The Three Battles of Wanat and Other
By Mark Bowden.
Jan. 2016. 496p. Atlantic Monthly, $27
During an illustrious 35-year career, renowned journalist Bowden has produced
more than a few riveting works of nonfiction, including the best-seller, Black Hawk
Down (1999) and Worm: The First Digital
World War (2011). His latest book offers an
assortment of equally compelling magazine
articles and essays, from accounts of wartime turmoil to personal misadventures.
The title piece, which at over 170 pages is
also the longest, recounts the fallout from
the bloodiest U.S. battle on Afghan soil, in
which nine American soldiers were killed.
Looking at the skirmish from many angles,
Bowden lays most of the blame at the feet
of military leaders. Other war-related essays follow the changing roles of fighter
pilots and the history of drones. Bowden
also includes pieces on sports celebrities and
politicians, such as Joe Biden and Abraham
Lincoln, pointing out about the latter how
much the Great Emancipator was maligned
even by his own party during his presidency. A first-rate collection from one of the
finest writers in contemporary journalism.
Border Disputes: A Global Encyclopedia.
Ed. by Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly.
3v. 2015. 1,218p. illus. ABC-CLIO, $294
This set covers 80 international border
conflicts, both current and historical, from a
sociological, political, and geographical perspective. Each dispute covered falls into one
of three volumes, identifying it as a territorial,
positional, or functional disagreement. Introductory essays at the start of each volume
explain the type of conflict covered therein.
Extensive case studies follow, which explore
the origins, causes, and historical context of
the dispute. Relevant legal and cultural issues
are covered in broad but accessible detail—
entries generally range from 5 to 10 pages.
These entries are followed by a list of further
reading, including journal articles, websites,
and government documents.
Excerpts and full text of numerous primary
resource documents are offered throughout,
such as key court decisions, treaties, proclamations, and official resolutions. Most of these
disputes have been ongoing for years—often
decades—and thus specific organizations and
committees exist that deal with these individual conflicts. These groups may belong to a
third party not involved directly in the conflict.
Since they can play a crucial role in resolving
the disagreement, such groups are profiled in
an appendix. Other features include a glossary
of key terms and concepts, multiple maps, and
an extensive (more than 50 pages) bibliography
of further resources. Overall, this is a unique
resource that should provide an excellent
foundation for further study of these matters
for high-school students as well as more expe-
rienced users, such as graduate students and
faculty. —Michael Tosko
YA/C: Notably, this set supports the
national geography standards curriculum
for high-school students as well as AP
human geography topics. MT.
Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives
of Young Women Who Are Transforming
the Arab World.
By Katherine Zoepf.
Jan. 2016. 243p. illus. Penguin, $27.95
As a journalist based in the Middle East in
the years after 9/11, Zoepf was in a unique
position to observe the political and cultural zeitgeist emerging from the Arab world.
Young women in particular were the targets
of some of the most vocal commentary. Hidden behind veils, their actions and attitudes
inaccessible and, perhaps, inexplicable by
Western standards, Arab women were perceived as being pawns and puppets of a
controlling, patriarchal society. Based on interviews and conversations with women in
five Arab countries, including the hot spots
of Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia as well
as Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates,
Zoepf profiles women at the forefront of
the headline-grabbing Arab Spring rebellion
and behind the scenes of quieter yet equally
intense societal changes. Zoepf immersed
herself in Arab culture, attending classes,
parties, and all-girl gab sessions, to create
this unparalleled portrait of what life is like
for young Arab women and how their influence on regional and global issues is not to
be discounted. —Carol Haggas
Nation on the Take: How Big Money
Corrupts Our Democracy and What We
Can Do About It.
By Wendell Potter and Nick Penniman.
Mar. 2016. 304p. Bloomsbury, $28 (9781632861092).
“Money talks, nobody walks,” might once
have been a catchy ad slogan for a men’s
department store, but it could also just as
easily sum up the feeling most Americans
have about the way government operates, or
doesn’t. Money, in the form of PACs, Super-
PACS, and their ilk, influences nearly every
policy initiative and piece of legislation per-
taining to everything from the food we eat to
the air we breathe. The ensuing quid-pro-quo
funding battles between opposing special-
interest groups pursuing favorable votes
means that nothing substantive ever shifts the
paradigm off the status quo. Thanks to such
recent events as the Supreme Court’s Citi-
zens United decision and lack of meaningful
campaign-finance reform, politicians are
more accessible to and influenced by corpo-
rate lobbyists than at any time since William
McKinley was president. Potter (Deadly Spin,
2010) and Penniman, veteran public-policy
analysts and critics, weigh in with a trove of
supporting evidence to expose and explain
current big-money corruption, and offer
concrete ways citizens can indeed unite to
overturn such abuses. —Carol Haggas
Scarlet Women: The Scandalous Lives
of Courtesans, Concubines, and Royal
By Ian Graham.
Jan. 2016. 304p. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, $26.99
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote that “
well-behaved women seldom make history.” The
women chronicled here can hardly be said
to be well behaved, but they, too, are seldom
written about in the history books. Graham
(The Ultimate Book of Imposters, 2013) writes
that “there are no hard-and-fast dividing lines
between the definitions of courtesan, concubine, and mistress. . . . Courtesans could be
described as professional mistresses,” and “the
multiple mistresses of kings could also be described as concubines.” Some of their names
may be familiar, such as Marie Duplessis (the
inspiration for Dumas’ La Dame aux camellias and Verdi’s La Traviata) and Madame de
Pompadour (mistress of King Louis XV), and
some may not, such as Cixi (dowager empress
of China) and Jane Digby (a British admiral’s
daughter who had four husbands, including a
Bedouin sheikh, as well as nearly a dozen aristocratic lovers). Graham tells their stories and
offers suggestions for further reading as well
as a sizable bibliography for those interested
in learning more. Fans of popular history will
enjoy this straightforward, readable account
of the lives and times of some very colorful
characters. —Carolyn Mulac
Watchdogs and Whistleblowers: A
Reference Guide to Consumer Activism.
Ed. by Stephen Brobeck and Robert N.
2015. 533p. ABC-CLIO, $89 (9781440829994). 381.3.
By the time consumers hear news about a
product or service that fails to meet expectations (e.g., the Volkswagen diesel-emissions
deception in 2015), almost certainly one or
more consumer-rights advocacy or interest
groups are already addressing the problem. This
volume covers many of those organizations as
well as the issues they address (including automobile safety, cable-television billing, credit
reporting, food safety, and insurance).
More than 100 A–Z articles on topics and
individual organizations include entries on the
history and the state of the consumer movement in a wide range of other countries and
regions (among them, Central America, Finland, Kenya, Malaysia, the Middle East, and
South Korea), complementing the focus on
the U.S. There are profiles of prominent advocates, such as Ralph Nader, Esther Peterson,
and Elizabeth Warren. Topical articles explain
consumer issues related to businesses, such as