Social Sciences Reviews, August 2012

starred review starEchols, Damien. Life After Death. Blue Rider : Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780399160202. $26.95. autobiog

Echols is one of the West Memphis Three (WM3), convicted in 1994 of the murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Echols was sentenced to death as the purported leader of what the prosecution asserted had been a deadly satanic ritual. After spending 18 years in prison, with Echols on Death Row, the WM3 were released in 2011 after years of appeals and the presentation of new forensic evidence. Here, Echols traces his life from his impoverished and difficult childhood to his false conviction and his years in prison. The chapters on his earlier life alternate with his impressions of and commentary upon his life on Death Row. Echols’s rescue took the form of a devoted woman, Lorri Davis, whom he married while imprisoned, the support of celebrities like Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder, and an HBO documentary, Paradise Lost, that publicized and examined the West Memphis Three’s case. VERDICT Though its chronology is sometimes choppy, this is an eloquent, even bitterly lyrical, portrayal of how an innocent man can slip through the cracks of the legal system and struggle to survive. Compelling and deeply moving, in the tradition of Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States and Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, this memoir will appeal to a wide audience. [Look for LJ’s interview with the author, online only.—Ed.]—Antoinette Brinkman, Evansville, IN

starred review starTurner, John G. Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet. Belknap: Harvard Univ. Sept. 2012. c.500p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780674049673. $35. BIOG

Previous biographers of Brigham Young have used epithets such as “American Moses” and “Lion of the Lord.” However, what Turner (religious studies, George Mason Univ.; Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ) demonstrates here is that Young cannot be reduced to saint or tyrant; he was bold, brave, crude, petty, visionary, manipulative, creative, charismatic, kindly, and much more besides. Turner presents Young as a family man navigating the complexities of polygamy, as a leader moving large numbers of people across the Great Plains, and as a politician negotiating enough independence for the Mormons from the U.S. government that he could build the kingdom of God as he saw fit. Turner was given unprecedented access to the LDS church archives and he makes full use of them and other sources, as well as providing a cogent interpretive context. It is easy to forget Young’s significance in American history, but at a minimum it needs to be remembered that he is responsible for settling a vast swath of the West. VERDICT There aren’t enough superlatives for this book. It will remain the standard biography for a long time. Because of its thorough documentation, academics will take it seriously, while general readers will appreciate its clarity of prose and argument.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib., Philadelphia

starred review starMasur, Louis P. Lincoln’s Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union. Belknap: Harvard Univ. Sept. 2012. c.364p. illus. index. ISBN 9780674066908. $29.95. HIST

There have been many recent fine books on the Emancipation Proclamation and its role in recasting the character of the country. Masur (American studies & history, Rutgers Univ.; The Civil War: A Concise History) does not engage that literature so much as extend it with a lucid and learned account of the process whereby Lincoln moved toward emancipation, and once so committed, made it the lodestar of the Union. Masur shows the varied interests pressing on Lincoln to accept emancipation and Lincoln’s determination to protect the promise by all means. The hundred days from Lincoln’s issuing of the preliminary proclamation to the proclamation itself tested his mettle in the face of military and political reverses and calls for its retraction or expansion. Masur makes much of the importance blacks attributed to the document as their Declaration of Independence and the importance of black soldiers in giving it force. He also provides an insightful review of scholarly, popular, and artistic takes on the document, and even its uses in fundraising. VERDICT This is now the best work on the proclamation. As its sesquicentennial looms (January 2013), all persons wanting to understand the contingency of freedom should read this book.—Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph’s Univ., Philadelphia

The following titles are reviewed in the August print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Crespino, Joseph. Strom Thurmond’s America. Hill & Wang: Farrar. Sept. 2012. c.432p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780809094806. $30 . BIOG

Egan, Timothy. Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2012. c.352p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780618969029. $28. BIOG

Reid, Jan. Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards. Univ. of Texas. Oct. 2012. c.460p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780292719644. $27. BIOG


The Art of Making Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry. Columbia Univ. Sept. 2012. c.200p. ed. by Victor S. Navasky & Evan Cornog. ISBN 9780231131360. $69.50; pap.
ISBN 9780231131377. $22.50. COMM


Bonanos, Christopher. Instant: The Story of Polaroid. Princeton Architectural, dist. by Chronicle. Oct. 2012. c.192p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781616890858. $24.95. BUS

Nelson, Scott Reynolds. A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America’s Financial Disasters. Knopf. Sept. 2012. c.352p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780307272690. $27.95. ECON

Silber, William L. Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Sept. 2012. c.448p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781608190706. $30. ECON

Sinclair, Hugh. Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic: How Microlending Lost Its Way and Betrayed the Poor. Berrett-Koehler, dist. by Ingram. 2012. c.268p. index. ISBN 9781609945183. $27.95. ECON

Wessel, David. Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget. Crown Business. 2012. c.208p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780770436148. $22. ECON


Cummings, Quinn. The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling. Perigree: Penguin. Aug. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9780399537608. $23.95. ED

Falk, Beverly & Megan Blumenreich. Teaching Matters: Stories from Inside City Schools. New Pr., dist. by Perseus. Aug. 2012. c.208p. illus. ISBN 9781595584908. pap. $19.95. ED


Achebe, Chinua. There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra. Penguin. Oct. 2012. c.352p. index. ISBN 9781594204821. $27.95. HIST

Brown, Craig. Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings. S & S. Aug. 2012. c.368p. bibliog. ISBN 9781451683608. $26.95. HIST

Craughwell, Thomas J. Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America. Quirk. Sept. 2012. c.258p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594745782. $24.95. HIST

Mattson, Kevin. Just Plain Dick: Richard Nixon’s Checkers Speech and the “Rocking, Socking” Election of 1952. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Sept. 2012. c.256p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781608198122. $25. HIST

Morgan, Llewelyn. The Buddhas of Bamiyan. Harvard Univ. (Wonders of the World). 2012. 256p. illus. index. ISBN 9780674057883. $19.95. HIST

Thomas, Gordon. The Pope’s Jews: The Vatican’s Secret Plan To Save Jews from the Nazis. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.336p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780312604219. $26.99. HIST

Law & Crime

Albarus, Carmeta & Jonathan H. Mack. The Making of Lee Boyd Malvo: The D.C. Sniper. Columbia Univ. Sept. 2012. c.304p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780231143103. $26.95. CRIME

Amar, Akhil Reed. America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By. Basic Bks: Perseus. Sept. 2012. c.668p. illus. index. ISBN 9780465029570. $29.99. LAW

Cooke, Elizabeth. The Damnation of John Donellan: A Mysterious Case of Death and Scandal in Georgian England. Walker. Nov. 2012. c.304p. illus. index.ISBN 9780802779960. $25. CRIME

Raustiala, Kal & Christopher Sprigman. The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation. Oxford Univ. Sept. 2012. c.288p. illus. index. ISBN 9780195399783. $27.95. LAW

Political Science

Annan, Kofi. The Collected Papers of Kofi Annan: UN Secretary-General, 1997 2006. 5 vols. Lynne Rienner. 2012. 4529p. ed. by Jean E. Krasno. index. ISBN 9781588268037. $495. INT AFFAIRS

Palmer, Barbara & Dennis Simon. Women and Congressional Elections: A Century of Change. Lynne Rienner. (Tower Center Political Studies). 2012. 285p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781588268150. $66.50; pap. ISBN 9781588268402. $26.50. POL SCI


Gonzales, Laurence. Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience. Norton. Sept. 2012. c.304p. bibliog. ISBN 9780393083187. $26.95. PSYCH

Jones, Dawn Scott. When a Woman You Love Was Abused: A Husband’s Guide to Helping Her Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation. Kregel. Aug. 2012. 208p.
ISBN 9780825429750. pap. $12.99. PSYCH

Sharpe, Katherine. Coming of Age on Zoloft: How Antidepressants Cheered Us Up, Let Us Down, and Changed Who We Are. HarperPerennial: HarperCollins. 2012. c.336p. bibliog. ISBN 9780062059734. pap. $14.99. PSYCH

Tononi, Giulio. Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul. Pantheon. Aug. 2012. c.384p. illus. ISBN 9780307907219. $30. PSYCH

Social Sciences

Halperin, David M. How To Be Gay. Belknap: Harvard Univ. Aug. 2012. c.560p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780674066793. $35. SOC SCI

Rosin, Hanna. The End of Men: And the Rise of Women. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. c.320p. index. ISBN 9781594488047. $27.95. SOC SCI

Wolf, Naomi. Vagina: A New Biography. Ecco: HarperCollins. Sept. 2012. c.384p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780061989162. $27.99. SOC SCI

Wolf-Meyer, Matthew J. The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine, and Modern American Life. Univ. of Minnesota. Oct. 2012. c.312p. illus. index. ISBN 9780816674749. $24.95. SOC SCI

Travel & Geography

Arrington, Aminta. Home Is a Roof Over a Pig: An American Family’s Journey in China. Overlook, dist. by Penguin. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781590208991. $26.95. TRAV

Saro-Wiwa, Noo. Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria. Soft Skull. Oct. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9781619020078. pap. $15.95. TRAV