Ann Oakley, . . New Press, $27.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-768-2

British sociologist Oakley admits her book will satisfy only some of the people some of the time. Yet there are bound to be some who it will not satisfy at all, as her passionate commitment to make the future "a better time for both the planet and for us" is undermined by this scattershot compendium. A pioneer theorist of gender studies, particularly women's work, Oakley wants readers to see "the relationships between many of the world's current social problems, on the one hand, and ideas and practices relating to femininity and masculinity, on the other." What she offers, though, is a catchall mixture of expert and nonexpert opinions, personal narrative, statistical recitation and historical diversions, entertaining and informative but ultimately out of control. The link between personal narrative (e.g., a bicycle ride, an encounter with a flasher, a day at the park with her grandchildren) and Oakley's grand theme is strained, while the statistics and historical references seem random. All is grist for Oakley's theme—violence, vegetarianism, postmodernism, housework, crime, women's liberation, children's books, transportation, cross dressing, the backlash to the women's liberation movement, grandparenthood, in vitro fertilization, cocaine, shopping, psychoanalysis, agriculture, science fiction—indeed, wherever her eye falls, she sees the link between what's wrong with the world and socially constructed gender. In her attempt to "think laterally, rather than compartmentally," Oakley fails to make her case for a unified theory of gender. (Feb. 13)