In The Six-Point Inspection, Zócalo takes a quick look at new books that are changing the way we see our world.
Highway Under the Hudson: A History of the Holland Tunnel by Robert W. Jackson
The nutshell: Jackson’s history of the first highway tunnel between northern N.J. and Manhattan-when it was built in 1927, it was the largest vehicular tunnel in the world-chronicles feats of engineering, political maneuvering, and economic negotiation.
Literary lovechild of: Kevin Starr’s Golden Gate and Robert Caro’s The Power Broker.
You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You’re an engineer longing for the good old days of enormous, daring public projects.
Cocktail party fodder: Be careful what you long for, engineer: three chief engineers worked on the Holland Tunnel over its seven-year construction, and the first two died of stress and exhaustion before it was completed.
For optimal benefit: Read it while you’re at a standstill in the Holland Tunnel.
Snap judgment: An exhaustive look at how the sausage got made in big-city planning, with a spotlight on contracts and coal shortages, politicians and laborers.
Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal by Jeffrey J. Kripal
The nutshell: Sci-fi and comics reflect paranormal realities, argues Kripal, a Rice University religious historian. Writers like Alan Moore and Philip K. Dick drew on personal experiences with the supernatural-and readers turn to sci-fi to make sense of the strangeness in their own lives.
Literary lovechild of: Ryan Buell’s Paranormal State and Grant Morrison’s Supergods.
You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You still feel resentment over your abduction and probe.
Cocktail party fodder: Ghostbusters was inspired by the Aykroyd family’s four-generation obsession with séances. Dan Aykroyd’s great-grandfather presided over his own home Spiritualist circle.
For optimal benefit: Suspend all disbelief before reading.
Snap judgment: A delightfully quirky mix of academic criticism, nerdy passion, and a Fox Mulder-like belief that something is out there.
Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman’s Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Kill Zones to the Courtroom by Connie Rice
The nutshell: Civil rights lawyer Rice takes us from her childhood as an Air Force brat to Harvard and NYU, to Los Angeles courtrooms and the Jordan Downs Housing Projects of Watts. Rice recounts her battles with the LAPD, her dealmaking with gang members and politicians, and the creation of the report that transformed Los Angeles’s approach to gang violence.
Literary lovechild of: Thurgood Marshall: His Speeches, Writings, Arguments, Opinions and Reminiscences (edited by Mark V. Tushnet) and Celeste Fremon’s G-Dog and the Homeboys: Father Greg Boyle and the Gangs of East Los Angeles.
You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You’re a fan of TV’s Southland.
Cocktail party fodder: In 1991, the risk of death from murder in L.A.’s Southeast Division was one in 250-500 times higher than the risk in the city’s safer neighborhoods.
For optimal benefit: Read the book, then join the Grape Street Crips. Or maybe just read the book.
Snap judgment: An inspiring account of change from a remarkable public figure.