Your August 2023 Reads

Stories You May Like

Recalling the ’50s on the Hill, an Era of ‘Gracious Living’

Meet the Alum Behind Some of Music’s Biggest Rights Deals

Inger Burnett-Zeigler ’02 Advocates for Black Women’s Self-Care

Featured titles include a novel by an acclaimed wordsmith, a nonfiction study of human trafficking, and a family almanac

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

For more titles by Big Red authors, peruse our previous round-ups.

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The cover of "I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home"

I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home

Lorrie Moore, MFA ’82

Moore’s fourth novel was named one of the most anticipated books of 2023 by Time magazine. The work, says the Chicago Review of Books, “is a chilling ghost story, hilarious and touching in its mortal wisdom.”

The novel’s protagonist is a high school teacher named Finn, a Midwesterner who’s visiting a dying relative in Boston when he learns that his ex-girlfriend has taken her own life. So … Finn returns to their hometown, digs up her freshly buried corpse, and goes on a road trip with her ghost.

Meanwhile, the narrative is interspersed by—among other plotlines—entries from a mysterious 19th-century journal stolen from a boarding house.

I Am Homeless is a triumph of tone and, ultimately, of the imagination,” says the Guardian. “For Moore, death doesn’t necessarily mark the end of a story.”

An acclaimed novelist, short story writer, and critic for four decades, Moore holds a named professorship at Vanderbilt University.


Seasonal Family Almanac

Jana Blankenship ’04

The Arts & Sciences alum (who attended under the name Mirjana Milosavljevic-Cook) co-authors a guide to marking the year with seasonal activities, comestibles, and wellness practices.

Subtitled Recipes, Rituals, and Crafts to Embrace the Magic of the Year, it’s divided into 12 chapters of microseasons and their associated themes (such as “Mid-Spring: Emerge” and “Early Fall: Gather”).

The cover of "Seasonal Family Almanac"

The projects are designed with kids and families in mind, and each is marked with a difficulty level. Many of the recipes are vegan or gluten-free (or have alternatives to accommodate those diets), can be made in bulk for gifting, or contain ingredients that can be wild-harvested.

Recipes include Blueberry Lavender Crisp Bars, Soothing White Pine Tea, and Maple-Cinnamon Buttered Popcorn; readers are instructed how to make their own crayons from cocoa butter and beeswax, concoct botanically based bug spray, create a habitat welcoming to butterflies, and more.

A religious studies major on the Hill, Blankenship is the founder of a plant-based beauty company and author of the 2019 guide Wild Beauty: Wisdom & Recipes for Natural Self-Care.


The cover of "Unbroken Chains"

Unbroken Chains

Melissa Ditmore ’90, BA ’92

Ditmore’s work of nonfiction, which Booklist calls “stirring and compassionate,” has an unsparing subtitle: The Hidden Role of Human Trafficking in the American Economy.

A sociologist with a doctorate from CUNY, Ditmore has done extensive research on trafficking, in the U.S. and internationally.

“The most prevalent image of trafficking involves people being kidnapped and forced to work (particularly in the sex industry),” she writes.

“In reality, most trafficking victims are lured into starting what may seem like a normal job. It’s only after they have started work that they begin to encounter increasingly abusive conditions, including threats, violence, forced labor, and debt bondage.”

The book explores trafficking in a variety of spheres including agriculture, door-to-door sales, domestic labor, sex work, and manufacturing.

“This searing exposé reveals the dark underbelly of the U.S. economy,” says Publishers Weekly, which goes on to state: “Knowledgeable, empathetic, and impassioned, Ditmore is an expert tour guide through this harrowing landscape. Readers will be moved to take action.”


The Better Half

Alli Frank ’92

The third novel from Frank and her co-author, Asha Youmans, was published by a boutique imprint headed by actor and style maven Mindy Kaling. Named one of the summer’s best books by Entertainment Weekly, it follows a 43-year-old Black woman named Nina, the divorced mom of a teenage girl, who has just landed her dream job as head of an elite private school in California.

Celebrating the launch of the “better” (second) half of her life by going on a road trip with her bestie, she has a summer fling with a stranger, a white man named Leo.

The cover of "The Better Half"

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Recalling the ’50s on the Hill, an Era of ‘Gracious Living’

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Back home and coping with the realities of her new post, she’s shocked to discover that she’s pregnant. As she struggles to decide what to do, Leo—who lives 5,000 miles away—urges her to have the child and promises to co-parent.

The Better Half is a rom-com unafraid to tackle weighty issues,” says the Seattle Times, “and Nina’s narrative voice is a delightfully funny one.”

Frank and Youmans previously penned Tiny Imperfections and Never Meant to Meet You.


The cover of "The Secret to Getting Along"

The Secret to Getting Along (And Why It’s Easier Than You Think)

Gabrielle Hartley ’92

A veteran divorce lawyer and mediator who specializes in keeping cases out of court, Hartley previously co-authored the 2019 self-help book Better Apart: The Radically Positive Way to Separate.

Now, the Human Ecology alum—who practices in New York and Massachusetts and does online mediation—has published another guide, subtitled 3 Steps to Life-Changing Conflict Resolution. Library Journal says it’s “recommended for anyone seeking to achieve accord or successful resolutions in the face of opposition.”

As Hartley writes in the introduction:

“In focusing on our increased polarization, or chalking everything up to ‘these crazy times,’ we’re overlooking an even more worrisome part of the equation: we have gotten really, really bad at managing conflict. Somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten that some level of disagreement is normal and even necessary in our relationships. We’ve normalized a zero-sum approach to interpersonal conflict and prioritized ‘winning’ at all costs.”


What We Bring to the Practice of Medicine

Kimberly Greene-Liebowitz ’94

The Kent State University Press published this collection of essays by women physicians, co-edited by Greene-Liebowitz, a specialist in emergency medicine located in the NYC metro area.

“In many ways, women enjoy unprecedented access to medical careers: there are no longer rules preventing them from obtaining medical degrees or licenses or membership in professional societies, and the number of female physicians has exploded in recent years,” Greene-Liebowitz writes in the introduction.

The cover of "What We Bring to the Practice of Medicine"

“Nevertheless, bias, discrimination, and inadequate mentorship combined with sub-par work-life balance lead to fewer female department chairs, lower lifetime earnings, and lower levels of academic achievement.”

The 40 short pieces address such topics as the physician-patient relationship, juggling work and family, and barriers to professional advancement. The collection also features two essays—“First to Report” and “Sometimes, I Help People Die”—by Greene-Liebowitz, a former bio major in Arts & Sciences.

Classic by a Cornellian

The cover of "True Enough"

True Enough

Farhad Manjoo ’00

Manjoo, a former Daily Sun editor, came out with this wry-but-weighty primer on the sorry state of fact-based discourse way back in 2008—an era that may seem positively quaint in our current age of ever-more-siloed realities.

Subtitled Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society, it contemplates the phenomenon that Stephen Colbert dubbed “truthiness”: the notion that politics have come to the point that not only do we disagree about our positions on issues, but on the veracity of the very facts underlying them.

“While new technology eases connections among people, it also, paradoxically, facilitates a closeted view of the world, keeping us coiled tightly with those who share our ideas,” writes Manjoo, who's now an opinion columnist for the New York Times. “In a world that lacks real gatekeepers and authority figures, and in which digital manipulation is so effortless, spin, conspiracy theories, myths, and outright lies may get the better of many of us.”

Manjoo contemplates such examples as conspiracy theories over the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the “swift boat” veterans who undermined John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign with thinly sourced allegations of misdeeds during his Vietnam service; and the unreliable intel about weapons of mass destruction that spurred the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Publishers Weekly calls the book a “perceptive analysis of the status of truth in the digital age,” noting that “Manjoo has produced an engaging, illustrative look at the dangers of living in an oversaturated media world.”

Published August 3, 2023


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