Editors’ Picks for September 2019

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

book covers

Duggan, Bernardo A. Historical dictionary of Argentina, by Bernardo A. Duggan and Colin M. Lewis. Rowman & Littlefield, 2019. 831p bibl ISBN 9781538119693, $175.00; ISBN 9781538119709 ebook, $166.00.

Authored by two historians with specializations in the post–World War II era, Argentine history, and Latin American political economy, the Historical Dictionary of Argentina is the first new English-language work in this area of Latin American historical reference literature in 41 years. Features retained and updated from the earlier Historical Dictionary of Argentina, ed. by Ione S. Wright and Lisa M. Nekhom (1978), are a chronology for 1977–2018 and a significantly expanded bibliography, with sections on Peron and Peronism, the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo memorial protest, state terrorism, and the Falklands War. A website listing covers Argentine government sources, business organizations and political parties, and major newspapers and television channels. An added appendix on Argentine provinces gives total land area and population. Comparison of the contents with the previous work reveals a clear emphasis on adding detailed entries for significant individuals; business, professional, military, and political institutions; and political parties and agreements from the 20th century, with older entries for the 19th century retained selectively. Essential for all college and university reference collections. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —R. B. Ridinger, Northern Illinois University

Gibson, Carrie. El Norte: the epic and forgotten story of Hispanic North America. Atlantic Monthly, 2019. 560p bibl index ISBN 9780802127020, $30.00; ISBN 9780802146359 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Distant origins underpin the anti-Mexican slurs that plague the US. Emphasizing the presence of Spaniards and primarily their Mexican descendants from Florida to California from the 16th century to the present, historian Gibson examines their shared history with Anglos and other “whites” who have considered them inferior and often labeled them “non-white.” In chapters 1–9, the book surveys the centuries of Spanish rule in the “borderlands” prior to the US victory in the Mexican-American War in 1848. Chapters 10–11 carry the story to 1898; the remaining five focus on Texas, New York, California, Florida, and Arizona, and continue the analysis to 2018. The story of the early Spanish presence is familiar, but the remainder of the book, especially after 1898, will introduce general readers to the arrival, reception, and current status of Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban immigrants and their descendants after 1959. The hostility that legal and illegal immigrants often face has been and continues to be widespread. Limited Hispanic political participation and underrepresentation are apparent in most locales. Public and academic libraries should purchase this substantial, well-written, thoroughly researched, and timely book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —M. A. Burkholder, emeritus, University of Missouri—St. Louis

Grisel, Judith. Never enough: the neuroscience and experience of addiction. Doubleday, 2019. 241p index ISBN 9780385542845, $26.95; ISBN 9780385542852 ebook, $13.99.

This is a book readers won’t want to put down. Grisel (Bucknell Univ.) is a neuroscientist specializing in addiction research and a recovering addict herself; she intertwines personal experience and professional expertise to create a work that combines scientific research, history, and storytelling about addictive substances and the hopeful but troubled search for cures. It is not a comfortable read, between the blunt narrative and the realization that despite great advances in understanding the biological correlates of addiction, current attempts at “solving addiction” often fail in part due to society’s misunderstanding of those suffering with it. Seven of the 11 chapters focus on the unique features of individual drug classes: THC, opiates, alcohol, tranquilizers, stimulants, psychedelics, and other abused drugs. Occasional images are scattered throughout the text to illustrate concepts, and a short notes section provides references. The writing style is conversational and accessible, as the inclusion of anecdotes eases readers into the scientific explanations of the various types of drugs and their mechanisms of action. A highly recommended read for those who want to gain insight into what it means to be an addict from someone who has experienced it personally and professionally. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —C. L. Iwema, University of Pittsburgh

History of illustration, ed. by Susan Doyle with associate editors Jaleen Grove and Whitney Sherman. Fairchild Books, 2019. 554p bibl index ISBN 9781501342110, $240.00; ISBN 9781501342103 pbk, $90.00; ISBN 9781628927559 ebook, contact publisher for price.

History of Illustration provides a global overview of illustration from ancient times to the digital age. The 29 essays are divided into five sections: “Illustrative Traditions from around the World,” “Images as Knowledge, Ideas as Power,” “The Advent of Mass Media,” “Diverging Paths in Twentieth Century American and European Illustration,” and “The Evolution of Illustration in an Electronic Age.” Each essays provides a list of key terms and a list of relevant further reading. In addition, the volume includes more than 800 excellent images, a scrupulously detailed table of contents, and a thorough index. Though the content is divided by time period, geographic location, stylistic movements, and illustration techniques, Doyle (Rhode Island School of Design) and her fellow editors designed the book so readers never lose sight of the underlying communicative quality in the artistic medium of illustration as a whole. This volume will be invaluable for those embarking on study of art, design, or visual culture. Summing Up: Essential. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates. —A. E. Handfield, Manhattan College

Lee, Wendy Anne. Failures of feeling: insensibility and the novel. Stanford, 2018 (c2019). 236p index ISBN 9781503606807, $55.00; ISBN 9781503607477 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The affective turn that has swept through the humanities and social sciences has given scholars of 18th-century literature and philosophy a home court advantage. As Lee (New York Univ.) puts it in the introduction to this remarkable book, “Every philosopher of the Enlightenment was also a theorist of affect.” Lee’s breakthrough move is to turn this preoccupation on its head by focusing on how insensibility and its short-circuiting of affect paradoxically incites both passionate investment and narrative itself. From impassive sovereigns to marble-hearted protagonists arrayed in “affective chainmail,” 18th-century novelists could not resist the way in which insensibility disrupted easy ideals of gender and sympathy even as it destabilized the expectation that novels should disclose the rich volatility of any character’s interior existence. Lee traces insensibility from “the unlikely stock figure of the prude” to Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener”—from Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa Harlowe to George Eliot’s Gwendolen Harleth. Along the way, she blends philosophical erudition and a series of razor-sharp readings with an uncommon wit that ratifies the absolute centrality of insensibility in the novel but also in the world. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —J. Risinger, The Ohio State University

Lemons, Don S. Thermodynamic weirdness: from Fahrenheit to Clausius. MIT, 2019. 176p bibl index ISBN 9780262039390, $24.95; ISBN 9780262351324 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This book is really two books in one. Almost half of the pages contain original texts from the founders of thermodynamics (Fahrenheit, Joule, Kelvin, Clausius, etc.); the rest provide a concise physical history of the subject by Lemons (emer., Bethel College). The volume also contains a useful annotated bibliography. The text is not introductory, but it is elementary in the sense that a reader with a solid background in freshman physics will learn many things their physics class may have neglected. For readers seeking to understand the great minds of the 19th century, reading their own words in the excerpted material —while difficult—will give them insight into how great physicists think, and how difficult it was for them to get past their biases, which seem trivial to us today. One such rewarding insight: even though he used the concept of caloric (where heat was thought to be transported as a fluid) extensively, Antoine Lavoisier took no position on whether it was real or simply a bookkeeping device. And the writings of Rudolf Clausius reveal that he played a much more fundamental role than he is usually given credit for by introductory physics texts (perhaps the unit for entropy should be “the Clausius”). Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic levels and professionals. —M. A. Reynolds, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Olson, Lynne. Madame Fourcade’s secret war: the daring young woman who led France’s largest spy network against Hitler. Random House, 2019. 428p bibl index ISBN 9780812994766, $30.00; ISBN 9780812994773 ebook, $13.99.

Every so often a history book comes along that tells a riveting story—“reads like a novel” is the customary praise—significantly expands knowledge of the past, and compels one to rethink the historiography of its narrative. Such a triumph is Olson’s Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, an account of France’s largest espionage network during the Occupation and the elegant, beautiful, 31-year-old Marie-Madeleine Fourcade (1909–89) who led it. In the face of the Nazis’ suffocating surveillance and savage reprisals—some 450 members of the Resistance network Fourcade led were executed—Fourcade’s agents garnered intelligence that helped win the U-boat war, assisted in planning the D-Day invasion, and provided information on the German ballistic missile program that allowed the Allies to forestall its development until the second front was secure. Fourcade’s work has been too long ignored: her story fell victim to competition over control of the historical narrative about the Resistance on the parts of the communists, de Gaulle’s Free French, and the Maquisards. In addition, Fourcade’s background, her practical feminism, and her alignment with British intelligence ensured her story was downplayed after the war; her memoir, L’Arche de Noé (1968; Eng. tr., Noah’s Ark, CH, May’74), was for the most part ignored. Bottom line: Olson’s book is important as well as captivating. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. —G. P. Cox, emeritus, Gordon State College

Rajan, Raghuram. The third pillar: how markets and the state leave the community behind. Penguin Press, 2019. 434p index ISBN 9780525558316, $30.00; ISBN 9780525558323 ebook, $15.99.

Over the past few decades the evolution of the world economy—driven by globalized competitive markets—has far exceeded expectations. Not only have the basic premises of competitive advantage been reflected in the real world (albeit with plenty of flaws), but the speed of change has accelerated, producing plenty of winners and plenty of losers and challenges for the state—inequities that have often gone unaddressed and formed the roots of the political drift toward populism, with its simple answers to complex problems. Left in the dust, Rajan (business Univ. of Chicago) contends, is the “third pillar,” i.e., the community in which people live and with which they associate, a community rooted in basic values and norms that anchor the social context of human existence. The first two pillars—the state and the markets—have put enormous pressure on the third, challenging uneasy equilibria in ways that are difficult to predict and ultimately threaten valuable social and political stability. What lies ahead? A global surveillance state? Widening of the urban-rural divide? Global spread of identity politics? Rajan argues for a renaissance of the third pillar of community cohesion, channeled through institutions that have a good shot at regaining control of where the system goes next. This is an original take on widely debated issues. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —I. Walter, New York University

Recipes for mindfulness in your library: supporting resilience and community engagement, ed. by Madeleine Charney, Jenny Colvin, and Richard Moniz. ALA Editions, 2019. 132p index ISBN 9780838917831 pbk, $49.99.

Mindfulness continues to be a popular method for engaging and connecting with surroundings, both individually and as a group. So it makes sense that libraries would become part of the process. The library can be a place of tranquility, collaboration, and knowledge for mindfulness connections. Charney, Colvin, and Moniz have put together a concise collection of “recipes” for all types of libraries in all sorts of communities. Chapters include Building a Meditation Community and Mindful and Reflective Writing as a Strategy. The book shares ways to incorporate mindfulness into everyday life and strategies for making it available within a community; the authors connect mindfulness theory to research and teaching, particularly useful for academic libraries. Each chapter stands on its own and gives library personnel the tools to start programs in public or academic libraries, no matter how small. This reviewer intends to put to use ideas for an undergraduate library in a small community. [DisclosureChoice is part of the American Library Association, which published this book.] Summing Up: Highly recommended. All public and academic libraries. —M. L. Strife, West Virginia University Tech/Beckley

Siler, Julia Flynn. The white devil’s daughters: the women who fought against slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Knopf, 2019. 423p index ISBN 9781101875261, $28.95; ISBN 9781101875278 ebook, $14.99.

It is an unfortunate fact of history that despite ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, human trafficking and slavery continued unabated in various locales in the US well into the 20th century. One such locale was San Francisco, Chinatown in particular. Siler (an award-winning journalist) explores the city’s underworld of sex slavery and other kinds of forced servitude of Chinese women, shining a light on those who helped rescue thousands of women from their plight. Spanning the later half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, the book focuses on Donaldina Cameron, Tien Fuh Wu, and the Occidental Mission Home for Girls they helped found. Located in Chinatown, the Mission Home for decades served as a refuge for women rescued from bondage. In addition to the Mission and the woman who founded it, the author investigates the lives of rescued women and slavers and looks at societal reactions and legal cases surrounding the Mission’s abolitionist efforts. The 60-plus photographs scattered throughout bring to life the people and their surroundings. A helpful timeline of events is also provided. The author is not an academic but her book is well researched, her documentation scrupulous. A quick read despite the challenging subject matter. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —B. D. Singleton, California State University—San Bernardino