Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, December 7, 2012

Week ending December 7, 2012

Harris, David A. Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science. New York Univ. 2012. 250p. ISBN 9780814790557. $35. LAW
Crime shows on television give the impression that the methods used in police work—fingerprinting, criminal lineups, and firearm identification—are sound, inargurable science. In this book, Harris (law, Univ. of Pittsburgh; Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing) says that’s not so. Acknowledging that police and prosecutors do not want to convict the wrong suspect, Harris laments that these groups are reluctant to try new scientific approaches to evidence collection. He covers the reasons for resistance, both those that police and prosecutors give—such as cost and limits on autonomy—and the reasons Harris feels there is genuine resistance, particularly cognitive dissonance and group polarization, which create an “us versus everybody else” mind-set in the police world. Institutional and political barriers are also named, since police officers need arrests and prosecutors need convictions in order to advance in their careers. Harris also discusses how to bring about change.
Verdict Primarily intended for those in law enforcement, forensic science, and the legal fields, this book details potential pitfalls of the way investigative work is conducted and suggests new alternatives.—Krista Bush, Shelton, CT

Johnson, Robert R. Romancing the Atom: Nuclear Infatuation from the Radium Girls to Fukushima. Praeger. 2012. 217p. bibliog. illus. index. ISBN 9780313392795. $48. SCI
In this brief history of nuclear science, Johnson (humanities, Michigan Technological Univ.; User-Centered Technology) uncovers the sometimes secret and often frightening world of atomic study. From Undark paint—the radioactive product that lit many watch faces in the early 20th century—to nuclear power, readers journey through a history of mystery, intrigue, trial, and explosions. Johnson’s familiar tone will make readers feel like he’s in the room with them, telling a story about these (sometimes horrifying) events. While this history focuses mainly on the United States, a final chapter was added after the 2010 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan that caused the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown. The book noticeably misses any details (other than a quick mention) of the nuclear arms talks between the United States and the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War.
Verdict This book will interest readers who love the history of science, especially 20th-century, military, or weapons history buffs.—Dawn Lowe-Wincentsen, Oregon Inst. of Technology, Portland

Noe, Fred. Beam, Straight Up: The Bold Story of the First Family of Bourbon. Wiley. 2012. 206p. index. ISBN 9781118378366. $22.95. BUS
Global Brand Ambassador, Master Distiller, and great-grandson of Jim Beam himself, Noe recounts both his own life and that of the family business. From his German immigrant origins to the dark times of Prohibition to the contemporary triumph of the Jim Beam brand, Noe employs a down-home style while sharing plenty of personal perspective. He describes his postcollege transition from working as a roadie for Hank Williams Jr. to becoming a bottling line worker. He relates his adventures on the road as company spokesperson, where he encounters such well-known personalities as race car driver Robby Gordon, basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, and rapper Kid Rock. Noe examines the importance of product innovation to the company’s recent growth and expounds on a set of general business axioms, or “What Fred Noe Knows About Business.” The book’s many insets include advice on how to taste bourbon, the workings of a bourbon distillery, and what makes bourbon a unique spirit.
Verdict A folksy, entertaining mix of memoir, history, and business how-to, this book will appeal especially to bourbon enthusiasts and connoisseurs of Americana.—Steven Wilson, Galen Coll. of Nursing Lib., Louisville, KY

O’Hagan, Sean. Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender. Insight Editions. 2012. 144p. photogs. ISBN 9781608871780. $34.99 w/CD. MUSIC
Iconic Queen front man, Freddie Mercury (1946–91) had always been a flamboyant, larger-than-life figure. This lavish, oversized book of photographs is a fitting tribute to his life and work. The book includes images from every stage of Mercury’s life, from his childhood in Zanzibar and India to his early musical career in England and his rise to international fame fronting Queen. Although filled with many images of Mercury striking his trademark dramatic stage poses, the book also reveals the singer’s more personal, vulnerable side—a distinct and fascinating contrast. Detailed captions and a lengthy essay by Guardian and Observer photography writer O’Hagan complement the photos. Two full-length biographies of the pop star were released earlier this year: July saw the release of Lesley-Ann Jones’s Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury; Laura Jackson’s Freddie Mercury: The Biography was published in September. An audio CD with a radio interview of the singer is also included here.
Verdict Recommended for readers interested in Queen and 1970s rock. [Look for a review of the DVD of the same name in LJ 1/13.—Ed.]—Dave Valencia, Seattle P.L.

When We Were Free To Be: Looking Back at a Children’s Classic and the Difference It Made. Univ. of North Carolina. 2012. c.344p. ed. by Lori Rotskoff & Laura L. Lovett. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780807837238. $30. SOC SCI
When We Were Free To Be is a curious title for this book, as it may imply that we are no longer free to be whomever we choose. The 1972 record album and illustrated book, Free To Be You…and Me, which this new volume memorializes, offered gender-neutral stories sung or told by celebrities of the day. The Free To Be Foundation still exists. Contributors to that classic understandably take pride here in what they accomplished. Marlo Thomas, who conceived of the idea behind Free To Be, is here (heavily represented in the photographs), along with Ms. magazine cofounder Gloria Steinem, actor Alan Alda, and writer Deborah Siegel, whose “Dispatches from My Twins’ First Year” nicely captures the everyday quandaries of parents trying to be nonsexist. Rotskoff (Barnard Ctr. for Research on Women) and Lovett (history, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst) include separate essays by social justice activist Letty Cottin Pogrebin and her daughters Robin Pogrebin and Abigail Pogrebin, thus providing distinct generational perspectives.
Verdict General readers familiar with the original record or book, both still available, and researchers interested in social, gender, and media studies will appreciate this work.—Ellen Gilbert, Princeton, NJ

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"