Page by Page: Book Reviews

Capital Concerns

“If we thought that the distribution of income among individuals in an economy is determined in a similar manner to the distribution of income across countries in the world, we would then look primarily for explanations which attach importance to knowledge, education, and skills. But Piketty’s theory of income and wealth distribution, contrary to what we might anticipate, is startlingly simple, and can be boiled down to a couple of ’laws.’ Piketty first argues, by appealing to the data, that capital income is more important than labor income in concentrating income and wealth at the top of the distribution.”

Trial of the (Mid) Century

The Twelfth Victim arises out of a 1950s Crime of the Century known as the Starkweather Rampage. Its namesake, Charles Starkweather, was hardly a poster boy for, well, a Most Wanted poster. He was a short, red-headed, bow-legged, nineteen-year-old from Lincoln, Nebraska. Nevertheless, during the space of two months he murdered eleven people in Nebraska and Wyoming, terrified the citizens of those states, and horrified the nation.”

Say It Ain’t So, Bill

To say that the good Cosby has done outweighs the bad is, at best, to oversimplify matters and, at worst, to make a morally dubious statement. (Try saying that about a philanthropist who raped your sister, daughter, or wife.) It is of limited use, too, to say that we must always separate the artist from the art if we are to enjoy art at all. That is because, in this case, the person we took to be Cosby is—was?—his art. Maybe, maybe, it is possible to hang onto that persona, a positive force in the world, even as we know that it is the creation of that other Cosby; but between the two of them, they have broken my heart.

Adventures In Growing Pains

Two new children’s books show us what most adults already know: that kids handle adolescence differently, and that growing up is by turns confusing, hilarious, and yes, sometimes scary. But in just the right light, and often only in retrospect, it is nothing short of an adventure.

Founding Ailments

Revolutionary Medicine offers a history of the lives of the rich and powerful, but also a window into how health and disease were experienced by ordinary folk in Revolutionary-era United States.

Jesus, Son of Aslan

For some readers, this may be a new and exciting–even revolutionary!–perspective on the historical Jesus. Aslan certainly hopes so: he describes Zealot as the culmination of “two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity.” For scholars, however, Aslan’s research is neither novel nor especially rigorous. It is clear that Aslan has indeed been fascinated by the historical Jesus since his teenage years, but he is not an academic specialist in the New Testament or in early Christianity, and he does himself a disservice by portraying himself as one.

Akin For A Fight

“What is important in this volume is not necessarily Akin’s history of his career. Rather the book illustrates the key characteristics of many in the Christian right who make a difference at the ballot box. When there is such fundamental belief in certain tenets, political and societal division is inevitable and gridlock prevails.”

Heart of Hearing

Although recommended to readers with an interest in Bacharach or in popular song of his era, Anyone Who Had a Heart is an unsatisfying book. Readers hoping that Burt Bacharach’s autobiography will reveal new depths in the man and his music may find that both come to seem shallower than ever.

That ’70s Band

Earth, Wind & Fire turned the “Me Decade” upside down, inside out, and all around. Lead man Philip Bailey’s bio reveals the spirit behind the songs.

Why The Fiddler Sticks

It may be mere schmaltz from the shtetl, but the story and songs of Tevye, his daughters, and life in Anatevka has shaped Jewish identity to a surprising degree.