#BookReview: Catastrophic Incentives by Jeff Schlegelmilch and Ellen Carlin

Thorough Examination Of The Field. This is a look at the history of disaster response (mostly in the US, and primarily over the last 50 some odd years) and the incentive structures of the various players in the field – and what those incentive structures lead to, for good and bad. It also has a few recommendations on how to move forward, as most books of this type do, though as with most all recommendations of most all books of this type, these very much come down to a Your Mileage May Vary situation. Though I do appreciate that the authors are realists and openly acknowledge that some would be easier to achieve than others, and some of the recommendations are about as close to “never going to happen” as anything ever truly gets. At 34% documentation, it is even on the high side of average in my experience – which is always a plus. Overall a solid and informative look at a lot of aspects of disaster response – and particularly disaster response coordination – that most even within the field probably aren’t fully aware of, and for this alone it is absolutely essential reading for anyone who may ever experience a disaster. Which is everyone, everywhere. Very much recommended.

This review of Catastrophic Incentives by Jeff Schlegelmilch and Ellen Carlin was originally written on May 26, 2023.

#BookReview: The Peer Effect by Syed Ali and Margaret M. Chin

Overt Racism And Extensive Elitism Mar Otherwise Intriguing Premise. In “shit sandwich” form, let’s start out with something good, shall we? The premise here, that peer groups affect behavior more than most other factors, is one that few sociologists – at least those I’ve seen in my 20+ years on the outskirts of that field – have openly espoused. Thus, this book was immediately intriguing and in fact had at least some promise here.

But then we get to the overt racism against anything white male and the extensive elitism in promoting New York City and in particular one particularly exclusive high school as the epitome of virtually everything, openly declaring multiple times that NYC is the cultural heart of the US, among several other elitist (and typical New Yorker) claims. The longer the text goes, the more and more overt the authors get in showing their anti-white male racist misandry, until finally at one point, after clearly establishing “cultures that are longstanding” and similar phrases to mean “white male”, the authors openly state “Cultures that are longstanding have a built-in legitimacy to them; to change them means that people inside and outside of that culture *have to see aspects of their identity, their culture, as illegitimate, as immoral, as wrong.*” (emphasis mine). Imagine the outcry if a white author had made the same statement in reference to virtually any other demographic – and *that* is my standard for detecting bigotry: invert the demographics involved. If there would be outcry, it is likely bigoted. Thus, one star is deducted for the overt racism in particular, and the other star is deducted for the pervasive elitism.

Finally, I can say that the bibliography being roughly 20% of the text was perhaps a touch low, but at least on the low end of *normal* in my extensive experience with Advance Reviewer Copies. And yes, as I am writing this review almost fully six months prior to publication, this means that I am in fact reading and reviewing an ARC here.

Overall, there is enough positive and worthy of consideration here to keep this fairly safely above my dreaded “gold mine” label, but there is still enough detritus here that one should approach the text a bit warily. Still, it does in fact bring some worthy wrinkles to the public discourse, and for that reason it *should* be widely read. Recommended.

This review of The Peer Effect by Syed Ali and Margaret M. Chin was originally written on May 24, 2023.

#BookReview: Chasing The Sun by Linda Geddes

Decent Exploration Of The Topic. A couple of caveats to this review up front: This book was released in 2019, and I’ve read at least a handful of books on the same general topic of human circadian rhythms both before and since. I also read it via Audible, so I have no way of knowing if its documentation is adequate or lacking. These caveats noted, to me this book was more a decent introduction to the general topic than a truly in depth or ground breaking look at it. Most of the things it covered were things I was already generally aware of and even knew a bit of the specifics of due to those other books. So to me, there truly wasn’t much “new science” here at all. And yet, the book was very much approachable and enjoyable, and indeed seemed great for someone less read in the subject at hand. Geddes herself reads the Audible version, and it is quite clear she both knows her subject well and is genuinely passionate about it, so those are definite bonuses in my take on the book. Overall a truly solid introduction to the topics at hand, told in a very approachable manner even for those less familiar with them. Very much recommended.

This review of Chasing The Sun by Linda Geddes was originally written on May 18, 2023.

#BookReview: The Story Of Sushi by Trevor Corson

Interesting Combination Of Case Study And Academic Disciplines. This was an interesting approach to the topic of sushi where rather than just look to how sushi is prepared at the time of the writing of this book (18 yrs ago as I write this review) or just the science and history of the various elements of sushi, Corson instead used the case study of a particular group of students learning how to make sushi at a particular school at a particular point to then springboard from there into the history and the science. He does both quite artfully, though the contemporary scenes he describes feel a touch dated nearly twenty years later, as Corson describes sushi in both Japan and America as on the cusp of either greatness or collapse here. While I can’t speak to how it plays today in Japan – I’ve barely crossed the Missisippi River in the US more than a handful of times, and I’ve never so much as seen the Pacific Ocean absent some picture or screen – in America, even in the Deep South I’ve called home nearly every day of my 40+ years on Earth, sushi has become quite common. Perhaps not prepared exactly the way Corson describes here and perhaps with a distinct lack of the traditions behind it that Corson so eloquently shows, but the food itself has exploded to be seemingly everywhere. Within just a mile or two of my home in Jacksonville, FL, I can name at least a half dozen different spots to get some form of it, from prepared overnight grocery store level sushi to actual sushi bars to even an all-you-can-eat sushi/ Asian fusion food place. And yet, the book, given its time and place, truly tells its story as it is known within that time and place quite well. While I can’t know how documented this was due to having listened to its Audible form, and *perhaps* a text based reading of the same material would have led to a star deduction for lack of bibliography… again, the way I consumed this tale I simply cannot know this, and the benefit of the doubt from not knowing goes to the book keeping the extra star. Overall a fascinating and informative book, one that compels the reader to keep reading and find out more both about the people being detailed and the food and culture they are working with. Very much recommended.

This review of The Story Of Sushi by Trevor Corson was originally written on May 16, 2023.

#BookReview: The Overlooked Americans by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett

Wokeism (n): The Tendency Towards Social Justice Turned Toxic. Got your attention with the headline here, right? Good. Now sit down in that chair right there and let me show you how “it’s done”.

When you get beyond David Auerbach’s Meganets, when you get beyond Tobias Rose-Stockwell’s Outrage Machine, when you get to the *person* you think you so adamantly oppose

… what happens when you find out that while they may come from a different culture than you, the human condition remains the same across cultures, and ultimately they share quite a bit of commonality with you?

What happens when you find out the monster at your door, the horrid kaiju that is threatening your children and your very way of life…

… is just another person who is just trying to protect his own way of life and his own kids, who thinks that *you* are the horrid kaiju threatening *his* kids and way of life?

What happens when you stop shooting at each other for just one minute

… and find out that you had far more in common than you ever had different all along?

Don’t get me wrong, this book has a few problems. Currid-Halkett still tends to be at least somewhat elitist and/ or condescending to those opinions she disagrees with, and there is quite a lot of discussion of COVID here – the latter point being the star deduction, as even in 2023 I remain adamant in my one-man war against any book that mentions COVID, and the single star deduction is my only “real” “weapon” there.

Overall though, it is on the higher end of normally well documented, at 29% bibliography, and fairly well reasoned overall. For those that want to avoid the fates shown in David French’s Divided We Fall… this book is one that so very many people will need to read and take to heart.

Very much recommended.

This review of The Overlooked Americans by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett was originally written on May 9, 2023.

#BookReview: Outrage Machine by Tobias Rose-Stockwell

Strong Claims Need Strong Documentation. Ultimately, the greatest weakness of this book comes down to the title of the review – and the reason for both star deductions here. The text is barely documented at all, coming in at just 10% or so of the overall text – well below the 20-30% which is more typical in my extensive experience reading advance reviewer copies of nonfiction texts. Though as I’ve begun noting of late, I may need to revise that expectation down a touch – to 15%, not 10%. The other star deduction comes from the other part of the title – while the overall premise about the titular Outrage Machine seems sound and the explanations directly on it seem fairly spot-on, Rose-Stockwell uses the sciences, history, and even semi-current events in a way that actually brings to mind the practice rampant in the Christian nonfiction space known as “prooftexting”, wherein Bible verses are cited outside of their context, and often even contrary to their original context, in “proof” of some point or another. Here, Rose-Stockwell does this with the sciences and history, both near and far. Yes, many of the examples he cites seem at least somewhat relevant, but even in the most relevant of them (such as his discussion of COVID), he ignores and even denigrates needed context which deviates from his intention. At other times, he simply gets the needed context quite wrong, which was particularly noticeable in his treatment of some of the issues surrounding the Founding of the United States and which other, far more well documented, texts have explored in much more and more even depth.

All of this noted, to be crystal clear, this really is an important book that when focusing on its central premise of the Outrage Machine and how it works both now and throughout history, is actually quite good. I was simply hoping for a better argued, perhaps slightly more academically rigorous, explanation of the topic at hand – and this is almost more of a memoir form of discussing how Rose-Stockwell realized the idea himself and came to explain it to himself, if that makes any sense. But again, truly an important work that can legitimately add to the overall discussion, and thus recommended.

This review of Outrage Machine by Tobias Rose-Stockwell was originally written on May 2, 2023.

#BookReview: In The Blood by Charles Barber

Visionary. Outsider. Hero. One of the great lines from the movie The Imitation Game (whose trailer I was just watching as I tried to find this quote, and where I found the title of this review) that has always stuck with me is “Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” Obviously, in the context of The Imitation Game, it is about the legendary “Father of Computer Science” (and suspected Autistic) Alan Turing.

Barber, in *this* text, makes it clear that it could very equally be said of a man who may well go down in history as at least as important as Turing himself – Frank Hursey. Hursey was a South Carolina native living in Connecticut who discovered a remarkable property of a fairly common substance – and then set it aside like Mordin in Mass Effect 2 looking at some gadget he was no longer interested in. Until Bart Gullong came into his life and recognized the significance of what Hursey had found – and together, the inventor and the salesman/ marketer would go on to change the course of world history.

Barber, through a seemingly episodic format where he provides brief biographical sketches of each of the key players in the unfolding drama while keeping the narrative squarely focused on Hursey, Gullong, and their products, tells a story at least as motivational as anything has ever been told about Turing’s own life. A story of a almost literal garage inventor who finds and develops a substance that has literal world changing powers.

A substance that can make battlefield – or anywhere else – traumas far more survivable, by finally solving a problem humanity had never before solved in its known history – how to stop mass bleeding.

This is the story of how Hursey and Gullong found, developed, and marketed the substance to the US military – and then later found mass market appeal in nearly every segment of the economy that might find a desire to stop a potential bleed out.

Including, per Barber, Taylor Swift having it near her at all times in the case of an attack at one of her concerts.

The only reason for the star deduction here is the slightly lower than my expected average of 20-30% on the bibliography, clocking in here at 16% instead. And as I’ve noted in other reviews of late, given that so many more recent texts are clocking in closer to this 15% point, I may well need to revise my expected bibliography size down a touch.

The tale opens with the story of the Battle of Mogadishu and the subsequent movie form of it, Black Hawk Down. Don’t be surprised to see a movie form of this book itself at some point. Very much recommended.

This review of In The Blood by Charles Barber was originally written on April 27, 2023.

#BookReview: The Shadow Docket by Stephen Vladeck

When The Pendulum Swings… Where Will Vladeck Be? This is one of those historical/ current event analysis books where, particularly in the “coming of age” of a novel (ish, as Vladeck shows) concept of the “shadow docket”, it will be interesting to see if the author is just as adamant against the idea when his own “team” is using it as heavily or moreso as he is when his political opponents do. Though to be clear, the history and analysis here, while necessarily hitting the current (post-Trump era) SCOTUS the hardest for doing this the most *because they have*, does an excellent job of showing just how we got to this point where it was even possible for this particular problem to exist at all. On that front… there isn’t a political “side” in current America or American history that is fully blameless in enabling or using this bad behavior, and Vladeck shows this quite well indeed and indeed seems to be a fairly objective-ish student and teacher of legal history. For such a dense overall topic, Vladeck handles the telling of the tale quite well, such that even people who have barely ever heard of the Supreme Court of the United States of America will be able to clearly see what the current problem is and how we got to this point and why both of them matter.

Indeed, the only real reason for the single star deduction is the slight lack of documentation, coming in at just 15% of the overall advance reviewer copy text rather than the more typical in my experience 20-30%. Though as I’ve been noting a few times on similar points of late, given just how many newer nonfiction books seem to be coming in within that 15-20% range, I may yet need to recalculate my seeming average.

Overall an intriguing tale, and one that every American truly needs to understand – and Vladeck does a remarkable job of making that particular task as easy as reading this particular book. Truly great work making such a dense topic so relatable and understandable, and very much recommended.

This review of The Shadow Docket by Stephen Vladeck was originally written on April 25, 2023.

#BookReview: Silent Coup by Claire Provost and Matt Kennard

Flawed Premise And (Slightly) Lacking Documentation Mar Otherwise Intriguing Discussion. Make no mistake – Provost and Kennard show quite a few corporate abuses in several different areas throughout this book, and they do in fact make a strong case that this has influenced government to a very strong degree in the post WWII era. Where their premise is flawed (which is where one of the two stars deducted comes from) is that they constantly state that this is “overthrowing democracy” when in fact it is *utilizing* democracy to effect a form of democracy known as “corporatism” – which is a term the authors never once use in the text at all, and which is actually much more precise to their overall premise. The other star deduction comes from the bibliography coming in at just 18% of the text, which is slightly under the 20-30% that is more typical of such texts in my own experience. (Though given how many books of late are coming in closer to 15%, I may in fact need to examine all relevant data and perhaps revise this down?)

Still, even with the flawed premise and not quite enough documentation supporting it, this really is quite an eye opening look at the various abuses of corporate power across the globe and how they have caused quite a bit of harm and perhaps unintended consequences, and for these looks alone, it is absolutely worthy of reading and could enhance the overall discussion of related topics. Recommended.

This review of Silent Coup by Claire Provost and Matt Kennard was originally written on April 25, 2023.

#BookReview: The Ballot And The Bible by Kaitlyn Schiess

No Matter What You Think About The Bible In American Politics – You’re Wrong. This is one of the better books I’ve ever come across in showing just how the Bible has been debated throughout American history, from its earliest days through Trump, January 6, and even into how Biden is currently using it. And it does a phenomenal job of showing just what I said in the title here – no matter what you think you know about the Bible in American politics, no matter what you personally think about how it has been applied and should currently be applied… you’re wrong. While having perhaps a slight tinge of anti-whiteness here (in that the most heavy criticism tends to land squarely on the actions of white people), Schiess really does do quite a remarkable – and remarkably even – job of showing that no one is truly “evil” or even “uneducated” about the Bible (well, specific people in specific circumstances may be), they simply have different methods of understanding and interpreting it which lead to divergent conclusions based on both the text *and those extra-text methods*. And the sides have flipped and flopped throughout even somewhat recent American history such that neither can go more than a few decades without having to explain some prior interpretation from “their” side away.

The documentation here comes in at a slightly low yet still respectable 21%, and while Bible verses are cited throughout the text, there is no actual “prooftexting” here – verses are cited not to prove a point, but to cite which elements of which passages different groups were interpreting different ways at different points in American history.

Indeed, perhaps the only real valid complaint here is that I’m fairly certain this book could be a few times is barely 200 pages… and *still* not cover the topic in true depth. And yet, the depth it does manage to pull off in these pages is still quite remarkable indeed. Very much recommended.

This review of The Ballot And The Bible by Kaitlyn Schiess was originally written on April 21, 2023.