Shelf Life

So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State
Forrest Church, '70

The author, for 30 years a Unitarian minister, describes how the first five presidents dealt with fierce disagreements about whether the United States should be a nation under God, or secular liberty's haven. Little-remembered tidbits—the Quakers excommunicated Dolley Madison for marrying outside the fold; John Adams's proclamation of a national Christian fast day led to rioting in 1798—are as intriguing as Church's conclusion that separation of church and state makes both thrive.

A Certain Ambiguity

A Certain Ambiguity: A Mathematical Novel
Gaurav Suri, MS '91, and Hartosh Singh Bal
Princeton U. Press

In a Stanford class, Thinking About Infinity, Ravi Kapoor realizes that he's studying the same mathematical and philosophical problems that once got his grandfather arrested in New Jersey under an outdated blasphemy law. The authors, friends from boyhood, explain a great deal of beautiful geometry within their fiction about Ravi's search for certainty in life.


Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow
Chip Conley, '82, MBA '84

The dot-com bust, travel anxiety after 9-11 and the SARS epidemic made Conley, whose company owned 20 boutique hostelries in California, “the most vulnerable hotelier in America.” Seeking a way out of crisis, he read up on Abraham Maslow, who studied self-actualization and the pursuit of happiness. With the psychologist's principles and his company's turnaround in mind, Conley writes about how to create peak experiences for employees, customers and investors.

Being Sugar Ray

Being Sugar Ray: The Life of Sugar Ray Robinson, America's Greatest Boxer and the First Celebrity Athlete
Kenneth Shropshire, '77
Basic Civitas Books

A sports lawyer and the director of Wharton's Sports Business Initiative, Shropshire argues that Robinson was “the personification of cool” who blazed the trail for athletic superstardom. Many aspects of the boxer's story—a scandal involving military service, entrepreneurial ventures, an entourage and a flashy car, a comeback, a career-long rivalry—became the things that become a sports legend most.

Maynard and Jennica

Maynard and Jennica
Rudolph Delson, '97
Houghton Mifflin

In this opposites-attract romance beset by the events of 9-11, Maynard is a fussy Manhattan musician and Jennica is a San Josean who has strived to become solvent and illustrious. Delson lets friends, family and bystanders—including the Eastern German con artist who married Maynard to elude deportation—help narrate this clever debut novel.


Lee Vance, '80
Alfred A. Knopf

Former Goldman Sachs partner Vance writes a thriller about a Wall Street titan whose wife is murdered—shortly after she's learned about an infidelity of his. So long as he's the prime suspect, people don't notice the odd financial moves being made in Russia by his longtime pal, Andrei Zhilina, who's also the benefactor of a surprisingly well-protected TB clinic in Moscow.

Desert Remembers My Name

The Desert Remembers My Name: On Family and Writing
Kathleen Alcalá, '76
U. of Arizona Press
$32.00 and $14.95 (paperback)

Novelist Alcalá roots around in her family's history and her childhood memories in this collection of essays. Her Mexican-American forebears include Sephardic Jews who fled the Inquisition and members of the Opata tribe. She comes to believe that separation from one's cultural origins is “a form of illiteracy.”

American Encounters

American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity
Angela L. Miller, '76, Janet C. Berlo, Bryan J. Wolf and Jennifer L. Roberts, '92
Pearson/Prentice Hall

A pipe tomahawk—a souvenir in iron and Mexican silver with Native American quillwork—is the first image in this new survey of American art, a signal that the book incorporates scholarship arising from postcolonial studies, gender studies and attention to vernacular visual forms. Wolf is an art professor at Stanford.

Sweet Revenge

Sweet Revenge
Diane Mott Davidson, '70
William Morrow

The holiday season alone could be enough to overwhelm caterer Goldy Schulz, Davidson's sleuth who here logs her 14th recipe-laden mystery. But finding the body of a former district attorney in the public library and seeing the supposed-to-be-dead woman who killed Goldy's ex-husband really makes things hectic. To the accusation that overwork might make her squirrely, she responds, “Never call a caterer a nutcase. We think it's something to eat.”