Off the Shelf

Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life, by Laurence Bergreen '72 (Broadway Books, $30). In the beginning, writes Bergreen, Armstrong was "only a sound, a strange blend of happy cacophony and tormented caterwauling....Duke Ellington said of his first exposure to the sound, 'Nobody had ever heard anything like it, and his impact cannot be put into words.'" Skilled in the medium, Bergreen gives words a try in this first full biography of Armstrong, to be published on Satchmo's birthday, July 4.

The Fate of the English Country House, by David Littlejohn, Ph.D. '63 (Oxford University Press, $30). Stately homes have been called "England's one important contribution to art history." Between 3,500 and 4,000 of these large edifices in landscaped settings remain more or less intact in England, and the question is, What ought to become of them? In chapters ranging from "Letting It Decay" to "Five Ways to Pay the Bills," Littlejohn offers a tour of the endangered establishments, a surprisingly lively piece of cultural history, and opinions intended to be helpful. He is professor of journalism at Berkeley and a cultural correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.

Lessons from Privilege: The American Prep School Tradition, by Arthur G. Powell, Ph.D. '67 (Harvard University Press, $35). An historian of education, the author is senior assistant at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University. He sets forth here some lessons that private schooling (respected, thriving) might teach public education (troubled, vilified). Money does not appear to be the issue.

Swimming across the Hudson, by Joshua Henkin '87 (Putnam, $24.95). A first novel in which a young man learns the truth kept from him by his adoptive parents and finds out he isn't the person he thought he was. "A poised and compelling tale of family dynamics as well as personal growth," fellow novelist Nicholas Delbanco '63 calls it.

The Trouble with Testosterone and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament, by Robert M. Sapolsky '78 (Scribner, $23). A MacArthur "genius grant" winner, Sapolsky teaches neuroscience at Stanford. He writes very well--clearly, with panache, having fun--and explains provocatively that as we do the things we do, from organizing firing squads to obsessing about O.J. Simpson, we are both constrained and liberated by biology.

Living Posthumously: Confronting the Loss of Vital Powers, by Andrew Bard Schmookler '67 (Holt, $27.50). Something mysterious ailed author and commentator Schmookler, a man in his early forties, but for eight years he and his doctors couldn't put a finger on one ailment in particular. "After years of fighting against what seemed so unacceptable a loss," Schmookler tells, "I found myself pondering the possibility that perhaps there was something to be gained from accepting it, from acknowledging to myself: 'This is my experience and I might as well see what I can learn from it.'...Perhaps what I could learn from embracing my experience others might find worthwhile learning with me."

Secrets: A Writer in the Cold War, by Paul Brodeur '53 (Faber and Faber, $24.95). During almost four decades of writing for the New Yorker, Brodeur established himself as a leading environmental journalist, alerting readers to the hazards of asbestos, ozone-layer depletion, microwave radiation, and power-line electromagnetic fields. Here he offers a memoir of his life and a reflection on the Cold War, focusing on the secrecy and suspicion that fostered the deception and wrongdoing he has spent his career investigating.

The Talking Cure: The Science behind Psychotherapy, by Susan C. Vaughan '85, M.D. (Putnam, $24.95). Vaughan believes that, instead of just turning to drugs to mask a patient's symptoms, administering talk therapy as well can help the patient. Talk therapy actually changes the neural networks in our brains, explains Vaughan, a research fellow at the New York Psychiatric Institute.

Fodor's Ballpark Vacations: Great Family Trips to Minor League and Classic Major League Baseball Parks across America, by Bruce Adams, IOP '79, and Margaret Engel, Nf '79 (Fodor's, $16.50, paper). The authors went to a Red Sox game on their first date and, Engel reports, "It's been baseball mania ever since." Their children, nine-year-old Emily and six-year-old Hugh, share the passion. This enthusiastic but thoroughly practical guidebook is the result of car trips that put 25,000 miles on the family odometer and involved 44 states, 85 baseball games in 82 stadiums, 11 foul balls, and three rainbows.

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