Books, Music & Film

January/February 2016

Reading time min

Books, Music & Film

Russian Mixtape

The Tsar of Love and Techno, Anthony Marra; Hogarth Press, $25. Virginia Woolf once wrote that where a British writer would focus on a character’s personality, “The Russian would pierce through the flesh; would reveal the soul.” Even though he’s an American by birth, Marra, a former Stegner fellow (2011-13), writes as though he were heir to that great literary tradition. His latest book examines life in the former Soviet Union, in a collection of intertwined short stories spanning almost 100 years. As symbols and plot lines resurface throughout—an obscure pastoral painting, censored images containing the same dead man’s face in the background—the connections between characters crystallize into constellations of love and grief. Marra has crafted a searing portrait of a people and a nation.

Forbidden Acts

Culture said it was forbidden
to see a lunar eclipse, but you did it anyway,
watched it on the solstice.

We imagined the sun
embarrasses the moon to weep and saw a sky
full of stars, in their stillness

wrapped as delicate, edible songs
waiting to be placed in palms. We believed we could
sing them loud enough to cross destinies

if we shook hands with sorrow
by blowing kisses to the stars every night. After, you dreamt
butterflies could gather

enough dust to turn into
birds that carry you away from my life, yours,
and into the next.

Tanaya Winder, ’08, in Words Like Love; West End Press, $15.95.

Himalayan Style, Thomas L. Kelly and Claire Burkert, ’80, foreword by Robert Thurman; Roli Books, $49.95. Kelly’s photos fill the pages of this gorgeous coffee-table book exploring the aesthetics of architecture, art, textiles and more in Nepal, Tibet, India and Bhutan. Alongside the photos is lively discussion by Burkert of the countries’ diverse cultures and spaces, secular as well as sacred.

Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids, Denise Pope, ’88, PhD ’99, Maureen Brown and Sarah Miles, PhD ’07; Jossey-Bass, $29.95. Pope and colleagues lay out steps schools can take to increase K-12 student engagement and well-being. Through block scheduling, making homework meaningful and changing to project-based instruction, schools, they say, can improve performance while lowering stress levels and fatigue.

“It is a history of state violence against Chinese living in Malaysia that has made it impossible to publicly articulate an identity that speaks of class, class relations, and class struggle—even as the existence
of all these can be read in everyday life.”

Donald M. Nonini, PhD ’83, in “Getting By”: Class and State Formation Among Chinese in Malaysia; Cornell University Press, $27.95.

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi, BA ’99, MA ’01; Random House, $25. In this memoir that could also be read as a love letter to the writer’s wife, Lucy, and their infant daughter, Cady, Kalanithi, a 36-year-old Stanford neurosurgeon, writes about life after learning that his nagging back pain and fatigue are actually stage 4 lung cancer. His somber, serene and beautiful description of how the diagnosis “changed both nothing and everything” lingers long after the final page.

Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution, Kathleen DuVal, ’92; Random House, $28. DuVal, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reenergizes a well-known narrative with a look at the effects of the Revolutionary War on the Gulf Coast and its people. Through the stories of slaves, British Loyalists, Native Americans and others, she discusses how the European colonists’ independence cost the Gulf inhabitants power and prosperity—all in the name of empire.

Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist, Niall Ferguson; Penguin Press, $39.95. Ferguson, a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, wrote this biography, the first of a two-volume set, at Henry Kissinger’s suggestion, being tempted to do so by his previously unavailable private papers. Foreign policy students as well as readers interested in modern American history will gain insight from this portrayal in the context in which Kissinger was born, raised and educated, and in which he began his diplomatic career.

We Never Asked for Wings, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, ’00, MA ’03; Ballantine Books, $27. When her parents move back to Mexico, single mom Letty has to learn how to juggle her three jobs while raising two children. She’s done the former for years but never the latter, having left family matters in the hands of her own mother. As Letty takes the reins, she starts down the path to finally knowing her own kids—and finding out what it means to love them.

Workplace Wellness that Works: 10 Steps to Infuse Well-Being and Vitality into Any Organization, Laura Putnam, ’87; Wiley, $35. Happier, healthier employees not only perform better but also stay with a company longer and contribute to a strong, healthy corporate culture. Using examples from companies such as IDEO and Virgin America, easy-to-implement action items and quick checklists, Putnam demonstrates how to create an environment that enhances employee well-being and makes an organization a more attractive place to work.

Roundball Review

100 Years of Stanford Men’s Basketball, John Platz, ’83, MBA/JD ’89; Roundtree Press, $27.95. Starting with the scrappy teams of the early 20th century, men’s basketball on the Farm has been characterized by periods of mediocrity punctuated by stretches of success. It has featured star players who revolutionized the game, such as Hank Luisetti, ’38, a progenitor of the jump shot; memorable seasons, such as the Cardinal’s Final Four appearance in 1998; and unforgettable moments, like Nick Robinson’s buzzer-beating 33-foot shot to beat Arizona and keep Stanford undefeated in 2004. Platz, a longtime radio broadcaster for Stanford basketball, traces the program’s history and digs out fun facts and highlights. A comprehensive guide to one of the oldest men’s basketball programs on the West Coast.

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

Lovers in Wartime, 1944 to 1945: Letters from Then, Insights from Now, VAUGHN DAVIS BORNET, PhD ’51; DVS Publishing, $17.95.
Everyone loves a good love story. This one is built around the romantic correspondence between a young U.S. Navy lieutenant and the pretty student he fell for at a party. Now 98, Bornet, the lieutenant and a historian, looks back at their courtship during the turbulent last year of World War II and writes of the life they built together.

No Hard Feelings: An August Riordan Mystery, MARK COGGINS, ’79; Down & Out Books, $30. Crime fiction wrestles with modern-day questions in this continuation of a series. A strong standalone story as well, No Hard Feelings brings back familiar villains, a PI who’s seen better years and a superhuman woman who’s on the run, as she tries to evade killers who want to retrieve the biomedical implants that gave her back her mobility yet left her without the ability to feel pain—or much else.

Confessions of a Headmaster, PAUL F. CUMMINS, ’59; Red Hen Press, $15.95. Cummins writes of his career as an educator who, together with similar-minded teachers, built a school focused on teaching children not just required subjects but how to live as well-rounded citizens of the world. A passionate memoir from a pioneer in progressive education.

Feather River Country Adventure Trails: 101 Fun Hikes Within the Region of the Feather River Upper Middle Fork, the Lakes Basin, and the North Yuba River (Sixth Edition), Tom DeMund, ’57; Know DeFeet Publishing, $24.95. A full-color guide to more hikes than you can shake a walking stick at, this new edition includes updates, history, even more photos, and loads of good reading, including safety talk, area history and solid advice. These are day hikes, and all are within a 45-minute drive of Graeagle, Calif., which is 49 miles north of Truckee.

Becoming a School Principal: Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn, SARAH FIARMAN, ’91; Harvard Education Press, $30. Written by a former public school teacher and principal, this book discusses how principals can become real leaders. Topics addressed include having hard discussions, becoming comfortable with being a leader, keeping teachers and students on task, and guiding a team toward building a student-focused culture.

The Mind of an American Revolutionary, JON FOYT, ’53, MBA ’55; Andrew Benzie Books, $14.95. This historical novel revolves around Robert Morris, one of only three men to sign the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This deeply researched story explores the motivations of a man who was responsible for the launch of the American banking system and who was appointed Financial Agent of the United States, yet ended up in a debtor’s prison and died in poverty.

70 Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade, JANE GIDDAN, MA ’63, and ELLEN COLE; Taos Institute Publications, $19. An uplifting guidebook to turning 70 and beyond, filled with firsthand tips, delightful vignettes and, really, the inside scoop on growing older from those who are making the trip—and thriving.

Shared Stories, Rival Tellings: Early Encounters of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, ROBERT C. GREGG; Oxford University Press, $39.95. A professor in religious studies, emeritus, and former dean for religious life at Stanford, Gregg writes about how the three Abrahamic religions developed five of the 27 narratives present in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible and the Qur’an. Of particular interest are where the traditions overlap, how the stories have changed and the objectives of the interpreters.

Improbable Cause: The War on Terror’s Assault on the Bill of Rights, SHARIA MAYFIELD, ’13, AND BRANDON MAYFIELD; Divertir Publishing, $14.95. The “secretive world of espionage, faulty forensics and wrongful accusations” is in the crosshairs of this real-life case of mistaken identity and detention. In May 2004, Brandon Mayfield was arrested by the FBI in connection with the recent terrorist bombing in Madrid. Their suspicion was based on an image of a single smudged fingerprint taken from a plastic bag of detonators. Mayfield, a lawyer and a Muslim from Portland, Ore., was held for two weeks without charge, until the Spanish National Police finally convinced the FBI that they had identified a positive match—and it wasn’t the man in the Portland jail cell.

Growing Up with G.I. Joe’s, JANNA ORKNEY, ’66; Columbia Press, $14.95. Orkney’s memoir is a look back into one family’s American dream in the prosperous years after the end of World War II. She walks through her memories of her mother and father’s business, a war surplus store started by her father in Portland, Ore., that eventually expanded throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The Spy on the Tennessee Walker, LINDA LEE PETERSON, ’71; Prospect Park Books, $15. This Maggie Fiori tale takes the amateur investigator and magazine editor from San Francisco to small-town Mississippi in search of answers to a family mystery that dates back to the Civil War.

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