Your June 2023 Reads

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Novels, short stories, and an eminent historian’s look at the invasion of Iraq are among this month’s featured titles

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

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

The cover of "Lone Women"

Lone Women

Victor LaValle ’94, BA ’95

The New York Times calls LaValle’s fifth novel “enthralling,” observing that it “opens like a true western, with a scene of dark, bloody upheaval and a hint of vengeance. But nothing in this genre-melding book is as it seems.”

In it, the award-winning author of literary horror tales—many unfolding in and around modern-day NYC—shifts to a different sphere, setting his latest in Montana during the early 20th century. His protagonist—Adelaide, one of the “lone women” of the title—is a Black homesteader seeking a new start after a violent family tragedy.

Says NPR: “This is a wonderful novel that expertly combines adventure and terror, sprinkled with LaValle’s mordant wit and assured prose.”

LaValle’s previous books include The Devil in Silver and The Ballad of Black Tom, as well as a recent reimagining of a classic mutant villain in Marvel’s Sabretooth comics series. A TV version of his 2017 novel The Changeling is set to stream on Apple TV+ later this year.

Confronting Saddam Hussein

Melvyn Leffler ’66

Published by Oxford University Press, Leffler’s work is subtitled George W. Bush and the Invasion of Iraq. Informed by archival documents and interviews with senior policymakers, the historian explores the motivations behind the 2003 military action, whose impacts are still deeply felt by the Iraqi people as well as by U.S. veterans of the conflict.

“While much of this territory has been covered before, Leffler adds useful contextual detail, beginning with a detailed biography of Saddam Hussein, who was especially brutal in his political and military tactics—e.g., gassing his own people,” says Kirkus.

The cover of "Confronting Saddam Hussein"

“Because of Hussein’s known lying about his buildup of biological and chemical weapons, support of terrorism, hatred of Zionism, and general grandiose ambitions for a pan-Arab unity led by himself, the U.S. was already deeply wary of his regime before 9/11.”

An emeritus professor of American history at the University of Virginia, Leffler is the author of numerous works on U.S. foreign relations including A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War, which won several major awards including the Bancroft Prize, one of the field’s highest honors.

The cover of "A New Race of Men from Heaven "

A New Race of Men from Heaven

Chaitali Sen ’92

Sen’s story collection—whose publication is part of the award for the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction—delves into the lives of Indian and Indian American characters.

“This intelligent collection from Sen explores themes of isolation and connection with clear, direct prose,” says Library Journal, recommending it “for readers who enjoy thoughtful fiction with well-developed characters navigating difficult situations.”

A College Scholar on the Hill, Sen previously penned the novel The Pathless Sky.

The protagonists of her new collection include a lonely business traveler who joins the search for a missing boy; a recent widow who emigrates to the U.S. to care for her brother’s children; and an author who, oddly, becomes more successful after an imposter starts publishing under his name.

Says Kirkus: “In these stirring, understated stories, the intersections of ethnicity, religion, and gender raise the stakes for the characters—so that when the reasons for their disconnection are finally revealed, it’s often a double whammy.”

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July / August ’23 Trivia Roundup

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The History of Western Art

Janetta Rebold Benton ’67

The London-based publisher Thames & Hudson released this book, Benton’s 10th, as part of its Art Essentials series. It’s available in both American and British English and has been translated into other languages including German and Spanish.

With myriad illustrations, it comprises an overview of Western art and architecture from prehistory to the present.

Unfolding in 12 chapters, the volume surveys art with a focus on history, putting works into the context of their time and culture.

The cover of "The History of Western Art"

Each chapter opens with a question to ponder, as well as a summary of the period including social structure, politics, religion, and scientific advances.

Benton—a BFA alum of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning—is a distinguished professor of art history at Pace University; she previously published How to Understand Art. A specialist in the medieval period, she has taught widely including in France, Russia, and China.

The cover of "Chlorine"


Jade Song ’18

“Part body horror, part science fiction, part queer teenage romance, Song’s debut novel dives into the deep end of bodily and psychological metamorphosis,” says Kirkus, “but it’s not for the faint of heart.”

The protagonist of this coming-of-age tale, a New York Times editor’s choice pick, is a Chinese American teen named Ren Yu.

Ren is a fiercely dedicated competitive swimmer—and her self-worth is excruciatingly dependent on her success in the pool.

Under pressure from an exacting (and potentially abusive) coach as well as from parents determined to see her admitted to the Ivy League, Ren becomes so fixated on her relationship to the water that she may actually transform into a mermaid.

Says Publishers Weekly: “In Song’s disturbing and visionary debut, a child pushed too hard to succeed becomes a monster of her own making.” A communication major in CALS, Song is a writer, art director, and artist based in NYC.

Year of No Garbage

Eve Ogden Schaub ’92, BA ’93, BFA ’93

As a former newspaper reporter who studied photography and English lit in Arts & Sciences, Schaub approaches her memoirs as chronicles of her lived experiences, mixed with deep-dive research and expert interviews.

For the final installment of a trilogy—following Year of No Sugar (2014) and Year of No Clutter (2017)—Schaub confronts trash’s ubiquity in everyday life. By way of research, she, her husband, and their two daughters pledged to divert all the waste produced in their southern Vermont home from landfills and incinerators, whether by reusing, recycling, or composting.

Cover of Year of No Garbage, a book by Eve Schaub

While she learned that some types of glass and paper have favorable recycling rates—particularly cardboard, at 90%—securing reputable destinations for other materials (such as plastic) was daunting.

“I firmly believed that all these different wrappers and containers had a purpose, a perfect home,” Schaub writes, “if only I could figure out what it was.”

The cover of "Innovating with Impact"

Innovating with Impact

Ted Ladd ’92, BA ’93

A veteran of Silicon Valley start-ups including one acquired by Google, Ladd is also a professor of entrepreneurship at the Hult International Business School and a visiting instructor at Harvard and Stanford.

In this management guide—from the book-publishing arm of the British weekly The Economist—he and his co-author take a deep dive into the concept of innovation.

It includes outlining their strategic concept of an “innovation pyramid” to help spur novel approaches.

“Profitable innovation rarely arrives in the innovator’s mind by epiphany,” they write. “The trope of some tortured, Eureka-yelling entrepreneur sitting bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night and then jotting down the precise sketch of a billion-pound idea is entertaining but mythical. Innovation is not an extraordinary event, but the outcome of a deliberate process.”

Published June 21, 2023

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