Off the Shelf

A sampling of current books received at this magazine

Prayer: A History, by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski, Ph.D. ’84 (Houghton Mifflin, $29.95). He is a senior editor at Parabola, she is a professor of religion at Smith, and this is an epic—well written, packed with interesting information, often funny and touching— that follows this most human undertaking from its beginnings and around the world.

The Brightening Glance: Imagination and Childhood, by Ellen Handler Spitz, M.A.T. ’64, RI ’96 (Pantheon, $25). An insightful book, full of charming anecdote, about how an adult might share, respond to, and encourage a child’s unfolding awareness of the world.

John Hope Franklin
Photograph by Chris Hildreth, Duke University Photography

Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25). Franklin, Ph.D. ’41, is Duke professor emeritus of history at Duke University. His many books concern the history of the American South and the role played by African Americans in the development of the United States. He holds the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his unflagging commitment to civil rights. As he writes in his chapter “Fair Harvard,” in his first year at the University, “A day, and often an hour, didn’t go by without my feeling the color of my skin….” Harvard gave him an LL.D. degree in 1981, one of the more than 130 honorary degrees he has received.

The Essential Nostradamus: Literal Translation, Historical Commentary, and Biography, by Richard Smoley ’78 (Tarcher/Penguin, $14.95, paper). Smoley, a former editor of the spiritual journal Gnosis, believes we can take Nostradamus seriously without taking him at face value.

Sea Struck, by W.H. Bunting ’69 (Tilbury House, $30). An exciting account, with photographs, of the last years of American commercial sail. Bunting draws on first-hand journals of square-rigged life at sea by Massachusetts men Rodman Swift, A.B. 1904, Frank Besse, and Carleton Allen. A sailor-scholar, Bunting is the author of several earlier books about seafaring. For a note on his mother, see page 40.

The bark Hawaiian Isles lies at center, in Honolulu, 1904, waiting to load sugar for San Francisco. The photograph, from Sea Struck, is by second mate Carleton Allen.
Courtesy of James F. Jung

The Quick, by Katrina Roberts ’87 (University of Washington Press; $30, cloth; $17.50, paper). The centerpiece of Roberts’s second book of poems is one in 10 parts that chronicles the body’s journey from conception through birth. She is associate professor of English/creative writing at Whitman College.

The Dream Life of Sukhanov, by Olga Grushin (Putnam, $24.95). This gripping first novel (by a writer most recently an editor at Harvard’s Dumbarton Oaks Library) tells the story of middle-aged Anatoly Sukhanov, whose comfortable life as a Party bureaucrat in glasnost-era Moscow crumbles before his unbelieving eyes. As he gradually loses everything—from his position as editor of an official art journal to his wife and family—he grasps at new truths about art, beauty, religion, and life lived according to one’s convictions.

Out of Joint: A Private and Public Story of Arthritis, by Mary (Lowenthal) Felstiner ’63 (University of Nebraska Press, $25). This powerful memoir of the progression of rheumatoid arthritis through the author’s joints is also an eye-opener on chronic illness in general. Felstiner is professor of history at San Francisco State University.

Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights, by Kenji Yoshino ’91 (Random House, $24.95). Yoshino is professor of law and deputy dean for intellectual life at Yale Law School and a gay Asian American. He blends memoir with argument to call for a redefinition of civil rights. “To cover,” he writes, “is to tone down a disfavored identity to fit into the mainstream.…[E]very reader of this book has covered, whether consciously or not, and sometimes at significant personal cost.”

The Book of Trouble: A Romance, by Ann Marlowe ’79, G ’80 (Harcourt, $23). Marlowe is not the girl next door. Having shared in an earlier book her former heroin addiction, she here kisses and tells about her affair with an Afghani in New York (he wants an arranged marriage someday to a virgin back home), her love of his country, and their marathon sex together.

The Jinx, Jennifer Sturman ’91, M.B.A. ’95 (Red Dress Ink, $12.95, paper). A chick-lit adventure in sleuthing and romance brings investment banker Rachel Benjamin—the star of Sturman’s first mystery, The Pact—to Harvard and environs, where a serial killer is at work.

The Innermost Waters: Fishing Cape Cod’s Ponds and Lakes, by Peter Budryk, Ed.M. ’68 (On Cape Publications, $19.95, paper). Planning your vacation? There’s far more to the Cape than fishing for blues in the briny. Budryk tells where the bass, the trout, and the pike are, showing detailed maps (with soundings) of the Cape’s numerous inland waters.

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