New and noteworthy – 10 December 2015

From Lehman Brothers to La Leche League via disaster capitalism and 'the new retirement': new academic books worth adding to your reading list

December 10, 2015
Piles of books with cup of tea

Never Lose Your Nerve!
Alan J. Heeger
World Scientific Press

See it as “a pleasure and an honour” to mentor students, don’t buy the myth that Asian postdocs are uncreative, go to the theatre, especially if Michael Frayn or West Side Story is involved, have faith in the necessity of risk-taking in doing groundbreaking science, pay tribute to your parents’ life lessons and, above all, pay homage to your brilliant, beautiful wife: an uxorious physicist-turned-chemist and Nobel laureate shares his secrets in this charmingly conversational memoir.

Suffering and Sunset: World War I in the Art and Life of Horace Pippin
Celeste-Marie Bernier
Temple University Press

Horace Pippin’s First World War experiences in the 369th Infantry Regiment – the Harlem Hellfighters – informed some of the self-taught painter’s most haunting works. In this generously illustrated intellectual history and cultural biography, Bernier makes a persuasive case for his being one of the 20th century’s most groundbreaking artists, a writer of “hard-hitting and imagistic prose” and a “memorialist-witness to the experiences of the Black World War I combat soldier”.

Neoliberalising Old Age
John Macnicol
Cambridge University Press

Neil Kinnock’s warnings over a second Thatcher victory in 1983 ended with: “I warn you not to get old.” Three decades on, social policy scholar Macnicol reveals the “old age agenda” to be the stuff of nightmares. His tightly argued study takes in pension reform, the “new retirement” (hollow laughs) and Anthony “Third Way” Giddens as he unpicks the “hard-nosed macro-economic strategy…accompanied by soothing neoliberal mood music relating to the enhancement of rights, choice, opportunity and empowerment”. Meanwhile, he adds, a majority of Britons say the poorest pensioners will be the hardest hit by a rise in the state pension age.

Back to the Breast: Natural Motherhood and Breastfeeding in America
Jessica Martucci
University of Chicago Press

Martucci, a medical ethics and health policy scholar, here traces “the emergence, rise, and fraught continuation of breastfeeding in the twentieth century into the twenty-first” in the US, via La Leche League, Dr Spock, “abnormal” nipples, the “cult of natural motherhood”, electric breast pumps and the reach of the “male medical model”, and the activist group Moms (Making Our Milk Safe).

Lehman Brothers: A Crisis of Value
Oonagh McDonald
Manchester University Press

A financial regulatory expert follows her Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: Turning the American Dream into a Nightmare with a sober, blow-by-blow account of one money-evaporating weekend in September 2008 and the whole tangled tale of “the largest bankruptcy in American history”. Interviews with cashiered employees speak volumes, and her concluding warning that “attention should have been paid to the real world – not chasing chimeras” is followed by an appendix listing the Lehman dramatis personae and the sizeable payoffs they departed with.

Humanitarian Economics: War, Disaster and the Global Aid Market
Gilles Carbonnier

In a volume “somewhere between a primer and an essay”, Geneva-based scholar Carbonnier surveys the multibillion-dollar industry that is “the humanitarian market”, taking in altruists and bureaucrats, the global war on terror, disaster risk insurance and survival economics, and, adding a note of hopefulness, “the transformative power of humanitarian crises”. The book is dedicated to the author’s cousin, Laurent Du Pasquier, an aid worker killed in Donetsk, Ukraine in 2014.

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