Choice: Editor’s Picks March 2013

Barash, David P. Homo mysterious: evolutionary puzzles of human nature. Oxford, 2012. 329p index afp ISBN 0-19-975194-3, $27.95; ISBN 9780199751945, $27.95. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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Barash (psychology and biology, Univ. of Washington), a prolific author, has written a highly unusual, delightful, comprehensive book about many existing human evolutionary puzzles. It is ideal for interdisciplinary studies. Considerable research and knowledge have resulted since Darwin's monumental pronouncements, yet many matters remain unresolved. Barash's goal is to move from partially known, preconceived notions and myths about humans to more rationally complete explanations. Using his evolutionary biology model, the author repetitively offers differing alternative hypotheses on topics related to human evolution. These include hidden ovulation; purposes for female orgasms (he does not ignore males); existence of nonlactating breasts; functions of menstruation; and sex (including sexual selection). He embarks on an intellectual dissection of homosexuality, the arts, the role of religion, human brain development, and behavior. Whatever subjects Barash presents, he reminds readers that their explanations are fragments. He encourages continual efforts to clarify the vast unknown areas concerning human evolution. Occasionally, he blends strokes of humor into his challenging, analytical presentations. The concluding chapter provides a brief but outstanding discussion about the projection of human genes into unknown future natural selection realms. Extensive chapter notes. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers. -- J. N. Muzio, emeritus, CUNY Kingsborough Community College

Bloom, Howard K. The God problem: how a godless cosmos creates. Prometheus Books, 2012. 708p index afp; ISBN 9781616145514, $28.00; ISBN 9781616145521 e-book, contact publisher for price. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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This is a fascinating book with a heap of unconnected tidbits and conceptual nuggets woven into an enjoyable story. Writer/publicist Bloom (The Lucifer Principle, CH, May'95, 32-4871) talks about the wonders in the universe and the puzzles that have intrigued the human mind for generations. The chapter and section headings tickle the reader, and their elaborations are "curiouser and curiouser," as Alice would have exclaimed. So much history without a touch of boredom, so much philosophy without denseness, and so much physics without equations are all presented with dressing and frosting in one book--a real bargain. But in the end, like George Carlin, Bloom leaves readers with provocative questions rather than answers: questions that can turn one's head like strong wine and grand poetry. He bluntly states that in those unanswered questions "lie the real answers to the question of how a cosmos without a bearded and bathrobed god creates." There is more wisdom than science in the recognition that ultimately there is mystery, not clear-cut answers, when one digs deep to unscramble the universe. Books like this add spice to the more substantial knowledge that hardworking scientists in laboratories and observatories bring to human understanding. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic, general, and professional audiences. -- V. V. Raman, emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology

Burman, Leonard. Taxes in America: what everyone needs to know, by Leonard E. Burman and Joel Slemrod. Oxford, 2013. 280p index afp; ISBN 9780199890279, $74.00; ISBN 9780199890262 pbk, $16.95. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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Burman (Syracuse Univ.) and Slemrod (Univ. of Michigan), outstanding tax scholars, explain what everyone needs to know about US federal taxes, as promised in the title. Their approach to explaining federal tax complexities is to pose questions about tax policy, structure, and administration, e.g., "Why do economists say that we double tax corporate income?" or "Tax reformers talk about a broad base and low rates. What does that mean?" Burman and Slemrod then provide straightforward, jargon-free answers to these questions. Even when the logic of the answer is convoluted and sophisticated, based on stacks of economic analysis, the authors manage clear, direct answers. They hide the sources in endnotes, accessible to anyone who wants to go further, and they provide a short glossary of the more important tax terminology. The book provides the best start for anyone struggling to make sense of the federal tax system and of the current argument about tax reform and restructuring. It does not provide the answers, nor does it try to, but this work provides the best available context for understanding what is going on and for allowing the reader to reach an informed decision about the arguments. Summing Up: Essential. All collections. -- J. L. Mikesell, Indiana University—Bloomington

Church, Jeffrey. Infinite autonomy: the divided individual in the political thought of G.W.F. Hegel and Friedrich Nietzsche. Pennsylvania State, 2012. 270p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780271050751, $64.95. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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This important book attempts a comprehensive reply to the claims of postmodernists and communitarians that the modern individualist conception of the self is an illusion. It does so by focusing on what Church (Univ. of Houston) takes to be the deepest articulation of the insights of individualist thinking, those of Hegel and Nietzsche, who polish up what the author calls the "historical individual," in contrast to two earlier formulations, the "natural individual" of Machiavelli and Hobbes and the "formal individual" of, especially, Kant. Church's project, which relies upon extensive analysis of original texts and relevant contemporary secondary literature, is to show that the characteristic move of the two German thinkers was to imply infinite human subjectivity as the completion of the human flourishing originally articulated by Aristotle. Church's argument is obviously stronger in the case of Hegel and more problematic in the case of Nietzsche, given the latter's emphasis on the irrational and his aversion to participation in political life. A noticeable omission is any discussion of the views of British idealists from Bernard Bosanquet and Francis Herbert Bradley to Michael Oakeshott, a tradition that grappled with the same tensions between individual subjectivity and social context identified by Church. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collections. -- W. J. Coats, Connecticut College

Coates, Nigel. Narrative architecture. Wiley, 2012. 168p bibl index; ISBN 9780470057452, $120.00; ISBN 9780470057445 pbk, $50.00; ISBN 9781119963202 e-book, contact publisher for price. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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This book provides a fascinating insider's view of the development of avant-garde architecture in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Coates (emer., Royal College of Art, London), an English architect, designer, and educator, was an important protagonist in this development. The book is part history, part theory, and part autobiography. Each of the six chapters can be read as an independent essay. The first chapter provides a historical overview of the use of narrative in architecture, the second chapter describes the development of avant-garde architecture in the 1960s and 1970s, and the third chapter explains the resurgence of radical architecture in the 1980s, including Coates's own work with the NATO group. Chapter 4 describes recent examples of narrative-inspired architecture from around the world, chapter 5 discusses the author's own more recent work, and the final chapter points to the power of narrative to provide relevant and explanatory urban architecture. The book is well written, designed, illustrated, and referenced. Most importantly, it is genuinely insightful in describing the motives and methods of late-20th- and early-21st-century avant-garde architects. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above. -- D. Sachs, Kansas State University

Devine, Dennis J. Jury decision making: the state of the science. New York University, 2012. 272p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780814720189, $79.00; ISBN 9780814720196 pbk, $25.00. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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A jury is a small group of people, isolated in space and time, responsible for a single decision. Scholars interested in how people and groups make decisions see juries as natural experiments. Consequently, journalists, law professors, and social scientists have made juries, archival juries, and simulated juries one of the most studied political institutions. Devine (psychology, Indiana Univ.-Purdue Univ., Indianapolis) here reviews and categorizes many rigorous studies, provides guidelines for assessing quality and importance, identifies the variables most commonly studied, and summarizes the few findings that have stood up to repeated testing. Since most jury studies try to settle policy questions (e.g., do six-member juries deliberate faster and hang less often than their twelve-member cousins?), Devine's work has obvious policy relevance. The author accurately assesses his achievement: "For jury scholars and students, this book provides a good overview of the field, many testable research ideas, and jumping-off points for literature reviews. For legal professionals, it offers numerous insights into how juries operate and associated practical implications for the conduct of trials." The book can be a good classroom introduction to this body of research and to rigorous research generally. Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels. -- P. Lermack, emeritus, Bradley University

DOAJ: Directory of Open Access Journals, hosted by Lund University Libraries. Internet Resource. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.


[Revisited Dec'12] DOAJ has matured since last reviewed (CH, Jul'06, 43-6219), when it contained 2,125 titles and 91,000 articles. It now features more than 8,300 titles and more than 920,000 articles. Established by the University of Lund in 2003, DOAJ retains its position as the most comprehensive searchable index of free scientific and scholarly content in full-text formats. The content has grown significantly in the physical sciences but remains broad and includes coverage in the arts, humanities, social sciences, life sciences, engineering, and technology, and their multidisciplinary intersections. Recent celebrations of open access have promoted new features of the database and its searching functions, including keyword searching and determining country of origin and language. This free academic site is now translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, French, and Turkish. DOAJ is an authoritative choice for users in need of immediate access to peer-reviewed content. It continues to avoid employing embargoes that delay access, setting it apart from many subscription-supported commercial databases.

The global coverage of DOAJ has expanded greatly, in many languages; users may view statistics on various countries' journals within the database. Its expansion reflects the degree to which open access is promoted in developing countries and shows how e-scholarship is thriving. DOAJ has demonstrated its vitality and sustainability with increased visibility, generating greater use and impact without compromising editorial quality, peer review, or ease of use. For the coverage of global open access content, DOAJ is second to none. Community-funded support defines commitment by universities, research institutions, libraries, consortia, and aggregators. DOAJ contributes to scholarship and information sharing in a way that will only continue its mission of open access. As it grows and develops, it will remain a crucial source for all library users and most disciplines. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general audience. -- J. Gelfand, University of California, Irvine

The Fairies return: or, new tales for old, comp. by Peter Davies; ed. and introd. by Maria Tatar. Princeton, 2012. 372p afp; ISBN 9780691152301, $24.95. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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Originally published in 1934, this delightful volume has been brought back into print in the "Oddly Modern Fairy Tales" series, edited by renowned fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes (emer., Univ. of Minnesota). Davies, who originally commissioned, compiled, and edited the tales, is said to be the inspiration for J. M. Barrie's character Peter Pan. The 15 authors who contributed "oddly modern" tales were given their choice of traditional tales and then created intertexts that raised issues and concerns of their generation; the tales were drawn from the Grimm Brothers, Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Anderson, and The Thousand and One Nights. Inevitably, the concerns of the day included WW I, government corruption, addictive behavior, gender discrimination, sexuality, and the rise of Adolf Hitler, making the collection decidedly for adults. Tatar (Harvard), a preeminent fairy tale scholar, provides a lucid introduction in which she points out the use of satire in several tales and notes that "both satire and fairy tales, by aiming to expose social injustice, contain within them the principle of hope." She also provides succinct summaries of each tale and its significance and some biographical background on Davies. This is a book for those with a special interest in folktales and fairy tales. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers. -- E. R. Baer, Gustavus Adolphus College

Gorton, Gary B. Misunderstanding financial crises: why we don't see them coming. Oxford, 2012. 278p bibl index afp ISBN 0-19-992290-X, $29.95; ISBN 9780199922901, $29.95. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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Well-known author of Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007 (CH, Oct'10, 48-0987) and author of many articles published in respected peer-reviewed journals including the American Economic Review, Review of Economic Studies, and Review of Financial Studies, Gorton (finance, Yale School of Management) shares his insights on the financial crises, based on his academic expertise, his experience on policy-making institutions like the Federal Reserve, and his consultancies for the private sector. Written in a very accessible style, the book makes the reader not only question what caused the financial crisis of 2008-09 but also think analytically about what made possible the moderation or the "Quiet Period" from 1934 to 2007, during which time there were "no systemic financial crises." Gorton's knowledge of the history of the financial system serves to illuminate and clarify the most recent financial crisis. His book provides immensely useful information about the policies that led to the crisis. This volume is must reading for undergraduates in economics and finance as well as business leaders and future policy makers. Graduate students, faculty, and general readers will find it a pleasure to read. Summing Up: Essential. Academic, professional, and public library collections. -- E. Islamaj, Vassar College

Helm, Dieter. The carbon crunch: how we're getting climate change wrong--and how to fix it. Yale, 2012. 273p bibl index; ISBN 9780300186598, $35.00. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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Serious scholars agree that the climate change problem is one of the gravest confronting humankind. Therefore, since the early 1990s when the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed, world leaders have been attempting to grapple with this problem. Helm (energy policy, Univ. of Oxford, UK) claims, however, that despite the existence of the above convention and the subsequent Kyoto Protocol, almost nothing of note has been accomplished to address climate change. Why not? The author helpfully explains that there are many problems with current approaches to dealing with the underlying problem. First, the focus has been on the most expensive ways of mitigating climate change instead of the cheapest; this has led to few gains but large costs. Second, instead of recognizing that a credible mitigation strategy needs to reduce coal usage and increase the use of natural and shale gas, politicians have been pouring resources into wind and solar power, which will together only scratch the surface of the climate change problem. To remedy this saturnine state of affairs, Helm suggests introducing an effective carbon tax, reducing consumption, and developing existing low-carbon technologies as well as new ones. A lucid, readable volume on a critical issue. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. -- A. A. Batabyal, Rochester Institute of Technology Internet Resource. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.


[Visited Dec'12] The Kate Chopin International Society provides a wealth of information about Chopin, her works, and her legacy at this website. Well organized, with a clean, attractive design, the site covers every imaginable aspect of Chopin studies. Links to her works lead to online texts when available; information about plot, character, setting, and themes; and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources. Extra information is provided for many; for example, the page on the short story "Athénaïse" includes a brief conversation between Emily Toth and Thomas Bonner Jr., two prominent Chopin scholars. The site also offers a lengthy biography and a selection of quotations from Chopin. The main page offers news items, which when this reviewer visited included an article about the sale of a first edition of The Awakening, coverage of a recent segment on NPR that discussed Chopin's works, a news story about a new sculpture of her, and a listing of recent books. Another interesting feature is a link to information about Chopin-related projects in film, dance, theater, opera, graphic fiction, and popular culture. News here ranges from announcements about new audio book versions to film adaptations of Chopin's works or plots. The site is student friendly, with plenty of advice on how to cite works used and how to track down and assess sources. There are special sections for teachers and scholars as well. The site is a boon to students and fans of Chopin. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. -- E. A. Blakesley, Washington State University

Pilcher, Jeffrey M. Planet taco: a global history of Mexican food. Oxford, 2012. 292p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780199740062, $27.95. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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In this meticulously researched and comprehensive work, Pilcher (Univ. of Minnesota) contends that the search for an authentic Mexican cuisine is complicated by the diversity of regional cuisines; by distinct cultural considerations, including the influences of indigenous, Creole, and aristocratic segments of Mexican society; and by the tensions between globalization and the quest for a nationalist identity. Central to this search for authenticity has been the taco, a simple and versatile food, which Mesoamericans and their descendants have eaten in one form or another for a millennium. Ironically, though, the taco did not emerge as a symbol of authentic Mexican cuisine until the 20th century through its appropriation by globalized fast-food giants like Taco Bell. Pilcher's concluding chapter provides a masterful analysis of the elements that shape and impinge upon the quest for food authenticity in general. Readers interested in the subject might also profit from How Italian Food Conquered the World by food journalist John Mariani (CH, Nov'11, 49-1699). Less academic and less well researched than Planet Taco, Mariani's narrative nonetheless provides an eminently readable and intelligent account of the appropriation of authentic Italian food to satisfy the American palate. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. -- D. M. Gilbert, Maine Maritime Academy

Presumed incompetent: the intersections of race and class for women in academia, ed. by Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs et al. Utah State, 2012. 570p bibl index; ISBN 9780874218695, $49.95; ISBN 9780874218701 e-book, $30.00. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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Gutiérrez y Muhs (Seattle Univ.) brings together testimony from women faculty of color via qualitative studies and personal narratives. The contributors highlight the cycle of obstacles women in academia face and relay the resentment directed toward them at work within academia's historically white male structure. When colleagues consider a woman of color as a token graduate student and then a token faculty member and when her colleagues surmise that she was selected primarily because of her race, gender, or ethnicity, there is an assumption that other, more qualified applicants were passed over simply because they were male or white. Then, when that woman struggles, it seems reasonable that she was never smart enough or qualified enough for the position at all. This is a painfully familiar cycle for women in academia, and the uniqueness of this text is its focus solely on this topic, with viewpoints from across the spectrum of minority studies. Importantly, the collection highlights that the mere presence of minority women in academia is not going to resolve the problem. Rather, active structural change and personal outreach are necessary. Should be required reading for students entering graduate studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. -- R. Price, Duquesne University

The Scholarly Kitchen, from the Society for Scholarly Publishing. Internet Resource. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.


[Visited Dec'12] This moderated group blog nourishes a greater awareness and appreciation of the meld of flavors that constitute today's publishing landscape. The broad focus is scholarly publishing, particularly in scientific, technical, and medical fields. The target audience includes information industry analysts, consultants, scholars, librarians, editors, publishers, printers, vendors, product developers, association executives, and funding organizations. Even some cookbook aficionados or information foragers might be attracted by the kitchen-and-chefs metaphor (with its tagline, "What's Hot and Cooking in Scholarly Publishing," the only thematic explanation). Established in 2008 by the Society for Scholarly Publishing, this thoughtfully designed WordPress-platform blog offers a diverse array of news, opinion, and research produced by an all-volunteer team of about a dozen industry experts. Postings average about 25-30 per month; most generate commentary from readers. In the Kitchen's main work triangle, editor-in-chief Kent Anderson (CEO for a major medical journal) has contributed more than half of the content, and executive editor Phil Davis (an independent scientometric researcher) is the next-most-prolific essayist. Stewart Wills (online editor for Science) regularly serves up microblog Twitter feeds aptly named "Side Dishes."

Subscribing is easy via Google's FeedBurner platform. Readers can trace favorite contributors' archives, or find content via keyword searching or selecting one of 30 established subject categories (e.g., Business Models, Commerce, Economics, Experimentation, Social Media, Technology). One design flaw is the lack of a site map or content classification scheme; each posting has one set of primary categories, with different "Filed Under" topics (e.g., for the same posting, Big Deal, Business Models, Innovation, Open Access, and Publishing, among others). While this site's focus may not be entirely unique (e.g., compare the SPARC Blog from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), it offers an intellectually stimulating feast, well worth savoring. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. -- P. E. Sandstrom, emerita, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

Scott, Shirley V. International law, US power: the United States' quest for legal security. Cambridge, 2012. 283p bibl index; ISBN 9781107016729, $99.00; ISBN 9781107602595 pbk, $30.00. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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Scott (Univ. of New South Wales, Australia), an expert in international law, argues that over time the US has been very consistent and proficient at using international law in pursuit of two general objectives: to maintain autonomy of policy making at home, and to subject others abroad to its goals. This the author refers to as the search for legal security. Thus, when the US ratifies human rights treaties, it does so in a way that does not require significant change within the US jurisdiction. When the US is concerned about nuclear weapons proliferation beyond itself and other existing nuclear powers, it pays significant attention to the legal nonproliferation regime. A good feature of the book is its demonstration of the primary of politics, with law as a dependent variable. The US approaches international law with consistent attention to its own self-interest (subjectively defined, of course) and what adherence to international law means for its policy preferences. The book can also be read as a demonstration of how the US goes about constructing an informal empire centered on its hegemony. Not written in a particularly engaging style, the book nevertheless provides a sound big picture of its subject. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate and graduate collections. -- D. P. Forsythe, emeritus, University of Nebraska

Smith, Valerie. Toni Morrison: writing the moral imagination. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. 153p bibl index (Blackwell introductions to literature, 42) ISBN 1-4051-6033-0, $74.95; ISBN 9781405160339, $74.95. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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This is a fine introduction to Morrison's fiction to date. Smith (Princeton) fulfills the series' aim, which is to address nonspecialists, with great thoroughness and sensitivity. A well-known scholar herself, the author cites other scholars in the excellent chapter notes, with a focus on guiding readers through Morrison's approaches to reading and writing. Morrison herself gave Smith interviews for this book; these, along with published interviews and Morrison's own literary criticism, enrich Smith's interpretive summaries of the novels. She begins with a cogent survey of the major critical works that convey Morrison's approaches to reading African American literature and the entire American canon and a brief biography emphasizing the sources in folklore, call and response, jazz, dance, and literature that were part of Morrison's family heritage and education. This concise volume will be of special value to less experienced (including high school) readers who want to go deeply into Toni Morrison's work, and it provides an invaluable starting point for anyone who wants to understand the works themselves in their cultural contexts. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers. -- T. H. Oliviero, Pratt Institute

Stryker, Cole. Hacking the future: privacy, identity, and anonymity on the web. Overlook Duckworth, 2012. 255p bibl index; ISBN 9781590209745, $25.95. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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Writer/media consultant Stryker (Epic Win for Anonymous, 2011) presents an engaging look at the history and current state of privacy on the Internet. Hacking the Future is a fast-paced, well-researched examination of the evolution of privacy concerns and the benefits and consequences of anonymity from the past to the present. The author speaks with ease and authority on the subject, and readers will surely find themselves enthralled with the milestones upon which Internet privacy is based and on which it depends. Part of this chronicle is the rise of the group Anonymous and its famed launch of the Occupy protests, exploring the power, danger, and necessity of guarding one's identity. This book is a must read for anyone with an interest in security, privacy, or ethics as well as almost anyone who uses a free and open Internet. Despite the research that obviously went into this book, the narrative is never overencumbered by facts, and it retains its pace from start to finish. It forces the reader to consider both sides of anonymity and what would happen if the Internet swayed too far in either direction. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. -- T. D. Richardson, South University

Wagner, David. Confronting homelessness: poverty, politics, and the failure of social policy, by David Wagner with Jennifer Barton Gilman. L. Rienner, 2012. 207p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781588268235, $55.00. Reviewed in 2013mar CHOICE.

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This is a very welcome account of how the problem of homelessness was "discovered" in the early 1980s. Wagner (Univ. of Southern Maine) and Gilman (independent scholar) analyze 30 years of newspaper articles in order to understand how people with no place to live moved from being "vagrants" to being recognized as "homeless." Their meticulously researched book takes readers from the early colonial poor laws through homeless men riding the rails to the modest victories of funding homeless services in the mid-1980s, to criminalization, to "compassion fatigue," and finally to homelessness being viewed as a bureaucratic problem. A strength of the book is its discussion of the consequences of defining homelessness as a problem of mental health, deinstitutionalization, and substance abuse, rather than as a problem of the lack of affordable housing, the retreat from cash assistance, and the shift in the US economy from manufacturing jobs to low-wage service sector jobs. By focusing on the provision of shelter and food, these authors argue that the broader issues of the lack of a real safety net to help working-class individuals and families not slip into poverty and homelessness were ignored. An excellent book; one of the best on the topic. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. -- I. Glasser, Roger Williams University

Reprinted with permission from CHOICE, copyright by the American Library Association.

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