Your September 2022 Reads

Stories You May Like

Alum’s Documentary Profiles Famed Physician Anthony Fauci, MD ’66

Preserving Central Park,  Manhattan’s Urban Oasis

Fresh from Sustainability Success in NYC, Alum Leads Cornell’s ‘2030 Project’ on Climate Change

Dive into these recently published books—fiction, nonfiction, YA, and more—by your fellow alumni

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 "Six Walks"

Six Walks

Ben Shattuck ’09, BFA ’08

“Wistful and meditative, sparked by lovely prose,” says Kirkus of this nonfiction work by Shattuck, an artist and the director of a writer’s residency program in Maine. In a collection of essays subtitled In the Footsteps of Henry David Thoreau, Shattuck retraces walks taken by the 19th-century philosopher and naturalist, best known for his writing about the simple life on Massachusetts’s Walden Pond.

“Shellacked in rain, like rubies nestled in enormous sienna carpets, wild cranberries appeared in the boggy ground between the hills outside Provincetown,” the AAP alum writes of a Cape Cod outing.

“I’d made it in two days. The rain sounds like oil sizzling in a pan, I wrote in my journal. I untied the shoes from my backpack, slipped them onto my blistered feet.”

An indie best seller in New England, Six Walks was on seasonal “best-of” and “must-read” lists in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Town & Country. It boasts a blurb from “Parks and Recreation” actor and outdoor aficionado Nick Offerman, who calls it “a gorgeous reminder that walking is the most radical form of locomotion nowadays.”


The cover of "Ripped Away"

Ripped Away

Shirley Reva Levine Vernick ’83

This young adult novel is based on the real experiences of Jewish refugees in Victorian London—an era marked by antisemitism and xenophobia—during the murder spree of Jack the Ripper. It follows a modern-day teen named Abe, who’s brooding about being rejected by his longtime crush when a fortune teller predicts he may be able to save a life, and he’s magically transported back in time.

Working with his crush, Mitzy—who has also been whisked into the past—they struggle with anti-Jewish bigotry while trying to learn how the prophecy that sent them to the 19th century is connected to the Ripper’s crimes.

"This quick page-turner will captivate young readers,” says School Library Journal. “Vernick mixes fantasy, a bit of mystery, and historical fiction to bring middle school readers a story of Jewish life in London's East End in the late 1880s."

The Human Ecology alum’s previous YA novel is also a historical tale inspired by real events. Set during World War II, The Sky We Shared alternates between the perspectives of two girls, one in the U.S. and the other in Japan.


The cover of "Letting Play Bloom"

Letting Play Bloom

Lolly Tai ’77

Subtitled Designing Nature-Based Risky Play for Children, Tai’s volume describes efforts by landscape architects to create spaces in natural landscapes that are not actually hazardous, but “exciting, thrilling, and challenging.”

It focuses on three projects in the U.S. and two abroad, including sites on New York’s Governors Island and in Berkeley, CA, and Atlanta, GA.

A professor of landscape architecture at Temple University (whose press published the book), Tai explores the backgrounds, design processes, and visitor experiences of the spaces, with myriad images and diagrams, and discusses the benefits to kids of engaging in this genre of play.

“Lolly Tai’s Letting Play Bloom pulls back the curtain on designing for risky play—and moves the conversation from why to how,” Erin Marteal, MPS ’10, executive director of the Ithaca Children’s Garden, says in a blurb.

Tai’s previous works include The Magic of Children's Gardens: Inspiring Through Creative Design.


The cover of "Coldwater Confession"

Coldwater Confession

James Ross ’75, JD ’82

The second book in Ross’s Coldwater mystery series continues the crime-solving adventures of the Morgan brothers—one an attorney, the other the sheriff in their small Upstate New York hometown, which shares a lake with Québec.

The first volume, Coldwater Revenge—which Kirkus praised as an “atmospheric thriller”—brought the brothers together to investigate the murder of a local man whose body was found in the lake. Their new case involves a trio of unexplained deaths, including that of their own lawman father, and the smuggling of ’90s-era weapons from a nearby Army base.

And as if those travails weren’t fraught enough: their investigation puts them into conflict with their grieving mother, and the two brothers develop a romantic interest in the same woman.

Based in Wyoming, Ross has published short fiction in literary journals and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His debut novel, 2020’s Hunting Teddy Roosevelt, follows the former president on an African safari in which he’s in danger of becoming the prey.

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The cover of "I'm a Neutrino"

I'm a Neutrino

Eve Vavagiakis '14, PhD '21

Published by MIT Kids Press, this picture book colorfully explores “tiny particles in a big universe” as it breaks down complex scientific concepts for an audience of second- to fourth-graders.

It features text by Vavagiakis—a postdoc in astronomy and astrophysics on the Hill—and eye-popping digital illustrations by her mother, artist Ilze Lemesis.

I am a fermion that can hardly be traced,” says one colorful spread depicting a quartet of funky, cat-like creatures dancing in space. “I come in flavors, but not ones you can taste.

Kirkus calls the book a “whimsical initiation into the wonders and features of a neutrino particle” and a “poetic, gently humorous introduction to the world of neutrino physics.” In addition to offering an inclusive perspective—depicting kids and scientists of different races and genders—it includes an appendix that goes into a deeper but age-appropriate dive into the science.

Says Publishers Weekly: “Unabashedly tackling a complex subject, this STEM read is sure to inspire curiosity.”


The cover of "The Road to Champagne"

The Road to Champagne

Alejandro Colindres Frañó ’94

A former food science major in CALS who holds an MBA from Northwestern, Frañó is a veteran food and beverage executive in the U.S. and abroad. In this self-help guide to professional advancement, he offers “13 principles to drive career success.”

He lays out those principles under a three-part framework: “shape your mindset,” “build your brand,” and “be the driver.”

The book is geared toward both early career workers and those with more experience who are seeking growth.

“To grow in our career, we need the right mindset, and wanting more is the first step in shaping our mindset,” he writes in the introduction.

“It is an acknowledgement that we still have many yards to go to reach the goal line. However, many people do not actively want more … The danger is that by not wanting more, people fall into a trap of stagnation: career inertia. When they don’t want more, their journey is pretty much done, and they prematurely reach their end goal.”

Classic by a Cornellian
The cover of "The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing"

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing

Melissa Bank, MFA ’88

Bank, who passed away in August 2022 at age 61, made a literary smash—and tapped into the era’s “chick lit” zeitgeist—in 1999 with this New York Times bestselling collection of seven interlinked short stories, which Entertainment Weekly dubbed a “swinging, funny, and tender study of contemporary relationships.”

(As the Times observed in an obituary, the book emerged around the heyday of such cultural touchstones as “Ally McBeal,” “Sex and the City,” and Bridget Jones’s Diary.)

The title tale—inspired by now-infamous dating advice books of the era like The Rules—follows a woman who hits it off with a fellow guest at a wedding. But their relationship goes off the rails when she tries to stick to the “play hard to get” formula laid out in How to Meet and Marry Mr. Right. Two of the book’s other stories were adapted into the 2007 romcom Suburban Girl, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alec Baldwin.

Bank went on to pen the 2005 novel The Wonder Spot, about a young woman from suburban Pennsylvania seeking romance and career success in New York City, and was at work on another at the time of her death.

Top: Illustration by Cornell University.

Published September 13, 2022


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