Your October 2023 Reads

Stories You May Like

New Memoir Spotlights Pioneering Female Surgeon’s WWI Service

In a New Memoir, Disabled Alum Reflects on a Remarkable Life

Award-Winning Author Mines Humor from Academic Absurdity 

This month’s featured titles include a novel, poetry, a ‘crazy’ management guide—and a pick for some seasonal scares

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.

Have you published a book you'd like to submit? Scroll down for details!

The cover of "Between Two Moons"

Between Two Moons

Aisha Abdel Gawad, MFA ’13

Unfolding during Ramadan, this coming-of-age tale centers on a Muslim-American family in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. “Gawad’s excellent debut novel illuminates one family’s story through the holy month of fasting,” says Kirkus, “against the backdrop of NYPD surveillance of a Muslim neighborhood and larger fears of detainment and deportation.”

The main characters are twin sisters who are graduating from high school. One is pursuing the potentially fraught path of a modeling career; the other, the “dutiful” one, aims to go to college, but is hiding a secret romance.

Meanwhile, their older brother has just come home after a six-year prison term; the owner of a local café is arrested by Homeland Security; and a mosque is vandalized, among other neighborhood unrest.

Says the Washington Post: “Gawad honestly portrays the excitement and uncertainty of adolescence, set against a backdrop of racial tension that exploded in 9/11’s aftermath.”

Gawad, who has been published in Bon Appetit and the Kenyon Review, won the prestigious Pushcart Prize in 2015 for her short story “Waking Luna.”

Unionizing the Ivory Tower

Al Davidoff ’80

As a senior in the ILR School (and student government president), Davidoff took a full-time job as a Cornell custodian—both to support his studies and to be on the front lines of an effort to organize service staff.

“I struggled to maintain some sense of my student identity and what I thought was dignity,” he writes.

“I’d borrow tapes from the library of great speeches. I’d listen to Michael Harrington or Carl Sagan while bringing a row of six urinals to a gleaming polish.”

The cover of "Unionizing the Ivory Tower"

Davidoff helped lead a successful campaign to unionize several sectors of the University’s workforce and went on to serve as the union’s first president—an endeavor he chronicles in the book, published by Cornell University Press’s ILR imprint and subtitled Cornell Workers’ Fifteen-Year Fight for Justice and a Living Wage.

In the Ithaca Times, former Ithaca judge Marjorie Zagoria Olds, JD ’76, calls it “a great read. Honest, exciting, and important local history. The brotherhood and sisterhood of Labor with activism reflected in Al’s book is especially current, as we see how fragile and precarious democracy is, not only in America, but globally.”

The cover of "Worn Smooth Between Devourings"

Worn Smooth between Devourings

Lauren Mukamal Camp ’88

We are suspended in places / entire and different and home,” Camp writes in her seventh poetry collection. A Human Ecology alum, Camp is Poet Laureate of New Mexico and has served as astronomer in residence at Grand Canyon National Park.

Worn Smooth between Devourings is her second publication of 2023, following An Eye in Each Square—a volume of poetry described as an “enigmatic biography” of the painter Agnes Martin.

“The poems in Worn Smooth between Devourings travel through fears of ecological devastation and national and global tragedy, and map routes away from despair,” says the publisher. “Worry remains in the background, even in landscapes that still hold time’s beginning. … These precise, sonically driven poems investigate a confessed gaze for contentment with the conviction of quiet rebellion.”

Camp’s past publications include Took House (winner of the American Fiction Award in Poetry), and her work has appeared in such journals as Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, and Poet Lore.

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A Touch of the Madness

Lawrence Kasanoff ’81

The Arts & Sciences alum is a veteran Hollywood producer whose many credits include Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Platoon, True Lies, and Dirty Dancing. Here, he taps his experience in the film industry—and shares some dishy behind-the-scenes tales—with a self-help guide for people in creative roles in a variety of sectors.

The book’s subtitle is How to Be More Innovative in Work and Life ... by Being a Little Crazy—and his underlying message is that it’s sometimes essential to embrace the unique, bold, and just plain wacky.

The cover of "A Touch of the Madness"

“The current of the river of life will always try to pull you towards the middle, towards complacency and mediocrity,” he writes. “This is true of every person and every company. … Companies and organizations tend to be comfortable with the tried and true. But the audience, i.e., your customers, are attracted to what’s new, different, and better.”

Kasanoff offers tips on generating new ideas; persisting until you get a “yes”; melding work and fun; turning adversaries into partners; and more.

“To grow and become a great company, a great entrepreneur, you must actively embrace [innovation],” he writes. “You can become pretty good without it, but not great. You must take a shot. And to be very innovative, you have to be a bit crazy.”

The cover of "Only in New York"

Only in New York

Heather Alexander ’89

This hardcover for young readers is part of a series offering “weird and wonderful facts” about the 50 states.

It takes kids on a tour of the Empire State, from Niagara Falls to the Statue of Liberty and many places in between—including the state capital in Albany, the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, and the Finger Lakes.

The book covers some of New York’s notable history, people, culture, food, animals, plants, sports, and more—narrated by Alexander and brought to life by an artist’s colorful illustrations.

Kirkus calls the volume “informative and fun,” saying: “What could have been a straightforward textbook is, instead, a quirky approach to the subject that encourages young readers to peruse the elements that appeal to them and to come back to learn more. There is plenty of solid information here, but there is also a great deal of the odd and unexpected and, yes, the weird and wacky, from a mention of the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival to a section on things invented in New York (among them Jell-O, Scrabble, and pipe cleaners).”

A prolific children’s book author with more than 70 titles to her name, Alexander is an Arts & Sciences alum whose time on the Hill included serving as a research assistant for Prof. Alison Lurie, the famed novelist and scholar of children’s literature.

Halloween Horror Pick

The Changeling

Victor LaValle ’94, BA ’95

LaValle is an award-winning author of literary horror.

His 2017 novel—named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, USA Today, the New York Public Library, Kirkus, and more—recently became a series on Apple TV+.

Set in NYC, it’s a mystical tale about a rare books dealer named Apollo Kagwa.

After losing his wife and child in horrific circumstances, Apollo sets out on a nightmarish, otherworldly journey in the hope of regaining a shred of what he’s lost.

The cover of The Changeling by Victor LaValle

“By turns enchanting, infuriating, horrifying, and heartbreaking, The Changeling is never less than completely engaging,” says NPR. “It plays with memory, fairy tale, and the stories we tell each other about ourselves; it walks around the walls we build of our stories—whether out of family memorabilia or photos on Facebook—and probes them for holes.”

The TV series—for which LaValle serves as a writer—stars LaKeith Stanfield, who recently headlined a decidedly less disturbing entry in the horror genre: Disney’s Haunted Mansion.

Published October 17, 2023

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