Books, Music & Film


The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, WALTER SCHEIDEL; Princeton University Press, $35. The goal of reducing socioeconomic inequality is compelling, but Scheidel questions whether the means—at least as experienced throughout world history to date—justify that end. His far-reaching study shows how periods of greater income equality resulted from mass-mobilization warfare, “redistributive” revolutions, state collapse and catastrophic epidemics. The Stanford classics and history professor is optimistic enough to think these cataclysms won’t soon recur and realistic enough to conclude that inequality is inevitable.


Even after she cut into my shoulder
Coldly, with a scalpel, resetting my clavicle,
Tying it down with borrowed ligament and screwing it
Into place, even after she sutured me shut,
Sewing the two banks of skin across the thin blood river,
Watching me sleep the chemical sleep
Until tender and hazy I awoke—Even after all that,
What seems the least plausible is how
She had known, walking into that white room,
To put her hand for just a second in my hand.

—CHARIF SHANAHAN, Stegner fellow 2016-18, in Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing; Southern Illinois University Press, $15.95.

“There must be at least one god not filled with rage. Medea closes her eyes and tries to remember, but every image, every name that comes is feared. She hasn’t understood this until now, that rage is god, every weather god, every elemental, all that rise from the earth, all that come from death, all with a will to destroy. Worship a form of fear and perhaps nothing more, but how can that be?”

—DAVID VANN, ’90, in Bright Air Black; Black Cat, $16.

The Coming, DAVID OSBORNE, ’73; Bloomsbury USA, $32. This historical novel chronicles the relationship between white America and the Nez Perce tribe in the 19th century. The book follows Daytime Smoke, son of William Clark and a Nez Perce woman, after the tribe saves the Lewis and Clark expedition from starvation. Daytime Smoke’s life begins in a time of peace and cooperation, but the discovery of gold on native land threatens the balance.

Juxtapositions: Images from the Newseum Ted Polumbaum Photo Collection, edited by JUDY POLUMBAUM, PhD ’89; Gao House Press, $24.95. The latter half of the 20th century comes into focus in this compilation of photos by Ted Polumbaum, a reporter who, in the 1950s, turned to photojournalism after he was blacklisted for refusing to testify before Congress. The photos, which cover the lives of everyday people as well as history makers, are presented in pairs, by theme.

Sydney’s Silver Lining: The Story of America’s Most Important Water Polo Team and the Journey to the Greatest Game in History, KYLE UTSUMI, ’95, MA ’96; self-published, $25. Women’s water polo gets its due. Utsumi, a volunteer assistant coach for the Stanford squad, unfolds the tale of the U.S. team’s performance after the sport was added to the Olympics in 2000—a century after the men’s competition was first included. Among the players were Brenda Villa, ’02, and Ellen Estes, ’00.

Drug Dealer, MD: How Doctors Were Duped, Patients Got Hooked, and Why It’s So Hard to Stop, ANNA LEMBKE, MD ’95; Johns Hopkins Press, $19.95. Lembke, assistant professor in the psychiatry and behavioral sciences department and program director for the Stanford Addiction Medicine Program, shows how Big Pharma and organized medicine were for many years in cahoots to spread misconceptions about opioids, including their effectiveness as a treatment for chronic pain. Case studies from her own psychiatry practice put a human face on this public health crisis.

Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World, JOANN S. LUBLIN, MA ’71; Harper Business, $27.99. Fifty-two corporate executives tell of insults and undermining by men threatened by the women’s ascent to the top. Lublin, a Pulitzer Prize winner and one of the first female reporters for the Wall Street Journal, has plenty of her own experiences. Brimming with frank and sometimes surprising advice, Earning It is a useful guide for go-getters at any level, regardless of  their gender.

Anatomy of Malice: The Enigma of the Nazi War Criminals, JOEL E. DIMSDALE, MA ’70, MD ’73; Yale University Press, $30. Were Hitler’s henchmen pathologically depraved, or did they choose to veer off onto the darkest path? It’s not so clear-cut, says Dimsdale, a psychiatrist and professor emeritus at UC-San Diego. Using data from postwar interviews and psychological tests, he peers into the minds of four Nazi leaders and discusses the original researchers’ quest to understand what makes a mass murderer.

Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies, LAURA STAMPLER, ’10; Simon Pulse, $17.99. A naive high schooler nabs an internship at her dream magazine under false pretenses and ends up over her head, spending her days as a blogger who’s focused on boosting clicks and blocking trolls. Billed as a teen dating “expert,” Harper Anderson is determined to fake it till she makes it, but even she seems relieved when her penthouse of cards collapses.


The Idiot, ELIF BATUMAN, PhD ’07; Penguin Press, $27. It’s 1995. Email is still a fuzzy concept for Selin, as are many ways of the world, when she enters Harvard. Told mostly from her perspective but with ample allusions to the Russian literature she studies, The Idiot is at turns awkward, earnest and drably hilarious (“I chewed nine consecutive sticks of gum, to remind myself I was still alive”) as its protagonist fumbles her way through her first love and freshman seminars. But as the story unfolds, it’s clear Batuman is after something else, as well: a dazzling reflection on the ways we communicate, the worlds we build for ourselves, and what it means to know oneself.

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

Charleston and the Emergence of Middle-Class Culture in the Revolutionary Era, JENNIFER L. GOLOBOY, ’93; University of Georgia Press, $54.95. Drawing upon the Old South economy, the colonial business climate and the city of Charleston, Goloboy portrays a nuanced and complex middle class society and details the class’s cultural shifts during the era.

Fill the Sky, KATHERINE A. SHERBROOKE, MBA ’94; SixOneSeven Books, $15. In this novel, after she receives a terminal diagnosis, Ellie journeys to Ecuador with two longtime friends in search of a cure. Their trip and a betrayal reveal to the three women that their problems extend beyond the physical realm.

Gardening on California’s Coast, JULIE MONSON, ’56; self-published, $25. With pages of photos from lush gardens, including her own, Monson details methods for coastal California gardeners that are practical and creative, including how to design a Japanese-inspired landscape, build a pond and plan a salad garden.

A Doctor’s Journey: What I Learned About Women, Healing and Myself in Eritrea, MARY LAKE POLAN; Shebooks, $2.99. In this memoir, Polan, a Stanford professor emerita, recounts her time as an ob-gyn in Eritrea, where she opened a surgical clinic focusing on repairing fistulas in women who had been through traumatic childbirth experiences. She also describes how her team helps women overcome the stigma and shame they often face in their communities as a result of the debilitating injury.

The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who Are Redefining Leadership, DANIELLE HARLAN, MA ’09, PhD ’11; McGraw-Hill Education, $26. While the traditional alpha model displays an aggressive, win-at-all costs stance, Harlan’s “new” approach emphasizes ethics and emotional intelligence, she says, and aims to revolutionize leadership.

The 7th Canon, ROBERT DUGONI, ’84; Thomas & Mercer, $15.95. Following the brutal murder of a teenage boy in San Francisco, fingers point toward Father Thomas Martin. Attorney Peter Donley must set his career ambitions aside to defend his client from both a publicity-seeking DA and a revenge-thirsty cop—while keeping himself out of danger.

The Luckiest One, HARKINE PILIBOSIAN HAGOPIAN and ROBERT W. ROLLINGS, ’71; self-published, $36.75. The memoir, as told by Rollings, Hagopian’s grandson, is set amid the deterioration of the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian genocide in 1915. Rollings retells his grandmother’s story of survival and grit, from her childhood summers to navigating a frozen mountain pass via donkey. The memoir celebrates how Armenians overcame Ottoman Turkey’s attempt to eradicate them.

Scripting Revolution, edited by DAN EDELSTEIN and KEITH MICHAEL BAKER; Stanford University Press, $29.95. Edelstein, professor of French, and Baker, professor of early modern European history, usher in the first cohesive historical approach to the comparative study of revolutions. Within this anthology of leading historical thought on revolutions across the world, Baker and Edelstein curate the development of a modern revolutionary script, or a framework for political action, extant since 1789 yet continually revised ever since.

Debugging Game History: A Critical Lexicon, HENRY LOWOOD and RAIFORD GUINS; MIT Press, $49. Lowood, curator for the History of Science and Technology collections and Film and Media collections at the Stanford University Libraries, and Guins gather experts with an array of historical knowledge to examine and exalt the development and history of games. Topics covered include simulation, code and audio, intellectual property and digital games.

Rape During Civil War, DARA KAY COHEN, PhD ’10; Cornell University Press, $26.95. Through her investigation, Cohen contrasts the prevalence of rape in Timor-Leste with its relative infrequency in El Salvador’s civil war, and discusses the reasons for the difference.

Like No Other Time, JOHN J. SHERWOOD, MBA ’55; self-published, $17.95. To say Layne and Anne-Marie are close would be an understatement. They are best friends, thick as thieves, and each other’s most trusted confidante. Sherwood’s third novel explores the layers within a slowly built friendship.

N is for Knuckleheads: Bad Decisions, Facts vs. Beliefs, and America’s Deference to Ignorance, JOE GENSHLEA, ’60; Dockside Sailing Press, $8.99. Genshlea, a longtime trial lawyer, tackles a baker’s dozen of today’s hot-button issues with satire and straight talk in this collection of no-holds-barred essays.