Books, Music & Film


The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War, H.W. Brands, ’75; Doubleday, $30.
In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis threatened nuclear catastrophe. But that wasn’t the first time the world held its breath over Washington’s Cold War maneuvers. When China entered the Korean conflict a decade earlier, fears of a World War III were exacerbated by a U.S. domestic power struggle—between a president who wanted to contain the battle and a headstrong general itching to defeat communism on all fronts. Brands gives a well-sourced, clear account of their prickly relationship and its dramatic outcome.


When I see my hand
and see my mother’s hand
I hear her voice,

not words, though
she is speaking slowly,
or quietly singing,
a song half remembered
or a song of her own,

an almost-speech,
soft and finely textured
as the skin of my hand,
that lifts to a tremolo,
an easy fluttering,
of secret delight or
longing or grief,
then, wavering, fades
to a low reedy hum, 

lifts and falls until, caught
by the spell of its song,
I can believe that it beckons,
that its message is for me.

—DAVID HATHWELL, ’64, in Muses: Poems; David Robert Books, $16.

“The Kaiser and German militarism were the great destroyers of the world, and Charlie Chaplin, with the help of his screen persona the Little Tramp, was the great creator—taking the raw material of a world in homicidal free-fall and turning it into a work of art.” 

—LIBBY MURPHY, PhD ’06, in The Art of Survival: France and the Great War Picaresque; Yale University Press, $40.

The Silent Shore of Memory, JOHN C. KERR, ’70; TCU Press, $22.95. At Gettysburg, a minié ball tears into the shoulder of James Barnhill, a young Confederate soldier. As he makes his way back home to North Carolina and then Texas, he encounters a chastened and seething South. This sweeping novel follows James and his young family through the tumultuous decades following Lee’s surrender and through Reconstruction and the birth of the New South.

Bamboo Secrets: One Woman’s Quest Through the Shadows of Japan, PATRICIA DOVE MILLER, ’62; Illuminated Owl Press, $15.95. Seven months into her yearlong adventure in Kyoto, Miller is shocked when her husband, Steven, is detained on drug charges, forced to resign from his university position—which leads to the loss of their apartment—and prohibited from leaving Japan during the police investigation. Shaken but determined to stand by him, Miller seeks refuge in the arts.

Democracy’s Detectives: The Economics of Investigative Journalism, JAMES T. HAMILTON; Harvard University Press, $35. As newsrooms and bottom lines for media shrunk, so too did the production of investigative stories. Hamilton, the director of Stanford’s journalism program, explains why journalists today are less likely to pursue reporting that holds corporations and governments accountable to society. With a penetrating yet accessible style, he unpacks the market forces and institutional pressures facing media outlets before pivoting toward a future for investigative work in our new digital, data-driven age.

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, BILL BURNETT, ’79, MS ’82, and DAVE EVANS, ’75, MS ’76; Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95. A popular course comes to the pages of this handy manual. Through exercises including problem-finding, reframing and prototyping, Burnett and Evans show how design thinking can lead to a more satisfying life. Readers learn to “unstick” themselves from unchangeable situations so they can move forward, as well as how to ask the right questions as they pursue a better job and a full life—one that balances health, love, play and work.

Women and Leadership, DEBORAH L. RHODE; Oxford University Press, $29.95. A prolific law school professor and director of Stanford’s Center on the Legal Profession, Rhode deftly summarizes the advancements women have made and the challenges they still face in leadership roles in management, academia, politics, the law and on boards. Drawing on a broad review of published research, surveys and interviews, paired with her own analysis, Rhode explains the gender gap in status and power in American society and recommends ways—and reasons—for us to improve equity.

Black Elephants in the Room, COREY D. FIELDS; University of California Press, $29.95. No overwhelming conclusions emerge from the research by Fields, assistant professor of sociology, into the complexity of melding black identity with Republican party membership. But that’s part of his book’s elegance: He takes a mosaic of nuances and transforms them into well-sliced insights about race and politics. Black Republicans as “racially inauthentic”? As “saviors” who reject identity politics? As “sellouts or jokes”? Fields challenges and explores a multitude of assumptions with welcome clearheadedness.

I Will Send Rain, RAE MEADOWS, ’92; Henry Holt and Company, $26. As dust storms rip through the Oklahoma Panhandle, famine and fright strain members of the Bell family to their limits—Annie falls out of love with Samuel and the harsh farming life, teenaged Birdie struggles to keep a secret, and a worsening case of dust pneumonia threatens Fred, the couple’s mute son. Meanwhile, Samuel begins to experience strange visions in the night about what’s still to come.


A New Map for Relationships: Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet, DOROTHIE and MARTIN HELLMAN, MS ’67, PhD ’69; New Map Publishing, $14.99.
In this combination memoir/self-help book, emeritus electrical engineering professor and 2015 Turing Award winner Hellman and his wife take an unconventional approach to activism: They describe the techniques they used to save their marriage and then apply them to international relations. Through utterly frank self-appraisals, they trace their evolution from bickering adversaries to compassionate, empathetic partners, and show specifically how similar efforts could avert world conflicts.

The following did not appear in the print version of Stanford.

The Once and Future Ocean: Notes Toward a New Hydraulic Society, PETER NEILL '63; Leete's Island Books, $18.95.
Backing a vision for the future with deep oceanic knowledge, Peter Neill argues for a society ordered around water. Neill, founder and director of the World Ocean Observatory, first explains pressing contemporary problems from climate change to oil in terms of our relationship to the ocean. He then shares a plan for orienting all aspects of global community—food, health, energy, political stability and more—toward a commitment to the ocean as a vital resource. With discussions of policy, science and technology presented in an approachable, reflective style, the book is a powerful and persuasive read that’s accessible to a wide audience.

Richard Purvis: Organist of Grace, JAMES WELCH, '73, MA ’75, DMA ’77; self-published, $24.95. From Welch, a highly acclaimed organist himself, comes this well-researched, remarkable life story of Richard Purvis, an organist, composer and choirmaster whose compositions and style of playing held listeners in thrall not only at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral but also around the world. Photos, correspondence, personal anecdotes from many who knew him, and extensive recital lists bring the dedicated San Franciscan’s story to life. Covered are his childhood and his education; his experience as a World War II soldier who was captured during the Battle of the Bulge and held as a prisoner of war in a German concentration camp; his tenure at the cathedral as both the organist and the leader of the choir; and, finally, his golden years.

Building the Golden Gate Bridge: A Workers’ Oral History, HARVEY SCHWARTZ, ’61; University of Washington Press, $29.95. Schwartz, a labor historian, interviewed bridge-building and bridge-maintaining men and women. Included are firsthand stories of construction workers, ironworkers, nurses and the family members. While plenty of tales exist about how the great bridge came about, Building the Golden Gate Bridge: A Workers’ Oral History is the first to let the workers themselves tell their truths, going into as much depth as they wished, and ultimately contributing to a more well-rounded, richer story of San Francisco’s signature span.

At Home in Exile: Finding Jesus Among My Ancestors & Refugee Neighbors, RUSSELL JEUNG, ’84, MA ’84; Zondervan, $17.99. In this memoir, Jeung shares the surprises, challenges and joys he experienced while living and ministering in the Murder Dubs neighborhood of East Oakland. The dilapidated Oak Park apartment complex he and his family called home held just as much danger and potential as the streets—but it was also a close-knit community of families and friends who pulled together when they needed one another the most. A riveting and grounding read.

The Tropical Oil Crop Revolution: Food, Feed, Fuel, and Forests, DEREK BYERLEE, WALTER P. FALCON and ROSAMOND L. NAYLOR, PhD ’89; Oxford University Press, $74. Naylor, director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment and professor of earth system science; Falcon, former director of the center and professor emeritus; and former visiting scholar Byerlee join forces to examine the effects of 20 years of increasing demand and production of tropical oil crops, namely soybeans and palm oil. The three eschew “win-win solutions” for “judicious trade-offs,” address and assess the rapid social, environmental and economic changes that have occurred, and note where trade-offs lie. Lessons from past efforts to shift oil crop production toward sustainability are presented as case studies. With a generally optimistic tone regarding the prospect of increased sustainability, the book concludes with a hopeful look at Africa’s potential as a major exporter.

The Shepherds’ War, TONY KORDYBAN, MS ’81; self-published, $14.99. It’s 1968, and 10-year-old Spencer has discovered that his older brother, Noah, who doesn’t talk, can’t tie his shoes and doesn’t go to school, is really a member of a secret race that can sense emotions. When his brother is kidnapped by the KGB, Spencer sets out to search for him—and is kidnapped himself by a U.S. agency.

Steward Leadership in the Nonprofit Organization, KENT R. WILSON, ’75; InterVarsity Press, $22. Wilson, a consultant and researcher who led nonprofits for 30 years, uses examples of strong and poor leadership alike, set in their historical and biblical contexts, to illustrate his model for leading organizations. He guides leaders to steer nonprofits with the mindset not of an owner but of a faithful trustee.

Rosita and the Night of the Radishes, DOROTHY THURGOOD MANNING, ’89; 33 Loretta Kids’ Books, $17.99. When young Rosita plants a few radish seeds given to her by a bird she saved from a cat’s clutches, hope sprouts in the form of three surprising gifts to her family. This sweet introduction to La Noche de los Rábanos, a radish-carving contest that takes place every Christmas in Oaxaca, Mexico, makes a magical read for children, but it’s equally as enchanting for adults.

Frontier Investor: How to Prosper in the Next Emerging Markets, MARKO DIMITRIJEVIC, MBA ’85; Columbia Business School Publishing, $35. This handbook posits that frontier markets such as Bangladesh and Panama are undervalued and poised to emerge. Dimitrijevic encourages investors to watch these markets for opportunities, following their trends while gaining knowledge about their risks and potential rewards.

California’s Lamson Murder Mystery: The Depression Era Case that Divided Santa Clara County, TOM ZANIELLO, MA ’67, PhD ’72; History Press, $21.99. In 1933, David Lamson became the only suspect in the murder of his wife when he found her dead in their home in Palo Alto. Though he was sentenced to hang at San Quentin, his Stanford colleagues joined forces for a retrial, and the verdict was eventually—and controversially—overturned.

All Stories Are Love Stories, ELIZABETH PERCER, MA ’99, PhD ’04; Harper, $25.99. What memories comfort those who may be facing a slow and painful end? Survivors struggle after two powerful earthquakes in short succession cause widespread destruction in San Francisco, severing communications and cutting off power and water while fires consume what’s left. Images of humanity’s resilience in the broken city will likely stay long past the last page, especially for Bay Area denizens.

The Bestseller Code, JODIE ARCHER, PhD '14, and MATTHEW JOCKERS; St. Martin's Press, $25.99. Computer science and text-mining research meets the world of arts and letters: In a comfortable alliance of techie meets fuzzie, Archer and Jockers discuss the common aspects of novels that have made it onto the New York Times bestsellers list, as revealed by an algorithm.