Books, Music & Film

May/June 2016

Reading time min

Books, Music & Film


Greens, THOMAS HEAD, MA ’66, PhD ’70; University of North Carolina Press, $19. A slim volume with history and recipes for this staple of the Southern supper table, Greens would raise the heart rate of any homesick Southerner. His supper-plate basics (Eastern North Carolina Collards) and kicky contemporary dishes (Mustard Greens Punjabi-Style) showcase the rich flavors that can be coaxed out of simple ingredients with a little time and the right technique. These and the 51 other recipes satisfy not only the cravings of those who grew up on collards and cornbread—there’s a recipe for the latter, too—but also the curiosity of the uninitiated. The secret’s out: There’s more than one way to tame a turnip green.


The Association of Small Bombs, KARAN MAHAJAN, ’05; Viking, $26. One expects the effects of a terrorist attack—even this novel’s “small” bombing in a Delhi marketplace—to indelibly mark its victims, survivors and perpetrators. But it’s the unforeseen effects of actions and reactions that the author weaves into a complex plot where the lives of the stricken and the attackers intertwine, and in some ways become indistinguishable. Mahajan casts a compassionate eye on the gray areas around justice and revenge, innocence and guilt.


My father threw his weight into the helve
and sunk a pitchfork in the mound
of old straw—the tang of rot—my body
was so thin, the muscles were mere
ideas, tender, beautiful, and I thought the tines
of the tool were beautiful too—standing in a dim barn
that the weather roamed through I was stunned
by a reverence for the edges men
wielded, shears, mowers, for the straight lines
they spoke between them, working so steadily, an ache,
because whenever I opened my mouth to speak,
even something trivial, I’m tired,
 I’d like to go home, the world stormed in—
stammering beneath gray eyes, my face broken,
crying—every muscle of my father’s back gathered
as again he lifted, an enormous load, but I
couldn’t watch him,
I was trying to be
the three tines
that poked through, long, curving up,
as they caught the pale light
and gleamed, as my father staggered
toward the white noon and the wheelbarrow.

NOAH WARREN, Stegner fellow 2015-17, in The Destroyer in the Glass; Yale University Press, $20.

Without Regard to Sex, Race, or Color, ANDREW FEILER, MBA ’89; The University of Georgia Press, $32.95. Morris Brown College, a historically black college in Atlanta, operated for more than 120 years before finally shuttering its doors in 2002. Feiler’s photographs of the abandoned campus reveal what’s left of the once-proud institution, as echoes of its better days fade away in its crumbling hallways, dining halls and classrooms.

Belshangles, SUSAN ALTSTATT, ’62; Fithian Press, $15.95. After his concert in San Francisco ends, a rock star blacks out—and wakes up the next day locked in a room in a cabin deep in the Sierra. His kidnapper? Miranda, a 15-year-old with a motherly bent who has convinced herself that only she can help her idol straighten out his life. In the days to come, the would-be savior learns all about the dangers of drug withdrawal from her increasingly angry captive.

“For presidential contenders, a general election campaign is in part a credentialing exercise testing their plausibility as a commander in chief and foreign policy leader. Since the end of the Cold War, the bar for this test has been lowered.”

MICHAEL H. ARMACOST, Shorenstein APARC Distinguished Fellow, in Ballots, Bullets, and Bargains: American Foreign Policy and Presidential Elections; Columbia University Press, $35.

The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure, CAROLINE PAUL, ’86;  Bloomsbury, $18. Paul does a handspring right over mincing, wincing, scaredy-cat behavior in this handbook that aims to help a new generation of girls move with more moxie. Encouragement comes via girl-hero tales, fear-conquering checklists, pages for journaling, a “Should You Jump Off That Cliff?” flowchart and plenty more. Wendy MacNaughton’s illustrations light up the pages. A must for inspiring girls of all ages—young and young at heart.

Fortune Smiles, ADAM JOHNSON; Random House, $27.  This collection’s six short, often darkly humorous stories spring from worlds as disparate as Korea (North and South), Louisiana after Katrina, post-reunification Berlin and futuristic California. Johnson’s people range from a homesick Pyongyang defector to a pedophile with a conscience to a former Stasi prison guard to a cancer-stricken wife and mother—yet he deftly endows each one with an authentic mind-set and voice. The author is a Pulitzer Prize winner and teaches creative writing at Stanford.

Modern Families: Stories of Extraordinary Journeys to Kinship, JOSHUA GAMSON; New York University Press, $26.95. Recent advances in technology and law have offered would-be parents pathways that were previously only pipe dreams in the attempt to build a family. Gamson, a father and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, discusses the joys and trials of parenthood with others who began their family through intentional, unconventional and life-affirming ways.

A History of Heists: Bank Robbery in America, JERRY CLARK and ED PALATTELLA, MA ’90; Rowman & Littlefield, $36. Felons are fascinating. Whether they’re outlaws like Jesse James or white-collar frauds, we root for them to be brought to justice—but first, we want to know what drives them. Investigative journalist Palattella and retired FBI agent Clark dive deep into criminals’ backstories, and also discuss how law enforcement has changed over the years to do a better job of nabbing them.

Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction, LEE KONSTANTINOU, MA ’08, PhD ’09; Harvard University Press, $39.95. In this thoughtful critique, Konstantinou examines the origins and motivations of the “postirony” movement, and through five character archetypes—the hipster, punk, believer, coolhunter and occupier—shows how irony has a longer (and richer) history in American fiction than is often recognized. In addition to smart analysis, the book contains a healthy dose of academic humor, right off the bat; the dedication page is inscribed “to Julie, and I mean it.”

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

A Surgeon’s War, HENRY WARD TRUEBLOOD, ’60, MD ’64; Astor & Lenox, $14.95. In this memoir, Trueblood is drafted from medical school to the operating room on the battlefield of the Vietnam War; the book recounts his memories on his way back home to the woman he loves.

Fabricating Humanity, ARI OFFICER, ’09, MS ’09; The Cheese Press, $9.99After their city is destroyed, seven strangers band together to find out why. As more danger looms from the West, their fate may depend on an amnesiac, born with the strange ability to use both types of magic in the world.

The Life and Times of a Sports Ophthalmologist, ROLANDO TOYOS, MA ’89; self-published, $9.99. Vision plays an important role in all kinds of athletic endeavors. Toyos writes about how he has combined his two passions in life—sports and medicine—to help athletes overcome their vision impairments.

The Toughest Peace Corps Job: Letters from Somalia, 1969, JIM DOUGLAS, ’68; Inkwater Press, $17.95. This memoir recounts the experiences of Douglas and seven other volunteers and their 14 months of service in the Peace Corps. Encountering language barriers and other challenges of being strangers in a foreign land, the eight are pushed to their limits as they serve in Somalia during volatile times.

Small Town Ho, DUKE DIERCKS, ’87; self-published, $15.95. In a span of only a few years, the Diercks family moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Austin, Texas, to Sandpoint, Idaho. Along with finding new jobs, they find an abundance of humor while adjusting to the pace of their new hometown.

The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship, MARILYN YALOM with THERESA DONOVAN BROWN, ’76; Harper Perennial, $15.99. Yalom, a senior scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, and Brown explore the rich stories and complex, continuing evolution of women’s friendships through different eras.

Dying for a Taste, LESLIE KARST, JD ’88; Crooked Lane Books, $25.99. After her aunt is murdered in her own restaurant and a family friend becomes the main suspect, Sally Solari must learn about the restaurant business—not only to keep her aunt’s restaurant afloat but also to find the real murderer.

Through Early Yellowstone: Adventuring by Bicycle, Covered Wagon, Foot, Horseback, and Skis, JANET CHAPPLE, ’57; Granite Peak Publications, $29.95. In this collection of 20 short stories, travelers narrate their journey through Yellowstone in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Complete with paintings, drawings and photographs, this anthology provides a look at life and travel in earlier times in the scenic wilderness.

Family Album, JASON SNYDER,’94; Jaded Ibis Press, $19.99. In Snyder’s jarring debut, an adolescent boy must navigate the complexities of his parents’ failing relationship and their attempts to heal the family by adopting a second child. His own psychological troubles take shape on the page, reflected in the mix of social services forms, narrated scenes, and internal dialogue in this experimental novel.

Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court, Audrey TruschkeColumbia University Press, $60. Postdoctoral fellow Truschke discusses the role and importance of Sanskrit and Sanskrit scholars in the Mughal empire.

Devoured: From Chicken Wings to Kale Smoothies—How What We Eat Defines Who We Are, Sophie Egan, ’09; William Morrow, $28.99. In this walk through the American obsession with food and diet, Egan discusses the varied ideas of what makes a meal, the continual rise of fad diets, “free” meals at work and more.

Revolution Within the Revolution: Women and Gender Politics in Cuba, 1952-1962, Michelle Chase, ’94; University of North Carolina Press, $29.95. Chase discusses the evolution in gender ideologies in Cuba in the years leading up to the revolution, and shows how women played a radical role in the changes that continued on after the upheaval.

Let’s Face It!: Selected Poems 1974-2015, Alden Marin, ’78; self-published, $15. A compilation of Marin’s poetry, Let’s Face It! offers 100 poems that tackle life’s rare gifts and inevitable insults with humility and humor. The poet, who’s also a prolific artist, paints these scenes clearly with swirls of words and colorful turns of phrase.

The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health, ROMY BLOCK and ARIELLE LEVITAN, ’94; She Writes Press, $17.95. What do vitamins and minerals actually do for your body? Two physicians team up to educate consumers about the pros and cons of supplement use.

Granddaddy’s Fables for Children, HORACE E. AUBERTINE, MA ’56, EdD ’64; Granddaddy’s Library LLC, $24.75. Aubertine shares three of his short stories—his sons’ favorites—complete with colorful illustrations and a brief description of each fable’s intended takeaway.

Aesthetics of Discomfort: Conversations on Disquieting Art, FREDERICK ALDAMA, PhD ’99, and HERBERT LINDENBERGER; University of Michigan Press, $29.95. In this series of talks between Aldama and Lindenberger, professor emeritus of literature and the humanities, the two dissect the emotions brought forth by various works of art.

A Change of Consciousness: A Hippie’s Memoir of the Sixties and Beyond, RAND L. GREENFIELD, ’72; Sixties Publishing, LLC, $15.95. Acid trips, co-op living, magical mystery tours and more, the author recounts his transformation from a clean-cut Stanford freshman to a generally happy hippie in this memoir of his years in the center of the countercultural revolution.

Sexual Exploitation of Teenagers: Adolescent Development, Discrimination & Consent Law, JENNIFER ANN DROBAC, ’81, MA ’87, JD ’87, JSD ’00; The University of Chicago Press, $50. In a call to action that addresses the ways in which teens are exploited, Drobac explains how today’s laws fall short of protecting them.

Mission Control: How Nonprofits and Governments Can Focus, Achieve More, and Change the World, LIANA DOWNEY, MBA ’02; Bibliomotion, $26.95. This how-to provides questions that organizations in the nonprofit sector should be asking themselves in order to create their own strategy for success.

The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life, BERNARD ROTH; HarperBusiness, $27.99. Roth, academic director of the and a professor of mechanical engineering, shares ways to get unstuck, from the language you use to working in teams, so you can start moving toward your goals.

The Outskirts of Hope, JO IVESTER, MBA ’81; She Writes Press, $16.95. Jo Ivester was 10 years old when her pediatrician father enlisted in President Johnson’s war on poverty and moved the family to the cotton fields of Mississippi. Weaving excerpts from her mother’s journals with her own memories, Ivester recalls her new life in the 1960s Deep South and the many lessons learned from becoming the only white family in an African American town. 

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