Ida, Always Simon and Schuster
Gus and Ida are polar bear best friends who spend their days together playing, talking, and, though they can’t leave the zoo, feeling the heartbeat of the city around them. When a zookeeper tells Gus that Ida is sick and won’t recover, he learns what it’s like to love someone “always.” Inspired by the true story of the beloved Central Park Zoo polar bears, Caron Levis, J00, weaves a winsome tale that will help children process the death of loved ones.
The Year Mrs. Cooper Got Out More Cinder Path
In her debut novel, Meredith A. Rutter, J69 (writing as “Meredith Marple”), introduces the residents of quaint and close-knit Great Wharf, Maine. Her characters struggle with agoraphobia, intimacy issues, and grief, all while a murder and a series of mysterious accidents unfold around them.
Oskar and the Eight Blessings Roaring Brook
“Even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” These are the last words Oskar’s father speaks before putting him on a New York–bound ship following Kristallnacht in 1938. Arriving on Christmas Eve, also the seventh night of Hanukkah, the “terribly small” boy must walk 100 blocks to reach his Aunt Esther’s apartment in time to see her light the menorah at sundown. His path up Broadway is strewn with unexpected acts of kindness, from the gift of a Superman comic and a pair of mittens to chance encounters with Eleanor Roosevelt and Count Basie. The gentle prose of Tanya McKinnon Simon, J89, and Richard Simon and the emotionally energetic images by illustrator Mark Siegel elicit the kind of tears that fall when tragedy collides with hope.
The Judge’s House Quale
Lawrence and Nancy Higgins, an African-American professional couple, move from Chicago to small-town Illinois, where they befriend their reclusive neighbor, Will Turley. When he dies unexpectedly and bequeaths them his house, they try to unravel the mystery of his life. Set on the eve of Obama’s first inauguration, the latest novel by Jonathan Strong, professor of English, grapples with race, shame, and the irresistible urge to judge what eludes our understanding.
Disenchanted City by Chantal Bizzini Black Widow
Marilyn Kallet, J68, along with J. Bradford Anderson and Darren Jackson, translated and edited this collection by Parisian poet and visual artist Chantal Bizzini. Enigmatic and personal, Bizzini’s poems capture the dark side of the City of Lights and the people that live on its margins.
The Vitamin Solution She Writes
Romy Block, J94, and Arielle Miller Levitan demystify the overwhelming and often conflicting advice about vitamins and supplements. They discuss how vitamins can address challenges such as weight management, thinning hair, migraines, bone loss, and heart disease, and provide readers with evidence-backed strategies to optimize health.
Simple Sabotage HarperOne
Along with suggestions such as draining the enemy’s fuel tanks, slashing their tires, and short-circuiting their electric systems, the Simple Sabotage Field Manual—a classified document issued by the CIA’s forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services, during World War II—contained advice on how to disrupt the internal processes of Axis organizations. Business strategists Robert M. Galford, Bob Frisch, A78, and Cary Greene argue that this little-known manual is an invaluable guide to understanding workplace dysfunction. They detail eight insidious behaviors that sap the productivity of any organization, including “sabotage by obedience” (insisting on doing everything through channels), “sabotage by committee” (recommending all matters for further study), and “sabotage by excessive caution,” and offer concrete strategies for countering each.
The Permaculture City Chelsea Green
Permaculture is a design framework based on utilizing the features of natural ecosystems in human creations. Toby Hemenway, A74, shows how applying a nature-based approach to urban development can not only promote sustainability, but also improve the quality of life in our cities.
Healing Grief: A Story of Survivorship Outskirts
At 41, Joan Heller Miller, J79, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and given a slim chance of survival. Her harrowing memoir chronicles the year of excruciating treatments she endured, only to develop a life-threatening clinical depression that landed her in a psychiatric ward. She now develops and leads bereavement support groups for children and families and educates health-care professionals on the psychosocial aspects of cancer.
Women, Migration, and the Cashew Economy in Southern Mozambique, 1945–1975 James Curry
Through the songs and oral accounts of three generations of workers, Jeanne Marie Penvenne, associate professor of history, details the labor and social history of Mozambique’s most important late colonial era industry—cashew shelling.
It’s become a ubiquitous buzzword, used in confusingly disparate contexts ranging from agriculture to economic development, but in this compact, informative, and accessible book, Kent E. Portney, professor of political science, unpacks the various meanings of “sustainability.” He describes the evolution of the concept, starting with its introduction to the academic lexicon in the mid-1980s when the World Commission on Environment and Development first defined it as economic development activity that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Portney also examines political opposition to sustainability, the role of the private sector, government policy, and how cities can model sustainable action.
No Ordinary Game: Miraculous Moments in Backyards and Sandlots Down East
Kirk Westphal, G01, is a passionate amateur athlete, and his collection of essays pays homage to the idea of casual sport as a morally elevating force. He recalls an exhilarating game of pick-up basketball on a tough city court, an annual Thanksgiving soccer game played with refugees from Burundi, and the noisy magic of coaching tee-ball for five-year-olds.
American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good Viking
Colin Woodard, A91, expands on American Nations, his nuanced taxonomy of America’s eleven regional cultures, with an in-depth look at how our fractious federation approaches competing visions of freedom. From the debates at the Constitutional Convention, to the Civil War and the New Deal, to our current contentious primary season, the struggle between the rights of the individual and the good of the community has undergirded all of our national conflicts. Woodard recounts our four-century search for the sweet spot between libertarian and collectivist extremes and proposes some pragmatic suggestions that could break our current political deadlock.
Sound and Story
Clifford J. Tasner, A85, wrote the film score for Verbatim: The Ferguson Case, which was nominated for best short film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Brett Weiner, A05, Verbatim dramatizes the transcript from the grand jury testimony of Darren Wilson, the policeman who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend who witnessed his death. We talked with Tasner about the film-scoring process:
“My process starts by watching the film with the director. Film music is all about math. It’s about how many minutes, seconds, or frames there are before what we call “an obligation”—for example, a gunshot or someone starting to cry. We know that, say, at 5:33 and four frames, we want the music to start, at 6:43 and twelve frames, there’s an obligation, and we want the music to arrive on the beat where it will have the most emotional impact. A lot of directors don’t really know music, but they know how to talk about emotions, and once we get the math down, they give me adjectives to describe what people should be feeling at a particular moment.
I usually write more in the John Williams vein of telling a story using music, but film scoring is not about your vision—it’s about your ability to help the director translate his vision. For Verbatim, Brett wanted something ambient and objective, something that didn’t telegraph to people what they should be feeling when they watched it. I could easily have used music to make viewers feel like the cop was a villain or the other man was untrustworthy, but we went with something more atmospheric that could speak to the tragedy of what happened without telling you who to root for.
I love composing for a traditional orchestra. There’s enough in your toolbox with woodwinds and brass and strings to do just about anything you want to do, and it’s much more visceral and emotionally gratifying than using synthesizers. Strings are the foundation of the orchestra and give everything else its color. If I have a tight budget and can get some strings in there, I can really say something.”