Off the Shelf

Recent books with a Harvard accent

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges, M. Div. '83, Nf '99 (Public Affairs, $23). "Compared to war all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance. God, I do love it so!" said General George S. Patton. Hedges has seen plenty of violent death as a New York Times war correspondent (see "What I Read at War," Harvard Magazine, July-August 2000, page 58). He writes here of the impact of war on ordinary people. War is hell, but enticing, an elixir. 

A circa-1913 sketch by Ralph McLellan, from the book Beacon Hill

Escape from Lucania: An Epic Story of Survival, by David Roberts '65 (Simon & Schuster, $23). One of the great tales of mountaineering, artfully told, featuring the now-nonagenarian H. Bradford Washburn '33, A.M. '60, L.H.D. '75, and Robert H. Bates '33, A.M. '35, who together, in 1937, undertook to conquer the highest unclimbed peak in North America.


Beacon Hill: The Life and Times of a Neighborhood, by Moying Li-Marcus (Northeastern University Press, $40), and Eminent Bostonians, by Thomas H. O'Connor (Harvard University Press, $26.95). O'Connor, professor of history emeritus at Boston College, writes brief lives of 130 of Boston's notables from the past 400 years, from Abigail Adams to Leonard Zakim, from Fred Allen to Charles Wyzanski. Li-Marcus emigrated from China in 1980, earned a Ph.D. in American history, works at an investment-management firm, and lives on Beacon Hill. She gives an illustrated account of the Hill's long, colorful saga, from Christmas Eve caroling to the Battle of the Bricks to a just-hatched community scheme to help keep older residents in their homes. In both these engaging histories, many of the characters have Harvard affiliations.


The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection between Women and Cats, by Clea Simon '83 (St. Martin's, $22.95). "This is a love story," writes the missy of the late Cyrus T. Cat. "This is a love story between a woman and a cat...between all women and all cats."


A Time for Every Purpose: Law and the Balance of Life, by Todd D. Rakoff '67, J.D. '75, Byrne professor of administrative law (Harvard University Press, $27.95). A first-ever book about the law's regulation of time. Rakoff investigates a number of for-instances —such as the creation of time zones, Sunday closing laws, the length of the work week, school attendance—and argues that the weakening regulation of time has lessened communal solidarity and made more elusive the goal of a balanced life.


The Guide to Getting In: Winning the College Admissions Game without Losing Your Mind, Danielle Charbonneau '03, editor, Arianne Cohen '03 (former Ledecky fellow of this magazine), associate editor (St. Martin's Griffin, $13.95, paper). A Harvard Student Agencies creation. They should know.


Foster Care Odyssey: A Black Girl's Story, by Theresa Cameron, D.Dn. '91 (University Press of Mississippi, $28). Abandoned as an infant in Buffalo in 1954, the author was shuttled through foster homes in a bleak, frightening limbo until she was 18. Against the odds, she earned a doctor of design degree from Harvard and is now associate professor of planning at Arizona State University.


The Architecture of Philip Johnson, foreword by Johnson '27, B.Arch. '43, photographs by Richard Payne, essay by Hilary Lewis (Bulfinch Press, $85). The life's work of the 96-year-old master, in a dazzling catalog of gleaming buildings.  


The Extravagant Universe: Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Cosmos, by Robert P. Kirshner '70, Clowes professor of science (Princeton University Press, $29.95). Told with zest and amusing anecdote, this is a key participant's account of cosmologists' recent discovery that the expansion of the universe is speeding up.        

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