Books, Music & Film

All-Star Prose

The Best Team Money Can Buy, Molly Knight, '03; Simon & Schuster, $26. Knight gets inside the Dodgers organization to document its volatile and so far unsuccessful bid to bring a World Series back to Los Angeles. Despite having one of baseball's highest payrolls and a roster of star players, the Dodgers have been bounced from the playoffs in two successive seasons. Knight's accounts of clubhouse clashes offer seldom-reported details from private players' meetings and behind-the-scenes conversations. But the book is more than locker-room melodrama—it also digs into the Dodgers' front-office philosophies, personnel decisions and business strategies. It pulls back the curtain on a major-market sports franchise and provides a snappy read for anyone interested in the modern game.

Blue Mountains of Oregon

On the way to the Blues
the weather clears over
a nestled place called Lime.

A river silvers through wheat fields,
armies of little trees; it presses
under broad breasts of scented pine
gracing the harsh bite of snow fences
on looming hills.

I am lulled by a soft line of memories,
gentle as this valley.

For a few miles I can forget
the storms of darker recollections.

Doreen Gandy Wiley, MA '52, in A River Widens; Celilo Publications, $15.

"The king's godlike status legitimated high rents, which ensured that most of the population would remain fairly near subsistence."

Josiah Ober, professor of classics and political science, in The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece; Princeton University Press, $35.

Becoming Richard Pryor, SCOTT SAUL, '91; Harper, $27.99. Released 10 years after Pryor's death, Saul's biography offers a groundbreaking examination of the actor's life and ascendance into fame. Its star features include a brutally honest portrayal of his childhood in the family-run brothel and a look at Pryor's 1971 "Berkeley year," when he experimented with his art as never before, transforming himself into one of the decade's most explosive comedians.

The Plantpower Way, RICH ROLL, '89, and JULIE PIATT; Penguin Random House, $39.95. After a health scare on the eve of his 40th birthday, Roll went on a tear to repair his failing health—with great success. He gives a lion's share of the credit to a plant-based diet and the help of his chef wife, Piatt. Their cookbook offers shopping lists and techniques to make these family-friendly vegan dishes easy to prepare and delicious.

Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary, ROSE MARIE BEEBE, MA '81, PHD '83, and ROBERT M. SENKEWICZ, MA '70, PHD '74; University of Oklahoma Press, $39.95. Serra's voice resonates throughout this narrative full of artwork, maps and correspondence. The authors provide context for understanding how the Franciscan missionary friar—who founded the first nine California missions, and whose actions remain a source of controversy—succeeded despite his many conflicts with others and had such an impact on early California history.

Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again, TRACI MANN, PHD '95; HarperWave, $26.99. Forget willpower. Finding your "leanest livable weight" and staying there isn't as hard as the diet industry would like you to think, says Mann, a professor of social and health psychology and the founder of the University of Minnesota's Health and Eating Lab. She lays out 12 simple strategies to help you approach meals, exercise and temptations in a way that will boost your overall health, not your girth.

A Nation's Rally

Eighteam, Ngosa Chungu, '05, and Juan Rodriguez-Briso; Purple Tembo Media and Omnicorp Estudio. In 1993, the Zambian national soccer team (the Chipolopolo, or Copper Bullets) was on a streak of success, its eye on the 1994 World Cup. And then, in a flash, it was over when the plane carrying the 18 team members crashed into the Atlantic; there were no survivors. For this riveting documentary film, co-producers Chungu and Rodriguez-Briso joined forces to share the story of the tragedy—how Zambia came together in its grief and then slowly regrouped, finding its groove and rebuilding its team. Eighteen years later, the Chipolopolo claimed a long-awaited victory as the African soccer champion after a penalty shootout. The lucky number of penalties? Eighteen.

Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time, JEFFREY PFEFFER, PHD '72; Harper Business, $29.99. Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at the Graduate School of Business, gives straight talk on building stronger leaders and better-functioning work environments. His take on how organizations really work—and the ways in which leaders can be truly effective—is surprising and refreshing in its pragmatism. What's needed is insight, he writes, not inspiration: reliable data, not leader-as-hero fables.

Reagan: The Life, H.W. BRANDS, '75; Doubleday, $35. In a sweeping 737-page biography, Brands proves he shares Ronald Reagan's gift for storytelling. The tome traces Reagan's greatest strengths—superlative communication skills, unflinching pragmatism—in claiming him, next to Franklin Roosevelt, as one of the 20th century's two great presidents. Yet the book is as much the story of America as it is one man's life, leading readers from the Great Depression and the dawn of Hollywood through the Cold War to the fall of communism.

Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, KIMBERLY CHRISMAN-CAMPBELL, '94; Yale University Press, $60.  Shakespeare declared that "the apparel oft proclaims the man." This lavishly illustrated volume broadens that notion to explore how haute couture influenced France's very culture and history, and vice versa—citing, for example, the role ostentatious courtly wardrobes played in the Revolution and its aftermath, and the way French tastemakers warmed to plainer American styles during the Parisian diplomatic missions of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

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

Private Offerings, ANN BRIDGES (pen name of MIRIAM NUNEY, '80) Balcony 7 Media and Publishing, $24.99. Drama and international intrigue play out in the hills of Silicon Valley as PR consultant Lynn Baker works with Eric Coleman, the enigmatic CEO of a tech company, to protect his technology from covetous government eyes.

The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences, BRIAN EPSTEIN, MA '04, PhD '04; Oxford University Press, $39.95. The social sciences—from economics to political science—profoundly affect the way we think about the world. In The Ant World, Epstein theorizes that when they make mistakes, it might be due to a few fundamental flaws, and addressing them could radically alter how we conceive of society.

A Question of Tradition: Women Poets in Yiddish, 1586 - 1987, KATHRYN HELLERSTEIN, MA '76, PhD '81; Stanford University Press, $65. Winner of the 2014 National Jewish Book Awards, this book explores the Yiddish literary tradition from a new angle. Starting in the 16th century and continuing through the present, Hellerstein takes a multifaceted look at the contributions of the genre's female poets.

The Garden of Darkness, GILLIAN MURRAY KENDALL, '79, MA '79; Ravenstone, $9.99. The unlikely duo of former cheerleader Clare and chess club nerd Jem traverse a disease-ravaged landscape in Kendall's debut post-apocalypse novel. Running from diseased survivors and following radio broadcasts from the Master, possibly the last adult on Earth, the two confront mortality and the struggle to find friendship and love in a world where nothing—and nobody—can be trusted.

The Doctor & Mr. Dylan, RICK NOVAK; Pegasus Books, $19.95. When Stanford professor Dr. Nico Antone uproots and moves back to his boyhood home of Hibbing, Minn., he encounters a troubled anesthetist who seems to believe that he's a younger Bob Dylan. This debut novel from Novak, an adjunct clinical professor of anesthesiology, follows Antone from operating room to courtroom as he's forced to reexamine his own identity and the tangled web of relationships he's built around him.

Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture, NATALIA MEHLMAN PETRZELA, MA '06, PhD '09; Oxford University Press, $35. Petrzela, an assistant professor of history at the New School, explores the enormous changes wrought in the California public school system by the social upheavals of the 1960s and '70s, resulting in the controversial and ultimately successful integration of programs like Spanish-bilingual and sex education.

Imperial from the Beginning: The Constitution of the Original Executive, SAIKRISHNA BANGALORE PRAKASH, '90; Yale University Press, $45. In this comprehensive study of the original American presidency, Prakash analyzes the executive branch, from term and structure to the level of control during national emergencies, proposing that "the office was seen as monarchial from its inception."

Nabokov in America, ROBERT ROPER, Stegner fellow '72-73; Bloomsbury Publishing, $28. Though he was born into a prestigious Russian family, Vladimir Nabokov became immortalized as one of America's greatest writers. Roper's new biography, published on the 75th anniversary of Nabokov's arrival in America, follows the legendary author on his travels throughout a foreign land, and considers how the experiences and the literature Nabokov found in the U.S. shaped him into one of our most cherished voices.

Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia, JANICE ROSS, MA '75, PhD '98; Yale University Press, $40. Few people outside of Russia know of Leonid Yakobson; he was a radical artist in Stalinist Russia, and little effort went into preserving his achievements. But this new biography, drawing on previously untapped archival material, finally brings to light the way he used ballet to challenge the government's authority and reject its policies of censorship and anti-Semitism.

100 Things A's Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, SUSAN SLUSSER, '88; Triumph Books, $14.95. Accomplished sportswriter Slusser compiles a list of interesting trivia and exclusive interviews, centered around a list of must-dos and must-knows for every fan of the Oakland A's—from spotting the inaccuracies in 2011's Moneyball to revealing the old-school A's player who was responsible for Joe DiMaggio meeting Marilyn Monroe.

The Science of Soccer, JOHN TAYLOR, '69, MS '70; University of New Mexico Press, $34.95. Known as the beautiful game, soccer is a real-time demonstration of scientific principles. In this approachable and easy-to-read book, Taylor breaks down some of the principles of physics that govern the ball and players, along with simple experiments readers can conduct at home to better understand the mechanics of the world's most popular sport.