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Off the Shelf

Recent books with Harvard connections

July-August 2008

Love Marriage, by V.V. Ganeshananthan ’02 (Random House paperback original, $14). This debut novel, begun as the author’s senior thesis (she has since graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop), explores family and marriage—arranged, or for love—in the context of Sri Lanka’s horrific, now generational, civil war.

Free Trade Nation, by Frank Trentmann, Ph.D. ’99 (Oxford $50). Amid American anxieties about globalization and election-year skirmishing over trade pacts, a professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London, exhaustively explores Britain’s “Free Trade” culture from the nineteenth century to World War I, documenting the interplay of “commerce, consumption, and civil society.”

Print of a political cartoon

The misery of free trade: a British worker and his family suffer from foreign “dumping” in a tariff- reform poster (ca. 1909)

The Ark of the Liberties: America and the World, by Ted Widmer ’84, Ph.D. ’93 (Hill and Wang, $24). A sweeping history of Americans’ sense of themselves as a chosen people—bearing “the ark of the liberties,” in Melville’s phrase—and the consequences for the country’s constant international engagements; the author directs the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.

Environment: An Interdisciplinary Anthology, edited by Glenn Adelson, Ph.D. ’04; Gurney professor of English literature James Engell ’73, Ph.D. ’78; Brent Ranalli ’97; and Kevin P. van Anglen, Ph.D. ’83 (Yale, $70). Biology, environmental science, and literature are brought to bear on climate, biodiversity, energy, deforestation, and more—throughout some 950, often unexpected, pages of diverse readings.

A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World, by Tony Horwitz, RF ’06 (Henry Holt, $27.50). A Pulitzer Prize-winning former Radcliffe Fellow, Horwitz is among the best, and funniest, journalist-historians—even when he tracks down bloody, decidedly unfunny remnants of pre-Pilgrim America that we have chosen to forget, or remember only dimly, in tawdry, commercial ways.

Einstein for the 21st Century, edited by Pellegrino University Professor Peter Galison; Mallinckrodt research professor of physics Gerald Holton; and Silvan Schweber (Princeton, $35). Essays on the iconic thinker’s continuing relevance for scientific inquiry, literature, art, music, and modern culture in general.

Ahead of the Curve, by Philip Delves Broughton, M.B.A. ’06 (Penguin, $25.95, paper). The author, a former Daily Telegraph journalist, recounts his two years at Harvard Business School. “Until I was there,” he discovers, “I had underestimated capitalism’s power to sow such insecurity.” He decides not to pursue the business plan for a high-end laundry; he does offer useful critiques of HBS.

Out of Mao’s Shadow: Stories from the Struggle for China’s Soul, by Philip P. Pan ’93 (Simon & Schuster, $28). The former Washington Post Beijing bureau chief reports on a “venal party state” being challenged by a “ragtag collection of lawyers, journalists, entrepreneurs, artists, hustlers, and dreamers striving to build a more tolerant, open, and democratic China.”

Kelly: A Father, A Son, An American Quest, by Daniel J. Boyne, Ed.M. ’93 (Mystic Seaport, $34.95). The author, coach of recreational sculling, produces a life of Jack Kelly Sr.—an Olympic gold-medal oarsman who learned the sport on the Schuylkill, a politician, and the father of the perhaps better known Grace. Various later generations of Kellys rowed the Charles for Harvard.

Photgraph of Jack Kelly Sr.

 

When Things Fell Apart: State Failure in Late-Century Africa, by Robert H. Bates, Eaton professor of the science of government and professor of African and African American studies (Cambridge, $19.99, paper). A theoretical explanation, admirably concise and clear, of why “political order cannot be treated as a given.” The author is painfully aware of the tragic consequences for a beleaguered continent, from “the sinisterly clownish garb of teenage killers in Liberia” to “the dignified suffering of refugees in camps.”

The Man on Mao’s Right, by Ji Chaozhu ’52 (Random House, $28). A refugee who grew up in America in the 1930s, the author enrolled at Harvard in 1948, but returned to the People’s Republic of China in 1950, inspired to help bring about a new order in the early days of the Korean War. His facility with English and his overseas experience equipped him to interpret for Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong and ultimately led to diplomatic postings, including at the United Nations—more than routine memoir material.

Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness after the Digital Explosion, by Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen ’67, and McKay professor of computer science Harry Lewis ’68, Ph.D. ’74 (Addison-Wesley, $25.99). Evolved from Quantitative Reasoning 48, the Core course on “Bits,” jointly created and taught by the authors, this is a lively, accessible, and illustrated introduction to the digital world, from the seven “koans of bits” to the science of encryption to the footprints you leave when you use e-mail, Google, et cetera. The authors challenge readers to determine whether the outcome will be “destructive or enlightening.”