Off the Shelf
A sampling of current books received at this magazine
Neoconomy: George Bush's Revolutionary Gamble with America's Future, by Daniel Altman '96, Ph.D. '00 (Public Affairs, $26.95). "The neoconomists' revolution has one goal: to increase the rate at which the economy grows by changing how the nation uses its resources," writes Altman, sometime columnist for the Economist and the New York Times. The chosen path of these economists and the Bush administration "could indeed lead to a period of untold prosperity, with living standards rising faster than ever before. It could also lead to nothing less than the collapse of the capitalist systema real revolution in which the nation's tax-paying laborers rise up against a class of wealthy free-riders."
Copies in Seconds: How a Lone Inventor and an Unknown Company Created the Biggest Communication Breakthrough since Gutenberg Chester Carlson and the Birth of the Xerox Machine, by David Owen '78 (Simon & Schuster, $24). "Civilization has evolved at the speed of duplication," observes New Yorker staff writer Owen at the start of this lively and amusing history.
The Summer of Her Baldness: A Cancer Improvisation, by Catherine Lord '70 (University of Texas Press; $60, cloth; $24.95, paper). A witty, irreverent, poignant, blow-by-blow memoir of a negotiation with breast cancer.
American Medical Botany, by Jacob Bigelow, A.B. 1806, LL.D. '57 (Octavo, CD, $30, from www.octavo.com). Octavo's business is to produce digital editions of rare books, and this is a fine early offering. Bigelow was a practicing physician and a polymath. He was professor of materia medica at Harvard, expert in all substances used medicinally. He was also Rumford professor and lecturer on the application of science to the useful arts, which had him professing on such topics as glue and gunpowder. In 1817 through 1820, he produced the three-volume work offered here. It is both a full account of the state of herbal medicine and an encyclopedia of New World medical flora. It contains many illustrations of plants, most drawn by Bigelow. The work is also significant as one of the first printed in full color in America. This CD of PDF files is Windows, Macintosh, and UNIX compatible. Pages are viewable at up to 300 percent actual size, and the text is searchable.
The Turkish Lover, by Esmeralda Santiago '76 (Da Capo Press, $25). Santiago is having an interesting life and is chronicling it engagingly. When I Was Puerto Rican and Almost a Woman, the first two volumes of her memoir, are now followed by this account of her time in thrall to an older Turk and of her years at Harvard.
Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, edited by Cass R. Sunstein '75, J.D. '78, and Martha C. Nussbaum, Jf '74, Ph.D. '75, IST '81 (Oxford University Press, $29.95). The relationship between human beings and other animals is under fundamental reconsideration. The authors, both University of Chicago professors, and 14 other contributors provide a scholarly summation of, and guide to, the often-acrimonious debate.
Just Work, by Russell Muirhead '88, Ph.D. '96, associate professor of government (Harvard University Press, $24.95). In a philosophical essay that could provide stimulating reading on the commuter train, Muirhead argues "that work is both fulfilling and just when it fits us." He also offers strategies for keeping work in its place.
The Meaning of Sports: Why Americans Watch Baseball, Football, and Basketball and What They See When They Do, by Michael Mandelbaum, Ph.D. '75 (Public Affairs, $26). Sports fans will love this history and reflection, whether or not they agree that the designated hitter rule has regrettable moral consequences. Mandelbaum is otherwise the Herter professor of American foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.
A Brief History of the Harvard University Cyclotrons, by Richard Wilson, Mallinckrodt research professor of physics (Department of Physics, distributed by Harvard University Press, $25, paper). The cyclotron produced its last beam in 2003 after 54 years of service, at first in nuclear and particle physics research, then in cancer treatment.
The Stink Files, Dossier 001: The Postman Always Brings Mice, by Holm and (Jonathan) Hamel '91 (HarperCollins, $14.99). A thriller, featuring cat of mystery James Edward Bristlefur. For readers 7 through 10 primarily.