Social Sciences Reviews | October 15, 2012

starred review star Toobin, Jeffrey. The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court. Doubleday. 2012. c.336p. index. ISBN 9780385527200. $28.95. LAW

Best-selling author Toobin (staff writer, The New Yorker; The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court) returns to the Supreme Court in his latest book. With the 2012 election approaching, this well-timed title examines the relationship between the Roberts court and the Obama White House. Toobin paints a portrait of a president and chief justice who are not so very different in some regards—young and passionate, graduates of Harvard Law, dedicated to change—but whose profound philosophical differences have resulted in a tense relationship between those two branches of government. Though the work can occasionally feel a bit disjointed, Toobin’s focus on the personalities involved, especially his attention to the dynamics within the Court, enlivens the legal analysis and creates a kind of narrative. VERDICT Toobin has made a career of writing a compelling and readable mix of legal analysis and storytelling. Timely, entertaining, and insightful, this book is no different, and fans of his previous work will find more to enjoy here. Court watchers and politics junkies will delight in this fascinating examination of a crucial moment in Supreme Court history.—Rachel Bridgewater, Portland Community Coll. Lib.

starred review star Rubin, Rachel Lee. Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture. New York Univ. Nov. 2012. c.352p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780814771389. $35. SOC SCI

Begun by schoolteacher Phyllis Patterson as a class activity in her backyard and fueled by a perfect storm of location, talent, and the free-spirited atmosphere in 1960s California, the Renaissance faire concept weathered initial struggles and became a wide-ranging series of gatherings and events that now draw in more than a million visitors each year. Rubin (American studies, Univ. of Massachusetts, Boston; Immigration and Popular Culture) focuses on the faire as phenomenon, and while the book presents an in-depth look at its 50-year existence, it’s with an eye toward exploring its continued place in the counterculture and its significant effects on subcultural movements in music, crafts, and theater. Quotes from lifelong crafters, performers, and attendees give a candid look at the faire’s history, its increasing corporatization, and the attraction of its nonmainstream views of community, the arts, self-image, and sexuality. Rubin also devotes two chapters to exploring the faire’s detractors and its portrayals in fiction to give the fullest possible view of this institution’s place in American culture. VERDICT The results are a must read for anyone interested in a nonstereotypical view of the faire, its adherents, and why it retains its appeal decades after its inception.—Kathleen McCallister, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia, Lib.

Fuhrmann, Joseph T. Rasputin: The Untold Story. Wiley. Nov. 2012. c.304p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781118172766. $27.95. BIOG

Previous studies of the Svengali-like Rasputin could not have benefitted from recently released archival information that had been sealed during the Soviet era. Fuhrmann (history, Murray State Univ.; Rasputin: A Life) adds this newly available material to previous scholarship and presents the whole as the definitive biography. His work answers the questions of how an uneducated, Siberian-born peasant, Grigory Efimovich Rasputin (1869–1916), became the closest confidante to Tsar Nicholas II and the tsarina, Alexandra, and what brought about his decline and eventual murder. Fuhrmann offers new facts about Rasputin’s life from birth to death: how he inserted himself into Russian high society and the truth of his drunken debauchery and sexual addiction. Was he mystic, charlatan, or simply an opportunist? Fuhrman reveals his subject from all sides: husband, father, confidante, wily adviser, carouser, even kind-hearted paternal figure. VERDICT Looming, mysterious Rasputin has fascinated historians and Russian history enthusiasts ever since the final years of the Romanov dynasty. Wide-ranging in scope, this accessible book utilizes trustworthy sources and makes occasional use of plausible conjecture. Highly recommended for both Russian history scholars and readers with a general interest in the topic.—Lisa Guidarini, Algonquin P.L., IL

The following titles are reviewed in the October 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Diamond, Jared. The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? Viking. Dec. 2012. c.484p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780670024810. $36. ANTHRO


Allgor, Catherine. Dolley Madison: The Problem of National Unity. Westview: Perseus. (Lives of American Women). 2012. c.192p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813347592. pap. $20. BIOG

Duberman, Martin. Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left. The New Press. Oct. 2012. c.384p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781595586780. $26.95. BIOG

Gillette, Michael L. Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History. Oxford Univ. (Oxford Oral History). Dec. 2012. c.400p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199908080. $29.95. BIOG

Jameson, W.C. Butch Cassidy: Beyond the Grave. Taylor. Oct. 2012. c.192p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781589797390. $22.95. BIOG

Raphael, Frederic. A Jew Among Romans: The Life and Legacy of Flavius Josephus. Pantheon. Jan. 2013. c.368p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307378163. $28.95. BIOG


Shepard, Stephen B. Deadlines and Disruption: My Turbulent Path from Print to Digital. McGraw-Hill Professional. 2012. c.326p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780071802642. $28. COMM

Wallace, Aurora. Media Capital: Architecture and Communications in New York City. Univ. of Illinois. (History of Communication) Nov. 2012. c.192p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780252037344. $80; pap. ISBN 9780252078828. $25. COMM


Emmott, Bill. Good Italy, Bad Italy: Why Italy Must Conquer Its Demons To Face the Future. Yale Univ. 2012. c.304p. illus. index. ISBN 9780300186307. $30. ECON

Levy, Jonathan. Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America. Harvard Univ. Oct. 2012. c.416p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780674047488. $35. BUS

Mendelson, B.J. Social Media Is Bullshit. St. Martin’s. 2012. c.208p. bibliog.ISBN 9781250002952. $21.99. BUS

Steinberg, Don. The Kickstarter Handbook: Real-Life Crowdfunding Success Stories. Quirk. 2012. c.224p. illus. index. ISBN 9781594746086. pap. $14.95. BUS


Harden, Nathan. Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. 2012. c.304p. bibliog. ISBN 9780312617905. $25.99. ED


Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. New York Univ. 2012. 512p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ed. by John Crowley & others.ISBN 9780814771488. $75. HIST

Berg, Scott W. 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier’s End. Pantheon. Dec. 2012. c.384p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307377241. $27.95. HIST

Lincoln and Leadership: Military, Political, and Religious Decision Making. Fordham Univ., dist. by Oxford Univ. (North’s Civil War). 2012. 135p. ed. by Randall M. Miller. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780823243440. $55; pap. ISBN 9780823243457. $18. HIST

Madden, Thomas F. Venice: A New History. Viking. Nov. 2012. c.447p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780670025428. $35. HIST

Simpson, St. John. Afghanistan: A Cultural History. Interlink: Interlink Pub. Group. 2012. c.160p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781566568548. $19.95. HIST

Stevenson, Joan Nabseth. Deliverance from the Little Big Horn: Doctor Henry Porter and Custer’s Seventh Calvary. Univ. of Oklahoma. Oct. 2012. c.232p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780806142661. $24.95. HIST

Sullivan, Robert. My American Revolution: Crossing the Delaware and I-78. Farrar. 2012. c.272p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780374217457. $26. HIST


Beilenson, Peter L., M.D. & Patrick A. McGuire. Tapping into The Wire: The Real Urban Crisis. Johns Hopkins. Oct. 2012. c.224p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781421407500. $24.95. LAW

Metz, Holly. Killing the Poormaster: A Saga of Poverty, Corruption, and Murder in the Great Depression. Lawrence Hill: Chicago Review, dist. by IPG. Oct. 2012. c.320p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781613744185. $26.95. CRIME

Phelps. M. Williams with Donna Palomba. Jane Doe No More: My 15-Year Fight To Reclaim My Identity—A True Story of Survival, Hope, and Redemption. Lyons: Globe Pequot. 2012. c.320p. illus. index.
ISBN 9780762778805. $24.95. LAW

Clark, Susan & Woden Teachout. Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home. Chelsea Green. Oct. 2012. c.272p. index. ISBN 9781603584135. pap. $19.95. POL SCI

Whitney, Craig R. Living with Guns: A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment. Nov. 2012. c.304p. index. ISBN 9781610391696. $28.99. POL SCI


Berdik, Chris. Mind Over Mind: The Surprising Power of Expectations. Current: Penguin. Oct. 2012. c.260p. index. ISBN 9781591845096. $26.95. PSYCH

Flynn, James R. Are We Getting Smarter?: Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge Univ. 2012. c.232p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781107609174. pap. $22. PSYCH

Klam, Julie. Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can’t Live Without. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9781594488061. $25.95. PSYCH


Nelson, Jennifer. Airbrushed Nation: The Lure & Loathing of Women’s Magazines. Seal: Perseus. Oct. 2012. c.251p. ISBN 9781580054133. pap. $16. SOC SCI


Honton, Joseph. There’s a God for That: Optimism in the Face of Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Meltdowns. Frankalmoigne. Oct. 2012. c.168p. illus. ISBN 9780985642303. $28; pap.ISBN 9780985642310. $16. TRAV

Millman, Lawrence. Hiking to Siberia: Curious Tales of Travel and Travelers. Sunnyoutside, dist. by SPD. Oct. 2012. c.120p. ISBN 9781934513378. $16. TRAV