• Young adult recommendations for adult,
audio, and reference titles reviewed in
this issue have been contributed by the
Booklist staff and by reviewers Barbara
Bibel, Michael Cart, Laura Chanoux,
John Charles, Brendan Driscoll, Lindsay
Harmon, Kristine Huntley, Dan Kaplan,
Colleen Mondor, Michael Ruzicka, Candace Smith, Becky Spratford, Bridget
Thoreson, and Henrietta Verma.
• Adult titles recommended for teens are
marked with the following symbols: YA,
for books of general YA interest; YA/C,
for books with particular curriculum
value; YA/S, for books that will appeal
most to teens with a special interest in
a specific subject; and YA/M, for books
best suited to mature teens.
Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese
School, and the Global Race to Achieve.
By Lenora Chu.
Sept. 2017. 320p. Harper, $27.99 (9780062367853). 370.
Chinese-American journalist Chu combines
her son Rainey’s experiences in a Shanghai kindergarten and a broader comparison of Chinese
and Western education systems. Sent abroad
for work, she meets with education experts,
observes a variety of school settings, and talks
with students to illuminate the factors contributing to the phenomenally high rankings
achieved by Shanghai teenagers in international academic tests. China’s school system
is reputed to be a pressure cooker, demanding
conformity and submission to teachers’ wills as
parents are encouraged to drill their toddlers,
hire tutors, and stay deeply engaged. The goal
is to build academic superstars who can compete for relatively few spots in elite public high
schools and universities and eventually land
government jobs. Those who fall off the education track, as nearly half of rural children do,
are doomed to vocational training or dropping
out entirely. This engaging narrative is personalized by Chu’s often humorous recollections
of attending American schools as the daughter
of immigrants. Little Soldiers offers fascinating peeks inside the world’s largest educational
system and at the future intellectual “soldiers”
American kids will be facing. —Dan Kaplan
Living in the Anthropocene: Earth in the
Age of Humans.
By W. John Kress and Jeffrey K. Stine.
Sept. 2017. 208p. Smithsonian, $34.95
The authors of this essay collection propose
that the changes wrought by humans have
created a new era, the Anthropocene, or the
age of man. Arranged in sections from “A
Changing Planet” to “The Way Forward,” the
pieces range in quality and originality (those
addressing climate change necessarily present
known facts), with most of them very good
and some excellent. Overall, the book takes
the pragmatic view that we are in uncharted
and precarious waters, and our job is to find
a way forward. Also refreshing are looks at
less studied issues, such as the effects of glo-balism on indigenous populations and how
artists are portraying and influencing this new
world. These essays are solid introductions for
those seeking more awareness of the world
around them; this audience will appreciate
the further-reading list provided. For analysis
of more personal changes caused by global-ism, an ideal companion to this macro view
is Dan Barber’s The Third Plate: Field Notes on
the Future of Food (2014). —Henrietta Verma
YA/C: Many of these short essays will
make ideal conversation starters in high-school classes. HV.
By Sigrid Rausing.
Sept. 2017. 224p. Knopf, $25 (9780451493125).
In our era of epidemic opioid addiction, sta-
Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers,
tistics, trends, and demographics may tell the
big story. But in her memoir, social anthro-
pologist and Granta editor Rausing renders a
close-up tale. Pushing aside the veil of fam-
ily privacy, Rausing discloses and dissects the
tormenting details of her family’s unhappy
maelstrom. Her brother, Hans, first met his
bride-to-be, Eva, in rehab; in fact, Eva had
been recruited to convince Hans to remain in
treatment. They become sober together; their
friendship blossoms into love; and for eight
years, they live and thrive in sobriety. Then a
small slip ignites a downward spiral that over
the following years disrupts lives, alienates
family, and ends in sorrow. Unrelenting in
detail, Rausing’s story relates the impact her
brother and sister-in-law’s struggles have on
Rausing herself, as she wrestles to understand
her own role and responsibility to them.
Along the way, Rausing reflects on contem-
porary theories of addiction and recovery to
which her family turns for aid but that are
found wanting in the face of a tragic reality.
Family and an Inexplicable Crime.
By Ben Blum.
Sept. 2017. 432p. Doubleday, $28.95 (9780385538435).
This debut work is a stunningly well-executed examination of one man’s abrupt fall into
disgrace and another man’s fascination with
that fall. The men (one, a gung-ho U.S. Army
Ranger on his way to Iraq in 2006; the other,
the author of this book) grew up together as
cousins in Colorado. The defining moment
for author Blum’s cousin Alex, and for this
wrenching book, was Alex’s sudden and seemingly inexplicable involvement in a bank
robbery on the verge of his being shipped to
Iraq, a moment that blew up his life and those
of his relatives. Blum spent seven years puzzling out this act, interviewing Alex, family
members, and friends. He also investigates the
Ranger culture that instills blind obedience,
and the evil influence that one special-opera-tions commander held over Alex. The result is
a well-researched, spellbinding work of narrative nonfiction that opens up the psychology
of Ranger training, as well as giving the reader
a compassionate view of the interlocking
forces that can feed into one spectacularly bad
decision. —Connie Fletcher
The SAGE Encyclopedia of War:
Social Science Perspectives.
Ed. by Paul Joseph.
4v. 2017. 2,104p. Sage, $650 (9781483359892).
Edited by an expert in the sociology of war
and peace, this new collection aims to take a
fresh and unique perspective on war, focus-
ing on the social-science perspectives rather
than the militaristic, historical, or political
viewpoints normally taken in such reference
works. So, instead of battles and generals,
the alphabetically ordered entries cover is-
sues like Balance of power; Don’t Ask, Don’t
Tell; Military-industrial complex; Soldier sui-
cides; Political will for war; War profiteering;
and Ecological causes of war.
Most entries are clearly not the kind one
would find in a traditional “history of war”
reference source, and those that are take a
different tack. For example, the entry on
Wounded Knee begins
with a narrative recounting of events but is mostly
devoted to the effects of
government demands on
the Lakota tribe and the
strong influence of the re-ligious-awakening Ghost
Overall, there are nearly 700 entries, generally a page or two in length, with subheadings
and a list of further reading. There are see also
references and a voluminous, detailed index
that is invaluable for locating topics and subjects within other entries. The “Reader’s Guide”
offers even more insight into what is covered
in this set and from what perspectives—
representative subject headings here are “Concepts
and Theories,” “Opposition and Resistance,”
“Preventing and Managing Conflict,” and “
Recovery and Reconciliation.” This is an excellent
resource for academic and public libraries,
either as a stand-alone reference resource on
war or as a complement to existing historical-reference resources. —Michael Tosko
We Are All Shipwrecks.
By Kelly Grey Carlisle.
Sept. 2017. 336p. Sourcebooks, $24.99
Although the initial intrigue in Carlisle’s
engrossing memoir is that of her mother’s
murder, quite possibly by the Hillside Strangler, the real story is what came after. Kelly
lives with her maternal grandmother and her
grandmother’s friend, Dee, until she is four.
After her grandmother’s death, she lives with
her grandfather and his second wife, Marilyn.
Almost nothing is normal for Kelly. Not only
is her family nontraditional, but they live on