Off the Shelf

Recent books with Harvard connections

The mambo, danced professionally in New York City, 1954Yale Joel/Life Magazine/Getty Images

The Rise and Fall of American Growth, by Robert J. Gordon ’62 (Princeton, $39.95). In a huge study of the U.S. standard of living since the Civil War, the Northwestern University economist, a leading scholar of productivity and growth, emerges with a very sobering message. A critic of “techno-optimists,” he sees headwinds that make impossible any return to the halcyon growth of the mid twentieth century, and focuses attention on the need to address inequality and enhance preschool education.

On the health front: Before and After Cancer Treatment, second edition, by Julie K. Silver, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation (Johns Hopkins, $18.95 paper), offers eminently practical advice—informed by the author’s own experience with the disease. Palliative Care, by Harold Y. Vanderpool, B.D. ’63, Ph.D. ’71, Th.M. ’76 (McFarland, $45 paper), puts the recent emergence of palliative care as a medical specialty (see “An Extra Layer of Care,” March-April 2015, page 33) into the context of the four-century search for “a good death.” Climbing Back, by Elise Rosenhaupt ’68 (Peninsula Road Press, $15 paper), is the highly personal account of a son’s traumatic brain injury and recovery.

Reclaiming Conversation, by Sherry Turkle ’69, Ph.D. ’76 (Penguin, $27.95). In her most searching exploration of the human relationship with technology, the MIT professor (an Incorporator of this magazine) probes the consequences of assuming that connectivity is the same thing as conversation, “the most human—and humanizing—thing we do.” It says something disturbing about the times that she has to make a case for “the power of talk in a digital age” (the subtitle), but she does so compellingly.

Family values: In Reconceiving Infertility (Princeton, $35), Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden, Ph.D. ’07, theology scholars at Notre Dame and Yale, explore what it meant to be “barren”—in a world where humans were commanded to “Be fruitful and multiply”—through the stories of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, and beyond. Then Comes Marriage, by Roberta Kaplan ’88 with Lisa Dickey (Norton, $27.95), narrates Kaplan’s role as the Paul, Weiss litigator representing Edie Windsor in the United States v. Windsor challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act—and her much earlier connection to Thea Spyer, Windsor’s deceased spouse, who had counseled Kaplan when she was coming to terms with her own sexuality.

The War on Alcohol, by Lisa McGirr, professor of history (Norton, $27.95). The author’s research and writing about Prohibition, described in these pages in 2001, took about as long as her subject. In a fresh interpretation, she sees a white, Protestant, middle-class campaign to reinforce a challenged culture—ushering in, along the way, a newly powerful penal state whose consequences, and racial skew, are a serious concern nearly a century later.

Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government, by Gary Gerstle, Ph.D. ’82 (Princeton, $35). From the University of Cambridge, where he is now Mellon professor of American history, the author delivers a sweeping analysis of the conflicts inherent in a system comprising a constitutionally limited federal government, powerful states, and their overlapping roles in protecting or constricting personal liberty. He explores the unsettled resolution of these rival claims from the eighteenth century to the present.

Presence, by Amy Cuddy, associate professor of business administration (Little, Brown, $28). The author, a social psychologist (profiled in “The Psyche on Automatic,” November-December 2010, page 48) and TED-circuit star, counsels on “bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges” through self-nudging and even “fak[ing] it till you become it.”

What Is Landscape? by John R. Stilgoe, Orchard professor in the history of landscape development (MIT, $19.95). A refreshingly small book, “neither dictionary nor field guide,” or perhaps both, on the discovery and meanings of landscape. (A profile of the man and his work appeared in the January-February 1996 issue of this magazine.)

The Autobiography of Leverett Saltonstall (Rowman & Littlefield, $30). A republication, with a new introduction by grandson Richard E. Byrd III ’71, reintroduces to a new generation the leader (A.B. 1914, LL.B. ’17, LL.D. ’42, Massachusetts governor, U.S. senator, and Harvard Overseer) from that increasingly rare species: politicians who govern.

From the Great Wall to the Great Collider, by Steve Nadis and Shing-Tung Yau, Graustein professor of mathematics and professor of physics (International Press, $29.50). A meditation on the mathematics and physics of discovering the elemental particles of the universe—along with a brief for building the next giant experimental machine in the People’s Republic of China, where Yau has created a half-dozen mathematical institutes.

Spinning Mambo into Salsa, by Juliet McMains ’94 (Oxford, $35 paper). A University of Washington dance historian (previous book: ballroom; on deck: tango) studies the evolution of salsa in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. Exhaustively detailed and copiously illustrated. Those whose coordination, or joints, are suspect should probably not try to enact the footing diagrams without competent help near at hand.

Love the Stranger, by Jay Deshpande ’06 (YesYes Books, $16). “The body / cries out when it learns it is here for love/and is the stranger for this calling,” writes the poet in this debut collection. His verse spans fields and forests, boyhood memories and lovers’ beds—and features cameos by Miles Davis and Kim Kardashian.

America’s War Machine, by James McCartney, NF ’64, with Molly Sinclair McCartney, NF ’78 (St. Martin’s $26.99). A pair of journalists’ collaborative take on the “vested interests [and] endless conflicts” that have been associated with the military-industrial complex. As for the period following, or between, wars, Richard Crowder, M.P.A. ’07, himself a diplomat, examines the transition from empires to the U.S.-U.S.S.R. contest, and efforts to give life to internationalism, in Aftermath: The Makers of the Postwar World (I.B. Tauris, $35), a group portrait of Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, de Gaulle, et al.

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