Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, February 21, 2014

Week ending February 21, 2014

Sex Scene: Media and the Sexual Revolution. Duke Univ. Mar. 2014. 488p. ed. by Eric Schaefer. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780822356424. $99.95; pap. ISBN 9780822356547. $29.95. FILM
sexscene022114Schaefer (visual media studies, Emerson Coll.; “Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!” A History of Exploitation Films, 1919–1959) edits a collection of 14 essays by various academics and experts in the fields of journalism, gender and sexuality issues, film history, and GLBTQ studies that investigate the promotion of sex in media. While the work is similar to titles such as Rodger Streitmatter’s Sex Sells! The Media’s Journey from Repression to Obsession, it creates a niche in its selection of topics. The book deals with common themes in film studies such as gender, economics, and censorship but also addresses the commodification of sex and the demand it created. Although the title suggests that the essays deal with the radical notions of sex in media, it commonly describes the nudity and sex as commonplace in various outlets. The collection also deals with legal and social opposition to the mainstream exposure to sex, but its forte is the role of publishing and the press in the “sexual revolution.”
Verdict Recommended as a core title for collections dealing with sex and media, historical studies of the U.S. film industry, porn studies, media and/or sexual studies. Individuals interested in studying mass media, film, popular culture, and television would also find the book of value.—Kimberley Bugg, Brooklyn

Swaab, D.F. We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer’s. Spiegel & Grau. 2014. 448p. illus. index. ISBN 9780812992960. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780679644378. MED
Research into the function of the human brain has advanced rapidly over the last 30 years, and new discoveries are occurring at a rapid clip. This book by Swaab (neurobiology, Univ. of Amsterdam) provides an overview of the discoveries of this research for the general reader. The range of topics covered is vast and encompasses the development of obesity and Alzheimer’s disease to homosexuality. Swaab’s insistence the we “are our brains” mars the book and leads to simplistic and exaggerated claims about the relationship between neuroscience and religion and the claim (which has little to do with neuroscience) that humans would be better off without religion. More scientifically literate readers will be frustrated by the book’s lack of footnotes and references to the empirical studies upon which Swaab bases his argument.
Verdict Despite its flaws, polemical tone, and occasional reductionism, this is an interesting and engagingly written book on discoveries in brain science for general readers.—Aaron Klink, Duke Univ., Durham, NC