Your March 2023 Reads

Stories You May Like

The Search for ‘Spoon’

Acclaimed Horror Writer Forges Bright Paths Through Dark Worlds

Book Explores the Centuries-Old Influence of ‘Protestant Brooklyn’

This month’s featured titles include a medical memoir, an acclaimed debut novel, and a study of U.S.-Israeli relations

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 "Code Gray"

Code Gray

Farzon Nahvi ’07

In what Kirkus calls a “moving, thoughtful memoir of life in the medical trenches,” Nahvi chronicles his experiences as an ER physician—including during the early days of the COVID pandemic in NYC hospitals—and contemplates what he has learned about society and humanity on the front lines of the healthcare system.

“A common misconception of medical professionals is that our natural emotions become replaced by a cool, calculating demeanor,” writes the Human Ecology alumnus.

“Where someone else might feel sadness or panic, for example, a paramedic, nurse, or emergency room doctor is thought to block out his or her feelings and take action. The truth, however, is that those powerful visceral emotions are not replaced by an indifferent calm. They are simply papered over by it.”

Now an ER doctor in New Hampshire who serves on the clinical faculty at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, Nahvi has been featured on NPR’s “Fresh Air” and published in major media such as the New York Times and Washington Post. In 2019, he testified before Congress as an expert witness on Medicare for All.

The Consequences

Manuel Muñoz, MFA ’98

“Muñoz’s prose is shining and hypnotic, and suffused with care and tenderness,” says an NPR review. “This is one of the best short story collections to come around in recent years.”

The author’s latest comprises 10 tales, mainly set in communities of Mexican and Mexican-American farmworkers outside Fresno, CA, in the 1980s.

The collection has earned a host of critical praise, including starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

The cover of "The Consequences"

Says the L.A. Times: “Lucid and elegantly written, The Consequences tells the stories of characters who ache for one another or for ephemeral moments of release; who ache—bodily―from a life spent harvesting the sweetness that will grace other tables.”

Muñoz has penned two previous short story collections (Zigzagger and The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue) as well as the novel What You See in the Dark. His honors include three O. Henry Awards and an appearance in the 2019 Best American Short Stories anthology.

The cover of "We Are Not One"

We Are Not One

Eric Alterman ’82

As the Arts & Sciences alum points out in a recent Class Notes column, his 12th book—subtitled A History of America’s Fight Over Israel—stems from work he did on the Hill.

“I actually started it as my honors thesis under [Walter] LaFeber,” he writes, “and crazily (nerdily) kept my notes and even used some of them.”

On the faculty of Brooklyn College, Alterman is a contributing writer at the Nation and the American Prospect. Here, he traces the roots of the U.S.’s relationship with Israel from the 19th century onward.

He explores such factors as the political impact of the Six-Day War of 1967 and the alliances that a pro-Israeli stance have engendered between American Jews and conservative Christians.

Publishers Weekly calls the book a “thought-provoking and thorough study of America’s political relationship with the modern state of Israel,” going on to say: “Evenhanded yet incisive, this is an accessible history of a complex geopolitical matter and a persuasive call for more open-minded debate on an issue tearing at the fabric of the American Jewish community.”

Ezra Exposed

Amy Epstein Feldman ’91

Feldman’s work of fiction for middle-grade readers follows a child who gets a long-desired smartphone for his 10th birthday—and an education in what is (and isn’t) suitable to share online.

The title character—no relation to the University founder!—is a boy whose popularity kicks into high gear when he starts posting funny photos on social media, beginning with a shot of a chicken nugget that resembles a rear end.

His humorous butt-shaped shots escalate—until one of them crosses the line, getting him into hot water at school and elsewhere. 

The cover of "Ezra Exposed"

“This is an age-appropriate introduction to the legal and social dangers of underage Internet use and—though the term is not used—sexting,” says Kirkus. “Ezra ends up facing consequences for distributing lewd images of a minor, even though that minor is him.”

The book is the first for the Arts & Sciences alumna, an attorney based in the Philadelphia area. Says Publishers Weekly: “Ezra’s droll first-person narration, desire to be liked, and evolving maturity deftly render this a humorous and self-reflective tale.”

The cover of "Atomic Bill"

Atomic Bill

Vincent Kiernan ’81

Published by Cornell University Press’s Three Hills imprint, this nonfiction work is subtitled A Journalist’s Dangerous Ambition in the Shadow of the Bomb. It explores the career of William Leonard Laurence, a science writer for the New York Times who won a 1946 Pulitzer Prize in reporting for his coverage of the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan.

While lauded for his journalism, Laurence—who briefly worked as a press-release writer for the Manhattan Project—faced criticism for his support of the militarization of atomic energy, sometimes being labeled a propagandist for the government.

Stories You May Like

The Search for ‘Spoon’

Acclaimed Horror Writer Forges Bright Paths Through Dark Worlds

Later in his career, he was involved in cheating and plagiarism scandals, and was eventually forced to retire from the Times.

Says Foreign Affairs: “Kiernan’s research was meticulous, and he finds much to deplore in Laurence’s behavior: the journalist’s zeal for speculative scientific breakthroughs that led him to ignore skeptics; his exaggerated prose and occasional plagiarism; and most of all, his loss of objectivity from getting too close to power.”

A veteran of two decades in journalism before going into academia, Kiernan is dean of the Metropolitan School of Professional Studies at the Catholic University of America.

Wade in the Water

Nyani Nkrumah, PhD ’01

In what the New Yorker calls an “immersive debut novel,” Nkrumah crafts a coming-of-age tale set in rural Mississippi in the 1980s.

Its main narrator is an 11-year-old Black girl named Ella who has been neglected and mistreated. She forms a relationship with Ms. St. James, a mysterious white grad student from Princeton who has come to do research in the racially divided community.

“I sat on the front step, reluctant to head back into the steaming house,” Nkrumah writes, in Ella’s voice.

The cover of "Wade in the Water"

“It was getting dark, and the sinking sun gave the clouds a heavenly golden-red aura. I reached up and waved to God, who I could just see by his wispy beard. I didn’t need a Bible or preacher to tell me God was there; all I had to do was to look outside, past the buildings and the roads that humans had created, to the magnificent magnolia trees that spread out on their own, branches outstretched as though the trees were praising God. Then, finally, I would look up, way up, past the clouds, past the edge of the earth, almost into the Third Heaven.”

Nkrumah, who holds a doctorate in natural resources from CALS, is a longtime international development official at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

The cover of "Jump First, Think Fast"

Jump First, Think Fast

Frank O’Connell ’65, MBA ’66

“At times my view of the world is a bit of a kaleidoscope,” O’Connell writes. “Ideas seem to flow like a stream. I can get stimulus from every person and thing around me. I think in half-baked ideas, analogies, stories, and vignettes, and I build quickly from others’ ideas. That is random thinking at its finest.”

In this combination memoir and management guide, O’Connell endorses an unconventional approach to pursuing success that embraces far-fetched ideas while staying grounded in hands-on knowledge.

He shares strategies and wisdom gleaned from decades in business—at such firms as Reebok, HBO Video, SkyBox Trading Cards, Gibson Greetings, Fox Video Games, and Indian Motorcycles—as well as from his early days growing up on a farm in Upstate New York and studying on the Hill.

“I can easily place myself in the consumer’s shoes, or perhaps I have never left those shoes,” he writes. “No matter what executive level I have achieved or what company I have run, I have always stayed grounded with the mass consumer … I am constantly blown away by how little both the big corporations and start-ups really know about their customer and ultimate consumer.”

Classic by a Cornellian

The Last Detail

Darryl Ponicsán, MA ’65  

This acclaimed 1970 novel gained greater fame three years later, when it was adapted into a now-classic film starring Jack Nicholson. Set during the height of the Vietnam War, it follows two career sailors in the U.S. Navy who are tasked with a seemingly easy gig: escorting a young prisoner from Virginia to New Hampshire, where the teen will serve an eight-year sentence for petty theft.

The trio embarks on a five-day road trip in which the two older men aim to give their naïve charge a taste of life before he’s incarcerated.

The cover of "The Last Detail"

They also grapple with their own emotions, not only about the unfairness of the youth’s situation, but the horrors of the war itself.

Ponicsán followed up in 2005 with a sequel, Last Flag Flying, that reunites the three on another journey: the former teen prisoner—now middle aged—must bury his son, a Marine killed in Iraq.

It was adapted into a 2017 film, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, and Steve Carell. Another of Ponicsán’s novels, Cinderella Liberty, was made into a 1973 movie starring James Caan and Marsha Mason.

Published March 8, 2023

Leave a Comment

Once your comment is approved, your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other stories You may like