Social Sciences Reviews | May 1, 2012

starred review starCaro, Robert A. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Knopf. May 2012. c.736p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780679405078. $35. BIOG

The first volume of Caro’s The Years of Lyndon Johnson was published in 1982; the third, Master of the Senate, garnered the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. Caro (The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York) now presents the fourth volume‚ a major event in biography, history, even publishing itself. The time span covered here is short, opening with Johnson’s unsuccessful try for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination and closing with his 1964 State of the Union address mere weeks after JFK’s assassination. Caro’s focus is on those seven weeks between the assassination and the address. He again alters our view of Johnson by illuminating how, even in the earliest moments of confusion and grief following the assassination, he moved beyond the humiliations of his years as vice president and, with a genius for public leadership buttressed by behind-the-scenes manipulation of the levers of power, ensured the success in Congress of JFK’s dormant economic and civil rights programs while establishing himself, however briefly, as a triumphant president, fulfilling his lifetime ambition. VERDICT Caro has once more combined prodigious research and a literary gift to mount a stage for his Shakespearean figures: LBJ, JFK, and LBJ’s nemesis Robert F. Kennedy. Readers’ only disappointment will be the necessary wait for Caro’s next volume.‚ Bob Nardini, Niagara Falls, NY

starred review starHawthorne, Fran. Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love. Beacon, dist. by Random. Jun. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9780807000946. $25.95. BUS

Journalist Hawthorne (The Overloaded Liberal: Shopping, Investing, Parenting, and Other Daily Dilemmas in an Age of Political Activism) analyzes six companies that have a reputation of being hip, ethical, and socially responsible: Tom’s of Maine, Timberland, Starbucks, Apple, Trader Joe’s, and American Apparel. Hawthorne draws from interviews as well as corporate reports to present a case study of each company’s level of social responsibility and evaluates whether or not they deserve their reputation for being ethically hip. While other titles, most notably Gary Hirshberg’s Stirring It Up, Bo Burlingham’s Small Giants, and Jeffrey Hollender’s What Matters Most, cover similar ground, Hawthorne’s inquiry is more comprehensive, examining each company’s record on environmental impact, human rights, working conditions, cost of the product to the consumer, and relationship with corporate owners. VERDICT Instead of writing hagiographies of well-known, socially active companies, Hawthorne gives readers an impartial picture of the difficulties of running a profitable company while trying to maintain a positive corporate belief system. This will appeal to the socially conscious consumer interested in how companies struggle to balance their beliefs with practical concerns. Highly recommended.‚ John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston

starred review starColby, Tanner. Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America. Viking. Jul. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780670023714. $27.95. HIST

Who would expect a coauthor of two Saturday Night Live alumni biographies (The Chris Farley Show; Belushi) to pen a thoughtful, judicious, yet provocative social history of American race relations? Colby quips that ignorance is his one qualification as a white writer on race, then gets serious in exploring four key areas: school desegregation (in Vestavia Hills, a suburb of Birmingham, AL), homeownership and neighborhood (in Kansas City’s 49/63 area), advertising‚ as a career and a product (in Madison Avenue’s old boys’ network), and church membership (in Grand Coteau, LA). Colby considers the close connections among suburban development, advertising, and racial fear. His tour of Kansas City, still divided racially by one thoroughfare, underlines how years of misguided federal housing and loan policies institutionalized residential racial stratification. And he reveals how, after 40 years, 13 pastors, and untold strife, it took a hurricane and an ailing priest to integrate neighboring black and white Catholic parishes in one Louisiana town. VERDICT Evenhanded, felicitously written, and animated by numerous interviews, Colby’s book is a pleasure despite its overall bleak message. It updates, with only slightly more hope, Leonard Steinhorn and Barbara Diggs-Brown’s By the Color of Our Skin: The Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race.‚ Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus

The following titles are reviewed in the May 1 print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.


Albright, Madeleine. Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937‚ 1948. Harper: HarperCollins. May 2012. c.480p. illus. index. ISBN 9780062030313. $29.99. AUTOBIOG

Popham, Peter. The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi. The Experiment, dist. by Workman. 2012.

464p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781615190645. $27.50. BIOG


Manzi, Jim. Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society. Basic Bks: Perseus. May 2012. c.320p. index. ISBN 9780465023240. $28.99. ECON

Shiller, Robert J. Finance and the Good Society. Princeton Univ. 2012. c.304p. index. ISBN 9780691154886. $24.95. ECON


Levinson, Meira. No Citizen Left Behind. Harvard Univ. 2012. c.400p. index. ISBN 9780674065789. $29.95. ED


Brands, H.W. The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr: A Tale of Homicide, Intrigue and a Father’s Worst Fear. Anchor: Random. (American Portraits). May 2012. c.192p. ISBN 9780307743268. pap. $15. HIST

Linklater, Andro. Why Spencer Perceval Had To Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister. Walker and Company. May 2012. c.400p. illus. bibliog. index.ISBN 9780802779984. $26. HIST

MacKay, Ruth. The Baker Who Pretended To Be King of Portugal. Univ. of Chicago. May 2012. c.312p. illus. bibliog. index.
ISBN 9780226501086. $29. HIST

Mraz, John. Photographing the Mexican Revolution: Commitments, Testimonies, Icons. Univ. of Texas. 2012. c.336p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780292735804. $45. HIST

Law & Crime

Ball, Carlos A. The Right To Be Parents: LGBT Families and the Transformation of Parenthood. New York Univ. May 2012. c.272p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780814739303. $35. LAW

Hoffer, Williamjames Hull. Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America. Univ. of Kansas. 2012. c.224p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780700618460. $34.95; pap. ISBN 9780700618477. $17.95. LAW

starred review starReppetto, Thomas A. American Police: A History. Vol. 2: 1945‚ 2012; The Blue Parade. Enigma. Jun. 2012. c.400p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781936274437. pap. $23. CRIME

Tereba, Tere. Mickey Cohen: The Life and Crimes of L.A.’s Notorious Mobster. ECW, dist. by IPG. May 2012. c.264p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781770410008. $29.95; pap. ISBN 9781770410633. $16.95. CRIME


Jade-Sky. Psychic Secrets: How To Unlock Your Sixth Sense. Rockpool, dist. by Trafalgar Square. May 2012. 200p. ISBN 9781921878480. pap. $22.95. PARAPSYCH

Political Science

Arab Spring Dreams: The Next Generation Speaks Out for Freedom and Justice from North Africa to Iran. Palgrave Macmillan. May 2012. c.256p. ed. by Sohrab Ahmari & Nasser Weddady. index. ISBN 9780230115927. pap. $17. POL SCI

starred review starCha, Victor. The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future. Ecco: HarperCollins. 2012. c.544p. illus. index. ISBN 9780061998508. $29.99. INT AFFAIRS

starred review starCollins, Gail. As Texas Goes…: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda. Liveright: Norton. Jun. 2012. c.256p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780871404077. $25.95. POL SCI

starred review starFrom Cairo to Wall Street: Voices from the Global Spring. New Pr. May 2012. c.272p. ed. by Anya Schiffrin & Eamon Kircher-Allen. ISBN 9781595588272. pap. $16.95. POL SCI


Boehm, Christopher. Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame. Basic Bks: Perseus. May 2012. c.352p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780465020485. $28.99. PSYCH

Burroughs, Augusten. This Is How: Proven Aid to Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More for Young and Old Alike. St. Martin’s. May 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9780312563554. $24.99. PSYCH

Fox, Elaine. Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain: How To Retrain Your Brain To Overcome Pessimism and Achieve a More Positive Outlook. Basic Bks: Perseus. Jun. 2012. c.304p. illus. index. ISBN 9780465019458. $26.99. PSYCH

Smoller, Jordan. The Other Side of Normal: How Biology Is Providing the Clues To Unlock the Secrets of Normal and Abnormal Behavior. Morrow. May 2012. c.384p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780061492198. $27.99. PSYCH

Yanofsky, Joel. Bad Animals: A Father’s Accidental Education in Autism. Arcade: Skyhorse. May 2012. c.288p. bibliog. ISBN 9781611454147. $24.95. PSYCH

Travel & Geography

Burton, Rosamund. Castles, Follies & Four-Leaf Clovers: Adventures Along Ireland’s St. Declan’s Way. Allen & Unwin. Jun. 2012. c.270p. ISBN 9781741759525. pap. $19.95. TRAV

Taylor, Benjamin. Naples Declared: A Walk Around the Bay. Marian Wood: Putnam. May 2012. c.240p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780399159176. $26.95. TRAV



  1. Robert W. Frizzell, Director of Library Services, University of Arkansas--Fort Smith says:

    There is a factual error in the review of Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die by Andro Linklater. The reviewer says at the time of his death, Perceval was what would later be termed Prime Minister and “first lord of the admiralty”. He was indeed in the position that would later be known as Prime Minister but the portfolio he held was Chancellor of the Exchequer (DNB, 1959 reprint, Vol XV, p. 824.) equivalent to the American Secretary of the Treasury.