Your January 2024 Reads

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This month's featured titles include a cookbook by an undergrad, a look at the war on drugs, and a history of women motorcyclists

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 Flavor+Us

Flavor+Us

Rahanna Bisseret Martinez ’26

Still an undergrad, Bisseret Martinez—a sophomore Hotelie—already has an impressive culinary résumé.

After taking second place on the first season of “Top Chef Junior,” the California native went on to compete on “Guy’s Grocery Games” and to intern in such kitchens as Chez Panisse, Dominique Ansel Bakery, Emeril’s, and Wolfgang Puck—as well as to contribute recipes to the San Francisco Chronicle, the “Today” show, and more.

Her debut cookbook offers more than 70 dishes touching on a wide variety of global cuisines. They include masa doughnuts with Earl Grey glaze (Mexico), frijoles negros (Cuba), dry-fried green beans (China), Dungeness crab tinola (the Philippines), and jerk eggplant steaks (Jamaica).

“Bisseret Martinez’s youthful enthusiasm permeates each page, with her passion for exploring her culinary heritage mixing perfectly with her curiosity for international ingredients and techniques,” says Library Journal, adding: “With enthusiasm and technical skill, Bisseret Martinez reminds cooks to approach food with curiosity and joy.”


Big Fiction

Dan Sinykin, PhD ’15

“Book lovers curious about how the proverbial sausage gets made will want to check this out,” says Publishers Weekly of this volume from Columbia University Press. Sinykin, an assistant professor of English at Emory University, explores (in the words of the subtitle) “how conglomeration changed the publishing industry and American literature”—tracing the modern book business from its clubby and genteel midcentury roots to the present day.

“Before conglomeration, Sinykin asserts, writing a book ‘was a completely different experience,'" the New Yorker observes in a review.

The cover of Big Fiction

"Once, a would-be novelist’s chances of being published depended on ‘how easily you could get your book in the right editor’s hands.’ As the number of those involved in publication expanded, authors had to meet new criteria. ‘Could marketers see a market? What would the chain bookbuyers think? Could publicists picture your face on TV, your voice on the radio? Could agents sniff subsidiary rights? … Would it work in audio? On the big screen?’”


The cover of Iron Horse Cowgirls

Iron Horse Cowgirls

Kate St. Vincent Vogl ’87

Another recent book co-authored by Vogl delved into the experiences of the first female referee of an NFL game. Here, she again tells the real-life story of a woman in a traditionally male sphere: Louise Scherbyn, who founded the Women’s International Motorcycle Association after learning to ride in the early 1930s—an era when ladies weren’t even supposed to wear pants.

“This—this—is the feeling to remember when others question her, when they try to stop her vocally, forcefully,” says the description of Scherbyn’s first ride.

“She will ride hundreds and hundreds of thousands of miles through her lifetime to feel this sense of freedom again and again, this power to cut through where others cannot.”

(Vogl took over the book project from her co-author, a friend who was unable to finish it due to terminal cancer.)

“What comes through the pages is an engrossing tale of Louise’s challenging of rules, confronting traditions, and protesting ideas about the ‘fairer sex,’” says a review in the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies, adding: “The authors take great care to pave the road of Louise’s journey, illustrating it through thick description, dynamic narrative, adroit motorcycle discourse, and incredible photographs.”


Climate Resilience for an Aging Nation

Danielle Arigoni, MRP ’97

While the dangers of climate change are becoming increasingly well known and well publicized, Arigoni argues in this nonfiction work that one aspect is largely ignored by planners and the media: how people are impacted differently based on their age.

“The reality is that older adults—generally speaking, people over 65—are disproportionately impacted by extreme temperatures, wildfire smoke, flooding and sea level rise, and more frequent and intense hurricanes,” she writes.

The cover of Climate Resilience for an Aging Nation

“Older adults represent 80% of the 12,000 people who die each year from heat-related illnesses and are three to four times more likely than younger people to die in climate-fueled disasters.”

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The managing director for policy and solutions at National Housing Trust, Arigoni formerly served as AARP’s director of livable communities and as director of HUD’s Office of Economic Resilience.

“She spotlights dozens of sensible age-friendly policy ideas for public health, land use, and disaster preparedness,” says a Publishers Weekly review, adding: “This detailed report paints a dire portrait of a vulnerable cohort. Policymakers should take note.”


The cover of Immigrants

Immigrants

D. Dina Friedman ’79, BA ’78

Friedman’s previous books include Escaping Into the Night, a young-adult novel about a Jewish girl who flees a Polish ghetto before its residents are deported, hiding in the woods with others who are scrambling to survive.

In this collection of 14 short stories, the author explores the lives of people—mainly women—of varying backgrounds, many at moments of change or personal crisis.

There’s a character who, seeking a better life for her daughter, sends the girl across the U.S.-Mexico border by herself; another who goes to India on something of a pilgrimage to atone for having accidently killed an Indian-American pedestrian with her car; another who, having been deserted by her husband, is trying to make ends meet by renting out rooms, and comes into conflict with a tenant due to a bedbug infestation.

“My sister, Jessica, is a drug addict,” says the narrator of a story titled “Happily Ever After,” going on to observe: “She lives in subway tunnels when she isn’t in jail or rehab. I’ve tried taking her in. I’ve tried giving her money, but I may as well send the bucks directly to her drug dealer. There’s only one thing my sister and I agree on: our mother is not to know.”


The Long War on Drugs

Anne Foster, PhD ’95

“For as long as there has been recorded history, people have been taking substances to alter their mood, help them relieve pain, and, they long believed, connect to higher or greater powers,” Foster writes.

“In every culture, people sought out those plants that could be eaten or smoked to calm them down, give them visions, or speed up their heart rate and brain function.”

In this volume from Duke University Press, Foster offers an overview of the U.S.’s ongoing, deeply fraught efforts to interdict illegal drugs.

The cover of The Long War on Drugs

It’s a campaign that stretches back to the early 20th century, punctuated by movements to double down on punishment, to advocate for legalization, or to treat addiction as a medical issue rather than a criminal one.

“One goal of this book is for readers to reexamine their own assumptions about not only how and why people take drugs but the kinds of policies that would best control drug use to those that are perhaps beneficial, or at the least less harmful,” Foster, an associate professor of history at Indiana State University, writes in the introduction. “The problem is a complex one, and the more people who think deeply about it, the better.”

Classic by a Cornellian

The cover of The Butcher’s Boy

The Butcher’s Boy

Thomas Perry ’69

Perry is the prolific, bestselling author of several mystery series, including one starring Jane Whitefield, a Native American woman who helps people disappear from dangerous situations. He also penned the limited TV series “The Old Man,” starring Jeff Bridges, which ran on FX in 2022 and streams on Hulu.

This acclaimed 1982 release, his literary debut, won the coveted Edgar Award for best first mystery novel. It features two protagonists: a professional hitman who himself becomes the target of a murder-for-hire contract, and the female Justice Department analyst who is on his trail.

“This is a shrewdly planned and executed thriller whose appeal is based on slick but sound technique,” said the New York Times on the book’s release. “There is an early hit, a suitable pause, and then another more difficult assassination. As the novel reaches its climax, pawns of the F.B.I. and the Mafia are offed at an accelerating pace.”

A decade after The Butcher’s Boy was published, Perry penned a sequel, Sleeping Dogs, followed by two more. His latest mystery, Hero, comes out this month (January 2024).

Published January 17, 2024


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