Reviews

Review: Robert Bruegmann, Sprawl

March 21, 2006
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Review: Robert Bruegmann, Sprawl

The Weekly Standard recently praised Robert Bruegmann’s Sprawl: A Compact History. From the review by Vincent J. Cannato: "his book is a refreshing antidote to the avalanche of pessimism emanating from the so-called sprawl debate. As Bruegmann writes in his introduction, it seemed as if "so many ‘right-minded’ people were so vociferous on the subject that I began to suspect that there must be something suspicious about the argument itself." He approaches the topic with some much-needed skepticism toward these ‘right-minded’ critics and adds a healthy dose of nondogmatic libertarianism to the mix. The result is an eminently readable and rational book." In his incisive history of the expanded city, Bruegmann overturns every assumption we have about sprawl. Taking a long view of urban development, he demonstrates that sprawl is neither recent nor particularly American but as old as cities themselves, just as characteristic of ancient Rome and eighteenth-century Paris as it is of Atlanta or Los Angeles. Nor is sprawl the disaster claimed by many contemporary observers. Although sprawl, like any settlement pattern, has undoubtedly produced problems that must be addressed, it has also provided millions of people with the kinds of mobility, privacy, . . .

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Review: Mario Biagioli, Galileo’s Instruments of Credit

March 15, 2006
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Review: Mario Biagioli, Galileo’s Instruments of Credit

The New Scientist recently praised Mario Biagioli’s Galileo’s Instruments of Credit: Telescopes, Images, Secrecy. From the review: " study presents a fresh and interesting view of the challenges faced by the 17th-century scientist." Galileo’s Instruments of Credit proposes radical new interpretations of several key episodes of Galileo’s career, including his early telescopic discoveries of 1610, the dispute over sunspots, and the conflict with the Holy Office over the relationship between Copernicanism and Scripture. Galileo’s tactics during this time shifted as rapidly as his circumstances, argues Mario Biagioli, and the pace of these changes forced him to respond swiftly to the opportunities and risks posed by unforeseen inventions, further discoveries, and the interventions of his opponents. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Review: Andrzej Szczeklik, Catharsis

March 9, 2006
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Review: Andrzej Szczeklik, Catharsis

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries recently reviewed Andrzej Szczeklik’s Catharsis: On the Art of Medicine. From the review: "A rash of reflections on medicine has been published by senior physicians approaching retirement. Most are autobiographical, often maudlin, and usually self-serving. This jewel of a book is an exception. explores the patient-doctor encounter, a mysterious process that has constituted the art of medicine since time eternal.… The text is peppered with illustrative case histories, and salted with the resources of a prodigious intellect that mixes history, philosophy, mythology, and poetry in telling the story. This is a wise, erudite, and insightful book that has been translated sensitively from the original Polish. It makes for an enormously good read that will enrich the life of anyone who peruses it. Highly recommended." Read an excerpt. . . .

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Review: John Yoo, The Powers of War and Peace

March 8, 2006
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Review: John Yoo, The Powers of War and Peace

Commentary recently reviewed John Yoo’s The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11. From Andrew C. McCarthy’s review: "An essential guide for thinking about national-security challenges in an era of transnational terror networks that flout the laws of civilized warfare.… Yoo’s thesis in this book is strongest as an argument grounded in text—the text, that is, of our founding law.… In a world beset by the constant threat of sudden destructive force, a robust and firmly grounded view of presidential power is imperative.… For showing how that power derives from the very system the framers bequeathed us, John Yoo deserves our deep thanks." Read an interview with John Yoo. . . .

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Review: Mark D. West, Law in Everyday Japan

March 7, 2006
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Review: Mark D. West, Law in Everyday Japan

The Japan Times recently praised Mark D. West’s Law in Everyday Japan: Sex, Sumo, Suicide, and Statutes. In the review, Jeff Kingston writes: "This is a superb book that explores the interaction of law, society and culture over a range of intriguing topics. In seven captivating case studies, Mark West shows how law influences people’s behavior and perceptions in everyday situations. Rather than trumping law, social norms are powerfully shaped by it. We learn that Japanese respond to incentives and penalties in ways very similar to people in other societies.… By choosing themes off the beaten track of legal analysis, West demonstrates that even the quirkiest phenomena can be analyzed. He ‘examines the incentives created by law and legal institutions in everyday lives, the ways in which law intermingles with social norms, historically engrained ideas, cultural mores, and the phenomena that cannot easily be explained.’ And he does so in a delightfully engaging manner." Compiling case studies based on seven fascinating themes—karaoke-based noise complaints, sumo wrestling, love hotels, post-Kobe earthquake condominium reconstruction, lost-and-found outcomes, working hours, and debt-induced suicide—Law in Everyday Japan offers a vibrant portrait of the way law intermingles with social norms, historically ingrained ideas, and cultural mores . . .

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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

March 7, 2006
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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

History Today‘s March 2006 issue features a review of Matt Houlbrook’s Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957, winner of its Longman-History Today Book of the Year 2006 award. Julian Jackson praised the book: "Superb…. This is scholarly history, but it is also the best kind of engaged history. Houlbrook clearly feels something was lost with the ‘respectable’ homosexuality of the 1950s although he is too good a historian to tell any black-and-white story. He sees the evolution he describes as ‘simultaneously liberating and exclusionary.’ If for some men the emergence of more private spaces after 1945 was ‘unequivocally affirmative, offering them opportunities to socialize in a safe, respectable and semi-private place,’ this process made things harder for those who wished—or were forced—to remain more visible. This is a book, finally, as much about London as about sexuality, demonstrating with empathy and subtlety both how sexuality was played out in the city and how it was shaped by it." History Today editor Peter Furtado calls the book " example of modern ‘queer history’ is an account of how gay people lived in London, which everyone, gay or straight, can relate to. Not written (as it might have . . .

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Review: Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

March 6, 2006
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Review: Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

The Guardian‘s Steven Poole recently reviewed Edward Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games: "Those who spend their nights pretending to be elves on the internet are, it appears, worthy of more than your bafflement or idle contempt, for this is the future of human society. Already, as the economist author points out, massive multiplayer online roleplaying games such as World of Warcraft host large economies whose apparently fictional currencies are traded against the real-life dollar, and political institutions are just as real in the virtual world as they are when housed in actual buildings.… Castronova’s discussion is detailed and thought-provoking, although … his optimism seems to underplay the fate of the underclass that will inevitably be locked out of these digital utopias: after all, some people will always have to maintain infrastructure and energy and food supplies while the rest sublime happily into cyberspace." Read an interview with Edward Castronova. . . .

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Review: Chiara Frugoni, A Day in a Medieval City

March 4, 2006
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Review: Chiara Frugoni, A Day in a Medieval City

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries recently reviewed Chiara Frugoni’s A Day in a Medieval City: "With its color illustrations of rare paintings and artifacts, this thoughtful and informative, elegantly fashioned excursion into the life of a medieval city is a veritable feast of information and visual delights. Frugoni is a marvelously experienced historical travel guide.… The translation is clear and unobtrusive, every page reflecting the author’s verve and intellectual curiosity.… Highly recommended." An opportunity to experience the daily hustle and bustle of life in the late Middle Ages, A Day in a Medieval City provides a captivating dawn-to-dark account of medieval life. A visual trek through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries—with seasoned historian and expert on medieval iconography Chiara Frugoni as guide—this book offers a vast array of images and vignettes that depicts the everyday hardships and commonplace pleasures for people living in the Middle Ages. . . .

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Review: Peter De Vries, The Blood of the Lamb

March 3, 2006
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Review: Peter De Vries, The Blood of the Lamb

The Gazette (Montreal) recently published a review of Peter De Vries’s novel The Blood of the Lamb: "De Vries was a master of puckish pedantry. His marvelously erudite sentences are often inverted and complex, but they always end up where he wants them.… humour is a welcome gleam of wry rationality shining through the dark clouds. This is a deeply touching book whose sincerity and universality are likely to ensure its future." The most poignant of all De Vries’s novels, The Blood of the Lamb is also the most autobiographical. It follows the life of Don Wanderhop from his childhood in an immigrant Calvinist family living in Chicago in the 1950s through the loss of a brother, his faith, his wife, and finally his daughter—a tragedy drawn directly from De Vries’s own life. Despite its foundation in misfortune, The Blood of the Lamb offers glimpses of the comic sensibility for which De Vries was famous. . . .

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Review: Laura J. Miller, Reluctant Capitalists

March 2, 2006
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Review: Laura J. Miller, Reluctant Capitalists

Publishers Weekly recently reviewed Laura J. Miller’s Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption: "Though independent booksellers may believe they already understand all that there is to know about maintaining the delicate balance between economic success and cultural integrity, those who dip into Miller’s impressive examination will find their curiousity well rewarded.… A carefully articulated investigation." Publishers Weekly’s Ron Hogan interviewed Miller about Reluctant Capitalists. Read the interview here. . . .

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