Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Book Roundup

There's plenty of book reviews to read this weekend.

The Los Angeles Review of Books have added a handful of interesting reviews this week, including reviews of Adam Smith's Pluralism: Rationality, Education and the Moral Sentiments (Yale) by Jack Russell Weinstein (here) and Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience (Univ. Chicago Press) by Neil Harris (here). Additionally, both George Packer's The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (FSG) and Sasha Abramsky's The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives (Nation) are reviewed together in a pieced titled "Ill Fares the Invisible Hand."
"This is the other story, one that is complementary to Abramsky’s. And it is the one told, with lucidity and narrative acumen, by George Packer in The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. If Abramsky’s book is in the tradition of Michael Harrington and Jacob Riis, Packer’s is self-consciously indebted to that of John Dos Passos, and to a lesser extent, James Agee. Indeed, The Unwinding is a kind of nonfiction homage to Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy: voluminous, generous, messy with life. For Packer, “the unwinding” describes the marked deterioration of the social, political, and economic structures that provided stability in American life for half a century."
Two thoughtful reviews have been posted on H-Net. One is a review of Teresa Anne Murphy's Citizenship and the Origins of Women's History in the United States (University of Pennsylvania Press).
"The greatest strength of this book is that Murphy does not merely trace and juxtapose these competing arguments: she truly connects them, and establishes that these debates were literally and overtly an ongoing dialogue between the various thinkers. Child had read Alexander and reviewed Fuller. Child’s own work on women’s history was in circulation in libraries from England to the Deep South, and is echoed in the notebooks of female academy students and in the rhetoric of labor reformers in New England. Child and Fuller appeared in Hale’s history as cautionary tales--as women who had strayed from their domestic responsibilities. Murphy suggests in her conclusion that all of these women set the stage for Mary Beard, Betty Freidan, and Eleanor Flexner. “Without reading the past clearly, it is impossible to go to the root of present evils,” Caroline Dall had proclaimed in a February 1855 edition of The Una. Try as they might, the forces of tradition could not mute this clarion call."

Also on H-Net, Jeffrey D. Hockett's A Storm over This Court: Law, Politics, and Supreme Court Decision Making in Brown v. Board of Education (University of Virginia Press) is reviewed.
"Whereas prior book-length studies tended to focus on single factors influencing the justices’ decisions, and particularly those of the newest member of the court--and sole Republican appointee--Chief Justice Earl Warren, Hockett primarily draws his ideas from the articles of Rogers M. Smith in American Political Science Review (1988) and Polity (1995) to take a comprehensive look at all the known and theorized possibilities" "The end result is a well-crafted, well-researched argument in favor of a more complex understanding of the motivations of individual justices which led to the Brown decision. The writing is oftentimes thick and has occasional recourse to jargon, and so it is not recommended for the general reader and will be a difficult book for most undergraduates. With that said, I highly recommend it for specialists in the history of the Supreme Court, civil rights, and the evolution of modern jurisprudential theory."
Other reviews of interest include one on HNN of Walter Nugent's The Tolerant Populists: Kansas Populism and Nativism (50th Anniversary Edition) (Univ. Chicago Press) and a review of The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History (Oxford) edited by Peter Clarke over at HistoryToday.

Interviewed on New Books in History is Julie Berebitsky. Her new book is Sex in the Office: A History of Gender, Power, and Desire (Yale).

The third volume of Isaiah Berlin's correspondence, Building: Letters 1960-1975 (Chatto and Windus), edited by Henry Hardy and Mark Pottle is reviewed in the New York Review of Books.

If you are able to access the Wall Street Journal, there is a review of Peter Kaufman's Skull in the Ashes: Murder, a Gold Rush Manhunt, and the Birth of Circumstantial Evidence in America (Univ. of Iowa Press). Reviewer Mike Jay writes, "In the Novak case, Peter Kaufman, the author of "Skull in the Ashes," has found a compelling entry point into a world on the cusp of modernity, far from the bright lights of Chicago or New York but nonetheless illuminated by new technologies, social reforms and burgeoning national mass media."

The New York Times takes a look at an unpublished manuscript housed at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale. Robert Reed's The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict, or the Inmate of a Gloomy Prison (ca. 1858) is about his experience as an African American prisoner in antebellum New York.

Lastly, in the Washington Independent Review of Books there is a review of Lincoln's Citadel: The Civil War in Washington, DC (Norton) by Kenneth J. Winkle.