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This month's featured titles include a prof's look at the search for alien life, a cookbook with a time-oriented twist, and more

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 "Alien Earths"

Alien Earths

Lisa Kaltenegger

In a volume that Kirkus calls “absorbing, informative, and entertaining,” the Big Red astronomer offers a general-interest science book on some compelling questions: are there other inhabited planets in the universe—and if so, how might we find them?

The topic is of passionate interest to Kaltenegger, the director of the Cornell-based Carl Sagan Institute. The organization—whose goal is to find life in the universe—is, of course, named for the famed professor and science popularizer, who himself was bullish about the existence of extraterrestrial life.

Subtitled The New Science of Planet Hunting in the Cosmos, the book “explains for lay audiences the young field of astrobiology and describes intriguing and potentially habitable worlds that have only recently been discovered around distant stars,” says a Washington Post review.

The Post goes on to offer a tongue-in-cheek warning: “This is a science book through and through, and will disappoint anyone who wants to hear that the aliens are already here, secretly zipping around.”

Cook Simply, Live Fully

Yasmin Fahr ’05

“Fahr, author of Keeping It Simple and a contributor to the New York Times cooking section, wants to help all those readers who are tired of trying to decide what’s for dinner,” says Library Journal.

“She gathers together over 100 recipes in her fabulous new cookbook, which is divided into fun chapters focusing on how much energy and motivation cooks have at the moment.”

The cover of "Cook Simply, Live Fully"

Subtitled Flexible, Flavorful Recipes for Any Mood, the volume lets readers choose from three levels of effort.

There are super easy “lap dinners” (for example, sheet pan asparagus with tomatoes, eggs, and feta); “coffee table dinners” that require more prep (like roasted chicken thighs with grapes, feta, and mint); and “at the dinner table,” with more elaborate fare (like roasted mustard salmon served with side dishes).

In addition to Keeping it Simple, Fahr previously penned Boards & Spreads, which offers recipes and presentation ideas for a variety of meals and occasions.

The cover of "Walk the Dark"

Walk the Dark

Paul Cody, MFA ’87

The protagonist of Cody’s latest novel is an inmate in a maximum-security prison in Upstate New York. He's at a personal crossroads, just months away from the end of a decades-long sentence he’s serving for a crime he committed as a teenager.

The narration alternates between his current life and flashbacks to his difficult childhood, when he was raised by an unreliable mother—named Margaret, but who “had so many names that I was never sure what to call her”—who worked in the sex industry and was addicted to drugs.

“She asked me if I minded staying home alone, and I said I didn’t mind, even though I did,” Cody writes. “She kissed me on the forehead. She said I was her big brave boy, but I wasn’t brave at all. I just knew that she wanted to go out, and that she wanted me to act like I was big and brave, even when I was four or five.”

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The novel has garnered raves from some fellow MFA alums who are bestselling authors. In a blurb, Stewart O’Nan, MFA ’92, calls it “creepily beautiful, full of stillness and darkness. Cody takes us into places we don’t know and shows us strange states of mind that feel absolutely true.”

Says Julie Schumacher, MFA ’86: “Walk the Dark is harrowing and vivid, taut as a wire. Paul Cody intertwines terror and hope; he knows how to hook his readers from the start—and on every page.”

You Can’t Market Manure at Lunchtime

Maisie Ganzler ’93

Published by Harvard Business Review Press, this management guide offers advice on making firms in the food industry more sustainable. Ganzler, a Hotelie, is the former chief strategy and brand officer for a food service management company based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In what Publishers Weekly calls “a thoughtful examination of the challenges facing corporate efforts to go green,” she taps her decades of experience to describe how companies can make their systems more sustainable and ethical without sacrificing the bottom line.

The cover of "You Can't Market Manure at Lunchtime"

“Consumers and critics often think that sustainability is a switch somewhere that corporate executives can flip and simply pay the farmer more for regenerative agricultural practices, the factory owner a bonus to use only ethical recruiters of migrant workers, or a premium to the mining company to ensure you get conflict-free minerals. That a company could be more sustainable if it would just spend more for its inputs,” she writes.

“I’ve learned from experience that the complexities of national and even global supply chains, competing priorities, and the challenge of messaging make authentically greening a company much harder than simply writing a bigger check.”

The cover of "Ember Days"

Ember Days

Mary Gilliland ’73, MAT ’80

Gilliland is an award-winning poet who has taught on the Hill and elsewhere (including at Weill Cornell Medicine's branch in Qatar).

This collection is her third, following The Ruined Walled Castle Garden and The Devil’s Fools.  

“The riveting poems of Ember Days begin with ritual and end with prayer,” says the publisher, Codhill Press, noting that in the works, “intercessory voices step up to our world’s disasters, level with its possibilities, interrogate faith, justice, militarism, madness, and the perception and affection of intimate relationships.”

As Gilliland writes in the title poem: “The almanac’s laconic whistle / passes a millennium at last grown / nonfungible. Day breaks up the where-were- / you party. Feet wander concrete platforms / lit with radiance weak and discomfited / from two bare bulbs, stilled double-naughts. / Mobiles dry-rattle beneath posters for stewpots / and holiday sales, the forecast troubled music: / history, or at least cold wind of a startling event.

The work was blurbed by Cornell poetry professor Alice Fulton, MFA ’82, who says, “By turns mystical and realist, Mary Gilliland’s intensely musical poems consider global apocalypse—'our course set for the destitute sunset’—but also celebrate the generative power of creativity, honoring the passion of cobbler, novelist, saint, inventor, photographer.”

Love, Me

Jessica Saunders ’03

In the CALS alum’s debut novel—which Kirkus calls “an entertaining and quick read about self-discovery”—a successful lawyer and soccer mom in New York’s Westchester County discovers cracks in her marriage while reconnecting with her first love.

The protagonist, Rachel, is shocked to discover that her husband has a gambling problem, and has amassed huge debts.

And worse: he has paid them off by selling letters from her high school boyfriend (Jack, who’s now a major movie star) to a tabloid.

The cover of "Love, Me"

“Saunders sparkles in her emotional second-chance romance debut,” says Publishers Weekly, going on to add that the author “keeps readers guessing which it’ll be up to the very end while drawing them in with snappy prose and skillful characterization. Flashbacks to Rachel and Jack’s early relationship make it especially easy to invest in their connection. This should win Saunders plenty of fans.”

Published June 7, 2024

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