Off the Shelf

Recent books with a Harvard accent

Visions of Spaceflight: Images from the Ordway Collection, selected and with an introduction by Frederick I. Ordway III '49 (Four Walls Eight Windows, $50). Lukian of Samosata, writing in Greek apparently the first work of space fiction, about 165 a.d., imagined a sailing vessel bearing 50 athletes carried up into the heavens by a whirlwind and arriving eight days later at the moon. Ordway has been obsessed by rockets and spaceflight and wrote several works with scientist Wernher von Braun. He has also assembled a spectacular collection of images of space travel. This large-format book presents the pick of the collection, depicting scenes from Lukian to the eve of the actual space age in the 1950s. Cyrano de Bergerac in the seventeenth century, one learns, attempted to reach space powered by dewdrops.

Shand-Tucci's book
Earthling travelers encounter moon creatures in this scene from a French children's book of the 1890s.
From the book

The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers, by Daniel L. Schacter, professor of psychology (Houghton Mifflin, $25). Having trouble remembering your passwords and PINs? Schacter describes the seven basic memory problems we all experience and reassures us: they are vital to a keen mind--even in the case of the violinist who forgot he had put a borrowed Stradivarius on the top of his car before driving off.

 

The Selected Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, A.B. 1880, LL.D. '02, edited by H.W. Brands (Cooper Square Press, $32) and African Game Trails: An Account of the African Wanderings of an American Hunter-Naturalist, by Roosevelt, with an introduction by Brands (Cooper Square Press, $22.95, paper). TR wrote more than 100,000 letters. Selected Letters offers more than 1,000 of them --on politics, the arts, living the strenuous life--to many correspondents. "Roosevelt was that rare adventurer," writes Brands in his introduction to African Game Trails, "who handled a pen as well as he handled a rifle, and his words remain as compelling as ever in transporting readers to a strange and wonderful time and place."

 

Jazz in the Bittersweet Blues of Life, by Wynton Marsalis and Carl Vigeland '69 (Da Capo Press, $25). Writer Vigeland went on tour with trumpeter Marsalis's septet, and this is a duet, with Vigeland chronicling the life of a jazz musician, in roman, and Marsalis, in interwoven italic, meditating on home, family, creation, and performance.

 

Shand-Tucci's book
A large-patterned silk caftan of the sixteenth century. The Ottoman Turks were willing to experiment with scale. From The Language of Ornament

The Language of Ornament, by James Trilling '70, Ph.D. '80 (Thames and Hudson, $14.95, paper). Trilling accompanies his text with 246 illustrations to create a global panorama of decorative patterning in many media from the Paleolithic age to the present. God is in the details, and the details shown here are dazzling.

 

Presidential Judgment: Foreign Policy Decision Making in the White House, edited by Aaron Lobel, Harvard doctoral candidate (Institute of Politics, distributed by Hollis Publishing Company, $17.95, paper). A 1999 Institute of Politics study group was visited by five foreign-policy mavens and a former president, whose presentations constitute the text of this little book about the foreign-policy judgment exhibited by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. The contributors are Robert Bowie, J.D. '34, Theodore Sorensen, Kennedy School professor emeritus Francis Bator, Gerald Ford, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Brent Scowcroft.

 

Sharkman Six, by Owen West '91 (Simon and Schuster, $24). The author is a former U.S. Marine Corps captain who commanded a special ops unit, later earned a Stanford M.B.A. and was elected president of his class, came close to the summit of Mount Everest last spring, and is a commodities trader for Goldman Sachs. His first novel, in muscular prose, is about a marine platoon in Somalia and is full of ironic commentary on the military, the media, and American culture.

 

The Mr. and Mrs. Club, by Alan Emmet '50 (Permanent Press, $24). Emmet has written with distinction about historic gardens. She brings a keen eye for observation to her first novel, which concerns a marriage and a small New England town in the pre-feminist fifties.

The Pet Surplus: What Every Dog and Cat Owner Can Do to Help Reduce It, by Susan M. Seidman '50 (Xlibris, $25, cloth; $16, paper). Seidman points to ways to reduce the number of young animals--an estimated five million shelter orphans annually--who go not to homes but to premature death.

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