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This month’s featured titles include a sequel to Lovecraft Country, a bio of a famed (but publicity-shy) alum, and much more!

Did you know that Cornell has an online book club? Check it out!

And for more books by Big Red authors, peruse our previous round-ups.

The Destroyer of Worlds

Matt Ruff ’87

Ruff’s sequel to his bestselling Lovecraft Country—which was adapted as a critically acclaimed HBO series—is set three years later, in 1957.

His protagonists, members of a Black family, are still battling on two fronts: they face both malevolent supernatural forces and the evils of Jim Crow-era racism.

With his latest, Ruff is the author of eight novels, including Sewer, Gas & Electric and Fool on the Hill. The latter, a phantasmagorical tale set at Cornell, was his senior honors thesis in English.

The cover of "The Destroyer of Worlds"

“Where its predecessor was constructed of separate stories focusing on different family members, this book operates with more interwoven narratives that Ruff manages to yoke together into one ripping yarn with shocks and surprises at every turn,” Kirkus says of Destroyer of Worlds.

“This sequel may lack some of the demented grandeur that the TV series cheekily borrowed from its namesake, but it’s still lots of fun—and, at times, historically enlightening.”

The cover of "Myron Taylor"

Myron Taylor

C. Evan Stewart ’74, JD ’77

Published by an imprint of Carolina Academic Press, this biography explores the life and career of the industrial magnate and philanthropist, who earned a law degree on the Hill in 1894.

The main building of Cornell Law School bears Taylor’s name (he also funded construction of the University’s nondenominational religious center, named in honor of his wife, Anabel). But as the book’s subtitle—The Man Nobody Knew—hints, although Taylor had prominent roles as CEO of U.S. Steel and U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, he shied away from publicity.

“This lack of interest in self-promotion stemmed (I believe) from at least two sources,” Stewart writes in his preface. “First, as the reader will see, Taylor was very much a 19th-century, Victorian gentleman; and second, Taylor was so successful at everything he had undertaken in his life, he felt no need to convince others of how great he in fact was.”

As Stewart notes, the book originated with one of his own former law professors, the late W. David Curtiss Jr. ’38, LLB ’40, who passed the project on to him after becoming too ill to complete it; research included delving into Taylor’s papers in the University archives. A senior partner at the law firm Cohen & Gresser, Stewart is a longtime teacher at Cornell’s summer pre-law program in NYC.

The Woods

Janice Obuchowski ’98

This short story collection won the John Simmons Short Fiction Prize from (and is published by) the University of Iowa Press.

It chronicles the lives of people in and around a small college town in Vermont.

“As they try to make sense of their worlds, grappling with problems—worried about their careers, their marriages, their children, their ambitions—they also sift through the happiness they have,” says the publisher, “and often find deep solace in the landscape.”

The cover of "The Woods"

Obuchowski, an English major on the Hill, has taught at the University of Vermont and Middlebury College. Her debut collection of short fiction includes tales about a wife who fears her spouse is cheating on her; a lonely professor visited by a feral cat; an elderly woman caring for a temporarily bedridden husband; and two recent arrivals from Southern California who are mourning the loss of a child.

Says Publishers Weekly: “Obuchowski’s lucid debut collection digs into the isolation and complexities of her characters’ inner worlds.”

The cover of "The Way Up"

The Way Up

Jim Jermanok ’82

Subtitled Climbing the Corporate Mountain as a Professional of Color, this career guide was coauthored with Errol Pierre, a Black executive whose résumé includes serving as COO of Empire BlueCross BlueShield.

Informed by interviews with nearly a dozen executives of color, it delves into the barriers that members of under-represented minority groups still face in the workplace—inequities that endure despite pledges to increase efforts toward diversity, equity, and inclusion that many companies made during the racial reckoning of 2020.

“Corporate America’s top ranks look nothing like the country they serve,” the authors write in the preface. “We must consider the daunting statistics for a moment. Black Americans make up 12.4% of our country’s population. But they only represent 8% of white collar professionals, a number that has stayed steady since 2013. This despite an increasing number of Black graduates from colleges and universities.”

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An ILR alum, Jermanok is a writer, director, and producer who penned the 2016 guide Beyond the Craft: What You Need to Know to Make a Living Creatively!

Human Abstract

Karl Parker, MA ’01

Parker passed away in 2019; this posthumous collection of poetry was published by Threadsuns, a teaching press at North Carolina’s High Point University.

“Night-utterances written in the hours before dawn, Human Abstract chronicles the passage from winter to spring, and explores the implicit mystery of what it is to be a human in time, capable of humor and longing, desire and violence: gone in a flash,” says the publisher. “The poems are a reflection of life, breathing, aching to be read.”

The cover of "Human Abstract"

Parker was a longtime teacher of literature and creative writing at Upstate New York colleges and universities—including at Cornell, Syracuse, and Hobart and William Smith—as well as at Auburn State Correctional Facility. His previous works include the poetry collection Personationskin and two chapbooks, Harmstorm and Outsides.

“Parker is one of the oddest poets you’re likely to meet,” Publishers Weekly said of Personationskin. “With a hyperactive sense of humor and an irreverence to match, Parker creates poems that push so hard at their own boundaries, they’re likely to explode at any moment.”

The cover of "Taking the Field"

Taking the Field

Amy Kohout, PhD ’15

Kohout is an associate professor of history at Colorado College. Her nonfiction book, published by the University of Nebraska Press, explores (in the words of the subtitle) “soldiers, nature, and empire on American frontiers” during the late 19th century.

“Soldiers assigned to frontier outposts occupied a hybrid position in the western landscapes where they served: temporary, though not tourists; stationed in these landscapes, though not stationary,” she writes. “They moved west, sometimes with their families, and made homes and lives at army posts.”

It was, she notes, a time when many in the U.S. were becoming more and more removed from nature—but those in the armed forces had access to a different perspective, both on the natural world and on the nation’s expanding sphere of influence.

Says the publisher: “Kohout shows us how soldiers—through their writing, their labor, and all that they collected—played a critical role in shaping American ideas about both nature and empire, ideas that persist to the present.”

Classic by a Cornellian

The Revenant

Michael Punke, JD ’89

The 2015 film version of Punke’s book won three Oscars—including Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio and Best Director for Alejandro González Iñárritu—and was nominated for nine more. Kirkus called this 2002 New York Times bestseller a “good adventure yarn, with plenty of historical atmosphere and local color.”

The plot—set in 1823 and based on a true story—concerns a fur trapper who is near-fatally mauled by a grizzly bear. After the two colleagues tasked with caring for him instead leave him to die, he traverses the frontier on a quest to exact revenge.

The cover of "The Revenant"

“Told in simple expository language,” said Publishers Weekly, “this is a spellbinding tale of heroism and obsessive retribution.”

Punke’s other books include the novel Ridgeline and the histories Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917 and Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West.

In addition to his writing, he’s an attorney who has served as U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization. Based in Montana, he’s now vice president for global public policy at Amazon Web Services.

Published April 13, 2023

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