Nonfiction on Lincoln the Lawyer, Beer Travel, American Politics, Babies, Women’s Resistance | Xpress Reviews

Week ending April 27, 2018

Abrams, Dan & David Fisher. Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency. Hanover Square: Harlequin. Jun. 2018. 320p. bibliog. ISBN 9781335424693. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488095320. HIST
In a readable but sometimes fanciful book, Abrams (chief legal affairs anchor for ABC News; Man Down) and veteran author Fisher recount Lincoln’s last major trial, in 1859, which they insist carried national political implications because of Lincoln’s prominence following the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. In copious detail, they relate the murder trial in which Lincoln served as a defense counsel. The book is based on the trial transcript by politician Robert R. Hitt, a transcript that was discovered 30 years ago but has not been examined closely for what it reveals about Lincoln, the lawyer, until recently. Abrams and Fisher quote generously from Hitt’s transcript to bring into sharp focus the witness-by-witness testimony and courtroom proceedings. They also provide instructive historical context on the development of legal practice, jury selection and duties, concepts of self-defense, courtroom pleadings, and Lincoln’s recognized genius in cross-examination and closing arguments. However, the authors sacrifice credibility for readability by inventing musings and dialog by Hitt, Lincoln, and other principals. They never make a case for their hyperbolic subtitle; in fact, the trial was not Lincoln’s last.
Verdict A book that lets readers see Lincoln the lawyer in action but fails to prove its argument.—Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph’s Univ., Philadelphia

Beaumont, Stephen. Will Travel for Beer: 101 Remarkable Journeys Every Beer Lover Should Experience. Mitchell Beazley: Octopus. May 2018. 224p. photos. index. ISBN 9781784723200. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781784724863. TRAV
In Beaumont’s previous work, World Atlas of Beer, he introduced readers to a diverse, global range of brews. This new book is a natural progression from that earlier title, encouraging audiences to seek out beer experiences where they originate. The recommendations include beer festivals, breweries, pubs, beer gardens, and even the hops harvesting around Yakima, WA. The author briefly accounts for hotels, transportation, and dining and makes suggestions for maximizing enjoyment: stick to the less crowded outer fringes at festivals or structure walking tours such as the Bermondsey Beer Mile out of linear order because of varying opening hours. The abundant color photos add to the book’s appeal, and beer enthusiasts are sure to dive deep, but even casual drinkers will enjoy skimming the entries and daydreaming.
Verdict Smartly linking a rich knowledge of beers with the good cheer of a seasoned traveler, this is a welcome complement to other travel guides. Recommended where titles on alcoholic beverages or travel are popular.—Peter Hepburn, Coll. of the Canyons Lib., Santa Clarita, CA

starred review starGoldberg, Jonah. Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy. Crown Forum. Apr. 2018. 464p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781101904930. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781101904947. POL SCI
In this provocative work, Goldberg (Liberal Fascism) challenges tribalism on the left but also that which is growing in his own conservative party. The author alleges that human nature is a constant, and this assertion is the basis for his defense of the American political structure and traditional conservative values. Goldberg’s points combine philosophy, historical analysis, and pop culture references. His thesis is less concerned with the external factors that led to the current political climate and more focused on the innate human qualities—specifically tribalism—that might lead us toward destruction over millennia. This is not a passive conclusion: Goldberg starts with the assumption of free will and personal choice, both of which contribute to the state of worldly affairs. There is no “right side of history” because nothing is foreordained; decline is a choice. The challenge at the heart of this work is that we collectively chose to be where we are today and can choose to fight against it. According to Goldberg, polarization and tribalism plague both left and right parties, and both are responsible for a rotting democracy in the West.
Verdict Progressives and conservatives will have their disputes with this book, but the conversations are well worth having.—Laurel Tacoma, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA

Golden, Janet. Babies Made Us Modern: How Infants Brought America into the Twentieth Century. Cambridge Univ. Apr. 2018. 268p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781108415002. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781108244428. HIST
Medicine, psychology, business, and crucial events such as war all played a part in the modernization of childhood. Golden (history, Rutgers Univ.–Camden; Message in a Bottle: The Making of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) offers a lens into the transformation of how children were viewed and societal attitudes toward them from the late 19th century through the baby boom of the 20th century. For example, increasing awareness of germ theory sparked a newfound emphasis on physical health that coincided with a decline in infant mortality. The benefits and ills of the Second Industrial Revolution ultimately focused on the “rights” of children and the importance of education. Emotional health through the application of psychology gained a place of significance in child rearing. Even the business world benefited from the “modern baby,” as advertising and consumerism catering to infants reached great success. Golden’s primary research of baby books, diaries, advertisements, and agency records convincingly illustrates the evolving yet symbiotic and equally influential relationship between modernity and babies.
Verdict While not a complete history of childhood (see Paula Fass’s The End of American Childhood), this will interest scholars and historians for its unique treatment of the subject.—Maria Bagshaw, Elgin Community Coll. Lib., IL

We Rise To Resist: Voices from a New Era in Women’s Political Action. McFarland. Apr. 2018. 266p. ed. by Paula vW. Dáil & Betty L. Wells. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781476671642. pap. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9781476632957. SOC SCI
Researcher Dáil and Wells (sociology, Iowa State Univ.) have fulfilled their two stated objectives, one of which is to provide women from a variety of backgrounds with an avenue to voice their reactions to the 2016 election and women’s rights in the United States. The other is to document the beginning of a new women’s movement by publishing first-person narratives that will serve as primary accounts for future researchers. The first sections of the book focus on the women’s march of January 2017, reactions to the election of Donald Trump, the chaos of the Trump administration, and its negative impact on women’s rights. The next sections target specific issues—the environment, health care, immigration, LGBTQ rights, the criminal justice system, education, and racism—each addressed by activists looking at the intersection of current policies and their effects on women. The last section is a rallying cry to resist. The essays vary in both tone and substance. Some describe personal reactions; others include more research and background on the topic, including lists of sources. The book has brief bios of the authors and a short bibliography.
Verdict A supplemental purchase that provides readers and researchers with a variety of feminist views on the policies of the current administration and their negative effects on women. It would be especially appreciated as a motivational clarion call in communities with active women’s movements.—Theresa Muraski, Univ. of Wisconsin–Stevens Point Lib.

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