Your July 2022 Reads

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In a New Book, Prof Translates Ancient Advice for the Lovelorn

Alum Honored with Another ‘Feeney Way’ on Campus

With ‘The Diplomat,’ an Actor Alum Sees his Star Rise

Dig into these recently published books—fiction, nonfiction, YA, and more—by Big Red alumni and faculty

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.

The cover of "Corrections in Ink"

Corrections in Ink

Keri Blakinger ’11, BA ’14

In what the New York Times called a “brave, brutal memoir” and a “riveting story about suffering, recovery, and redemption,” Blankinger recounts her struggles with mental health, drug addiction, and incarceration.

In December of her senior year—just a few credits shy of graduation—she was arrested in Ithaca with six ounces of heroin and ultimately spent 21 months behind bars. She has since completed her Cornell degree and gone on to a career in journalism, covering the prison system she experienced first-hand.

Says Kirkus: “Blakinger’s voice is frank but compassionate, as she lovingly but truthfully owns up to her mistakes. Her deeply researched analysis of the dehumanizing nature of incarceration is trenchant and infused with the passion of her personal experiences.”

Read our profile of Blakinger.

the cover of 'two nights in lisbon'

Two Nights in Lisbon

Chris Pavone ’89

Pavone’s 2012 debut thriller, The Expats, won the coveted Edgar and Anthony awards for mystery fiction and made the New York Times bestseller list. His latest follows a woman named Ariel who’s accompanying her new husband on a business trip to Portugal.

Waking up alone in their hotel room, she’s positive that something bad has happened to him—but since he has only been gone a few hours, neither the Lisbon police nor the U.S. embassy will take her seriously. Has he been kidnapped, or worse? And how well does his wife really know him?

It’s up to Ariel—a small-town bookseller who’s seemingly unprepared for international intrigue—to figure it out. Her fraught, twisty journey will not only awaken her memories of past trauma, but threaten powerful men at the highest echelons of U.S. government. As superstar author John Grisham says in a blurb: “I defy anyone to read the first twenty pages of this breakneck novel, then try to put it down for five minutes. It can’t be done.”

Read our profile of Pavone.

The cover of "Selling Your Expertise"

Selling Your Expertise

Robert Chen ’02

This guide to helping professionals increase their revenue—subtitled The Mindset, Strategies, and Tactics of Successful Rainmakers—is aimed at lawyers, accountants, consultants, investment bankers, and others in the knowledge economy.

Chen, a partner at an executive training and coaching firm, offers advice on building a clientele and a reputation, cultivating long-term relationships, overcoming business development challenges, growing a personal and professional network, and more.

“Rainmakers are made, not born, and they only get to their level of success by first crossing the chasm from delivering their work to delivering and selling their work,” Chen writes in his introduction. But, as he goes on to note, that shift “can often be intimidating, not to mention frustrating.”

The cover of "The Thinkers"

The Thinkers

Brad Herzog ’90

Herzog—a prolific author of travel memoirs, kids’ books, and more—teams up with artist Zachary Pullen to profile nearly 70 of the most impactful scientists and inventors in human history. They feature not only the usual cadre of famous white men like da Vinci and Edison but lesser-known names.

Those includes Nobel Prize winner C.V. Raman of India and Chinese-American Chien-Shiung Wu, dubbed the “first lady of physics.” The hardcover volume features Pullen’s lush illustrations, as well as an introduction by Ira Flatow of NPR's Science Friday.

“You’ll discover when you read the remarkable stories of these thinkers that science and knowledge do not run in a straight line,” Flatow writes. “One success does not guarantee another. The road is filled with failure. Personal and professional. Those scientists who triumph do so, many times, after working in obscurity or battling long odds. Whether it’s racial, gender, economic, or just plain stupidity.”

The cover of "The Tinderbox Plot"

The Tinderbox Plot

Michael Berns ’64, PhD ’68

A Big Red engineering grad is the heroine of this neo-Cold War thriller, in which an elite team of ex-KGB agents smuggles a nuclear bomb into the U.S. with the aim of causing mass causalities.

The villains also plan to strike a blow against capitalist ideology by weaponizing the Internet—exacerbating existing social divides and fomenting a second civil war in America.

Fighting to stop them is a Cornell-educated expert in cybersecurity and image analysis who happens to be the former lover of the Russian spymaster at the heart of the scheme.

The book is the debut novel for Berns, a biomedical engineer on the faculty of the University of California, Irvine.

The cover of "Wild by Design"

Wild by Design

Laura Martin, PhD ’15

An environmental historian on the faculty at Williams College, Martin devotes this release from Harvard University Press to a seemingly paradoxical pursuit: ecological restoration, the attempt to design natural spaces in order to repair the damage done by humans.

She explores the history, science, and philosophy of this billion-dollar field—in which governments, nonprofits, companies, and others build wetlands, remove invasive species, reintroduce native ones, and more.

As bestselling author Elizabeth Kolbert (The Sixth Extinction) says in a blurb: “Can we repair the ecological damage that we’ve done? As Laura Martin observes, no question today could be more pressing, or more uncertain. Wild by Design is a fascinating book—far-reaching, deeply researched, and probing.”

the cover of "The Sky We Shared"

The Sky We Shared

Shirley Reva Levine Vernick ’83

This novel for middle-grade readers, set during World War II, alternates between the perspectives of two girls from enemy nations: Nellie, who lives in rural Oregon, and Tamiko, in southern Japan.

The story draws its inspiration from the true-life tale of the war’s only casualties to perish in the continental U.S.: the half-dozen victims of Project Fu-Go, Japan’s 1944–45 campaign to launch thousands of balloon-borne bombs that were designed to float via the Jet Stream to North America.

In Vernick’s book, Tamiko—whose brother is serving in her country’s army—and her schoolmates are tasked with constructing the balloons to support the war effort. Nellie, whose father is fighting for the U.S., resides in the very region where the project’s only lethal bomb will eventually detonate.

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The cover of "The Women's House of Detention"

The Women's House of Detention

Hugh Ryan ’00

The institution of the title was a women’s prison in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village from 1929–74.

As Ryan (a historian who previously penned When Brooklyn Was Queer) explains, it played a key role in the city’s LGBTQ+ history and broader culture.

“For tens of thousands of arrested women and transmasculine people from every corner of the city, the House of D was a nexus, drawing the threads of their lives together in its dark and fearsome cells,” he writes in the book, subtitled A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison.

“Some were imprisoned there once, for as little as a day; others returned often and were held for years at a time. For decades, upon their release these women navigated the streets of Greenwich Village: ate in its automats and diners; caroused in the bars that would let them in; lived in nearby tenements; slept rough in the parks; visited friends and loved ones who were on trial or in detention; worked what jobs would hire them; attended court-mandated health screenings and probation meetings; and in a million and one other ways, made the Village their own.”

Read our profile of Ryan.

The cover of "How to Be Eaten"

How to Be Eaten

Maria Adelmann ’07

Classic fairy tale characters are re-imagined as women in a trauma support group in Adelmann’s debut novel, set in present-day New York City.

The characters include one coping with the fallout of a failed romance with a psychopathic (and blue-bearded) billionaire and another who has troubling memories of being held captive in a house made of candy.

“Adelmann travels the well-worn paths of some of the Brothers Grimm’s most famous fairy tales with stylistic panache and 21st-century verve,” Kirkus says in a starred review.

“However, it's her nuanced consideration of our own culpability that makes this book unique. In the end, Adelmann’s true subject is actually her audience, the great anonymous ‘we’ who consumes the horrors of violent husbands, ravaging wolves, hungry witches, and made-for-TV love stories with such compulsive demand we never pause to think what might come after the happy ending. Both a meditation on trauma and a sendup of our society’s obsession with scripted reality, this book sings.”

The cover of "The Lawless Land"

The Lawless Land

Beth Morrison, PhD ’02

Morrison is senior curator of manuscripts at the Getty Museum; her brother, Boyd, is a New York Times bestselling author of 12 thrillers.

They’ve teamed up to launch a series about the adventures of a couple in 14th-century England: a noble lady and the knight who saves her from attack as she flees an arranged marriage.

“Historical fiction fans will eagerly await the couple’s further adventures,” says Publishers Weekly in a starred review.

Raves the PW reviewer: “The authors make splendid use of such medieval-plot standbys as a castle with secret tunnels, plague-riddled vagabonds, a grand tournament, a priceless manuscript, and duplicitous churchmen as the action ranges from Canterbury to Paris and elsewhere in France and finally Italy.”

The cover of "Bigger Than Life"

Bigger Than Life

Mary Ann Doane ’74

Doane is a professor of film and media at the University of California, Berkeley. Her latest book, from Duke University Press, studies the use of scale in cinema, particularly the close-up—and how such techniques can be used to impact the viewer’s sense of place, space, and orientation.

As she observes, audiences once saw tight shots, especially of faces, as off-putting. “The close-up of early cinema,” she writes, “seems more acutely to evoke the possibility of breaching the limit of the screen, the protective barrier of representation.”

Doane’s previous works include The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive and Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis.

The cover of "The Hidden Saint"

The Hidden Saint

Mark Levenson ’78

In a fantasy novel described as “Fiddler on the Roof meets The Lord of the Rings,” Levenson marries real-life history with Jewish folklore. Set in Eastern Europe in the 18th century, it offers an origin story for his character of Rabbi Adam, a spiritual leader and family man who goes up against wizards, witches, and demons to protect his community.

“The story is such a page-turner I read it in one night,” says a reviewer in the Jerusalem Post. “If I were a gambling man, I would bet my money that The Hidden Saint will be made into a film.”

Also a puppeteer and a playwright, Levenson has had his Jewish-themed short fiction published in several magazines.

The cover of "Muddling through the Sexual Revolution"

Muddling Through the Sexual Revolution

Albert Podell ’58

Subtitled A Survivor's Report from the Frigid Fifties to the #MeToo Movement, this memoir—dedicated, by first name, to dozens of women he’s known over the decades—recalls the social, romantic, and carnal exploits of the travel author and former Playboy editor.

It includes chapters on events on the Hill in the ’50s that, Podell says, sparked a revolt that ultimately led to the end of in loco parentis rules about undergrad behavior.

Podell’s previous books include The Survival Guide for the Adventurous International Traveler.

In the New York Times bestseller Around the World in 50 Years, he chronicled his successful effort to visit every country on Earth.

The cover of "Veronica Franco in Dialogue"

Veronica Franco in Dialogue

Marilyn Migiel ’75

A Cornell professor of Romance studies, Migiel won the Modern Language Association’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for her examination of Franco’s life and poetry.

As the publisher (University of Toronto Press) notes, Franco “has been viewed as a triumphant proto-feminist icon: a woman who celebrated her sexuality, an outspoken champion of women and their worth, and an important intellectual and cultural presence in 16th-century Venice.”

The book analyzes the first 14 poems in the Terze Rime, a collection published in 1575, and takes a deep look at back-and-forth exchanges between Franco and an unknown male author.

Published July 20, 2022


  1. Marcia Wities Orange, Class of 1971

    Fellow Cornellians: Check out “The Latecomer” by Jean Haniff Korelitz. It is a great fiction read where Cornell plays a major role in the well-written tale

  2. Audrey E.Sears, Class of 1958

    Did you ever review Jeremy DeSilva’s’98 First Step, How Upright Walking Made Us Human He is a paleoanthropologist who teaches at Dartmouth . Published in 2021 and reviewed in NY Times by Rebecca Wragg Sykes.

  3. Fatema Sumar, Class of 2001

    Cornellians, would love to share with you all my debut book, The Development Diplomat: Working Across Borders, Boardrooms, and Bureaucracies to End Poverty. Welcome your feedback!

  4. Dushica Protic, Class of 1979

    Does the Thinker’s Book include Nikola Tesla and Mihajlo Pupin, the greatest minds of all times?

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