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The Bookwatch

Volume 18, Number 4 April 2023 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Social Issues Shelf Cookbook Shelf
Environmental Studies Shelf Science Shelf Education Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Jobs/Careers Shelf Autism Shelf
Fashion Shelf Mythology Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Four Battlegrounds
Paul Scharre
W.W. Norton
500 Fifth Avenue New York, New York 10110
9780393866865, $32.50

Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence goes beyond the usual consideration of AI potentials and threats to consider the underlying battle to control it which has already pitted nations against one another. It comes from a defense expert whose position lends to an in-depth coverage of the political maneuverings and possibilities of those who would harness AI for their own purposes, providing a framework for understanding both these rivalries and their impact on political structures, from democratic processes to totalitarian regimes. AI is already shifting power dynamics at all levels of society; often quite unconsciously to ordinary consumers and citizens. This is why a thorough grounding in Four Battlegrounds is so necessary in order for everyone to understand the lines being drawn, the stakes in winning this battle, and the intersection of AI and technology with human interests.

The Social Issues Shelf

Courts of Law Not Courts of Justice: Why Justice is Hard to Find in America
Eric D. Oberer
Atmosphere Press
9781639887620, $28.99 Hardcover/$18.99 Paper

Unlike most critiques of America's judicial system, Courts of Law Not Courts of Justice: Why Justice is Hard to Find in America does not assume a one-sided approach, but considers the problem of justice from a variety of viewpoints. It provides a huge service to law readers in exposing an array of opinions, precedents, and analyses from both sides of the legal bench, serving as a starting point of information for broader discussions about equity in judicial proceedings.

Eric D. Oberer comes not just from the usual worlds of academia or law, but spent much of his childhood in high-crime White and African-American neighborhoods. This lent his pursuit of legal work (as a "guns, drugs, and violent crimes" prosecutor in Baltimore) a special connection to street crime scenarios that allowed him to apply ideals of fundamental civil rights to scenarios of crime, punishment, redemption, and innocence. The history of America's legal system and the evolution of the modern urban criminal justice system's processes and patterns are nicely covered.

The survey probes definitions of evidence, reviews criminal investigations proceedings both within the court system and before and after its processes, and analyzes how miscarriages of justice are perceived and committed. Especially thought-provoking are connections between policing and racial perception which give rise to bigger pictures of social issues embedded in and reflected by criminal justice system operations. Footnoted references from the legal world accompany examples of court decisions, methods for generating arrests, and the limiting choices faced by the justice system in general and Baltimore City in particular: "Baltimore City could arguably move many more cases through the system if it hired more judges and court employees and built a new courthouse. But can you really bring thousands of citizens in each day for jury duty?"

That Courts of Law Not Courts of Justice proves as accessible to non-legal readers of social issues as it will to those studying criminal law and justice translates to a primer that should be in all kinds of collections, from law libraries and college student holdings to general-interest public libraries seeing patron interest in social and racial issues. Oberer's history, filled with case histories, commentary, and connections between past and present American judicial evolutionary processes, is a powerful consideration of what the definition of how the ideal of "Equal Justice Under Law" actually translates in modern American society. It's highly recommended reading for anyone either entering the justice system professionally or looking at its results from the outside.

The Cookbook Shelf

Knead Peace: Recipes from the World's Best Bakers in Support of Ukraine
Andrew Green, editor
Kyle Books
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781804191118, $29.99 hc / $14.99 Kindle

Knead Peace: Recipes from the World's Best Bakers in Support of Ukraine is edited by Andrew Green. It gathers baked goods inspired by Anna Makievska and The Bakehouse in Kyiv, which continues to bake throughout the war. "We, the bakers, create. And this is the opposite of what fascist aggressors do every day. We need peace, so let's knead it." This quote from Makievska inspires this cookbook, representing a gathering of bakers who donated recipes and time to raise money from this cookbook's sales. Besides supporting Ukraine, the recipes themselves will appeal with their variety, from savory bakes to original sweets such as Helen Goh's Blood Orange, Filo and Custard Cake. Knead Peace is a group effort that should be celebrated and in the collections of any culinary library and those interested in showing support for Ukraine.

70s House
Estelle Bilson
Kyle Books
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781914239694, $22.99 hc / $10.99 Kindle

70s House: A Bold Homage to the Most Daring Decade in Design by Estelle Bilson tells readers how to take 70s-style design and incorporate it into a modern home, offering the author's expert tips and her experiences changing her three-bedroom home into a 1970s showcase. How she created each room lies at the heart of a colorful exploration that juxtaposes the basics of 70s and modern design concepts, creating a colorful interplay between the written advice and color photos packed throughout. The result is a winning display that captures both the eye and the imagination.

The Environmental Studies Shelf

The Devil's Element
Dan Egan
W.W. Norton
500 Fifth Avenue New York, New York 10110
9781324002666, $30.00

The Devil's Element: Phosphorus and a World Out of Balance is an unusual science and social history of phosphorous, one of the planet's most important and dangerous natural resources. It was first refined from human urine in a 18th-century lab, and The Devil's Element follows its development and importance to human life. Today phosphorous is at the center of a threat to environmental freshwater sources, but this is a story too often understated in popular news, which doesn't reach the non-science reader's attention. That's why the history and science in The Devil's Element is so important to include not just in libraries devoted to books about ecology, environment, or science; but in those reaching general-interest audiences. Its colorful argument about the impact of human phosphorous use and its damage simply should not be missed.

The Science Shelf

Quantum in Pictures
Bob Coecke and Stefano Gogioso
Cambridge Quantinuum
9781739214715, $19.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 216pp

While the line drawings throughout Quantum in Pictures and its simple language might indicate to some that this book might be appropriate for a library's children's section, in fact, it's a primer that can be used by anyone interested in quantum mechanics or physics, young or old. It's best audience will be those able to absorb the mathematical concepts that are intrinsic to understanding the quantum world.

The book employs pictures alone (diagrams in black and white and color) to illustrate these basic principles, educating readers about quantum concepts in an accessible manner that includes a solid amount of mathematical detail and references. Amateurs and specialists alike will benefit from the authors' attention to making a complex subject surprisingly user-friendly ("...we came up with simple, friendly names for many of the concepts involved.").

A companion to the prior Picturing Quantum Processes, this introduction creates a foundation of knowledge that can easily serve as a stepping stone for readers who wish to take the plunge into the quantum world, whether they hold physics or computer backgrounds, or are lay readers.

Added value is created via an online connection, as all the chapters of Quantum In Pictures are also available as videos on Quantinuum's YouTube channel, which adds some special guests. Using pictures to talk about complex quantum subjects enables its grasp by a far wider audience than the usual student of science. The wide range of subjects, from teleportation to spider bites and how math formulas may be translated to and transmitted pictorially makes for an unexpectedly lively format that is thought-provoking and attractive.

From spider and cap tests to understanding errors in visual terms, it soon becomes evident that Quantum in Pictures is anything but a children's picture book. Its serious lesson in accessibility and visualization deserves a place in any science library collection where quantum discussions are of interest, creating a pathway for understanding that pairs visual math with solutions to complex problems.

The Education Shelf

Dyslexia Advocate!, second edition
Kelli Sandman-Hurley
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
9781839971709, $19.95

The second edition of Dyslexia Advocate! How to Advocate for a Child with Dyslexia within the Public Education System offers an updated toolbox of lessons about education advocacy processes. This makes it a key recommendation for libraries strong in education, health, and social issues subjects.

Kelli Sandman-Hurley focuses on how parents and advocates can understand and apply US laws to obtain the right educational opportunities for a dyslexic child. Case studies and examples cement lessons on techniques that work, helping those unfamiliar with advocacy processes to absorb the strategies, language, and approaches to gaining services and support from the educational system and the legal structures governing it.

Libraries should consider Dyslexia Advocate! a key acquisition for any collection strong in education rights issues, dyslexia, or child education advocacy.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Ian McDonald
TOR Books
9780765375551, $30.99

Hopeland is a highly recommended pick for sci-fi readers interested in stories of time travel and futuristic struggle. It presents the attempts of Raisa Hopeland to become the next electromancer of London, and the controversy her effort introduces as climate change and political interests vie for control. From journeys to hidden places to dialogues between those that move through time and special intentions to change the world and its possible futures, Ian McDonald builds a powerful saga that is hard to predict or put down. McDonald has long been influencing the sci-fi world, and his latest new effort doesn't disappoint. It's a thought-provoking journey that will linger in the reader's mind long after Hopeland's final struggle takes place.

The Jobs/Careers Shelf

First, Eat Your Frog: And Other Pearls for Professional Working Mothers
Elizabeth Kagan Arleo, MD
Armin Lear Press Inc
9781956450583, $18.95

First, Eat Your Frog: And Other Pearls for Professional Working Mothers centers on work/life integration processes in a more thought-provoking, studious manner than the usual discussions of work and parenting, and will appeal to mothers who are not just going to work, but cultivating a professional career and approach to work and life. These insights are presented in the form of eight selected pearls of wisdom that advocate developing a growth-oriented mindset, then adopting routines that support that process.

Working mothers well know the overwhelming feeling that is involved in giving fair time to what is, in effect, two important jobs. First, Eat Your Frog provides the tools that can adjust and improve mindset towards better functioning in both environments, and points out that it is possible to maintain two efforts that often seem to lead in opposite directions. Ambitious, career-oriented women will find the nuggets of "how" embedded into a book that reviews the basic principles that lend to better organization, time management, and prioritizing strategies.

Dr. Elizabeth Kagan Arleo doesn't claim that her book is "one size fits all." It adds to literature on the subject by synthesizing and presenting many real-life-tested approaches to achieving balance and sanity, gathering Arleo's own experiences and those of others to use as examples of common pitfalls and how they can be addressed. The strategies are accompanied by a powerful note; a "...reminder to myself and others to be kind and gentle to and with yourself in terms of planning and getting things done. We only have one life to live so we need to enjoy the process, the getting there, not just the end result."

Illustrated examples of organization, from computerized "to do" lists to paper monthly planners, impart the basics; but the meat of First, Eat Your Frog lies in chapters that not only provide real-world illustrations, but review the pearls of wisdom for their underlying messages. The clarity of this process leaves no room for confusion and plenty of encouragement for discussion not just in book clubs, but in professional and parent groups where work/life balance is a topic of concern.

Libraries and readers who choose First, Eat Your Frog will find its drive towards enlightenment and pattern adjustment makes for a series of concrete reflections not just on the balancing act, but the process of creating more satisfying, fulfilling dual careers in motherhood and business achievement.

The Autism Shelf

I Will Die on This Hill
Meghan Ashburn and Jules Edwards
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
9781839971686, $19.95

I Will Die on This Hill: Autistic Adults, Autism Parents, and the Children Who Deserve a Better World is a powerful examination of the divide between autistic advocates and parents of autistic kids. From crossroads after diagnosis and life-changing realizations to parenting issues that intersect with disability justice efforts, this book's ability to explore both sides of the communities activating for and supporting autistic children and their families makes for a powerful unification effort that should be in any library interested in advocating for the good of a wide, diverse community.

The Fashion Shelf

Get Changed
Kat Farmer
Mitchell Beazley
c/o Octopus Books
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781784727789, $24.99

Get Changed: Finding the New You Through Fashion comes from a digital style guru and fashion expert who covers the basics of finding and adopting a personal style that supports a new sense of identity. Humor blends with a professional stylist's insights throughout a coverage that blends Kat Farmer's experiences with candid discussions on how and why fashion choices work - or don't: "People don't necessarily agree on this BUT I've always found it a great tip for the apple-shaped and those with a tummy: jumpers and sweatshirts that have a waistband." Farmer's candid approach to typical fashion snafus and challenges makes for a lively read that will attract even those not normally immersed in the world of style, making Get Changed a top pick for general-interest as well as arts libraries.

The Mythology Shelf

Queer Heroes of Myth and Legend
Dan Jones
c/o Octopus Books
9781804190463, $19.99

Queer Heroes of Myth and Legend: A Celebration of Gay Gods, Sapphic Saints, & Queerness Through the Ages will prove of special interest to libraries interested in lively discussions of queer heroes throughout time. This is achieved through fifty profiles accompanied by black and white illustrations that bring to the forefront thousands of years of myths, legends, and figures that come from historic and cultural icons. All this is presented in a lively, accessible format that lends to leisure reading and browsing as much as pursuit by those interested in historical facts. The result is a romp through history that returns the importance, impact, and presence of queer heroes to modern times.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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