Informative Resources for Ancient Greece, African American Literature, Modern India & More| Reference

Whether you're looking to beef up your history, political science, literature, or religion reference section, here are the titles we'll be turning to this March.


A Day in the Life of an American Worker: 200 Trades and Professions Through History. ABC-CLIO. 2019. 790p. ed. by Nancy Quam-Wickham & Ben Tyler Elliott. ISBN 9781440845000. $204. REF
In this exploration of working people throughout U.S. history, Quam-Wickham (history, California State Univ. Long Beach) and writer and editor Elliott take a generalist rather than a comprehensive approach to their subject. Aware that the term working people is a broad one, and that occupations have evolved over time, the editors selected jobs they consider to be reflective of the American work environment over the last 400 years. The book is organized around six pivotal epochs: the end of the colonial era, the start of the Civil War, the end of Reconstruction, the start of World War I, the start of World War II, and the rise of the internet. Each section begins with an introduction of the era, followed by approximately 30 individual entries that outline the typical daily responsibilities of jobs, from a farrier (early colonial period) and a ginner (Revolutionary War) to a puddler (Reconstruction), a glazier (World War I), and a computer programmer (post–World War II). Information on how jobs have changed over time, plus a chronology of important events, primary documents of workers’ experiences, and a detailed bibliography help support the entries.
VERDICT This concise, well-written work is both an effective introduction to the subject but also a gateway for readers looking to take a deeper dive into an array of different types of occupations. —Rob Tench, Old Dominion Univ. Libs., Norfolk, VA

redstarFelder, Deborah G. The American Women’s Almanac: 500 Years of Making History. Visible Ink. Feb. 2020. 608p. ISBN 9781578596362. pap. $22.95. REF
Felder (The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time: A Ranking Past and Present) honors the contributions of American women throughout the nation’s history, which have long gone overlooked. Profiling more than 350 women, from First Lady Martha Washington to Governor Sarah Palin to attorney and educator Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to novelist Toni Morrison, the author selected subjects whom she felt "best represent the historical trajectory of women in America." Her picks are top-notch, collectively demonstrating that women have had a significant impact upon U.S. society and culture. The biographies are categorized by topics such as the women’s rights movements, literature, business leaders and entrepreneurs, and sports figures. Important historical milestones are recounted as well, including the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, the 19th Amendment, the legalization of birth control in 1966, and the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. A historical time line, numerous photographs and drawings, and suggestions for further reading add heft.
VERDICT A welcome counter to textbooks and encyclopedias that favor the achievements of men, this is an essential addition to reference or history collections in all public and academic libraries. —Dave Pugl, Ela Area P.L., Lake Zurich, IL

Lovano, Michael. The World of Ancient Greece. 2 vols. Greenwood. (Daily Life Encyclopedias). 2019. 977p. ISBN 9781440837302. $204. REF
Lovano (history, St. Norbert Coll.; All Things Julius Caesar) surveys sociocultural history in Greece from the Bronze Age to the end of the Roman Empire, focusing on 490–30 BCE. The writing is exceptionally clear, and the range is impressive: Virtually all possible areas are covered (arts, family and gender, fashion and appearance, food and drink, housing and community, politics and warfare, recreation and social customs, religion and beliefs, science and technology). Lovano frequently considers women’s roles, rights, powers, and perspectives. Informatively captioned black-and-white illustrations are well chosen, though more, especially for dress, buildings, city layouts, and maps, would have been helpful. A time line, cross-references, further reading, a general bibliography, and an appendix of 19 excerpted primary documents, each with brief contextual notes, aid researchers. Lovano knowledgeably cites varied ancient sources on a staggering array of topics, including metallurgy, oracles, and magic. Readers will learn that Plutarch advocated providing education to the poor and the enslaved, that consuming butter or beer was judged barbaric, that fewer than two percent of ancient Greek city-states were democracies, and that sacrificed animal remains were piled on Zeus’s altar at Olympia. Many articles vividly address customs and mind-sets, such as essays on the cost of living and entries on festivals and leisure. The perceptive, brief introductions to each section are especially engaging.
VERDICT Users from advanced secondary students to general readers will find here a strong, accessible foundation of basic information revolving around the classical and Hellenistic periods. —Patricia D. Lothrop, formerly of St. George’s Sch., Newport, RI


African American Literature: An Encyclopedia for Students. ABC-CLIO. 2019. 429p. ed. by Hans A. Ostrom & J. David Macey. ISBN 9781440871504. $109. REF
In this single volume, editors Ostrom (African American studies, Univ. of Puget Sound, WA) and Macey (English, Univ. of Central Oklahoma), who in 2005 produced the five-volume Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature, have assembled what they call an introduction and overview to African American literature, aimed primarily at students. The majority of the information-dense, extensively sourced entries cover individual writers, but others address movements (the Harlem Renaissance, black feminism), themes and influences (folklore), and genres (essays, crime and mystery fiction); providing general outlines and then detailing African American contributions, this latter type will likely be the most useful. All summaries are signed, and brief profiles of the entries’ writers appear in the back (most are academics, though there are a few independent researchers as well). The title contains an index, a general bibliography, and extensive resources. A time line is oddly broad, beginning in 35,000 BCE and ending in the present.
VERDICT Overall, a useful option for its target audience: students. The entries will be accessible to high schoolers, and possibly younger students, as well as college-level readers, who will learn much from the coverage of varied genres, from mystery, romance, and horror, influenced by African American writers. —Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

Political Science

McLeod, John. Modern India. ABC-CLIO. (Understanding Modern Nations). 2019. 434p. ISBN 9781440852886. $100. REF
This latest installment in "Understanding Modern Nations," a series targeted at those wishing to expand their knowledge of the world, explores India. Each chapter focuses on a different subject (history, music and dance, art and architecture, food), beginning with an overview and followed by entries on related topics (under media and popular culture, readers can learn more about social media, Bollywood, and censorship, for instance). As the second most populous country in the world, India has a complex history and present—it has one of the largest gross domestic products in the world, yet the World Bank reported in 2012 that India has more than 500 million people living in poverty. McLeod (history, Univ. of Louisville; The History of India) puts the country in historical context to help readers better understand its current state. Appendixes are included after each chapter, and a short "Day in the Life" narrative depicts typical days for a range of people living in India, from students to working mothers. An appendix of "Facts and Figures" provides statistical data, detailing 2,300 years of political happenings. A bibliography lists some of the most significant English-language works that have been published on India in recent years.
VERDICT Useful for both undergraduates and general readers interested in learning more about modern India. —Gary Medina, El Camino Coll., Torrance, CA


Theism and Atheism: Opposing Arguments in Philosophy. Macmillan Reference USA: Gale Cengage. 2019. 740p. ed. by Graham Oppy & Joseph W. Koterski. ISBN 9780028664453. $295. REF
This unique reference tackles the philosophy of theism and atheism. Each of the 20 topics (e.g., miracles, faith, the problem of suffering) is treated first from the theistic and then the atheistic viewpoint; separate editorial boards were responsible for each perspective. Oppy (philosophy, Monash Univ.) headed up the atheism side, while Koterski (philosophy, Fordham Univ.) led the theism side. Both groups examine a wide variety of examples and make philosophy understandable to interested readers. Both theists and atheists offer expansive overviews of the topics from their viewpoint and include bibliographies for further reference. As stand-alone essays, the opposing sides offer arguments that sometimes go unaddressed by the opposing team—not necessarily a drawback, given the nature of the text. For instance, the essay on revelation from the atheistic side explore the Christian viewpoint while the theistic contributor also discussed Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. Some essays were written by individual scholars; others were penned by a group—this rich variety provides balance and a breadth of perspective on the issues.
VERDICT Recommended for anyone researching a topic within religious philosophy or exploring theism or atheism. Suitable for academic libraries and large public libraries.—Ray Arnett, Anderson, SC

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