Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, January 3, 2014

Week ending January 3, 2014

starred review starGardner, Howard & Katie Davis. The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World. Yale Univ. 2013. 256p. notes. index. ISBN 9780300196214. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780300199185. ED
appgeneration10314In this short, dense work, coauthors Gardner (Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard; senior director, Harvard Project Zoo), of “multiple intelligences” fame, and Davis (iSchool, Univ. of Washington) delve into the world of apps and their effect on children and adolescents. Armed with results from focus groups, surveys, and mixed-method studies with teachers, psychologists, and youth from ages ten to 25, their study explores the implications of apps through identity, intimacy, and imagination. The authors see the computer tool as “a gated community.” App culture is described as cradle to grave, hence one’s life becomes a series of app fingerprints or, alternatively, one big app. Like Sherry Turkle (Alone Together:Why We Expect More from Technology) and Jaron Lanier (You Are Not a Gadget), Gardner and Davis express concern regarding increased isolation, digital dependence, and loss of originality in this “remix culture.” One drawback to the investigation concerns the emphasis on middle- and upper-class youth. From discussions with their informants, the authors indicate that similar conclusions can be applied to less advantaged groups, but confirmation of this would entail examining youth from other populations.
Verdict This cogent study is essential for all libraries. The authors offer accessible, extensively researched, and thoughtful arguments on the challenges and cautions young people face by incorporating the digital world into their lives. Balance and independence become imperative; positive outcomes can occur if we watch out for the risks and promote the benefits.—Jacqueline Snider, Iowa City

Greenspan, Alan. The Map and the Territory: Risk, Human Nature, and the Future of Forecasting. Penguin Pr. 2013. 388p. notes. index. ISBN 9781594204814. $36; ebk. ISBN 9781101638743. ECON
In his new book, Greenspan (former Federal Reserve chair, 1987–2006; The Age of Turbulence) expresses dismay at not predicting the 2008 recession and offers suggestions for improving economic forecasting and revising government financial interventions and regulations to prevent future economic chaos. In the realm of predictions, he devotes a chapter to the field of behavioral economics, which finds foreseeable patterns to humans’ economic irrationality. As a conservative, Greenspan decries government expenditures on companies deemed “too big to fail,” seeing their rescue as a slippery slope to favoritism and state ownership. Likewise, he portrays Social Security and other benefit programs as encouraging dependency on government, discouraging appropriate levels of domestic savings, and redistributing wealth from capital investment to consumption. However, he does come to see that some regulation is required, suggesting that banks be held to below the “too big to fail” size, or that they be obliged to maintain adequate capital buffers. Although Greenspan occasionally does not cite his exact source, most of his arguments are illustrated with exhibits, charts, and data tables, many of which appear in appendixes to keep the text readable.
Verdict This book will attract readers because of the author, but it covers little new ground for those familiar with conservative perspectives.—Heidi Senior, Univ. of Portland Lib., OR

Low Dog, Tieraona. Healthy at Home: Get Well and Stay Well Without Prescriptions. National Geographic. Jan. 2014. 224p. illus. index. ISBN 9781426212581. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781426212598. HEALTH
Low Dog, an herbalist, M.D., adviser to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and key faculty member at Andrew Weil’s Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, is well qualified to write this book. Her chapter on managing infections is particularly timely, as overuse of antibiotics has led to serious public health issues with drug-resistant “superbugs,” both for hospital-acquired infections and in community settings. Other chapters cover the respiratory and nervous systems and gastrointestinal, dermatological, and gynecological health problems. Instructions on when to call a doctor or seek immediate medical attention are clear. Particular notice is paid to medications for infants and children.
Verdict Although not everyone has the luxury of maintaining health without prescription drugs, Low Dog does a great job of balancing the appropriate times to take herbal remedies and provides clear instructions on using herbs and making teas, salves, and tinctures. Accessible and reliable, this title will appeal to readers interested in alternative medicine and those who enjoyed the author’s other books (Life Is Your Best Medicine: A Woman’s Guide to Health, Healing, and Wholeness at Every Age; National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants). Recommended.—Mary Chitty, Cambridge Healthtech, Needham, MA

Shades of Laura: Vladimir Nabokov’s Last Novel, The Original of Laura. McGill-Queens Univ. 2013. 296p. ed. by Yuri Leving. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780773542631. $100; pap. ISBN 9780773542648. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780773589681. LIT
The 2008 posthumous publication of The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977) was both controversial and intriguing. Much of the debate derived from the author’s wish for the unfinished manuscript to be destroyed. It was ultimately published in fragments, a decision made by his son and sole surviving heir, Dmitri Nabokov. This volume of essays edited by Leving (Russian studies, Dalhousie Univ.) examines various aspects of the ordeal; contributors who are nearly all professors who have published, some extensively, on Nabokov, investigate the mechanics of the novel’s release and its reception, as well as offer critical analyses. In addition to these scholarly pieces are reprints of reviews from the Los Angeles Times (James Marcus), Bookforum (John Banvillle), the Christian Science Monitor (Heller McAlpin), and the Wall Street Journal (Alexander Theroux), among others, showing the response from a wide range of literary perspectives. The section “A Toolbox,” provides a discussion among five translators of Nabokov’s works in which they comment on different aspects of translation, including what they encountered with the unusual and incomplete manuscript.
Verdict This assemblage is an excellent contribution to Nabokovian studies; well suited for students and scholars of the Russian novelist and anyone looking for insight into his final, unrealized work.—Stacy Russo, Santa Ana Coll. Lib., CA

Wilson, Victoria. A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907–1940. S. & S. 2013. 1056p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780684831688. $40; ebk. ISBN 9781439199985. FILM
This first volume in a projected two–volume set is undoubtedly the most extensive and detailed biography of an actor ever published. The research Wilson has performed is remarkable, as Stanwyck’s early life and steady and determined rise from the theater toward Hollywood success is written as if Wilson had firsthand and lifelong knowledge of her subject. The author not only explores the actress’s life and work but also reveals fascinating details of the film business at the time, the people Stanwyck worked with, and the men she rather famously loved. The undeniable problem, however, is the book’s length. Wilson (vice president and senior editor, Knopf) is an excellent writer and clearly fascinated with her subject, but the question of whether Stanwyck deserves 1,000-plus pages devoted to only the first half of her career is a valid one. Film scholars may find this book to be a wealth of information, but, for the average reader, it could be too much of a good thing.
Verdict Regardless of the obvious merits of this work, its length could make for a very small readership.—Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA