Nonfiction Previews, Sept. 2013, Pt. 3: Current Events from Bacevich, Goldhagen, Barnard President Spar, & More

Bacevich, Andrew. Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country. Metropolitan: Holt. Sept. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780805082968. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780805096033. POLITICAL SCIENCE
A Brown professor of history and international relations who served as an officer in the U.S. Army for 23 years, Bacevich argues that there is a tremendous divide between America and those who fight its wars—a divide that’s rooted in the Vietnam experience and is evident today in our invisible decadelong conflict in the Middle East. Thus, America wages war without understanding its implications, and most citizens are not engaged in the country’s defense; battle responsibilities could soon shift dangerously to a cadre of professionals and contractors. Bound to provoke discussion; note that Bacevich has a stack of books to his name, some best-selling.

Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah. The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism. Little, Brown. Sept. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780316097871. $30. SOCIAL SCIENCE
With the 1996 publication of Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which saw ordinary Germans as active and willing participants in the elimination of Jews, Goldhagen became an internationally best-selling author—and a figure of considerable controversy. Here, after several more books on the Holocaust and on genocide generally, he carries his concerns into the current century, pointing to a worldwide resurgence in antisemitism. This book will get attention.

Leonard, Sarah & Bhaskar Sunkara, eds. The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for a New Century. Metropolitan: Holt. Sept. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9780805098297. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780805098303. SOCIAL SCIENCE
The American political conversation has gone stale, and Occupy Wall Street offers energy but no answers. Here, New Inquiry editor Leonard and Jacobin magazine founder Sunkara, both rising stars on the left, ask 19 cultural and political critics under 30 to propose solutions to current problems facing America. Their responses, ranging from limiting work hours to considering a new iteration of feminism, are meant to leapfrog traditional liberal policy. Food for thought.

Mullainathan, Sendhil & Eldar Shafir. Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. Times: Holt. Sept. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780805092646. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781429943451. ECONOMICS
Business executives often mismanage their time for the same reason the poor often mismanage their money and dieters find they can’t say no to cupcakes. It all comes down to the concept of scarcity. Harvard economics professor Mullainathan and Shafir, a Princeton professor of psychology and public affairs, blend behavioral science and economics to show how scarcity affects individuals, businesses, and governments alike and how it can be better managed. Readers will be familiar with some of the authors’ research, which has been given play in venues from the New York Times to Slate, and rights have been sold to nine countries.

Spar, Debora. Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection. Farrar. Sept. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780374298753. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781429944533. SOCIAL SCIENCE/WOMEN’S STUDIES
Among the first women professors at Harvard Business School and now president of Barnard College, Spar once believed that women “could glide into the new era with babies, board seats, and husbands in tow,” as she writes in her timely new book. But it hasn’t been that easy, and women who think we’re past worrying about these issues are in for a rude awakening when they hit the job market, with or without family in tow. Well versed in the nuances (she’s a mother of four), Spar shows how far women have and haven’t come and what is needed for them to achieve true equality.

Venkatesh, Sudhir. Floating City: Tales from Inside New York’s Underground Economy. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9781594204166. $27.95. SOCIAL SCIENCE
Floating City: it sounds like science fiction or the boats-as-homes communities of Cambodia, but in fact Venkatesh is referencing New York’s underground economy, which he has investigated from his position as William B. Ransford Professor of Sociology, and the Committee on Global Thought, at Columbia University. Venkatesh is a best-selling author (e.g., Gang Leader for a Day) whose investigative skills result in acute, personal portraits of the communities he studies.

Weisman, Alan. Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? Little, Brown. Sept. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780316097758. $28. SOCIAL SCIENCE
In his best-selling The World Without Us, Weisman contemplated an Earth without humanity. This follow-up takes him to 21 countries, where he considers the impact of the staggering number of people on this planet and how we can slow population growth and heal the damage already wrought before it’s too late. An in-house favorite that will benefit from a 12-city tour.


Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.