Editors’ Picks for November, 2018

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

Alley, Michael. The craft of scientific writing. 4th ed. Springer, 2018. 298p bibl index ISBN 9781441982872 pbk, $34.95; ISBN 9781441982889 ebook, $24.99.

The Craft of Scientific Writing contains many valuable insights: “Analyze not only what your audience knows, but also why they are reading”; “Begin with what is familiar before moving to what is new”; “Keep things as simple as possible, yet no simpler” (this last piece of advice is from Einstein). In this updated edition (3rd ed., 1996), the author discusses the many challenges and distinctions in scientific writing, and the effects that good or bad writing can have on one’s career. Good scientific writing should hold the interest of the reader by connecting ideas using seamless transitions and tying visual aids to the text. Using real-world writing examples and a host of graphics and figures, the author effectively demonstrates what works, what doesn’t, and why. Ten chapters, labeled “lessons,” offer guidance on how to analyze the audience, balance precision with clarity, avoid ambiguity, and use writing time efficiently. Appendixes on grammar, punctuation, usage, and format are included, as well as a glossary of writing and publishing terms. This easy-to-digest guide will be useful for engineers, scientists, and anyone interested in writing for a science-minded audience, or about science-related topics. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. —S. Markgren, Manhattan College

Deneault, Alain. Mediocracy: the politics of the extreme centre, tr. by Catherine Browne. Between the Lines, 2018. 189p ISBN 9781771133432 pbk, $22.95; ISBN 9781771133449 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Browne’s translation of Deneault’s work differs from the original French edition (2016) in that some sections were removed and others rewritten to focus on issues relevant to an English-language audience. Noted by Browne as belonging to the literary category of essai, the lively, highly critical, and somewhat controversial work was written to provoke philosophical discourse on an abstract idea—mediocracy. Deneault (sociology, Univ. of Québec, Montreal) weighs in on the ever-increasing social pressure to repress creativity, passion, and good ideas and conform to the lowest common denominator, thus creating a cultural landscape in which “average” is the pinnacle of success. In a society where success is defined by those who lack individuality, imagination, critical thinking skills, and exceptional intelligence, what does the future hold? Deneault posits that those with average levels of competence rise to power and define success for every facet of contemporary society—from finance to education to the arts in terms of commercial viability—creating a culture of mediocrity with no place for the intelligent, creative, thought-provoking, or non-commercialist. A thoughtful narrative on the vagaries of a society enthralled with conformity and economic viability, Deneault’s book has broad cross-disciplinary interest. Endnotes, not in the French edition, are provided. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. —R. J. Erlandson, Independent consultant

Guerra, Lillian. Heroes, martyrs, and political messiahs in revolutionary Cuba, 1946–1958. Yale, 2018. 370p bibl index ISBN 9780300175530, $40.00; ISBN 9780300235333 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Guerra (Univ. of Florida) claims to have uncovered the true origins of Cuba’s anti-Batista revolution, exploring its roots in the 1940s Ortodoxo Party platform of Eddy Chibás, who embodied both a charismatic populism and a sense of martyrdom. Chibá’s suicide in 1951 halted a march toward social democratic government in Cuba that may have forestalled Batista’s coup and the rise of Fidel Castro. She does not comment on whether the US would have accepted this government, instead focusing on the contributions of clandestinos, urban opponents of Batista in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Castro’s band of rebels was only a small part of the true revolution, but it successfully claimed the mantle of disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that made Chibás a hero. Guerra’s emphasis on the 1940s is helpful, as comparatively little research on that era is available. A recent book, Philip Brenner’s Cuba Libre (CH, Apr’18, 55-2913), devotes only one chapter to this period. The book is engagingly written and is supported by plentiful photographs and images from the period; Guerra’s new research represents a significant addition to the literature on the Cuban Revolution. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty and professionals. —J. A. Baer, formerly, Northern Virginia Community College

Hein, Laura Elizabeth. Post-Fascist Japan: political culture in Kamakura after the Second World War. Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. 258p bibl index ISBN 9781350025806, $114.00; ISBN 9781350025790 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In this elegantly written study, Hein (Northwestern Univ.) looks at how, after the defeat of Japan in August 1945, Japanese intellectuals and political leaders in the city of Kamakura focused their energies on creating political, cultural, and educational institutions and behavior pathways that would counter the appeal that Fascism had in pre-war Japan and lead to a more democratic, egalitarian, and peaceful society. Focusing on specific individuals and the results of their ideas and actions, Hein describes a concerted effort to create a new postwar civic culture out of the ruins of a defeated Japan. In individual chapters the author takes a close look at new educational institutions (such as the Kamakura Akademia), the Kamakura Museum of Modern Art, and the enlightened administration of the city. The lead-off chapter, “Kamakura: The Place,” is a model of urban history and deserves a wide audience. This reviewer looks for similar studies of other cities and regions in Japan with which to compare Kamakura. Was it unique, or was its experience duplicated elsewhere? Hein’s observation that Kamakura and Kyoto were able to have more enduring leftist governments because they were not bombed during the war deserves more attention. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers. —M. D. Ericson, University of Maryland University College

Lugalia-Hollon, Ryan. The war on neighborhoods: policing, prison, and punishment in a divided city, by Ryan Lugalia-Hollon and Daniel Cooper. Beacon Press, 2018. 234p index ISBN 9780807084656, $28.95; ISBN 9780807084663 ebook, contact publisher for price.

People of color in Chicago’s deeply segregated Austin neighborhood are subject to horrific rates of crime, violence, and trauma. They are also subject to rampant police abuse and one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Through extensive research and personal stories, the authors show how these two issues become entwined in a neo-liberal city that focuses all of its positive attention on building a world-class downtown and leaves impoverished neighborhoods, like Austin, decimated. For 40 years, the municipal government has tried to maintain peace and safety by investing in police power while simultaneously disinvesting from jobs programs, mental and physical health clinics, and schools. This “war on neighborhoods” leaves impoverished communities vulnerable to crime—which, in turn, creates the erroneous impression that only criminals live there and that investing in community development is pointless. Building on the work of Michelle Alexander, the authors call for a move toward interconnectedness and community resources and away from individual blame, discrimination by police and prosecutors, and mass incarceration. The consequences of living in a police state extend far beyond Austin, and this book needs to be widely read. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —M. Linehan, University of Texas at Tyler

McCarthy, David Shaumus. Selling the CIA: public relations and the culture of secrecy. University Press of Kansas, 2018. 215p bibl index ISBN 9780700626427, $29.95; ISBN 9780700626434 ebook, contact publisher for price.

When the directors of Central Intelligence testify before Congress, they speak in business-like terms. The intelligence product is described as a commodity to distribute to consumers with a need to know. Fortunately, it is more complicated, and since the 1950s, directors of Central Intelligence sought to popularize intelligence while protecting the nation’s vital secrets. McCarthy (William and Mary) describes the CIA’s public relations effort from Allen Dulles to Leon Panetta. Intelligence agencies loathe PR, but directors realized the need to defend the CIA’s missteps while enhancing the agency’s reputation. As McCarthy explains, the agency found that PR was useful in protecting the CIA from adverse publicity brought on by flawed operations and policy failures. McCarthy’s most valuable contribution, however, rests with his analysis of how the CIA obstructed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from scholars and suppressed exposés by former operatives. Yet as McCarthy accurately describes, the CIA also sought Hollywood’s help to enhance the agency’s reputation and serve as a recruitment tool. Selling the CIA is a groundbreaking study of the CIA’s efforts to justify its existence and a vital addition to intelligence scholarship today. Summing Up: Essential. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —C. C. Lovett, Emporia State University

Nadal, Kevin L. Microaggressions and traumatic stress: theory, research, and clinical treatment. American Psychological Association, 2018. 150p bibl index ISBN 9781433828591 pbk, $44.95; ISBN 9781433828607 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Nadal is on the faculty at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York; he is cofounder of the LGBTQ Scholars of Color Network and a past president of the Asian American Psychological Association. His latest title, from the APA’s “Concise Guides on Trauma Care” series, adds richness to the literature about trauma and microaggressions with its concise research summaries and coverage of people of color, women, LGBTQIA individuals, and intersectionality across groups. The introduction provides statistical evidence of the persistence of discrimination, microaggressions, and accompanying violence, and connects these issues to trauma experienced by targeted individuals. Nadal then goes on to summarize trauma literature and treatment approaches for survivors. Subsequent chapters outline racial, sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity microaggressions. Along the way, Nadal incorporates wrenching case studies that describe how microaggressions induce trauma. The book’s strength lies both in its summary of trauma and microaggression research for underacknowledged members of our population and in its normalization of intersectionality. The intricacy of the case studies might overwhelm novice readers; however, they do ring true in a complex world. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. —S. W. French, Illinois State University

The Oxford handbook of the human essence, ed. by Martijn van Zomeren and John F. Dovidio. Oxford, 2017 (c2018). 295p bibl index ISBN 9780190247577, $150.00; ISBN 9780190854478 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Van Zomeren (cultural and political psychology and social relationships, Univ. of Groningen, the Netherlands) and Dovidio (psychology and public health, Yale Univ.) are editors of as well as contributors to this collection of diverse essays. Scholars and researchers from around the globe, most specializing in various areas of the psychology field, explore the human essence—put broadly, the factors, if any, that make humans unique. From this range of perspectives, chapters variously discuss topics such as free will, motivation, value, limits of individuality, morality, aggression, social identity, justice, political participation, and cultural context, among others. The essays are grouped into three sections: individuality, sociality, and cultural embeddedness. Though the text falls under the general subjects of social and existential psychology, the book will also interest readers in sociology, philosophy, and cultural studies. Extensively researched and documented, the essays address a wide range of views and will be a unique source for class discussion. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. —J. Bailey, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute

Schneider, Robert O. When science and politics collide: the public interest at risk. Praeger, 2018. 228p index ISBN 9781440859373, $60.00; ISBN 9781440859380 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In the US as elsewhere, science and politics have had a long history of complicated interactions, but tensions between the two have increased in recent years. Schneider (public administration, Univ. of North Carolina, Pembroke) combines a history of this nuanced relationship with a thorough discussion of contemporary issues. The first chapter sets the stage, exploring the abstract questions “What is science?” and “What is politics?” Science, Schneider argues, values evidence over certainty; it is not an end but a process. Contrary to popular belief, it is also not political. American politics has been highlighted by individuality, and by often competing microsocial and macrosocial interests—bonds among small, cohesive groups as well as concerns for society as a whole. The book’s succeeding chapters use five prominent scientific and political issues to illustrate five dynamics: necessity (the space race), conflict (climate change), fissures and splits (fracking), resistance (evolution versus creationism), and panic (reaction to pandemics ranging from the Spanish Flu to Ebola). The history and evolution of each of these dynamics is discussed in detail. The final chapter discusses paths forward in light of today’s fraught political climate. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —R. E. Buntrock, independent scholar

Thomson, Richard. Monet & architecture. National Gallery, London, 2018. 248p bibl index ISBN 9781857096170, $40.00.

This exhibition catalogue features 77 of Claude Monet’s paintings of buildings and, for comparison, photographic images for the period from 1860 to 1912. The works are discussed chronologically, following Monet’s travels throughout cities in Europe and the Mediterranean. Monet selected his subjects carefully, capturing the excitement of a bustling street scene, the quiet timelessness of a seaside village, or the dreamy vision of an ancient monument. These motifs reflect the world in which Monet lived—his friendships, tourism culture, the intellectual climate. Though some of these themes have been explored in other books, the comparisons between historical photographs and Monet’s paintings provide unique insight into Monet’s process of converting architecture and the surrounding environment into colorful strokes of light, texture, and reflection. Monet edited details as he saw fit, to manipulate both the natural and the man-made. The full-page close-ups of Monet’s thickly applied brushwork are a nice addition and complement the text. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers. —R. M. Cooke, Florida Gulf Coast University