Off the Shelf

The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst, by David Nasaw (Houghton Mifflin, $35). When Hearst moved into Matthews Hall in Harvard Yard in...

The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst, by David Nasaw (Houghton Mifflin, $35). When Hearst moved into Matthews Hall in Harvard Yard in 1882, his mother redecorated his rooms in crimson and hired a maid and valet to look after him. His father supplied Will liberally with money, which he used to buy popularity. One of several old questions that Nasaw answers in this revelatory biography is why Hearst never graduated. It wasn't because of the business with the chamber pots.

 

Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond, by Michael Ignatieff, Ph.D. '76 (Holt, $23). "For the citizens of the NATO countries," writes Ignatieff, "the war was virtual....It aroused emotions in the intense but shallow way that sports do....If war becomes unreal to the citizens of modern democracies, will they care enough to restrain and control the violence exercised in their name?"

 

b-doyle
Conan Doyle chained to his creation, a caricature from Punch. Harvard College Library

Toil: Building Yourself, by Jody Procter '66 (Chelsea Green, $22.95). The author, who died in 1998, wrote 14 novels, as well as screenplays, short stories, poetry, and magazine articles. This is his first published book. To make ends meet, he went back to carpentry and spent seven months helping to build a trophy house in Oregon. In this chronicle of that experience, he writes of houses, aches, guys with tool belts, and the human spirit.

 

Al Gordon of Kidder, Peabody, by S. Melvin Rines (Howland and Company, 100 Rockwood Street, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts 02130, $29.50, postpaid). A profile of a legendary Harvard loyalist, A.B. '23, M.B.A. '25, LL.D. '77, and titan of Wall Street, now 98, by a friend and long-time business associate.

 

Arthur Conan Doyle: Beyond Baker Street, by Janet B. Pascal '84 (Oxford University Press, $22). This new volume in an Oxford series of biographies for young adults shows why the multifaceted Conan Doyle often wanted to kill off Sherlock Holmes, with whom the public associated him to the exclusion of all else. Conan Doyle spent the last quarter of his life speaking with the dead at séances and wanted to be remembered as a prophet of spiritualism, but Holmes, who did not believe in ghosts, prevailed.

 

b-offtheshelfJohann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician, by Christoph Wolff, Mason professor of music and dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Norton, $39.95). Wolff is learned about Bach, and this is a magisterial account of the great one's life and art. The composer, who could be impatient and unyielding, was once jailed for arguing with his employer, a sour prince, and he may have written The Well-Tempered Clavier, Part I, in captivity. He was deeply spiritual as well. "Bach's compositions," writes Wolff, "as the exceedingly careful musical elaborations that they are, may epitomize nothing less than the difficult task of finding for himself an argument for the existence of God."

 

The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life, by Judith M. Heimann '57 (University of Hawai'i Press; $54, cloth; $26.95, paper). An English eccentric and adventurer, an anthropologist, conservationist, museum curator, and leader of guerilla fighters in Borneo who killed with blow-pipes, Tom Harrisson (1911-1976) was arrogant, intentionally outrageous, and often drunk, and he treated people abominably. He was characterized admiringly by the late Lord Shackleton as "the most remarkable man of my generation." But "some otherwise clear-thinking people who knew him are unprepared to see any good in the life and work of such a man," declares the author. She writes persuasively and entertainingly about what Harrisson did that makes him worth reading about. Her title is from Shakespeare: "But if it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive."

 

The Trillionaire Next Door: The Greedy Investor's Guide to Day Trading, by Andy Borowitz '80 (HarperBusiness, $20). Here's advice not only for people for whom getting rich quick just isn't fast enough, but for long-term investors --those who hold stocks in their portfolios for 5, 10, 15 minutes, or even longer.

 

Nice Job: The Guide to Cool, Odd, Risky, and Gruesome Ways to Make a Living, by Jake Brooks '97, Nicholas Corman '97, Chuck Kapelke '96, Jamie Rosen '92, Sara Smith '98, and Michelle Sullivan '96 (Ten Speed Press, $14.95, paper). "Work should be fun" is the premise of these alumni of Let's Go Publications. Do you want to be a beekeeper, a private investigator, an erotic screenwriter, a sommelier, a cryonicist? The authors describe more than 80 callings, compensation to be expected within them, prerequisites, qualities employers are seeking, and perks and risks. Good hunting.

 

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