Social Sciences Reviews | September 1, 2013

redstar Chang, Jung. Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. Knopf. Nov. 2013. 480p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307271600. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780385350372. BIOG

Was Cixi (1835–1908) the “most evil woman in Chinese history”? In 1861, she began more than four decades of power as the mother of the young new emperor—hence the title Empress Dowager. She ruled first in her son’s name, then, despite dynastic regulations prohibiting women from holding power, controlled the government “from behind the throne” for the rest of her life. After Cixi’s death, Chinese and Western historians unfairly blamed her for every mistake and defeat that led to the fall of the Manchu Qing dynasty in 1911. In the 1970s, however, careful scholars began to call her the “much maligned” empress dowager and questioned the accounts created by her political enemies. Chang (Mao: The Unknown Story) extends to the empress dowager the charitable sympathy that she denied Mao. She uses the work of revisionist scholars to paint a largely plausible portrait of a ruthless, ­farsighted politician who welcomed change and restructured the state. Chang less convincingly paints Cixi as a feminist and a liberal modernizer; Cixi “launched modern China” only if by “modern China” you mean the state dictatorships of Chiang Kai-shek, Mao, and Deng Xiaoping. VERDICT A fascinating and instructive biography for anyone interested in how today’s China began. [See Prepub Alert, 5/13/13.]—Charles Hayford, Evanston, IL

redstar Marlowe, Jen & Martina Davis-Correia with Troy Davis. I Am Troy Davis. Haymarket. Sept. 2013. 280p. ISBN 9781608462940. pap. $18. LAW

After three stays of execution and a final appeal to the Supreme Court, Troy Anthony Davis, who was found guilty of the 1989 murder of a police officer in Savannah, was executed by the state of Georgia in 2011. This riveting account, written by his sister, Davis-Correia, and human rights activist Marlowe (coauthor, The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian’s Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker), with a foreword by Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States), takes readers on an unforgettable journey through ­Davis’s life—one that raises troubling questions about his ordeal at the hands of the legal system. The events surrounding the murder, which occurred late one summer evening, were unclear from the beginning. Eyewitnesses who accused Davis later recanted but were deemed unreliable by some involved in the appeals process. Davis’s family, meanwhile, worked tirelessly to support him and make his story known. Many prominent human rights advocates and groups, including Amnesty International, rallied to his cause as his story, and that of his family’s struggle, was heard around the world. Davis’s last days, during which his nephew presented an appeal on his behalf, are presented here in intimate detail. VERDICT Essential for those interested in the U.S. justice system in general and the death penalty in particular.—Claire Franek, Greenville, KY

redstar Posner, Richard A. Reflections on Judging. Harvard Univ. Oct. 2013. 382p. index. ISBN 9780674725089. $29.95. LAW

Posner (circuit judge, U.S. Court of Appeals; How Judges Think) uses his judicial experience as a platform for an in-depth discussion of the challenges facing the federal judiciary, chief among them the growing complexity of federal cases. He examines the impact of complexity as it pertains to the subject matter of cases being heard and as it exists in courts’ own systems, habits, and traditions. He analyzes the difference between legal formalism (adherence to established principles for interpretation of laws and the Constitution) and legal realism (fact- and context-based jurisprudence) and advocates for a wider application of the latter. There is an excellent chapter in which the author indicts appellate opinion writing as needlessly verbose, esoteric, and rich in “gratuitous internal complexity.” He proffers solutions to bad writing with rigorous yet practical guidelines for improvement, which, though directed toward appellate opinion writers, might be applied in all legal writing. Posner is a precise, erudite writer with a strong point of view enriched by specific examples accumulated over the course of three decades of professional experience and observation. VERDICT Posner’s insights will resonate with jurists and those who practice before them. His book is highly recommended for those in the legal profession and other court watchers.—Joan Pedzich, formerly with Harris Beach PLLC, Pittsford, NY

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
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Recreating First Contact: Expeditions, Anthropology, and Popular Culture. Smithsonian. 2013. 276p. ed. by Joshua A. Bell & others. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781935623144. $49.95. ANTHRO


redstar Groom, Winston. The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight. National Geographic. Nov. 2013. 464p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781426211560. $30. BIOG

Harding, Thomas. Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz. S. & S. Sept. 2013. 352p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781476711843. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781476711928. BIOG

Sixsmith, Martin. Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search. Penguin. Oct. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9780143124726. pap. $16. BIOG


Clark, Roy Peter. How To Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times. Little, Brown. 2013. 272p. index. ISBN 9780316204354. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780316204347. COMM

Kamber, Michael. Photojournalists on War: The Untold Stories from Iraq. Univ. of Texas. 2013. 279p. photos. ISBN 9780292744080. $65. COMM


redstar Hunt, Mary. The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement: How To Save for Your Future Today. Revell. Nov. 2013. 224p. notes. index. ISBN 9780800721138. $17.99. BUS


Hewlett, Sylvia Ann. Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way To Fast-Track Your Career. Harvard Business. Sept. 2013. 224p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781422187166. pap. $20. CAREERS

Trachtenberg, Stephen Joel & others. Presidencies Derailed: Why University Leaders Fail and How To Prevent It. Johns Hopkins. 2013. 184p. bibliog. ISBN 9781421410241. $34.95; ebk. ISBN 9781421410258. ED


Bart, Sheldon. Race to the Top of the World: Richard Byrd and the First Flight to the North Pole. Regnery History. Sept. 2013. 328p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781621570820. $29.95. HIST

Bryson, Bill. One Summer: America, 1927. Doubleday. Oct. 2013. 448p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780767919401. $28.95. HIST

redstar Drury, Bob & Tom Clavin. The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend. S. & S. Nov. 2013. 432p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781451654660. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781451654707. HIST

Farge, Arlette. The Allure of the Archives. Yale Univ. (Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth- Century Culture & History). Sept. 2013. 150p. tr. from French by Thomas Scott-Railton. index. ISBN 9780300176735. $30. HIST

Farmelo, Graham. Churchill’s Bomb: How the United States Overtook Britain in the First Nuclear Arms Race. Basic: Perseus. Oct. 2013. 544p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780465021956. $29.99. HIST

Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah. The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism. Little, Brown. Sept. 2013. 432p. notes. ISBN 9780316097871. $30. HIST

Haag, Michael. The Tragedy of the Templars: The Rise and Fall of the Crusader States. Harper. 2013. 448p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062059758. pap. $16.99. HIST

Kelly, Joseph. America’s Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March Toward Civil War. Overlook. 2013. 384p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781590207192. $27.95. HIST

Lethbridge, Lucy. Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times. Norton. Nov. 2013. 400p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393241099. $27.95. HIST

Sifton, Elisabeth & Fritz Stern. No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler in Church and State. New York Review. Sept. 2013. 160p. notes. ISBN 9781590176818. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781590177020. HIST

Wheeler, Sara. O My America! Six Women and Their Second Acts in a New World. Farrar. Sept. 2013. 304p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780374298814. $26. HIST


Hepburn, Stephanie & Rita J. Simon. Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight. Columbia Univ. 2013. 448p. notes. index. ISBN 9780231161442. $89.50; pap. ISBN 9780231161459. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780231533317. LAW


redstar Cockburn, Alexander. A Colossal Wreck: A Road Trip Through Political Scandal, Corruption, and American Culture. Verso. Sept. 2013. 496p. index. ISBN 9781781681190. $29.95. POL SCI

Devine, Thomas W. Henry Wallace’s 1948 Presidential Campaign and the Future of Postwar Liberalism. Univ. of North Carolina. 2013. 352p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781469602035. $39.95. POL SCI


Davies, James. Cracked: The Unhappy Truth About Psychiatry. Pegasus. 2013. 288p. notes. ISBN 9781605984735. $27.95;

ebk. ISBN 9781453299111. PSYCH

Kottler, Jeffrey A. Change: What Really Leads to Lasting Personal Transformation. Oxford Univ. Nov. 2013. 284p. bibliog. ISBN 9780199981380. $29.95. PSYCH


redstar Helmreich, William B. The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6000 Miles in the City. Princeton Univ. Nov. 2013. 456p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780691144054. $29.95. SOC SCI

redstar Parkinson, R.B. A Little Gay History: Desire and Diversity Across the World. Columbia Univ. Sept. 2013. 128p. illus. notes. ISBN 9780231166638. pap. $19.95. SOC SCI

Rivers, Caryl & Rosalind C. Barnett. The New Soft War on Women: How the Myth of Female Ascendance Is Hurting Women, Men—and Our Economy. Jeremy P. Tarcher: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2013. 288p. index. ISBN 9780399163333. $26.95. SOC SCI

Thompson, Clive. Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2013. 352p. notes. index. ISBN 9781594204456. $27.95. SOC SCI


Stothard, Peter. Alexandria: The Last Nights of Cleopatra. Overlook. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9781468303704. $26.95. TRAV

Tesson, Sylvain. The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga. Rizzoli. Sept. 2013. 256p. tr. from French by Linda Coverdale. ISBN 9780847841271. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780847841400. TRAV