Off the Shelf

Recent books with a Harvard accent


George Santayana: Literary Philosopher, by Irving Singer '48, Ph.D. '52 (Yale University Press, $25). "Among philosophical personalities," wrote a literary critic in 1937, "probably the most urbane and humanistic since Socrates is Mr. Santayana." A Spaniard who died in 1952 but lived in the United States for more than 40 years and was a member of the Harvard faculty before World War I--in the golden age of philosophy hereabouts--Santayana is most often remembered for a few well-wrought epigrams, such as "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Singer, professor of philosophy at MIT, hopes he sees a reemergence of friendliness in academic circles toward Santayana's humanistic philosophy.
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The Red Rose Crew: A True Story of Women, Winning, and the Water, by Daniel J. Boyne, Ed.M. '93, director of recreational rowing at Harvard (Hyperion, $23.95). Boyne quotes Santayana: "What is there in the universe more fascinating than running water and the possibility of moving over it? What better image of existence and possible triumph." Boyne chronicles the zesty story of the first all-women's U.S. crew to achieve international success. At the 1975 World Rowing Championships, they won the silver medal, and they captured Olympic bronze in 1976 and gold in 1984. Harvard's Harry Parker was their (at-first-doubtful) coach. Boyne believes these women negotiated a turning point in American culture.
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Doctors Afield and Afar, by William V. McDermott '38, M.D. '42, Cheever professor of surgery emeritus (William L. Bauhan, $18, paper). Starting with Copernicus and ending with W. Somerset Maugham, McDermott profiles 20 individuals who started out to be physicians, but fetched up doing something else. Rabelais, for instance, made his mark wielding the scalpel of satire.
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From KaL Draws the Line (and a very good line it is).
From KAL Draws the Line (and a very good line it is).

KAL Draws the Line: Political Cartoons by Kevin Kallaugher (Baltimore Sun, $14.95, paper). When Kallaugher graduated from Harvard College in 1977, he joined the Brighton Basketball Club in England as a player and coach. The club hit financial hard times, and Kallaugher began drawing caricatures of tourists. The Economist hired him as resident cartoonist, and he still draws three cartoons a week for that periodical although in 1988 he came back across the pond and joined the Baltimore Sun. He's wicked good.
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Mean Genes: From Sex to Money to Food, Taming Our Primal Instincts, by Terry Burnham, Ph.D. '95, visiting scholar at Harvard Business School, and Jay Phelan, Ph.D. '95 (Perseus Books, $24). We want to be thinner, less greedy, more faithful, nicer, but our brains and our best intentions don't see eye to eye. The authors survey bankruptcy, alcohol, jalapeño peppers, gossip, road rage, and other symptoms of the human condition, profess self-help, and call theirs "the first book that converts the modern Darwinian revolution into practical steps for better living."
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The Runaway Universe: The Race to Find the Future of the Cosmos, by Donald Goldsmith '63 (Perseus Books, $25). Two rival groups of astronomers (one of them based at "the self-proclaimed mightiest of all universities") discovered that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Just what is the rate--and thus the universe's age and fate? That is the burning question, and Goldsmith explicates it with blessed clarity and flair.
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Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival, by Paul S. Grogan, Ed.M. '79, vice president for government, community, and public affairs, and Tony Proscio (Westview Press, $25). The efforts of residents, grassroots organizers, politicians, and business people have led to the revitalization of America's inner cities, say the authors, and that progress might be sustained.
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Where I'm Bound, by Allen B. Ballard, Ph.D. '62 (Simon & Schuster, $24). More than 180,000 African Americans fought for the Union in the Civil War. Ballard, who teaches history at the State University of New York at Albany, builds this powerful novel around the actual campaigns of the Third U.S. Colored Cavalry Regiment in Mississippi and the struggles of one of its fictional sergeants to withstand the tumult.
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The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States, by Alexander Keyssar '69, Ph.D. '77 (Basic Books, $30). Adults may exercise the hard-won right this year on November 7.
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