Off the Shelf

A sampling of current books received at this magazine

Sassoon: The Worlds of Philip and Sybil, by Peter Stansky, Ph.D. '61 (Yale University Press, $35). Sir Philip Sassoon (1888-1939), descended from Baghdadi Jews who had made a fortune in India from the opium trade, "was one of the best-known and most glamorous figures in Britain," writes Stansky, Field professor of history at Stanford. At 23, Sassoon became the youngest Member of Parliament. He was a patron of the arts, "the most eligible bachelor of his age, the greatest host of his time," and lived highly visibly at the center of the Establishment. Sister Sybil (1894-1989), much more private, married Rock, the Earl of Rocksavage and heir to the Marquess of Cholmondeley, and throve with charm and authority at the grandest level of the aristocracy. Sir John Colville, secretary to Winston Churchill, once compared Philip to a fragrance, "and as such he is particularly hard to recapture," writes Stansky, who has done so convincingly. He conveys as well the character of nobby English life at the time.

 

Boogaloo: The Quintessence of American Popular Music, by Arthur Kempton '70 (Pantheon, $27.50). Professor Henry Louis Gates opines: "From Thomas A. Dorsey and gospel to Sam Cooke and the classic age of boogaloo ('soul') to George Clinton and hip hop, this comprehensive analysis of African-American popular music is a deep and gorgeous meditation on its aesthetics and business."

 

Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World, by Jedediah Purdy '97 (Knopf, $24). What is America's place in the world? How do we understand ourselves? How do others see us? What are the human effects of global markets? Purdy believes that "whenever we behave in ways that bespeak arrogance, ignorance, opportunism, even bullying, we weaken the case for the best American values."

 

Game Time: A Baseball Companion, by Roger Angell '42 (Harcourt, $25). The masterly chronicler of the game has selected his own favorite pieces of his work, which take the field here with never-before-published material.

 

Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto, by Victoria Abbott Riccardi '83 (Broadway Books, $23.95). Having done so, she learned the art of kaiseki, the exquisitely refined cooking that accompanies the Japanese tea ceremony. With tempting recipes.

 

The Hanging of Ephraim Wheeler, by Irene Quenzler Brown, Ph.D. '69, RI '71, and Richard D. Brown, Ph.D. '66 (Harvard University Press, $26.95). On February 20, 1806, a failed farmer went to the gallows in Lenox, Massachusetts, before 5,000 onlookers, for the rape of his 13-year-old daughter. The Browns, who are, respectively, associate professor of family studies and Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of history at the University of Connecticut, use the case to supply many insights into life in early America.

 

Drawing by Edward Koren from the jacket of The First National Bank of Dad

The First National Bank of Dad: The Best Way to Teach Kids About Money, by David Owen '78 (Simon & Schuster, $19.95). If you wish to alter the behavior of your children, explains Owen, a New Yorker staff writer, you shouldn't berate, cajole, and plead, but adjust the incentives. Five-percent interest on deposits fosters fiscal empowerment and joy.

 

The Irish Way: A Walk through Ireland's Past and Present, by Robert Emmett Ginna, A.M. '50 (Random House, $24.95). Ginna has watched Ireland metamorphose from a poor, largely agricultural country into a "Celtic tiger." He made a tramp through the length of the country to see what had been gained and lost. In this engaging report, he introduces readers to a host of interesting people, living on earth or in memory.

 

The Middle of the Night, by Daniel Stolar '89 (Picador, $23). A pleasurable and deft cache of short stories of people trying to fathom the turnings life takes. One story, "Mourning," about loss and friendship, unfolds at Harvard.

 

Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight, by Paul Hoffman '78 (Theia/Hyperion, $24.95). In 1901 this zealous aeronaut piloted a flying machine around the Eiffel Tower; he envisioned a happy day when every person would have an aircraft in which to escape the confines of Earth, psychologically as well as physically. When he saw the destructive purposes to which airplanes were put in World War I, he killed himself in despair.

 

Better Together: Restoring the American Community, by Robert D. Putnam, Malkin professor of public policy, and Lewis M. Feldstein (Simon & Schuster, $26.95). Putnam is the author of Bowling Alone, about the nation's disintegrated social structures. He joins here with civic activist Feldstein to focus on people who are trying to put things together. The authors include a chapter on the "Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers: The Singing Union."

         

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