An illustration of two stacks of books with the Cornell clocktower in the middle, and pages in the air

Big Red Books, Perfect for Gifting

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Need a present for the Cornellian on your list? Here are titles on University history, traditions, songs, famous alums—even recipes!

By Beth Saulnier

Editor's note: Most of these books are available through the Cornell Store, as well as from other online outlets.

The cover of "A History of Cornell"

A History of Cornell

Originally published in 1962, this official history was written by Morris Bishop 1913, PhD 1926, a professor of Romance literature and the University historian.

It traces Cornell from its founding through its first 75 years of existence—detailing the unlikely partnership between Ezra Cornell and A.D. White; the assembly of the early faculty and the construction of buildings; the toll of World War I; and much more.

It also highlights a host of notable characters, from naturalist and lecturer Louis Agassiz Fuertes 1897 to notorious student prankster Hugh Troy 1926—and even beloved campus dog Napoleon, a familiar passenger on Ithaca streetcars.

Cornell: A History, 1940–2015

Government professor Isaac Kramnick (who has since passed away) teamed up with fellow famed faculty member Glenn Altschuler, PhD ’76, for this quasi-sequel to Bishop’s oeuvre.

It traces the University’s evolution from the post-World War II era to the then-present day (2015, Cornell’s sesquicentennial year).

The book chronicles not only the University’s continued growth but the impact on the institution of the Cold War, the civil rights and women’s rights movements, the war in Vietnam, and more.

the cover of "Cornell: A History, 1940–2015"

As the authors write in their preface: “The history of Cornell since World War II, we believe, is in large part a set of variations on the narrative of ‘freedom,’ the removal of restriction and regulation, and its partner, ‘responsibility,’ the obligation to others and to one’s self to do what is right and useful, with a principled commitment to the Cornell community—and to the world outside the Eddy Street gate.”

Songs of Cornell

Various incarnations of the Cornell songbook have been compiled and sold over the decades, offering lyrics and sheet music to familiar Big Red tunes such as the “Alma Mater,” “Give My Regards to Davy,” “Fight for Cornell,” and the “Evening Song.”

The latest version, bearing a carnelian red cover with gold embossing, is available from the Glee Club.

There’s even a 15-song companion CD, released in 2005, recorded under the aegis of legendary director Thomas Sokol.

the cover of "Songs of Cornell"

the cover of "Touchdown"


If you’ve ever snapped a selfie with the bear cub statue near Schoellkopf, you’re aware that the Big Red’s original ursine mascot didn’t involve a costume—or even a human.

In this paperback subtitled The Story of the Cornell Bear, John Foote ’74 unspools the tale of the quartet of cubs—Touchdowns I through IV—who served as the football team’s mascot in various seasons from 1915 through the 1930s, and their many antics (like climbing the goalposts at halftime).

The 100-page volume also revisits the early 20th-century heyday of Big Red football—when it was not only an athletic powerhouse but a center of student social life.

Cornell ’69

This examination of one of the seminal events in University history—the armed occupation of Willard Straight Hall by Black students on parents’ weekend in spring 1969—was penned by Donald Downs ’71.

Now a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Downs was an undergrad when the takeover unfolded.

But his book, published by Cornell University Press, also takes a broader view; subtitled Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University, it contemplates issues beyond the Hill.

The cover of "Cornell ’69"

Cornell ’69 is an electrifying account of that weekend which probes the origins of the drama and describes how it was played out not only at Cornell but on campuses across the nation during the heyday of American liberalism,” says the publisher—adding that Downs relates how Cornell “became the battleground for the clashing forces of racial justice, intellectual freedom, and the rule of law.”

The cover of "Forever Faithful"

Forever Faithful

This 280-page coffee table book from 2017 is subtitled Celebrating the Greatest Moments of Cornell Hockey.

It does just that, focusing on 24 memorable games that the men’s and women’s teams have played, from the opening of Lynah Rink in 1957 to the book’s publication six decades later.

It includes an early history of playing on Beebe Lake; coverage of traditions and rivalries; and reminiscences of games by players and coaches.

Written by Jim Roberts ’71—former editor-publisher of Cornell Alumni Magazine and a longtime hockey fan—with veteran Lynah announcer Arthur Mintz ’71, it boasts a foreword by legendary Big Red and NHL goalie Ken Dryden ’69.

Postwar Cornell

This volume by Brad Edmondson ’81—drawn in large part from oral histories gathered for the 65th Reunion of the Class of 1950—recalls the Hill in the years following World War II.

Subtitled How the Greatest Generation Transformed a University, 1944–1952, it showcases the perspectives of more than 100 alumni and friends, through their photos, letters, diary entries, and more.

“Much would change in student life at the University in the immediate postwar years, and the catalyst was in large part the G.I. invasion,” Professor Kramnick writes in the foreword.

The cover of "Postwar Cornell"

“This would coincide with a profound transformation of the very soul of the place, as Presidents Day and Malott changed Cornell from a collegiate ‘halls of ivy’ training ground for educated gentlemen and ladies, schooled in ‘gracious living,’ to a world class ‘research university’ driven by Big Science.”

the cover of "Big Red Recipes"

Big Red Recipes

The campus group then called Cornell Students for Hunger Relief compiled this 2013 recipe collection, whose sales benefit efforts to combat food insecurity in Tompkins County.

It comprises more than 100 dishes from faculty and staff in 40 departments across campus.

They include such comestibles as cabbage crunch salad (by then-CALS dean Kathryn Boor ’80) and spiced French toast (by Barbara Knuth, then dean of the Graduate School), as well as apple puff pancakes, jalapeño cheese cornbread, ginger-glazed mahi mahi, spicy basil chicken, chocolate cake, and much more.

More than 30 recipes are vegetarian, and there are numerous options for other special diets such as vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free.

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Cornell: Tradition, Inspiration and Vision

Striking, digitally enhanced photographs of East Hill as seen throughout the seasons fill this coffee table book from 2013.

It also features “reflections and observations” by then-President David Skorton and President Emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes.

A successor to the volume Images of Cornell, it was created in partnership with the Cornell Store and offers views of Sage Chapel, the Slope, McGraw Tower, the Johnson Museum, the A.D. White Reading Room, the gorges, Schoellkopf Field, and much more.

the cover of "Cornell: Tradition, Inspiration, and Vision"

the cover of "The 100 Most Notable Cornellians"

The 100 Most Notable Cornellians

Altschuler and Kramnick joined forces with American studies colleague R. Laurence Moore to compile this 2003 coffee table book.

It profiles 100 undergraduate alumni who were among the most accomplished people in their respective fields and eras.

The diverse list ranges from Barbara McClintock 1923, PhD 1927 (science Nobelist), and Frank Gannett 1898 (newspaper mogul) to Joyce Bauer Brothers ’47 (psychologist and TV personality), Janet Reno ’60 (U.S. attorney general), and Christopher Reeve ’74 (movie star).

Among the few notables still living today are Peter Yarrow ’59 (folk musician) and Sanford Weill ’55 (financier and University benefactor).

Cornell: Glorious to View

The University’s history is explored in words and pictures in this hardcover volume by Carol Kammen, a longtime local historian and retired University lecturer. It features documents and images from Cornell’s Rare and Manuscript Collections, as well as a foreword by eminent historian and professor Walter LaFeber.

“Cornell began as a university in a country of colleges,” Kammen writes in the first chapter, going on to observe that “Cornell was at the beginning complex, diverse, and somewhat contrary—words that still fit the institution we know today.”

the cover of "Cornell: Glorious to View"

Published in 2003—as Cornell had just entered a new century—it contemplates the institution’s 19th-century roots in the Land Grant Act and Ezra’s determination to use his fortune to benefit society, and ponders such 20th-century issues as racial tensions and the end of in loco parentis rules.

the cover of "Cayuga’s Daughters"

Cayuga’s Daughters

This round-up of “100 notable women of Cornell” was penned by Michael Turback ’66.

Its single-page profiles cover a number of bold-face names, such as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54; former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, MRP ’97; actor Jane Lynch, MFA ’84; photographer Margaret Bourke-White 1927; news anchor Kate Snow ’91; bestselling novelist Lauren Weisberger ’99; and retired New York Times health columnist Jane Brody ’62. There are also women whose monikers grace East Hill buildings, including Olive Tjaden 1925 and Martha Van Rensselaer 1909—plus a host of others whose bios many readers will be encountering for the first time.

Cornell ’77

In the eyes (and ears) of many fans, the Grateful Dead concert in Barton Hall on May 8, 1977 was the band’s finest of all time.

In this book, published by Cornell University Press to coincide with the show’s 40th anniversary, a veteran music critic takes a deep dive into the concert—considered significant enough that the Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry—and why it represented the pinnacle of the band’s sound.

“You will hear from Deadheads who went to the show. You will hear from non-Deadhead Cornell graduates who were responsible for putting on the show in the first place," the author notes in the prologue.

The cover of "Cornell ’77"

"You will hear from record executives, academics, scholars, Dead family members, tapers, traders, and trolls. You will hear from those who still live the Grateful Dead every day. You will hear from those who would rather keep their Grateful Dead passions private for reasons both personal and professional.”

The cover of "Part & Apart"

Part & Apart

Another book by Kammen examines the early history of Black students at the institution that Ezra had founded to be—unlike so many of its peers—open to people of all races and religions.

Taking a biographical approach, it explores the lives and experiences of numerous students via their diaries, yearbook entries, and other primary sources, as well as official correspondence and news coverage of the era.

Subtitled The Black Experience at Cornell, 1865–1945, it ponders how African American students navigated campus life in the University’s early decades; their relationships with each other and their white peers; the obstacles they faced and how they overcame them; how they maintained their own identity within an overwhelmingly white community; and more.

First-Person Cornell

Also by Kammen, this volume published by the University Library views the evolving Big Red undergraduate experience over 140 years through students’ diaries, letters, memorabilia, emails, and blogs.

It features a foreword by an eminent Cornellian: President Emeritus Hunter Rawlings III.

“The book’s entries are drawn primarily from documents in the library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections that were collected by archivists or donated by students and their families,” the Cornell Chronicle noted upon its publication in 2006.

The cover of "First-Person Cornell"

“In Kammen’s hands they entertain, cause us to ponder, and transport us through time to experience student life in a particular period. Perspectives may change, but students’ interest in writing about their classes, professors, friends, and Ithaca’s weather remain a constant over the generations. First-Person Cornell provides a journey that rekindles the reader’s own reflections.”

the cover of "Cornell 101"

Cornell 101

Billed as “the required primer for every future Cornellian age 1 to freshman,” this board book for infants and toddlers features sturdy kid-resistant pages, simple text, and many images celebrating the University and its campus and traditions—from the Chimes and Dragon Day to the Ezra statue and beyond.

As one five-star review on Amazon puts it: “A nice idea for a shower or new baby gift for a fellow alumnus, and a great way to start brainwashing your own child from the beginning.”

Top: Illustration by Caitlin Cook / Cornell University.

Published November 28, 2023

What's your favorite book about Cornell?


  1. Anita M Harris, Class of 1970

    Ithaca Diaries, a memoir/social history of the upheavals at Cornell 1966-1970.

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