Off the Shelf

Recent books with a Harvard accent

Racism: A Short History, by George M. Fredrickson '56, Ph.D. '64 (Princeton University Press, $22.95). Clear, crisp, and engaging, this overview of Western racism is by the Robinson professor of United States history and codirector of the Research Institute for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Stanford. He begins in the late Middle Ages and goes on to overtly racist regimes of the twentieth century—the American South in the Jim Crow era, Nazi Germany, and South Africa under apartheid. Says Harvard professor William Julius Wilson, Fredrickson "is the first scholar to systematically examine and compare the two most dominant forms of Western racism—antisemitism and white supremacy."

 

110 Stories: New York Writes after September 11, edited by Ulrich Baer '91 (New York University Press, $22.95). The World Trade Center was 110 stories high. Several Harvardians contribute to this collection of fiction, memoir, and poetry about it. Among them are Owen West '91, author of Sharkman Six, who offers a three-page thriller about a nuclear attack on the landmark; novelist Lev Grossman '91, who, in "Pitching September 11th," imagines nine potential movie or TV productions based on the disaster; Afghani, and Dow Jones reporter, Masood Farivar '94, who first waved—and then decided not to wave—an American flag; and filmmaker Darren Aronofsky '91, who recalls a 1997 kiss in an elevator that lasted all the way from Windows on the World to the ground.

 

Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman '74, edited by Joshua Gay, with an introduction by Lawrence Lessig (GNU Press, $24.95). Stallman launched the GNU Project to develop a freely distributable operating system, and this collection presents some of his fervent thoughts about the intersection of ethics, copyright law, and computer science. To understand the concept of free software, he writes, "you should think of 'free' as in 'free speech,' not as in 'free beer.'"

 

Benjamin Franklin, by Edmund S. Morgan '37, Ph.D. '42 (Yale University Press, $24.95). This celebrated scholar, Sterling professor of history emeritus at Yale, describes his book as "a character sketch that got out of hand," but others have called it wise, brilliant, and a tour de force. It's good reading, too, and not over long. Morgan will be featured in a PBS miniseries about Franklin, A.M. (hon.) 1753, in November.

 

An Arrow through the Heart: One Woman's Story of Life, Love, and Surviving a Near-Fatal Heart Attack, by Deborah Daw Heffernan, Ed.M. '79 (Free Press, $24). At age 44, in the middle of a yoga class, the author suffers a major heart attack. This is a heart-felt memoir of her first year in recovery.

 

book coverA Sum of Destructions: Picasso's Cultures and the Creation of Cubism, by Natasha Staller, Jf '81, Ph.D. '83, G '85, BI '91 (Yale University Press, $50). In a large-format book, richly illustrated with pictures by Picasso and much else, Staller argues that the artist's revolutionary Cubism was drenched with his past. Thus, the man from Málaga has a particular understanding of body fragments that will drive him later, in avant-garde Paris—particular because people back home in the provinces still pray to the sacred disembodied face of Christ. Staller is associate professor of fine arts at Amherst.

 

A Matter of Degrees: What Temperature Reveals about the Past and Future of Our Species, Planet, and Universe, by Gino Segrè '59 (Penguin Putnam, $24.95). A professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania uses the measurement of temperature as a guide in exploring "Life under Two Miles of Ice," "Black Holes and Little Green Men," "Einstein's Refrigerator," and other aspects of science—and manages to be entertaining about it.

 

The Art of Profitability, by Adrian Slywotzky '73, J.D. '76, M.B.A. '80 (Warner Business Books, $20). What might Ezra Pound have to tell us about profitability? In 23 agreeable—indeed, profitable— lessons, Slywotzky writes of a questing manager and a wise master who pursue the art of profitability through wide-ranging inquiry and reading. The author is vice president of Mercer Management Consulting.

 

A Library-Keeper's Business, essays by Roger E. Stoddard, selected and edited by Carol Z. Rothkopf (Oak Knoll Press, $85). This illustrated volume by the curator of rare books in the Harvard College Library should appeal not only to stacks of his professional colleagues, but to lovers of old books generally.

 

Doctored Evidence, by Michael Biehl '73, J.D. '76 (Bridge Works Publishing, $24.95). A medical device fails, and a patient dies on the table. Are we suspicious? It's not too late to take yourself and this medical mystery to the beach.

       

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