Shelf Life

May/June 2010

Reading time min

Shelf Life

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip Heath, PhD '91, and Dan Heath; Broadway, $26.

The authors of Made to Stick say change is like riding an elephant. The rider is a rational mind that can pick a new course. But the elephant is an emotional mind, not easily redirected if it doesn't agree. Using examples (many of them from psychological and marketing research done on the Farm), they advise would-be changers on self-help strategies that can help direct the rider, shrink the elephant and smooth their congruent path. One key realization (which explains why Cheetos tempt us more at 10 p.m. than 10 a.m.): "Self-control is an exhaustible resource." People who seem "lazy or resistant" to change may just be worn out. Chip Heath is a GSB professor of organizational behavior.

Simpáticas: San Miguel Stories

Simpáticas: San Miguel Stories, Elva Treviño Hart, MS '78; Bilingual Press, $15.

Like a certain bestseller, this book examines the teeter-totter relationships between whites and their servants. Hart's tales about The Help, however, are set in a Mexican town beloved by expatriates. Each of 10 stories is named for the "maid included" in the region's rental ads. Elenita, Tencha, Ysabel and the others are capable women who can make life as smooth as pressed sheets. But they also know their own minds and get what they need, even as they make themselves inscrutable or indispensable to their Anglos.

Drop That Knowledge: Youth Radio Stories

Drop That Knowledge: Youth Radio Stories, Elisabeth Soep, MA '95, PhD, '00, and Vivian Chávez; U. of California Press, $21.95.

Lissa Soep is research director of Youth Radio, the award-winning organization based in Oakland that teaches kids from under-resourced neighborhoods how to tell their stories. Chávez, now an associate professor at San Francisco State, is a Youth Radio alumna. The organization works not just to teach radio, but "teach through radio," and this book combines illuminating youth-culture vignettes and pedagogical insight.

Climate Hope: On the Front Lines of the Fight Against Coal

Climate Hope: On the Front Lines of the Fight Against Coal,Ted Nace, '78; CoalSwarm, $15.

The founder of an anti-coal information clearinghouse, Nace reports on the years 2007 to 2009, when U.S. power companies planned to build 151 new coal-fueled power plants and were blocked in almost every instance. Whether barricading sites or buttonholing legislators and investors, activists found ways to thwart expanded use of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. Coal is responsible for 80 percent of the CO2 released by U.S. electric utilities.

Poetry for Beginners

Poetry for Beginners, Margaret Chapman and Kathleen Welton, '78; Steerforth Press, $14.99.

"Poetry is whatever poetry can be," is the book's opening line, but much of the rest of this "documentary comic" primer is more specific. Along with some advice about how to read poetry (aloud and with an open mind), there are deft explanations of forms, feet and figurative language; a concise guide to poetic history; and some amusing DIY guidance.

The Lotus Eaters

The Lotus Eaters, Tatjana Soli, '87; St. Martin's Press, $24.99.

The terrible excitement of war can become an addiction not only for soldiers, but also for a clear-eyed observer like the protagonist of this debut novel. Helen Adams, still grieving her brother's mysterious combat death, comes to Vietnam as a photojournalist and falls in love with the country, fellow photographers and, to her dismay, the callous-yet-vital nature of her work.

The Abyss of Human Illusion

"A good argument can be made and has been made for the opinion that everyone killed in war is killed in vain, but it's the dying man's job to point out that we survive in vain."

—Gilbert Sorrentino, professor emeritus, in his posthumously published novel, The Abyss of Human Illusion; Coffee House Press, $14.95.


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