Your December 2023 Reads

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Cornellian Crossword: ‘Study Spots’

The ABCs of C-A-Ts

Just Starting Out in Your Career? Dyson Prof Has Advice!

This month's featured titles include a book of inspirational quotes, essays on video games, and a novel about a 'paranormal detective'

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.

Have you published a book you'd like to submit? Scroll down for details!

The cover of "All Souls Lost"

All Souls Lost

Dan Moren ’02

Moren previously penned a critically admired series of science fiction novels set during a “galactic Cold War.”

Here, he pivots to a mash-up of fantasy and noir with a tale about a Boston-based paranormal detective named Mike Lucifer.

Having left town for two alcohol-soaked years on a Hawaiian beach following the death of his partner, Lucifer is back—and he soon picks up a new client, a woman seeking help for her boyfriend.

What at first seems to be a straightforward (to Lucifer, at least) case of demonic possession proves to be something even more dangerous, involving murder and a tech company—the boyfriend’s employer—possibly dabbling in the dark arts.

A former senior editor at Macworld, Moren is also a podcaster who co-hosts two tech shows and a quiz program, among other projects.

Women in Science Now

Lisa Pinsker Munoz ’00

“The ‘leaky pipeline’ many of us have come to associate with the attrition of women in STEM from undergraduate school through PhDs and employment,” the Engineering alum writes in her intro, “is not so much a set of leaks as it is a force of nature.”

The volume from Columbia University Press is subtitled Stories and Strategies for Achieving Equity.

It pairs first-person accounts by women in STEM with social science research on potential ways to narrow the gender gap.

The cover of "Women in Science Now"

“The leaky pipeline does not just need to be fixed; it needs to be retired as a metaphor for describing the forces at play for women in STEM fields,” observes Munoz, a science writer based in Washington, DC.

“Women are not dripping through holes in the system; they are being pushed out of a system that historically did not want them in the first place, even if it wants them now.”

The cover of the book "Make Your Own History" by Joseph Holland

Make Your Own History

Joseph Holland ’78, MA ’79

Inspirational words from Black leaders in a wide variety of fields are gathered in Holland’s latest self-improvement book. Subtitled Timeless Truths from Black American Trailblazers, it offers short biographies of more than 100 notables, emphasizing quotations that carry motivational messages.

It shares wisdom from such famous names as Booker T. Washington, Oprah Winfrey, and Barack and Michelle Obama—as well as the late Marvel star Chadwick Boseman, athletes Kobe Bryant and Simone Biles, music icons Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and numerous others.

But many of its sources are less familiar, like Olaudah Equiano, the 18th-century author of a memoir describing the horrors of slavery; early 20th-century educator Nannie Helen Burroughs; engineer Norbert Rillieux, who revolutionized the sugar-making process; and Maggie Lena Walker, the nation’s first female bank president.

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Cornellian Crossword: ‘Study Spots’

The ABCs of C-A-Ts

Front Office Fantasies

Branden Buehler ’08

Buehler is an assistant professor of visual and sound media at Seton Hall.

In his first book, published by University of Illinois Press, he explores the ubiquity of sports films and other media focused not on the field of play, but on management—works like Moneyball and Draft Day.

It also ponders the intense interest in metrics and the popularity of fantasy teams.

Subtitled The Rise of Managerial Sports Media, it boasts a blurb from Cornell media arts professor Samantha Sheppard.

The cover of "Front Office Fantasies"

“In this sharply written and impressive book, Branden Buehler provides compelling new insights into the social, cultural, and visual consequences of sports media’s preoccupation with managerialism, financialization, and quantification,” she says, going on to call it “a vital and necessary work.”

The cover of "The Good Luck Book"

The Good Luck Book

Heather Alexander ’89

Alexander has penned more than 70 kids’ books. In her latest, a nonfiction work aimed at children ages seven to 11, the Arts & Sciences alum delves into superstitions and folklore from around the world.

The book is divided into sections including traditions based around animals (such as black cats being ill omens), the natural world (“knocking on wood”), and the human body (saying “bless you” in response to a sneeze).

Other topics include the theatrical admonition to “Break a leg!”—meaning to have a good performance—and the symbolism of the number 13 in different societies.

“Humans do all sorts of things based on superstitions, even though we know it may not be very logical or scientific,” Alexander writes. “Often, we don’t even realize some of our actions—like covering our mouths when we yawn—are actually derived from superstitions.”

Critical Hits

J. Robert Lennon

Lennon, the Ann S. Bowers Professor of English on the Hill and a prolific fiction writer, co-edits this collection of essays on topics related to video games. The 18 pieces in the volume—subtitled Writers Playing Video Games—include musings on such iconic titles as Call of Duty and The Last of Us.

They include a piece by Lennon, called “Ruined Ground.” Originally published in April 2021 under the title “How I Spent My Plague Year Inside a Video Game,” it contemplates (among other things) his immersion, during the COVID-19 pandemic, in a game set in a post-apocalyptic future.

The cover of "Critical Hits"

“In Fallout 76, you can have any kind of body you want,” he writes.

“Players create a character at the game’s outset by adjusting a fantastically detailed set of parameters; it’s possible to turn yourself into a bizarre freak with just a few taps of the joystick. In single-player games, I usually invent a character unlike myself, often a woman, and costume them fancifully, for kicks. But in 76 … you will see the real me: middle-aged father of adult children, trying to recapture his lost youth.”

The cover of "Syria Divided"

Syria Divided

Ora Szekely ’99

In this nonfiction work from Columbia University Press, Szekely explores the civil war in Syria—a conflict that has cost more than 600,000 lives and displaced more than half of the population since it began in 2011.

“Adding to the war’s complexity, its many participants understand and explain the war in a range of different ways,” the publisher notes. “For some, it is a fight for dignity and democracy; for others, a sectarian or communal conflict; still others see it as a fight against terrorism or a consequence of foreign interference.”

In the book, subtitled Patterns of Violence in a Complex Civil War, Szekely draws on numerous sources, including in-depth interviews and propaganda shared on social media.

An associate professor of political science at Clark University, she has penned such previous works as Insurgent Women: Female Combatants in Civil Wars.

Published December 18, 2023

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