Off the Shelf

Recent books with a Harvard accent

Will Chandler at the helm
The Cruise of the Blue Dolphin: A Family's Adventure at Sea, by Nina Chandler Murray (Lyons Press, $24.95). It's 1933. In the Great Depression, Alfred "Ralf" DuPont Chandler '14 has been fired from his job. His wife is convinced he's having an affair. So he charters a schooner and takes her, four of their five children, and his mother-in-law on a prolonged roundtrip jaunt down the East Coast to the Caribbean and then to the Galápagos Islands. Nina, 13 at the time of the action and later a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and spouse of psychologist and Harvard professor Henry A. Murray '15, narrates this charming account of the journey. Above, brother William '46, now retired from a career in data processing, copes with the tiller. Brother Alfred D. Jr. '40, Ph.D. '52, LL.D. '95, now Straus professor of business history emeritus, kept his siblings enthralled with tales of "Wrinklebelly."


Bad Medicine: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Distance Healing to Vitamin O, by Christopher Wanjek, M.E.H. '92 (Wiley, $15.95, paper). Science writer Wanjek has a master of science degree in environmental health and writes jokes for The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live. He is well equipped for this entertaining debunking of myths.


The Dante Club, by Matthew Pearl '97 (Random House, $24.95). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and James T. Fields—among America's first Dante scholars—become alarmed in 1865 when a local serial killer murders people of their set in ways inspired by scenes in Dante's Inferno. Fearing that the finger of guilt will inevitably point to them, the only conspicuously knowledgeable folk in the vicinity, they set to work to solve the crime. Pearl is a Dante scholar himself, editor of the Modern Library's new edition of Longfellow's translation of Inferno ($9.95, paper). Pearl got a law degree from Yale in 2000 but forwent practicing and wrote this first novel, a corker.


Coming of Age as a Poet: Milton, Keats, Eliot, Plath, by Helen Vendler, Ph.D. '60 (Harvard University Press, $22.95). The Porter University Professor tracks four poets as they find their voices, among them T.S. Eliot '10 wandering in sexual deprivation through North Cambridge.


Crab Wars: A Tale of Horseshoe Crabs, Bioterrorism, and Human Health, by William Sargent '69 (University Press of New England, $24.95). A quart of horseshoe-crab blood is worth more than $15,000 because it is an essential ingredient of a pharmaceutical that tests for deadly gram-negative bacteria. This has put great stress on the horseshoe-crab population. Through the eyes of scientists, fishermen, biotech pioneers, and environmentalists, Sargent tells the story.


Polar Extremes: The World of Lincoln Ellsworth, by Beekman H. Pool '32 (University of Alaska Press, $45; paper, $24.95). In 1926 Ellsworth tried to fly across the North Pole in a dirigible. Later he flew in a custom-made plane over Antarctica and discovered the mountains now called the Ellsworths. Pool tells both an adventure story and a history of early polar exploration.


Sex, Drugs, and Economics: An Unconventional Introduction to Economics, by Diane Coyle, Ph.D. '85 (Texere, $24.95). Lesson one: Economics has something to do with everything.


Watson and DNA: Making a Scientific Revolution, by Victor K. McElheny '57, Nf '63 (Perseus, $27.50). A science reporter who has known former Harvard biology professor James D. Watson for decades has written an unauthorized biography of an individual he finds far more interesting and complex than the brat/genius image Watson cultivates.


The Newsboys' Lodging-House, or, The Confessions of William James, by Jon Boorstin '67 (Viking, $24.95). After he graduated from the Medical School in 1869, James had an emotional collapse and was probably interned at McLean Hospital, but for six months the record of his life is blank. In this vivid novel, narrated by James, Boorstin fills the gap in the psychologist/philosopher's life with an imagined adventure in which James and Horatio Alger, A.B. 1852, try to save street boys struggling for survival on the unforgiving streets of old New York—an experience that would later inform Jamesian pragmatism.

Sheena, 15, tries on clothes in a San Jose department store.
From Girl Culture

Girl Culture, by Lauren Greenfield '87 (Chronicle Books, $40). Modern femininity is exhibitionist, finds photographer Greenfield, who presents her evidence in 100 photographs of cheerleaders, athletes, models, strippers, debutantes, and the recently pubescent, and in interviews with 18 of her subjects.          

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