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This month’s featured titles include a thriller by a ‘Law & Order’ veteran and a prof’s look at how politics worsened the pandemic

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.

Wealth Management

Edward Zuckerman ’70

Zuckerman is an Emmy- and Edgar-winning writer and producer of TV crime shows including “Blue Bloods” and the “Law & Order” franchise.

The protagonists of his debut novel are three alums of Harvard Business School who become embroiled in not only a love triangle, but potentially deadly international intrigue.

Two of them, Catherine and Majid, are working as (possibly shady) investment managers in Geneva, Switzerland, when a Harvard classmate comes to town.

The cover of Wealth Management

Rafe, Catherine’s old flame, claims to be working for a hedge fund—but he’s actually a U.S. Treasury agent on an undercover mission to investigate his old friends’ alleged crimes, with links to money laundering and even terrorism.

Financial Times praises the book as a “clever, entertaining romp through the world of high finance and dirty money” while Library Journal calls it a “well-plotted, intricate, and diverting thriller.”

the cover of The Most Precious Substance on Earth

The Most Precious Substance on Earth

Shashi Bhat ’06

The second novel for the Canada-based author was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. It follows an Indian-Canadian girl from age 14 into her thirties, as she copes with the fallout from adolescent traumas—including a potential threat from an online predator, an attraction to a teacher, and parental pressure to date boys of a similar background.

“Bhat approaches her weighty subject matter with grace and humor and, in doing so, finds a way of exploring trauma that is both realistic and tender,” says Kirkus.

“Unlike other coming-of-age novels that focus on the teenage or young adult years, in this one Bhat takes readers downstream and examines how those pivotal times continue to shape the protagonist as she approaches middle age.”

The former English major’s short fiction has been widely published; her first novel, The Family Took Shape, came out in 2013.

Pandemic Politics

Thomas Pepinsky

In this nonfiction work from Princeton University Press, Pepinsky (a government professor on the Hill) and two colleagues parse survey data to explore how political partisanship has worsened the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Americans of earlier generations united across party affiliation to combat health threats, they write, with COVID they have often prioritized politics over the public good—and even their own. “The pandemic was a new kind of civil war, American versus American waged through distrust, enmity, and misinformation,” they write.

the cover of Pandemic Politics

“And it was a cold war. We didn’t have to brandish firearms. Our weapon was politics, and the battlefield is the air we breathe.”

Subtitled The Deadly Toll of Partisanship in the Age of COVID, the book draws from a survey of 3,000 people, whose opinions the researchers sought (at various times during the pandemic) on such issues as social distancing and the availability of vaccines.

Pepinsky is the Walter F. LaFeber Professor of Government in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as a faculty member in the Brooks School of Public Policy.

the cover of Tuscan Son

Tuscan Son

Robert Berne ’70, MBA ’71, PhD ’77

Berne spent four decades as a faculty member and administrator at NYU.

He draws upon his deep experience in academia for his debut thriller, in which a vice president at fictional Olmsted University finds himself incarcerated in a brutal prison in Panama.

The unsuspecting academic had been lured to that country under false pretenses connected to a bequest the university received, and whose acceptance he’d spearheaded: a luxury villa in Tuscany, given for use as a study-abroad site.

“Structured as a series of journal entries written by the narrator in jail, Tuscan Son intercuts descriptions of life in the Panamanian prison with wryly recounted vignettes and observations about his job at Olmsted,” observes Inside Higher Ed. “On one page the narrator is discussing the frustrating ubiquity of faculty committees; on the next he’s being shaken down for cigarettes in the prison yard.”

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The book’s cover, a watercolor painting, was created by the author’s wife, Shelley Fox Berne ’71.

Swoop and Soar

Deborah Lee Rose ’77

Rose, a prolific writer of children’s books, again teams up with raptor biologist Jane Veltkamp, her coauthor on the award-winning Beauty and the Beak (about an injured bald eagle who received a 3D-printed beak).

Their latest STEM book is geared toward older elementary-aged kids.

the cover of Swoop and Soar

It chronicles another true story: how two wild osprey chicks, orphaned in a storm, were nursed back to health and placed in a new nest with adoptive parents.

The book includes numerous photos documenting the chicks—named Swoop and Soar—on their journey to adulthood and independence. It also offers age-appropriate scientific information about how ospreys and other raptors became endangered by the pesticide DDT and have been reintroduced to the wild, and discusses current threats to the birds, including habitat loss and plastic pollution.

Rose’s previous STEM-oriented books include Astronauts Zoom! and Scientists Get Dressed.

the cover of Billion Dollar Girl

Billion Dollar Girl

Megan Shull ’91, PhD ’98

Shull’s previous novels for tweens and teens include The Swap, which was adapted as a Disney TV movie, and Bounce, about an unhappy seventh-grader who makes a wish and is magically transported to a new life.

Here, her protagonist is a 13-year-old girl named River, who runs away from a chaotic, economically disadvantaged home in the Seattle area to an island community where a relative lives. She passes herself off as an older seasonal worker, and begins to find happiness amid the island’s natural beauty—until her mother comes to bring her home.

Publishers Weekly praises River’s “candid voice” and the book’s “languorous descriptions of the natural world,” noting that it “organically [explores] themes of environmentalism and human connection.”

Imperfect Present

Sharon Dolin ’77, PhD ’90

“By confronting the urgencies of daily life, from questions of identity to sexual abuse to racial unrest to the ubiquity of plastic, these poems investigate ways to sustain ourselves in our fraught public and private lives,” says the collection’s publisher, University of Pittsburgh Press.

“With her characteristic linguistic play, Sharon Dolin illuminates some of the most personal concerns that resonate throughout our culture and in ourselves, such as error, despair, uncertainty, and doubt.”

The volume is Dolin’s seventh poetry collection.

the cover of Imperfect Present

She’s a Fulbright Scholar, a winner of the prestigious Pushcart Prize, and an editor at Barrow Street Press. Her past publications include a prose memoir titled Hitchcock Blonde and two translations of work by the Spanish poet Gemma Gorga.

Classic by a Cornellian

the cover of The Game

The Game

Ken Dryden ’69

With Big Red hockey season in full swing, it’s an apt time to revisit Dryden’s 1983 memoir—considered by many to be the best book ever written about the sport. Dubbed one of the top 10 sports books of all time by Sports Illustrated, it was re-released in a 30th anniversary addition featuring new photos and an additional chapter.

In the book, which Dryden wrote during his last season as a player, the Big Red superstar and legendary NHL goalie offers vividly detailed recollections of life on and off the ice.

He’d go on to careers in business and politics, serving in Canada’s House of Commons.

Dryden’s other books include the novel The Moved and the Shaken and the nonfiction Game Change, which explores the epidemic of traumatic brain injury among former players.

Published November 16, 2022

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