Outstanding Academic Titles 2023: Most Read Reviews, Part One

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2023 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight the most read reviews that are Outstanding Academic Titles of 2023, part one.

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2023 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. A hearty congratulations to the winning authors, editors and publishers!

1. We’re not ok: Black faculty experiences and higher education strategies
ed. by Antija M. Allen and Justin T. Stewart Cambridge, 2022

While faculty retention is extensively discussed in higher education, few scholarly manuscripts focus exclusively on its intersection with race. Even though pipeline issues and microaggressions have been researched by many DEI scholars, there have been scant research articles highlighting the lived experiences of Black faculty. This makes We’re Not OK a crucial read that will fill the gap in the current literature and discourses taking place in the field of higher education. The book comprises both review and original research articles as well as personal narratives about the journey through academia, from being Black students to becoming faculty, mental wellness, and resistance strategies. Compared to the authors’ proposed institutional policies and actions, the individual strategies proposed here may provoke more in-depth and fresher discussions. For example, some particularly insightful perspectives delve into the experiences of Black faculty and adult returning students; masking behaviors in classrooms; virtual learning and Zoom; and the intersections of class, race, and gender.

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2. Young adult literature: from romance to realism
Cart, Michael. ALA Neal-Schuman, 2022

This fourth edition of Cart’s seminal work on the history of and trends in young adult literature is even more impressive than the three previous editions and includes 35 percent more content. The text acknowledges the rise of LGBTQIA+ literature and notes the importance of graphic novels, comics, humor, short stories, and nonfiction in the field. Part 1 provides an excellent discussion of the history of young adult literature, while part 2 discusses contemporary elements in the field. The most important new chapter, chapter 7 (“A Critical Apparatus”), discusses the rise in critical evaluation tools necessary for this genre to be recognized universally. Chapter 10 (“So, How Old Is Young Adult?”) offers a quick explanation of why so many adults love young adult literature. Cart, who is the former director of the Beverly Hills (CA) Public Library, includes a close reading of M.T. Anderson’s two-volume novel The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation to illustrate effective literary analysis. Additions to the book and the exhaustive references section provide a near-perfect text for either an introductory undergraduate or graduate course in the genre.[Disclosure: Choice is part of the American Library Association, which published this book.]

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3. Doping: a sporting history
Henning, April. by April Henning and Paul Dimeo Reaktion Books, 2022

This is a very readable global overview and updating of doping and anti-doping in amateur and professional sport: testing, scandals, and suggestions for improvement. Henning and Dimeo (Univ. of Stirling) discuss amphetamines—both military use during World War II and postwar by high school, college, and professional teams, particularly in cycling—correcting and clarifying the story that Danish cyclist Knud Jensen’s death reflected doping. They offer a brief history of the use of anabolic steroids in the Olympics, challenging the definitions of doping by comparing notions of “natural” versus “artificial,” i.e., tailored diet, vitamin and protein supplements, specialized equipment, training techniques, etc. According to the authors, East Germany actively promoted and managed steroid use between the mid-1960s and late 1980s; it was also widely assumed that the Soviet Union had a similar national system to monitor doses and excretion rates ahead of competition, as exposed in 2016. The important message is that athletes should be respected and empowered to share their views, participate in collective bargaining and policy making, and receive legal and financial aid. In terms of testing, less invasive methods—i.e., hair analysis—should be considered. View on Amazon

4. White terror: the horror film from Obama to Trump
Meeuf, Russell. Indiana, 2022

Impeccably well written and exceedingly accessible, White Terror stands as a remarkable contribution to scholarship on contemporary horror cinema. Boasting an array of sumptuous full-color images from the films examined (a feature sadly neglected by most publishers of film studies), this slim volume is organized into eight chapters, an introduction (“Whiteness, Politics, and Horror”), and a conclusion (“Horror in the Trump Era”). Meeuf (School of Journalism and Mass Media, Univ. of Idaho, Moscow) writes that the book is meant to “help students, scholars, and horror fans grapple with the role of race and white racial anxieties in contemporary US horror films” (p. vii). Especially noteworthy sections are those engaging whiteness and fear of home invasion, horrific children, and nightmarish dreams of lack of social mobility. Chapter 6, “Motor City Gothic: White Youth and Economic Anxiety in It Follows and Don’t Breathe,” a consideration of Rust Belt economic depression and desperation as the backdrop for horror, is remarkable for its insight. White Terror occupies a rare place in the literature on horror cinema: it serves those who are fear film aficionados and scholars who seek new approaches and paradigms in film studies.
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5The mind of a bee
Chittka, Lars. Princeton University Press, 2022

Exploring the question of what it’s like to be a bee, this book may remind readers of a murder mystery. True, it is about life and intelligence, not death, but Chittka (Queen Mary Univ. of London) expresses the background, sensory world, and the contrast between automatic instinct and variable learning that characterize the mystery genre. There is a build-up of information about communications, and learning about surrounding space and flowers and social learning across a group. Chittka provides data about the brains and personalities of bees, then in the denouement discusses what a bee mind might be—not known for sure—with added pieces of information suggesting that bees do have a mind, although it is probably not anything like that of humans. Throughout the discussion Chittka provides detail, including names and anecdotes about scientists and other investigators. Readers are reminded that studies of bees are both centuries old and swiftly advancing with the advent of modern technology, which allows researchers to do such things as track the foraging patterns of a single bee or find out which bumblebees are devoted foragers and which ones are lazy.
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