Notable new books for the policy-minded

Sometimes an interesting new public-policy title crosses my desk, and from now on I’ll be making more of an effort to share them with you…

The Road to Yucca Mountain: The Development of Radioactive Waste Policy in the United States,” by J. Samuel Walker (University of California Press, $34.95) – Walker, the historian of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, chronicles the technical, environmental and political problems with storing the byproducts of nuclear energy. Some of it’s pretty technical, but it’s worth wading through his account of the underlying science, the newest research and the politics and policy behind the issue.

Dispatches from Juvenile Hall: Fixing a Failing System,” by John Aarons, Lisa Smith and Linda Wagner (Penguin Books, $15) – The authors, all with the Lane County, Ore., Department of Youth Services, delve into how “tough on crime” just doesn’t cut it when it comes to juvenile justice. Some of the real stories are harrowing, and their suggestions for a mix of punitive action, rehabilitation and family intervention is a good template for discussion of reform.

Louis D. Brandeis: A Life,” by Melvin I. Urofsky (Pantheon, $40) – Urofsky, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor of law and public policy and professor emeritus of history, offers up 756 pages (not counting 142 more of notes and citations!) on progressive reformer and crusading attorney turned U.S. Supreme Court justice. It might be a tad heavy for the casual reader, but it’s a well-written and detailed (definitive?) account of the man who perhaps did more than anyone else in developing the right to privacy and mounted key defenses of the freedom of speech.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.