern culture. University of Manitoba, 2020. 344p bibl index (Contemporary studies on the North, 7) ISBN 9780887558627 pbk, $31.95.

The Inuit languages and dialects spoken from Greenland to northern Alaska are fundamentally unlike European languages in many ways. Words of the Inuit focuses on the Inuktitut varieties of northeastern Canada, but the description is equally apt for understanding the structure of other forms of Inuit as well. This book explains the internal complexity of Inuit words, which are constructed using a technique called polysynthesis, whereby multiple subcomponents called morphemes interact to express a rich meaning for the word form as a whole. Dorais (Laval Univ., Canada) skillfully ties word etymologies to traditional Inuit culture and worldview. Chapters cover words as they relate to concepts including the environment; humans and spirits; animals and subsistence activities; family, kinship, and naming practices; the human body; greetings; and the language’s adaptation to the contemporary world. Readers gain insight into the nexus of language, culture, and contemporary Inuit society. Drawing on the author’s experience living among Inuit communities, this study represents a contribution to the preservation and understanding of the Inuit language and worldview. Highly recommended for linguists as well as Inuit speakers, and for anyone interested in gaining deeper insight into the world of the Inuit. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels. —E. J. Vajda, Western Washington University

Food and Drink in History. Adam Matthew, 2020. Contact publisher for pricing. Internet Resource.

Food and Drink in History (FADH) provides access to primary sources to facilitate and support research in the burgeoning field of food studies, which has grown substantially” as “an important lens … [for] examin[ing] the history and context of cultural power dynamics such as colonialism, socioeconomic disparities, race, gender, religion, ethnicity, and identity,” wrote Michael DeNotto for ccAdvisor. As he observed, “the most prominent aspect of the FADH collection is the robust number of unique historical cookbooks, which largely date from the 16th to the 21st centuries.” The database encapsulates two modules (Module I and Module II), both of which include an international assortment of historical cookbooks, historical food periodicals, and ephemera (e.g., menus, advertising, and labels), among other content. Of particular note are the rare Apicius Cookbooks, which date to the ninth century. 

The database can be navigated through the main search bar on the home page, the collapsed menu in the top banner, or through the different headings listed in the banner (i.e., Introduction, Documents, Apicius Cookbooks, Research Tools, Image Gallery, and Help), which lead the user to different areas of the resource. Known-item searching and browsing via Theme or Directory are successful techniques for preliminary research. Typical limiters, such as Date, Theme, Library/Archive, and Document Type, can then be used to filter search results.

“Alexander Street Press’s Food Studies Online is the product most comparable to [FADH],” and there is even some overlap between the two, as both sources pull content from some of the same collections. “However, FADH draws from a wider variety of university collections, and it has a greater international focus,” DeNotto concluded, making it a valuable resource for food studies programs and a variety of other disciplines. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.

This review is a summary of a longer review by Michael DeNotto, Hope College, originally published in ccAdvisor.orgCopyright © 2021 by The Charleston Company.—Abstracted from, ccAdvisor

Illustrating mathematics, ed. by Diana Davis. American Mathematical Society, 2021. 171p index ISBN 9781470461225 pbk, $35.00; ISBN 9781470461225 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Being a lover of mathematics and art, this reviewer found the work under review to be a wonderful and fascinating book. Each chapter features contributions from artists who attended an “Illustrating Mathematics” workshop program, as described in the book. Every chapter highlights the use of a different material and/or technology for the illustrations shown, and each contributor explains in detail the processes he/she used to create the illustration, as well as the mathematics involved. All told, the book shows the variety of materials and methods that can be exploited for illustrating mathematics. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, while the math concepts illustrated include fractals, prime numbers, groups, the Klein bottle, and 3-manifolds, to name a few. The textual explanations are easy to follow, and contributors even include the mistakes that were made along the way, a wonderful gesture enabling readers to learn from their successes and failures, and try to create such illustrations on their own. Anyone interested in mathematics at any level will find this book captivating. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —J. A. Bakal, emeritus, Felician University

Maxey, Ruth. Understanding Bharati Mukherjee. South Carolina, 2019. 160p bibl index ISBN 9781643360003, $39.99; ISBN 9781643360010 ebook, $39.99.

Maxey’s Understanding Bharati Mukherjee is a comprehensive assessment of the whole of Mukherjee’s oeuvre. The first monograph on the South Asian American writer since her death in 2017, the book also considers, as Maxey (Univ. of Nottingham, UK) writes in chapter 1, Mukherjee’s work outside “narrow ethno-racial definitions” and “within post-1960s North American letters.” While addressing key themes in Mukherjee’s work—the Indian immigrant experience, cultural hybridity, xenophobia, and motherhood, among others—Maxey also focuses on Mukherjee’s “formal experimentation” and her “complex, erudite, multi-layered use of intertextuality.” What is unique about this well-written, detailed study is its attention to Mukherjee’s less-known works of fiction and nonfiction. Scholars and students familiar with Mukherjee’s work will find much to admire here. Maxey does not just assess Mukherjee’s work—through close readings and nearly three decades of scholarship—she also breaks new ground, extending the ongoing conversation about this important writer’s work in exciting new directions. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —B. Carson, Bridgewater State University

Mikics, David. Stanley Kubrick: American filmmaker. Yale, 2020. 233p index ISBN 9780300224405, $26.00; ISBN 9780300255614 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In this excellent book Mikics (Univ. of Houston) delivers an insightful exposition on the life and work of Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick was an autodidact in all aspects of filmmaking, most notable for adapting challenging works of literature, expert direction of actors, and cinematography. Mikics emphasizes the filmmaker’s meticulous attention to the important elements of filmmaking: source text, script, acting, casting, cinematography, lighting, set and production design, sound, and music. That he made just twelve wonderfully diverse and intensely personal feature films in a 44-year career attests to his celebrated perfectionism and tireless absorption in his work—which contributed to his decline in health and sudden death. All but the first of those twelve films have had a palpable impact on world culture, independent filmmaking, and film scholarship. Kubrick’s relocation to England after filming Spartacus derived more from his aversion to air travel than to his rejection of the Hollywood culture, with which he maintained close connections. He engaged close friends, associates, collaborators, and acquaintances in hours-long, probing telephone conversations. Kubrick was a voracious reader and a chess player (also poker) of considerable skill. Readers also learn that he was devoted to his dogs and cats, and that he thrived in his home life through his long marriage to Christiane. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. General readers. —D. W. Rothermel, emeritus, California State University, Chico

Nelson, Michael. Clinton’s elections: 1992, 1996, and the birth of a new era of governance. University Press of Kansas, 2020. 342p bibl index ISBN 9780700629176, $34.95; ISBN 9780700629183 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Nelson (Rhodes College) provides a detailed and compelling account of the presidential period in the political career of Bill Clinton. Beginning with Clinton’s near presidential candidacy in 1988, Nelson skillfully leads readers through all things Clinton. The strategies, personalities, policy successes and failures, accomplishments, and scandals are all recounted here, inevitably leading the reader to recall details of the Clinton era that had faded from memory. If this were all Nelson had done in this book, it would still be a worthy endeavor. Clinton’s presidency seems to have slipped from public consciousness in recent years, regrettably enough. But Nelson is hunting bigger game here, and he captures it. Citing ample and effective evidence, Nelson convincingly argues that the roots of many of the most concerning features of contemporary American politics can be traced to the Clinton era. The erosion of the political center; gridlocked and unproductive, divided government at the federal level; and toxic levels of partisan polarization first began to manifest in the 1990s. Nelson helps us better understand the politics of today by taking us back to its origins. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —M. D. Brewer, University of Maine

OECD iLibrary. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2021. Contact publisher for pricing. Internet Resource.

“The OECD iLibrary is a collection of materials written and published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which measures and documents trends, economics, and sociopolitical issues arising within its member countries,” wrote Jane Duffy for ccAdvisor. This database will appeal to a wide audience across diverse sectors given the depth and breadth of its material (primarily books, papers, and statistics), including almost 16,000 ebook titles, 82,000 chapters, almost a quarter million tables and graphs, and seven billion data points across 44 databases, drawn from more than 80 countries. “The site also functions as a data repository,” Duffy noted, making it sure to interest research laboratories, universities, governments, NGOs, and special, public, and academic libraries. 

Navigation is very easy; users may search the OECD iLibrary through drop-down menus on the home page, which allow for browsing by country, theme, a combination of country and theme, catalogue, and statistics. The theme search may best help users orient themselves to the full scope of the collection though 17 subject headings, including agriculture and food, development, economics, education, and environment, among others. Helpfully, digital object identifiers and/or static URLs anchor references for easy and reliable retrieval. As Duffy pointed out, the platform also “provides seamless access to technology architecture to generate researchers’ tables and other visual representations of their work.” 

While the OECD iLibrary’s wide range of content is not exhaustive, it provides “the foundation for a number of international planning and research projects” and offers researchers the tools needed to produce and disseminate their work. International Financial StatisticsWorld Development Indicators, and UNData stand out as possible alternatives, though they do not offer the unique set of data points available through OECD iLibrary. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through two-year program students.

This review is a summary of a longer review by Jane C. Duffy, MacEwan University, originally published in ccAdvisor.orgCopyright © 2021 by The Charleston Company. —Abstracted from, ccAdvisor

Robertson, S. E. B C, before computers: on information technology from writing to the age of digital data. Open Book Publishers, 2020. 156p bibl indexes ISBN 9781800640306 pbk, $22.95; ISBN 9781800641044 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The title of this work, with its dichotomous structure, summarizes the theme of the book: the computer revolution, generally regarded as having begun in the second half of the 20th century, actually has roots going a long way back. Robertson (emer., University College London) summarizes this in his prologue: “in many significant ways, the information technology (IT) world not only draws on the past but is rooted in it.” He illustrates this in 12 chapters showing how the invention of writing and the development of alphabets, eventually leading to the invention of printing and later to communications by post, telegraph, and telephone, and even the development of cryptography, were all steps on the path to the modern use of computers as the primary tool of information technology. Notably, chapter 11 traces the origins of the modern concept of data to the 19th-century invention of punched cards by Herman Hollerith, addressing the US Census Office’s need for a tabulation technology. This reviewer found the book an absorbing read, arguably a good supplementary resource for students of IT and library science as well as undergraduates not majoring in any aspect of computer or information science. Freely available online, the text should also appeal to general readers interested in the modern information environment. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —R. Bharath, emeritus, Northern Michigan University

Snyder, Lori. Bacterial genetics and genomics. Taylor & Francis, 2020. 413p bibl index ISBN 9780367263768, $200.00; ISBN 9780815345695 pbk, $79.95; ISBN 9780429293016 ebook, 79.95.

In this work Snyder (Kingston Univ. London) offers a sweeping introduction to bacterial genetics, connecting seminal experiments and well-known challenges to very recent discoveries. To cite one example, she describes the long-known challenge of antibiotic resistance, then notes growing interest in the potential to design pharmaceuticals that target “quorum sensing,” disrupting communication among bacterial cells, as a strategy to stall infection. Throughout the volume, abundant and incisive illustrations capture key points from the text; occasionally, a larger display would be helpful. That said, a feature worth noting is the publisher’s supporting website, where a complete library of images from the book, along with flashcards and study question answers, are freely available (https://routledgetextbooks.com/textbooks/9780815345695/). In contrast to the many available texts focusing on classical genetics or on much newer methods in bioinformatics, Snyder seamlessly addresses both, framing bioinformatics essentially as a new and powerful toolkit with which to address enduring questions about bacteria, including, for example, the rate at which genetic material is transferred between strains and species. Many of the “discussion topics” sections raise complex, unresolved questions that will be inspiring starting points for classroom discussions and for general readers interested to test their understanding and to appreciate the centrality of bacterial genomics to basic biology, and to medicine. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates. Students in two-year technical programs. General readers. —D. P. Genereux, Broad Institute of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Zavella, Patricia. The movement for reproductive justice: empowering women of color through social activism. New York University, 2020. 320p bibl index ISBN 9781479829200, $89.00; ISBN 9781479812707 pbk, $32.00; ISBN 9781479878505 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Intersectionality is a popular concept, but this terrific study of the practical uses of an intersectional approach to organizing for social change goes far beyond the usual invocations of the term, actually illuminating its strengths and challenges. Reproductive justice is a term born of the mobilizations contesting the applicability of the “choice” framework in reproductive rights advocacy when addressing the ability of marginalized women to mother in freedom and safety. Zavella (emer., Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) does not see movements as strings of protest events, but work done at and above the grassroots level to create coalitions and identities that bridge diversities of interests and work across multiple issues. This study of a dozen racially specific organizations in the movement stresses the struggle to commit to a “woman of color” perspective that goes beyond both individual and group identities; includes men and white women in the work; and builds organizing skills, especially among youth, for realizing collective empowerment. Intersectionality as a practice is revealed as a set of skills and deliberate movement strategies for shifting culture, producing long-term organizers, and building communities of mutual aid. Exhaustively researched, beautifully detailed, and theoretically powerful. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —M. M. Ferree, emerita, University of Wisconsin-Madison