Your January 2023 Reads

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This month’s featured titles include novels, a prof’s nonfiction book on truckers, and a collaboration with the late, great Stan Lee

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

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

Bliss Montage

Ling Ma, MFA ’16

An indie bestseller, Ma’s collection of eight short stories has received numerous accolades, including being named to best-of lists by the New York Times, the New Yorker, Vogue, and Kirkus.

“Each story unspools like a dream sequence privately remembered,” says Vanity Fair, while Esquire called the book “weird and wonderful, surreal and subversive.”

It’s the sophomore entry for the author—a faculty member at the University of Chicago—following her widely praised 2018 novel Severance.

the cover of "Bliss Montage"

“The women populating these stories are not merely at the center, they are the center,” observes the New York Times. “As they move languorously through the world, observing and operating with a cool detachment, their questionable choices—stalking an ex-lover, having sex with a Yeti, living with her husband and 100 ex-boyfriends—fuel the narratives, and heighten their stakes.”

the cover of "The 7 Secrets to Startup Success"

The 7 Secret Keys to Startup Success

David Muchow, GR ’66–68

Muchow has spent decades as an attorney, entrepreneur, investor, and consultant; now, he has channeled that experience into a hands-on guide aimed at both aspiring startup founders and the leaders of existing firms.

It covers a host of practical dos and don’ts—from creating a business plan and courting investors to managing risk and safeguarding intellectual property.

“Many business books deal with general information on management or ‘motivation,’” Muchow writes.

“That’s fine, but I’ve never had a client ask about motivation. Entrepreneurs are some of the most highly motivated people on the planet. Rather, they ask me about practical things like, ‘Should I incorporate in Delaware? How can I cut my legal fees and when do I need a non-disclosure agreement?’”

The detailed advice is interspersed with a series of vignettes starring “Professor Scooter Magee,” a fictional startup expert who goes on adventures and solves business problems.

Never Meant to Meet You

Alli Frank ’92

The novel is the second collaboration for Frank and her co-author, Asha Youmans, who first teamed up for 2020’s Tiny Imperfections.

The two bring a multicultural perspective to their work: Frank is white and Youmans is Black, and their books explore such issues as race, religion, family, love, and belonging.

In their latest, their protagonists are next-door neighbors: Marjette, a Black Baptist kindergarten teacher at a California private school, and Noa, a white Jewish woman whose daughter is one of Marjette’s students.

the cover of "Never Meant to Meet You"

While Marjette is initially standoffish with Noa, a tragedy brings them together.

Says Publishers Weekly in a starred review: “As these neighboring families blend, the authors do a good job exploring the common ground between African American and Jewish experiences: the characters feel like real people with racial and religious identities that inform their worldviews, but don’t define them.”

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the cover of "Data Driven"

Data Driven

Karen Levy

Levy, an associate professor of information science on the Hill, has devoted much of her research to the intersection of technology and privacy. Her nonfiction book, from Princeton University Press, is subtitled Truckers, Technology, and the New Workplace Surveillance.

In it, she explores how digital surveillance has upended the trucking industry: an iconic field that once embodied independence on the open road—as fictionalized on TV and in movies like Smokey and the Bandit—has become increasingly monitored and controlled.

Data Driven does not disappoint,” says the American Prospect. “It is an exceptional exploration of how new rules and AI are transforming modern long-haul trucking, and how almost everyone who talks about the future of robots and work is getting it wrong.”

Dark Room Etiquette

Robin Roe ’07, BS ’05

Roe’s young-adult novel follows a wealthy Texas teen named Sayers, who finds himself trapped in a windowless room, the victim of a kidnapping.

Not only is the experience terrifying, but it forces him to question his own privilege and past behavior—leading to unexpected changes.

“Unlike hostage stories that end with the rescue, Roe digs deep into what happens in the aftermath as Sayers tries to learn how to be a functioning individual again and struggles with rebuilding his entire self,” says Kirkus.

the cover of "Dark Room Etiquette"

“There are no easy answers for Sayers’s issues, but with determination and help from key friends, he finds hope.”

Roe’s previous YA novel—2017’s A List of Cages, about a high school senior reunited with his foster brother—garnered numerous accolades and was translated into more than a dozen languages.

the cover of "Alliances: Orphans"

Alliances: Orphans

Ryan Silbert ’02

Silbert, a filmmaker and author, shares a byline with the late comics legend Stan Lee as one of three writers of this new graphic novel (which also credits two artists).

It’s the latest entry in the bestselling Alliances universe, following up on A Trick of Light and A New Reality.

The new tale concerns a man who’s on an interstellar quest to find the source of his supernatural abilities; in his travels, he encounters an eclectic group called the Orphans, eventually joining forces with them.

Orphans is a fast-paced, intergalactic treasure hunt that explodes the Alliances universe into the cosmos,” says the publisher. “It introduces an extraordinary band of lone survivors that must become a family to save the very fabric of reality.”

On the Inconvenience of Other People

Lauren Berlant, PhD ’85

The volume, from Duke University Press, is the final book by the late scholar and cultural critic, who passed away in June 2021.

In it, the publisher says, “Berlant focuses on the encounter with and the desire for the bother of other people and objects, showing that to be driven toward attachment is to desire to be inconvenienced.”

The author, who taught at the University of Chicago, was best known in nonacademic circles for the 2011 book Cruel Optimism.

the cover of "On the Inconvenience of Other People"

It explored an intriguing concept: the things that people desire most are actually impediments to their personal growth and happiness.

“The author is as sharp as ever at drawing from postcolonial, queer, and affect theory,” Publishers Weekly says of On the Inconvenience of Other People. “Fans of Berlant’s bright, electrifying thinking will want to check this out.”

Published January 10, 2023

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