Shelf Life

March/April 2011

Reading time min

Shelf Life


Three Stages of Amazement, Carol Edgarian, '84; Scribner, $25.

TV producer Lena Rusch and robotic surgery entrepreneur Charlie Pepper are leading lives of seemingly limitless accomplishment—until their prospects get sideswiped by grief, a child's illness, the Great Recession and midlife uncertainty. The long marriage of two San Francisco aristocrats—a Pacific Heights template for what Lena and Charlie might expect—is beset as well. Edgarian writes about First World problems (often such a cushy sort of difficulty), but she has some firm truths to communicate about love, ambition and the accommodations that age can enforce with blunt brutality.


Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet, William H. Davidow, PhD '61; Delphinium Books, $27.95.

The all-pervasive, hyper-fast, hyper-complex world of modern computing creates "overconnected environments" that "feed upon themselves and become unpredictable, accident-prone, and subject to contagion." Davidow's examples include the subprime mortgage crisis and Iceland's financial meltdown, and it's hard to shrug off dire warnings about technology when they're made by an electrical engineer who is a former Intel vice president now working in venture capital.

Jet Age

Jet Age: The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World, Sam Howe Verhovek, '83; Avery, $27.

It's a commonplace that computers have shrunk the world, but New York Times reporter Verhovek reminds readers that the jet is the machine that in "the most real, tangible of ways" links more people "than any invention in history." Focusing on the industrial race between British jet maker Geoffrey de Havilland and American executive Bill Allen at Boeing, Jet Age is a paean to a danger-riddled era of optimistic wonder.

Poultry Science, Chicken Culture

Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet, Susan Merrill Squier, MA '75, PhD '77; Rutgers U. Press, $39.95.

A Penn State professor of English and women's studies, Squier keeps backyard chickens. In nine eclectic and surprising chapters (arranged from A for Augury to I for Inauguration), she uses the lens of domestic fowl to examine such topics as reproductive medicine, pandemics, electoral discourse, gendered labor and media representations of disability. In its free range, insights and wit, such scholarship is rare as hen's teeth.

Deus Ex Machina

Deus Ex Machina, Andrew Foster Altschul; Counterpoint, $14.95.

This flint-edged satire on reality television examines how adeptly—and eagerly—people embrace self-dramatization. The new season of The Deserted brings together a cast of survivors who didn't come to make friends with a disillusioned director who ignores the warning "Don't get too deep in your own head." Altschul, a 2002 Stegner fellow, directs the Center for Literary Arts at San Jose State.

Seeing Patients

Seeing Patients: Unconscious Bias in Health Care, Augustus A. White III, MD '61, with David Chanoff; Harvard U. Press, $27.95.

The first African-American graduate of Stanford Medical School, White combines Jim Crow-era memoir with his expertise on "culturally competent care" in this eye-opening book. Nonwhite, female, gay and elderly patients continue to face serious disadvantage in health care, and Harvard surgeon White addresses how to better their odds.

Virtually You

“We often begin to prefer the online version of who we are.”

—Elias Aboujaoude, MA '98, MD '98, in Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality, Seal Press, $16.95.


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