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Off the Shelf

Recent books with Harvard connections

November-December 2006

Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence, by A.J. Langguth 55 (Simon & Schuster, $30). This gripping history of the war that finally established the nations permanence, as well as its claim to a Manifest Destiny to expand across the continent, is filled with interesting charactersSam Houston, Dolley Madison, Tecumseh, Davy Crockettand lively accounts of the Americans sacking Toronto, the British burning the White House, and ultimate victory at the Battle of New Orleans.

Blowin Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics, by John Gennari 82 (University of Chicago Press, $35). Jazz critics can be revered or reviled but should not be ignored, because during the past 75 years they have helped shape not just the careers of musicians, but our understanding of the music they make. The author is assistant professor of English at the University of Vermont.

More Than a Numbers Game: A Brief History of Accounting, by Thomas A. King 82, M.B.A. 87 (Wiley, $29.95). This demystifying book is likely to interest corporate folk who want to understand better the whys of the accounting practices they use, as well as inquiring investors. King is treasurer of Progressive Insurance.

The Future of Europe: Reform or Decline, by Alberto Alesina, Ropes professor of political economics, and Francesco Giavazzi (MIT Press, $24.95). Without serious, deep, and comprehensive reforms, write these two European economists, Europe will inexorably decline, both economically and politically.

Irving Fine: An American Composer in His Time, by Phillip Ramey (Pendragon Press, $32). Fine 37, A.M. 38, studied and then taught music at Harvard. Prominent figures in American music populate this anecdotal chronicle, among them friends Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein 39, D.Mus. 67.

Knitting under the Influence, by Claire LaZebnik 85 (5 Spot, $12.99, paper). Three L.A. twenty-something friends get together on Sunday mornings for girl talk about sex, datingeven knitting.

The Family That Couldnt Sleep: A Medical Mystery, by D.T. Max 83 (Random House, $25.95). Ever since the eighteenth century, one out of every two members of a certain Venetian family has developed an inability to sleep. After months of exhaustion, they die. Why? Because of prions, the unnatural brain proteins responsible for mad cow disease as well. Max explores the topic.

Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide, by Richard W. Thorington Jr., Ph.D. 64, and Katie Ferrell (Johns Hopkins University Press; $45, cloth; $24.95, paper). Thorington is a curator of mammals at the Smith sonian Institution, where Ferrell was for years his research assistant. The two give a deft account, for backyard naturalists and scientists both, of a big tribe (278 species), covering issues of major im port (birth, sex, the bird feeder) to minor (squirrels in religion and mythology), amplified by more than 100 photo graphs.