Nonfiction: Animal Behavior, Gwendolyn Brooks, Physics, Flies, Space Station, the American West | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 4, 2017

Araiza, William D. Animus: A Short Introduction to Bias in the Law. New York Univ. Apr. 2017. 224p. notes. index. ISBN 9781479846030. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781479848805. LAW
In his latest book, Araiza (law, Brooklyn Law Sch.; Enforcing the Equal Protection Clause) offers an original perspective related to an often overlooked area of constitutional law: animus, meaning subjective dislike in law specifically by a government entity toward a particular group. His book is outlined in two parts. In the first, he tell the stories of several modern Supreme Court cases of animus, some involving same-sex couples. The second part of the book analyze those cases to show how the doctrinal structure of animus has been left unbuilt by the court and that there are clear connections between animus and discriminatory intent. Araiza creates awareness of inequality that is occurring in law, illustrates what constitutes animus, and describes why its prohibition should matter today. The book includes legal notes for each chapter.
Verdict Recommended for law students studying the constitutional sector.—Nathalie Reid, Univ. of California, Los Angeles

Cox, Rosamund Kidman. Unforgettable Behavior. Firefly. Jun. 2017. 128p. photos. index. ISBN 9781770859135. $29.95. NAT HIST
Editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine, Cox (The Masters of Nature Photography) pairs explanatory text with attractive, full-page color photos of animals from all over the globe: an owl grooming her chick in Brazil; penguins scaling an iceberg in the Antarctic; musk oxen in the Canadian Arctic lined up and ready to stampede the photographer; a mountain gorilla suckling six-month-old twins in Rwanda; and seven flamingos dancing in a courtship ritual in Kenya. Cox explains how climate changes, such as rising temperatures and melting ice in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, have led species to migrate to different locales. The work also contains background information on the physiology and ecology of each animal and challenges faced by each photographer when capturing wildlife in their regular behaviors such as mating, fighting, or foraging. While many similar photography titles focus on particular species, geographic regions, or habitats, this work presents a diverse array of subjects.
Verdict Animal lovers, students of zoology, and photography fans will be intrigued by this volume, as will young adult readers.—Judith B. Barnett, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Kingston

Jackson, Angela. A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life & Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks. Beacon. May 2017. 216p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780807025048. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780807025055. LIT
This year marks the centennial of poet, author, and educator Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000). Poet, playwright, and novelist Jackson (And All These Roads Be Luminous; Where I Must Go) has produced a biography that celebrates and commemorates Brooks’s life and work. Jackson begins with Brooks’s first published poem at age 13 and follows her subject through school, marriage, motherhood, political action, and death. In 1950, Brooks became the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize. And from 1985 to 1986 she served as U.S. Poet Laureate. Intertwined with the biography is a thorough and astute analysis of Brooks’s poetry that also includes cultural context and commentary. The book concludes with an assessment of Brooks’s influence on other poets and writers both past and present. Jackson’s book is a concise and timely reminder of the life and work of one of America’s most important poets.
Verdict This book will be of special interest to scholars and students but will also appeal to general readers who enjoy Brooks’s poetry and want to know more about her.—Stefanie Hollmichel, Univ. of St. Thomas Law Lib., Minneapolis

Kakalios, James. The Physics of Everyday Things: The Extraordinary Science Behind an Ordinary Day. Crown. May 2017. 256p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780770437732. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780770437749. SCI
Science writer and physicist Kakalios (physics, Univ. of Minnesota; The Physics of Superheroes) writes an entertaining journey through an “average” day, explaining how physics works to power everyday things. The narrative begins by explaining how an oscillating pendulum is the basis of both a vintage alarm clock and the digital timer in an electric coffeemaker. Each subsequent chapter is dedicated to a different device that the author encounters daily: a high-speed elevator, an E-ZPass, a car door lock and key fob, LED lights, USB drives, and more. The clever format, following a person through a typical day (which includes air travel, hotel stays, and a business presentation), brings order to the mammoth topic of physics and makes it accessible to readers unfamiliar with how gravity affects ordinary objects. The book ends with a whimsical discussion of the physics of flying cars and why we don’t have them yet (and won’t anytime soon).
Verdict A great book for readers who want to learn more about the science hidden beneath the surface of their lives.—Holly Boyer, Reston, VA

McAlister, Erica. The Secret Life of Flies. Firefly. Sept. 2017. 248p. photos. index. ISBN 9781770858091. $29.95. NAT HIST
Although some people may think of flies as bothersome, McAlister (Natural History Museum, London) dispels this and other popular misconceptions to describe the necessary benefits of flies. Each chapter explains a different type of fly, such as pollinators, detritivores, vegetarians, and fungivores, and their unique characteristics. For example, in the chapter on predators, the author describes how glassworms, the phantom midges’ larvae, can be found at the bottom of lakes. They change their antennae to be prehensile to assist in capturing prey. There are also intriguing facts about other flies, including mosquitoes, the hairy fly, fruit flies, and bluebottles. McAlister tells entertaining stories of her research in Peru, England, and Ethiopia to keep readers fascinated with the topic. She also includes a healthy list of authoritative sources. Her writing is clear and accessible, successfully illustrating that flies are important and essential for a healthy ecosystem. Color photographs, sometimes full-page, complement the text throughout.
Verdict An enjoyable and informative read. Highly recommended for anyone interested in biology and in particular those intrigued by entomology and zoology.—Tina Chan, MIT Libs., Cambridge

Millstein, Ira M. The Activist Director: Lessons from the Boardroom and the Future of the Corporation. Columbia Univ. 2016. 240p. ISBN 9780231181341. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780231543569. BUS
Millstein (coauthor, The Recurrent Crisis in Corporate Governance) is founding chair of Columbia University Law School’s Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership, as well as senior partner of the international law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. His qualifications and experience are exhaustive. Millstein has worked with several gubernatorial and presidential administrations as well as being a consultant to corporations and governments on governance. He here emphasizes what he’s learned throughout his career, including the need for corporate boards of directors to take a proactive role in the running of corporations and governmental agencies and to challenge managements and administrations in their operations. Millstein’s vast history gives weight to his comments and his relating of concrete events with the likes of General Motors and ConEd as well as the city and state of New York lends authority to his recommendations.
Verdict This book needs to be available to students, academics, and practitioners of corporate and municipal governance.—Littleton Maxwell, formerly with Robins Sch. of Business, Univ. of Richmond

Nixon, David. International Space Station: Architecture Beyond Earth. Circa. Apr. 2017. 416p. illus. index. ISBN 9780993072130. $75. ARCH/SCI
This book thoroughly chronicles the history, development, engineering, habitation, design, and, finally, “architecture” of the International Space Station. Weighing 422 tonnes, the ISS is still circling the planet every 90 minutes at about 17,500 miles per hour, coequal in the author’s judgment to CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. The book proceeds diligently from the 1960s to today, dividing American habitation in space into seven chapters. The ISS was constructed primarily by Russia and the United States after 1972, with contributions from Europe, Japan, Canada, Italy, and Brazil, and it still represents the most ambitious and the most complicated habitat ever conceived, contrived, and constructed by sapiens. This book culminates seven years of work by the author, embracing four valuable appendixes, more than 100 terms in the glossary, over 300 illustrations, 500-plus footnotes, and over 1,200 index terms in 400-plus pages. This heavy tome far replaces several smaller, outdated NASA paperbacks and reference guides with a much larger scope, a greater attention to detail, and a fully fashioned explanation of the complicated economics, politics, technologies, etc., of space exploration. This book definitely serves the general public. The author is a British architect who moved to California and has long specialized in the architecture and design of space exploration vehicles.
Verdict Excellent for STEM education and lots of other disciplines.—Peter S. Kaufman, Boston Architectural Ctr.

Recio, Belinda. Inside Animal Hearts and Minds: Bears That Count, Goats That Surf, and Other True Stories of Animal Intelligence and Emotion. Skyhorse. Aug. 2017. 168p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781510718944. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781510718951. NAT HIST
This compilation of anecdotes and reports of scientific research on animal intelligence and emotion will delight lovers of both wild and domestic animals. Journalist, educator, and instructional designer Recio presents examples of animal communication with humans and playfulness among animals of the same and different species. He also includes stories of how certain animals have the ability to navigate several miles across land or sea and how they are able to accomplish feats of memory. Among the many groups included are insects, birds, dogs, cats, chimpanzees, whales, and octopuses. Many photos, both color and black-and-white, as well as graphic effects to emphasize main points in a textbook style, enhance the book’s appeal. Bibliographic notes for each chapter and a list of suggested readings are provided.
Verdict While more scholarly books, such as Jonathan Balcombe’s Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals or Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce’s Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals may be preferred by general readers, this title will appeal particularly to young adults.—Judith B. Barnett, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Kingston

starred review starReid, Robert Leonard. Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West. Counterpoint. Jun. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781619029293. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781619029767. SCI
A “loose sally of the mind” is how writer Samuel Johnson described the method behind the personal essay, and Reid displays it brilliantly here. Selections are from his previous works, including Mountains of the Great Blue Dream (1991), America, New Mexico (1998), and Arctic Circle (2010); some previously unpublished pieces are included as well. Blending memoir, travelog, white-knuckle alpine adventure, and natural history, Reid’s explorations of the American West reveal the “darkness no less than the light.” For example, he writes about homelessness in New Mexico’s Santa Fe military industrial complex; the tracking and killing of Colorado’s last wolf; the migration of the Porcupine caribou herd; and his own climb and spiritual awakening on Mount Tsoodzil in New Mexico. A familiar idea runs throughout: in wilderness is the preservation of the world. The book’s satisfying structure rewards both “dipping in” or reading straight through; there are many gems found within these pages.
Verdict Reid’s original voice is sure to capture all readers interested in the West. That two of his books are no longer in print makes this fine collection very timely indeed.—Robert Eagan, Windsor P.L., Ont.

starred review starReid, T.R. A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System. Penguin Pr. Apr. 2017. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9781594205514. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780735223967. ECON
Reid (correspondent, the Washington Post; The Healing of America) turns his attention to the U.S. tax code in this examination of taxes around the world. Reid posits that the U.S. tax code is due for a rewrite in 2018 and offers an explanation of the current system and how it compares to the systems in other countries, as well as suggestions for how to simplify taxes in the United States. In each chapter he addresses a different type of tax or issue related to taxes, including different options such as the flat tax and VAT; how taxes in the United States compare to those in other countries; business tax; sales tax; tax evasion; and more. Readers will find this book more enlightening and engaging than preparing for April 15.
Verdict Reid takes on a complex topic and presents it in a humorous and understandable way. This book will appeal to general readers and taxpayers, as well as those interested in business and politics. [See Prepub Alert, 10/10/16.]Elizabeth Nelson, McHenry Cty. Coll. Lib., Crystal Lake, IL

starred review starWeber, Nicholas Fox. Freud’s Trip to Orvieto: The Great Doctor’s Unresolved Confrontation with Antisemitism, Death, and Homoeroticism; His Passion for Paintings; and the Writer in His Footsteps. Bellevue Literary. May 2017. 352p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781942658269. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781942658276. PSYCH
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the inventor of psychoanalysis and a prolific author, has evoked many biographies, and the long subtitle sums up this one. Biographer Weber (The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism; Le Corbusier: A Life) directs the Albers Foundation, a Connecticut-based resource for artists and scholars. His text is beautifully augmented with 36 color plates. In 1897, Freud, then 41, visited Orvieto, Italy, and viewed a fresco exhibit by Renaissance artist Luca Signorelli—an array of muscular nude men, in “horrific detail.” Later, to his dismay, Freud couldn’t recall the artist’s name and wrote about it in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901). Weber finds Freud’s self-analysis deceptive, citing a 1979 article by Richard and Marietta Karpe on eroticism and death. A master of “linguistic gymnastics,” Freud was overwhelmed by the artworks—a “gut reaction to pictures.”
Verdict With an amalgam of relevant history, stunning art, and deft psychology, Weber brings new insights on the life and work of a cultural dynamo.—E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC



  1. James Morgante says:

    Don’t you think reviews should be edited for grammar? The review for the book: Araiza, William D. Animus: A Short Introduction to Bias in the Law contains the following sentences:

    “In the first, he tell the stories….. “The second part of the book analyze those cases….”

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