Livres en sciences sociales: comptes rendus (avril 2011)

(source: Library Journal, 01/04/2011)

Economie

Calonius, Erik. Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries from the Rest of Us. Portfolio. 2011. c.256p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781591843764. $25.95. BUS
As the Wall Street Journal’s former London correspondent, Calonius has rubbed shoulders with many of the world’s biggest names in business. Given his claim that these so-called visionaries have something that sets them apart, we might ask the same question posed by the Cowardly Lion, “What have they got that I ain’t got?” And the answer in both cases would be the same: courage. Well, that along with conviction, vision, intuition, a little charisma—and luck. This book combines Calonius’s private encounters with entrepreneurs with the latest research in neuroscience and psychology to demonstrate just what attributes combine to make a Steve Jobs or a Richard Branson. His vignettes are drawn not just from formal interviews but from personal visits to country estates, fabled garage incubators, or wild airplane rides. The reader gets to witness these thinkers in their native habitats and see what makes them tick. VERDICT Calonius explains the neuroscience behind the visionaries’ accomplishments as successfully as he tells their stories. This breezy read even offers advice to those wanting to increase their own visionary abilities.—Carol J. Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin–Whitewater Lib.

McTague, Jim. Crapshoot Investing: How Tech Savvy Traders and Clueless Regulators Turned the Stock Market into a Casino. FT: Pearson. 2011. c.264p. ISBN 9780132599689. $26.99. ECON
McTague, Washington editor for Barron’s Magazine and frequent FOX Business News guest, offers his take on recent Wall Street history, most notably the Flash Crash of May 2010; increasing market volatility; the advent of high-frequency trading and the algorithmic trading activities of “quants” (quantitative analysts); and Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulation efforts (which, he contends, have been largely ineffectual, if not counterproductive). Equity and commodity trading are becoming increasingly complex, and McTague’s narrative is correspondingly detailed and acronym heavy, although he still tells a quickly paced story. McTague clearly knows his financial stuff (although he perhaps over-attributes investor jitters to the Flash Crash), but his right-of-center political bent sometimes colors his commentary. The jacket copy promises tips for trading, but the book does not contain much in the way of concrete advice for the generalist investor. VERDICT An interesting read, particularly about technological and regulatory shenanigans in today’s financial markets, but not as accessible as Michael Lewis’s Liar’s Poker or The Big Short or as helpful as Gary Kaminsky’s Smarter Than the Street.—Sarah Statz Cords, The Reader’s Advisor Online

Sciences politiques

Prizewinning Political Cartoons. 2011 ed. Pelican. May 2011. c.109p. ed. by Dean P. Turnbloom. illus. index. ISBN 9781589808881. pap. $19.95. POL SCI
In Turnbloom’s third edition of this series are over 150 opinionated cartoons assessing the state of our country and the world as life unfurled over the last year. The included artists are those who won or were nominated for 2010’s major prizes for such work. (Three of the year’s award winners seem not to have granted permission to include their art, but Turnbloom gives them biographical space just the same.) The organization is by prize, starting with the mighty Pulitzer (the winner won for animated work, shown in a miscellany of cells) and moving on to ten others, including an international competition. Turnbloom first briefly describes the prize, its history, and the tenets behind its selection criteria. Each cartoonist gets a short biographical sketch, lacking almost all interpretive or critical detail, plus a selection of their 2010 cartoons. The cartoons themselves, reproduced in their original color or black and white, are of course the reason to buy the book. Most, but definitely not all, come from left of center. Turnbloom provides no assessments or details to accompany each image. VERDICT Whether it’s health care, Afghanistan, Wall Street, or nuclear threats, cable news junkies and lovers of caricature cartooning may well enjoy this book. The rudimentary index is only of the cartoonists’ names.—Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal

Wright, John. The Obama Haters: Behind the Right-Wing Campaign of Lies, Innuendo & Racism. Potomac. May 2011. c.224p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781597975124. $24.95. POL SCI
Hillary Clinton’s 1998 allegation of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” that sought to cripple her husband’s presidency resurfaces here as journalist Wright (Latin America editor, Energy News Today) discusses the forces seeking to undermine the Obama presidency. But he offers little new information or original analysis. Granted, there remains a strong racist element in American society that despises having a black President and produces a variety of hatred that no other U.S. President has had to endure. But it is no surprise that vocal conservatives are strongly opposed to the policies of the first non-Southern Democratic President in a half-century and will do whatever they believe is necessary to weaken him politically. Mudslinging, lies, name-calling, and dirty tricks have always been a staple of American politics. And in the age of the Internet and 24-hour news, bashing of politicians of every bent has become even more intense. VERDICT The author writes well but uses innuendo, slurs, and simplification much as those he accuses of hating President Obama do. While many Americans want a more civil tone between both ends of the political spectrum, this book offers little to advance us toward that goal.—Robert Bruce Slater, Stroudsburg, PA

Sociologie

Abrams, Dan. Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers, and Just About Everything Else. Abrams Image. 2011. 144p. ISBN 9780810998292. $17.95. SOC SCI
Abrams (founder, Abrams Media Network, and no relation to this publisher), previously a longtime presence on and off camera at MSNBC, may surprise readers with the subject of his first book. Within five parts—“Women Are Cooler,” “Women Are Smarter,” “Women Are Better Citizens,” “Women Are Healthier,” and “Women Are Better Professionals”—Abrams presents short, incisive “chapters” that state the case on a particular pronouncement (e.g., “Women Are Better at Avoiding Internet Fraud”), with punchy writing replete with allusions to the supporting evidence, e.g., for Internet fraud he refers to and details the 2009 data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Most of the studies and surveys that Abrams cites are from the last five years, chiefly coming from U.S. and British sources. The lack of an index, bibliography, or endnotes and the epigraphs from famous figures otherwise not present in the book surely give the volume a gift-book demeanor—and that’s not altogether fair to the content. VERDICT Whether explaining the more surprising (“Women Have Better Muscular Endurance”) or the rather well known (“Women Have Better Bathroom Manners”), Abrams gives curious general readers lively and thought-provoking, well-supported pieces. This is also a fine book for high school students, highly recommended to inspire discussion and engagement with our times. —Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal

Thomson, Ian. The Dead Yard: A Story of Modern Jamaica. Nation: Perseus. Apr. 2011. c.384p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781568586564. pap. $16.99. SOC SCI
In this excellent book, Thomson (Primo Levi: A Life) reveals the complexities of modern Jamaican life as lived by Jamaicans—poverty-stricken and violent, multicultural and rich with tradition. A fine ear for language and a journalist’s nose for a good story make Thomson the perfect guide through island life, but his book is far more than a travelog. He delves into Jamaican history, politics, culture, religion, music, food, and economy, deftly weaving these macro-level issues with the lives of ordinary Jamaicans—white, black, multiracial, Chinese, and East Indian. He talks with white Jamaicans on the island, black Jamaicans in Britain, and everyone in between. Ultimately, the story is of a country still struggling with the legacies of colonialism and of a people deeply attached to their home but conflicted about where they belong in Jamaica and where Jamaica belongs in the world. VERDICT Thomson’s obvious love for Jamaica makes the book that much more engaging, and he is a skilled enough writer that his affection never clouds his prose or tips it toward sentimentalism. A remarkable book that many readers of narrative nonfiction will appreciate. Highly recommended also to students of Caribbean studies.—Julie Biando Edwards, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula

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