Outstanding Academic Titles 2022: Most Read Reviews Part One

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight, in no particular order, part one of the most read reviews of the Outstanding Academic Titles from the past year.

1. Sickening : anti-Black racism and health disparities in the United States
Pollock, Anne. Minnesota, 2021
Light qua covered background with an image of a medical thermometer. The Cover text is laid out in front of the image.

In a series of six chapter-long case studies, Pollock (global health and social medicine, King’s College London) outlines the harmful consequences of structural racism for health care in America, broadening the scope of her earlier book Medicating Race (CH, May’13, 50-5029), which focused on the racialized context of heart disease treatments. In the present book, the cases discussed are diverse, all recent (21st-century), and drive home the realization that inequalities are not a thing of the past but continue to influence experience, whether intentionally or not, appearing as just “medicine as usual” for too many. While the chapters contribute to a cumulative argument, they have been written so that they can profitably be read individually. Some are rooted in the experiences of individuals, such as the anthrax deaths of particular Black postal workers in 2001, or the problems surrounding Serena Williams’s pregnancy and childbirth experience. Other chapters deal with the impact of broader situations—Hurricane Katrina, mass incarceration, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, or police brutality.

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2. Bad dog : pit bull politics and multispecies justice
Weaver, Harlan. Washington, 2021
Image of a panting black and white pit bull from the shoulders up wearing a color. The book title is printed above .

This is an astonishing book. In an ethnography of just a little over 200 pages, Weaver (Kansas State Univ.) details how the contemporary storying of dogs and people has been implicated in and shaped by expressions and imaginings of race, class, gender, and sexuality, by turns powerful, subtle, and insidious. Bracketed by an introduction and conclusion commencing with a field note—the first brief, factual, and breathtakingly fraught; the second fictional, aspirational, and achingly within reach—the intervening four chapters explore what Weaver so aptly terms “interspecies intersectionality”: the conjunctions and makings of self, other, species, and breed that enmesh human and non-human animals. The insights and implications of contemporary social theory, especially queer theory, are accessible, resonant, and concrete throughout the events and experiences the author describes.

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3. We are not born submissive : how patriarchy shapes women’s lives
Garcia, Manon. Princeton, 2021
Black background with a photograph of a large gilded empty birdcage filling the cover.Title in the center of the cage.

arcia (Yale Univ.) has written a thought-provoking volume about patriarchy and women’s lives, focusing on heterosexual relationships in the US and France. As she expresses from the outset, “the ambition of this book is to study, without preconceptions, the submission women experience, how it manifests itself, how it is lived, and how it can be explained” (p. 20). A work of philosophy, the study “progresses through a close reading of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex” (p. 20). Over nine chapters, readers consider Garcia’s questions alongside de Beauvoir’s writing from 1949. While this book makes a substantial contribution to philosophy, readers from other disciplines may struggle to find resonance with their own work through the text. Still, it is an important contribution that tackles female submission with fresh eyes and presents a renewed look at de Beauvoir’s analyses, especially around consent. View on Amazon

4. Plagues upon the earth: disease and the course of human history
Harper, Kyle. Princeton, 2021
Yellow background with round images of plague specific imagery from the 1600s to the twentieth century.

Harper (Univ. of Oklahoma) prefigures the scope of this work in his introduction (“Microorganisms and Macrohistory”): “Human history shapes disease ecology and pathogen evolution; disease ecology and pathogen evolution in turn shape the course of human history. Our genes are a product of our history, and our history has been decisively patterned by the battle with infectious disease” (p. 5). This proposition is fleshed out in succeeding chapters through careful descriptions of every known human plague, and of the organism(s) that caused each one. Harper identifies the animals that have carried the organisms throughout recorded history and in prehistoric times. Some chapters also discuss plant crop diseases. Historical diseases were sometimes brought in check by scientific advances and strong government actions. Harper warns that we should expect new infectious diseases to almost continually become important, as our population grows and we continue to alter the planet. This is a solid book, superbly referenced and interdisciplinary, covering disease from pre-human origins to the present, and making extensive use of published DNA comparisons and descriptions of plagues by historical observers.
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5Hatred : understanding our most dangerous emotion
Brogaard, Berit. Oxford, 2020
A very large full cover spanning red painted letter H

Written by a distinguished philosopher and author of several previous works (e.g., Seeing and Saying, CH, Mar’19, 56-2710, and On Romantic LoveCH, Jul’15, 52-5796), this powerful book examines the emotion of hatred at the nexus of analytic philosophy and social psychology, among other disciplines. The book consists of two separate but intertwined parts. The first is a meticulous parsing of the many meanings and uses of hatred as directed toward individuals, with the notion that the most toxic form of hate is deeply dehumanizing. The second is an application of the author’s finely detailed dissection of hatred to the problem of group-directed hatred, that is, the kind of hatred that sometimes becomes violent. One of the most important strands of the author’s dissection of group-directed hate is her argument that certain types of hate speech should be regarded as causing harm for which the speaker is legally liable.
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