Off the Shelf

Recent books with a Harvard accent

B.tuxedo
Loomis, sometime in the 1930s
Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II, by Jennet Conant (Simon & Schuster, $26). Alfred Lee Loomis, LL.B. '12, was a financier and amateur physicist who bought a mansion just north of New York City in snooty Tuxedo Park, built in it a state-of-the-art laboratory, and gathered to it many of the greatest scientific thinkers of the era—Einstein, Bohr, Fermi, Lawrence, Compton, Bush—whose work there on radar and in preparation for the Manhattan Project and the atom bomb was crucial to the outcome of World War II. Loomis was a complex man, sometimes a stinker, and went to lengths to avoid the spotlight. This arresting book will put an end to his obscurity. The author, a journalist, is kin to two scientists who worked at Loomis's lab: she is the grandneice of William T. Richards '21, Ph.D. '24, who at the start of the book is found in a bathtub with his wrists cut just before publication of his embarrassing roman à clef about the lab, and granddaughter of James B. Conant '14, Ph.D. '16, LL.D. '55, Harvard's president at the time of the death, who hastened to hush it up.

 

The Secret Lives of Girls: What Good Girls Really Do—Sex Play, Aggression, and Their Guilt, by Sharon Lamb, Ed.D. '88 (Free Press, $24). Hold the sugar and spice. Girls are aggressive, sexual, and resilient, finds psychologist Lamb—and that's a good thing for them.

 

From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals, by Barbara Haber, curator of books at the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute (Free Press, $25). Writing about food as a way of understanding American history, and finding in cookbooks a rich, neglected, historical resource, Haber answers such questions as why the food in Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt's White House was so famously bad. She has a light touch, and this is a tasty offering.

 

Yiddish: A Nation of Words, by Miriam Weinstein, BI '79 (Steerforth Press, $26). A warm, wide-ranging, richly peopled, popular history of the language, by a freelance journalist who grew up in the Bronx post World War II. Enjoy!

 

Thinner, Blonder, Whiter, by Elizabeth Maguire '80 (Carroll & Graff, $25). The author is associate publisher of Basic Books, and this, her first novel, is a murder mystery about publishing, politics, and a seamy side of the Big Apple, and a book about women, interracial romance, and betrayal.

  b-lincoln

Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography, by William E. Gienapp, professor of history (Oxford University Press, $26); and This Fiery Trial: The Speeches and Writings of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Gienapp (Oxford, $25). Here is a concise, readable history that focuses on the personal and political qualities that Lincoln brought to the task of waging a civil war. In This Fiery Trial, Gienapp has made a satisfying selection of the great man's own words, which amply support the historian's contention that Lincoln "is the one American president whose writings could be considered literature."

 

What Management Is: How It Works and Why It's Everyone's Business, by Joan Magretta, M.B.A. '83, with the collaboration of Nan Stone, Ph.D. '81 (Free Press, $25). Two former longtime editors of the Harvard Business Review aim in this jargon-free volume, of undaunting size, part story-telling, part theory, to synthesize a discipline—management—and to show why a grasp of how management works is important to any of us as we go along in life.

 

Crossing the Gods: World Religions and Worldly Politics, by N.J. Demerath III '58 (Rutgers University Press, $28). Demerath, professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, takes readers to 14 countries to explore relations between church and state. He says much that's timely about religious violence, religious politics, and "fundamentalist" movements and their leaders.

 

Women and the Machine: Representations from the Spinning Wheel to the Electronic Age, by Julie Wosk, M.A.T. '67 (Johns Hopkins University Press, $39.95). A professor of English, art history, and studio painting at the State University of New York, Maritime College, Wosk examines how women with machines have been portrayed during the past two centuries, illuminating how both sexes have viewed technological and social change. Her engaging cultural history is full of interesting pictures. Alarming Woman Driver, meet Rosie the Riveter.

       

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