Sample Reviews

A selection of reviews in various subject areas is available below. Reviews are arranged in four groups: Reference, Humanities, Science & Technology, and Social & Behavioral Sciences.


Oxford Islamic Studies Online
Oxford. Annual academic subscription begins at $1,135 for single user, $1,935 for unlimited use, based on FTE. Also available for perpetual access beginning at $9,300

[Revisited Nov’15] Since the last review (CH, Apr’08, 45-4109), Oxford has added more digital titles to its Islamic studies collection; core reference sources have expanded from six to nearly a dozen volumes with approximately 5,000 new entries. The database now offers the Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture (CH, Nov’09, 47-1182); the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (CH, Sep’09, 47-0052) and its related encyclopedias dealing with politics (CH, Dec’14, 52-1762), philosophy and science (CH, Nov’14, 52-1151), and women (CH, May’14, 51-4773); and the Oxford Handbook of Islam and Politics (CH, Aug’14, 51-6985). The online collection also offers supplemental materials under its Learning Resources section, such as Teaching Islam (CH, Sep’03, 41-0263) and Makers of Contemporary Islam (CH, Apr’02, 39-4853). Users will find helpful lesson plans and interviews, and the Focus On section’s essays and the Letter from the Editor (under What’s New) highlight topical and timely issues. Thematic guides vetted by the editorial board cover current events (e.g., “The Arab Spring”), people, places, schools of thought, and Internet resources, and include a glossary and suggestions for further reading. The Geography of the Islamic World section offers more than 40 full-color maps from the updated edition of Atlas of the World’s Religions (CH, May’08, 45-4717). Content is updated three to four times a year, according to the FAQs.

There are multiple options for searching across all content or within specific sources. For example, under Main Search, users may limit queries to title, full-text, or author fields; branches of Islam (Shi’ite or Sunni); country or region of activity (selected from pull-down menus); era (e.g., to c. 610 pre-Islamic jahiliyya); or topic (with such subdivisions as historical or modern city, personal life, customs, etc.). There are similar field-based, advanced-search options specific to biographies, chaptered works, primary sources, bibliographies, images and maps, and concordances. These document types are also browsable from the home page in an A–Z organizational scheme. Search results show related content in a separate pane, with articles and topics highlighted and hyperlinked for easy access. Each major article includes the author’s name and a bibliography enhanced by Ex Libris linking software enabled for licensed users. Advanced search for the Qur’an supports searching within chapters, proximity searching, and concordance searching. Qur’an Verse Lookup and Date Converter tools are available as well. The concordance now has a built-in, non-Latin keyboard that searches for special characters, solving much of the transliteration problem in the database’s earlier versions. These many updates and modifications enhance and strengthen an already stellar source. The content is suitable for all levels of research, from beginners to advanced scholars. All libraries seeking solid, well-researched information about Islam should consider a license.

Summing Up:
Highly recommended. All academic audiences; general readers; professionals/practitioners.
— C. A. Sproles, University of Louisville


Chaucer on screen : absence, presence, and adapting the Canterbury tales
ed. by Kathleen Coyne Kelly and Tison Pugh Ohio State, 2016
286p bibl index, 9780814213179 $94.95

Kelly (Northeastern Univ.) and Pugh (Univ. of Central Florida) should be praised for bringing together the 17 essays that make up this intelligent and rewarding collection. Unlike that of a number of canonical authors (Shakespeare is perhaps the most notable), the work of Chaucer has not had many successful film or television adaptations. Given that Chaucer was himself an author who excelled at literary adaptation, the mixed results of Chaucerian media texts is puzzling. The contributors to this volume explore why this is so in sophisticated essays on absence, presence, ideology, and canonicity. Six essays focus solely on the six episodes of the BBC’s 2003 miniseries production of Canterbury Tales. Other contributions explore the histories of cinema Chauceriana, in Hollywood and in England, that have been ignored or lost, and still others look at films that are well known, sometimes for more controversial reasons, such as Pasoloni’s I racconti di Canterbury (1972), Lee’s The Ribald Tales of Canterbury (1988), and Helgeland’s A Knight’s Tale (2001). This volume will be indispensable for anyone who teaches Chaucer, especially the Canterbury Tales. It is a substantial contribution to the study of medievalisms and neomedievalisms as well as to Chaucer studies.

Summing Up:
Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.
— A. L. Kaufman, Auburn University at Montgomery

Science & Technology

Colour : how we see it and how we use it
Woolfson, Michael Mark. World Scientific, 2016
239p index afp, 9781786340849 $75.00, 9781786340856 $34.00, 9781786340870 $27.00

This slender work is packed with an enormous amount of information related to the science of color. The book has history, science (physics, chemistry, and biology), and applications listed in 16 chapters. There are a few mathematical equations, but not enough to unsettle the general reader. The best part of the material is the array of pictures and diagrams, many of which are in color, that help to complement the text. Woolfson (physics, Univ. of York, UK) begins with humans’ sense of vision, followed by the perception of color. The author then discusses the creation of colors through pigments and dyes, with applications in painting, pottery, photography, and cinematography. The functioning of devices like the color television (in its original form using electron tubes up to the modern light emitting diodes) are explained, and the scientists and engineers, both famous and unrecognized, are given due credit. The last chapter is devoted to the uses of color for practical purposes, from maps to safety signals. There are no references, but there is a serviceable index. The book has something for the physicist, chemist, biologist, engineer, and lay reader.

Summing Up:
Highly recommended. All readers.
— N. Sadanand, Central Connecticut State University

Social & Behavioral Sciences

Civil racism : the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion and the crisis of racial burnout
Itagaki, Lynn Mie. Minnesota, 2016
315p bibl index afp, 9780816699209 $87.50, 9780816699216 $25.00, 9781452950167

Itagaki (Asian American studies, Ohio State) pushes the historiography and theorization of the conflagrations that erupted after the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers charged with beating black motorist Rodney King in 1992. Through case studies of literary, performative, filmic, and other artistic works that reference the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Itagaki unravels the racial dimensions that undergird “civility.” She illustrates that civility is not a neutral discourse that promises progress and inclusion but rather a contested process, often grounded in violence and used to delegitimize the oppositional politics of marginalized peoples. Informed by theories of comparative racialization, ethnic studies, and gender studies, the book dissects the construction of civility through the family, schools and civic institutions, and urban space while attending to the transformative possibility of interracial relations. Given recent urban unrest that lays bare tensions between state power, late capitalism, and race, this is a timely book. It pairs well with other literary analyses, such as Min Song’s Strange Future: Pessimism and the 1992 Los Angeles Riots (2005) or Brenda Stevenson’s historical work, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the LA Riots (2013).

Summing Up:
Recommended. All levels/libraries.
— J. deGuzman, UCLA