Nonfiction on Newton and Science, Missionaries Abroad, Internet Scandals, “Do Tell” | Xpress Reviews

Week ending September 15, 2017

Gribbin, John & Mary Gribbin. Out of the Shadow of a Giant: Hooke, Halley, and the Birth of Science. Yale Univ. Oct. 2017. 328p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300226751. $32.50. SCI
Who is the most influential scientist of all time? Is it Isaac Newton? This newest work by the Gribbins (A History of Science in 100 Experiments) considers the regard of Newton (1643–1727) and the influences of contemporaries such as Edmond Halley (1656–1742) and Robert Hooke (1635–1703). Newton’s scientific contributions were a direct result of his collaborative discussions and experiences, which were influential to all three pioneers and allowed them to gain recognition as they advanced the concept of physics. The authors allow readers to understand the brilliant foundations built by Halley and Hooke. There are few books engaging the relationship among the three scientists. The Gribbins explain the interactions they shared—providing an easy and readable journey of their lives—and come to the conclusion that the scientific efforts of Halley and Hooke are equal to or even greater than the accomplishments of Newton.
Verdict For all science readers.—Teri Davis, Council Bluffs, IA

Hollinger, David A. Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried To Change the World but Changed America. Princeton Univ. Oct. 2017. 408p. notes. index. ISBN 9780691158433. $35. REL
Focusing on American Protestant missions in the early to mid-20th century, intellectual historian Hollinger credits missionaries for their “sustained, intentional engagement” with cultures beyond Europe and North America—chiefly China, Japan, India, and the Middle East. In a time when such work was viewed as a noble calling, missionaries became primacy sources of information about the non-European world and were especially invaluable in advancing literacy. World War II and the decolonization of Asia and Africa propelled missionaries into prominent positions of power in American government and culture. The resulting consequence was the “boomerang effect”: an altruistic enterprise driven chiefly by ethnocentrism and imperialism ended up generating a counterreaction of multiculturalism and religious upheaval that cut America “down to size.”
Verdict Hollinger discloses that he is not part of a missionary family himself but hopes to convince readers they don’t have to be personally connected to missionaries to consider them worthy of study. In a limited, academic sense he achieves this, though whether general readers make it through the book depends on their interest in the minutiae of global affairs and religious history.—Chad Comello, Morton Grove P.L., IL

Scheff, Sue with Melissa Schorr. Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate. Sourcebooks. Oct. 2017. 332p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781492648994. $25.99. SOC SCI
Shame Nation is primarily a self-help book for those who are facing an Internet scandal, or who are living through an online shaming campaign. The last few chapters include helpful hints and online resources for avoiding and dealing with scandals. The real interest here comes from the stories of others who have brought down scandal upon themselves. Cyberadvocate Scheff and Schorr (Goy Crazy) include story after story featuring trolls, sex-related embarrassment, mistakes caught on tape, swatting, and fat shaming. It may well make the reader paranoid about the reach and power of Internet culture, but the tales are shamefully fascinating. The book does not dwell on the psychological or sociological aspects of trolling or shaming, emphasizing practical advice instead. With a foreword by Monica Lewinsky, this would be a good read for anyone who enjoyed Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
Verdict A fun and scary collection of Internet wrongdoings, with some helpful advice on how to avoid them.—Jessica Spears, Brooklyn P.L.

Witt, Margaret, Major, with Tim Connor. Tell: Love, Defiance, and the Military Trial at the Tipping Point for Gay Rights. ForeEdge. Oct. 2017. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9781611688429. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781512601114. SOC SCI
Tell, appropriately, given its title, presents several stories simultaneously. It is Witt’s biography. Beginning with her childhood in Washington State, she shares the necessary background to understand how she ended up a U.S. Air Force nurse. The military career she follows includes harrowing moments of sexual harassment and heroic feats of medical care. In an attempt to hide her sexuality within the confines of the military, Witt even avoided participating in softball. But the sometime-hostile atmosphere did not prevent her from forming solid friendships. This book is also a history of the relationship of gays to the military more generally, with capsule chronicles of earlier gay service members fighting back against expulsion. Notably, Witt includes the famous cases of Perry Watkins, Leonard Matlovich, and Margarethe Cammermeyer. The core of the book is the third story and for historical purposes the most important. The events that led to Witt’s dismissal from the air force are quite dramatic as are the court cases that led to the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Verdict This lovely book combines the personal and the objective in a way that general readers will find appealing.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia

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