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A Bit of Tango and More…
Sharon Ruchman ’73MusM, $9.99 CD or online

Composer/pianist Ruchman stretches a bit on her sixth album of original classical compositions, as the titles “Frolicking” (a Germanic bit of sharp-fingered discord) and “Mystere” (a moody, jazzy lament) suggest. The pieces are tradition-minded yet alive, ennobled with a love of melody and form—and suitable for dancing.


Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law
Alan Dershowitz ’62LLB
Crown, $28

No criminal defense lawyer can write a tell-all autobiography, but in this book, one of the most famous lawyers and law professors of our time tells most. The attorney who led landmark free speech and religion cases, and who defended such celebrities as O. J. Simpson and Claus von Bülow, relates how an Orthodox Jewish kid from Brooklyn with bad grades could succeed at Yale Law School and go on to a stellar career. On the way he shares such tales as his defeat of a mugger in his law student days—aided by a frozen tongue, a gift from his mother.


To Touch the Sky/If I Were a Swan/Symphony No. 4
Kevin Puts ’96MusM
Harmonia Mundi, $21.99 CD, $10.99 online

Two of these three pieces by the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Composition feature the dynamic Conspirare choral ensemble, conducted by Craig Hella Johnson ’90MusAD. The direct, six-minute “If I Were a Swan” becomes an aperitif for the diverse and far-reaching “To Touch the Sky,” a nine-song cycle with words by female writers from Hildegard of Bingen to Mother Teresa. The concluding Symphony No. 4 (“From Mission San Juan”) is a languorous soundscape that takes its time to build to a rousing yet still calm climax.


Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexicon for the 21st Century
Liesl Schillinger ’88; Elizabeth Zechel, illustrator
Simon & Schuster, $17.99

In Wordbirds, Schillinger, an esteemed reviewer and translator, exercises her penchant for inventing neologisms that capture “the way we live now.” For instance: “conservaschism,” the divide between the moderate right and the far right; and “parrot-tops”—“fashion victims who dye their hair in vivid or pastel shades.” Most words are illustrated with a drawing of a humorously appropriate bird.


My Notorious Life: A Novel
Kate Manning ’79
Scribner, $26.99

It’s 1860 in New York City, and a 12-year-old immigrant girl named Axie Muldoon is trying to eke out a living on the streets. In this splendid, sprawling novel, fate smiles, then frowns, then smiles again, as Axie grows, becomes a midwife, then strikes it rich by morphing into Madame DeBeausacq, Renowned Female Physician and purveyor of the Lunar Remedy for Relief of Obstruction. Her abortifacient and medical practice rile the city’s vice police and lead to all-out legal warfare. The novel is loosely based on real events.


A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda
Josh Ruxin ’92
Little, Brown, $26

Ruxin, a public health expert and restaurateur, offers a vision of Rwanda and Africa as a country and continent filled with “energetic, ambitious young people and unmeasured resources.” About ten years ago, he and his wife moved to Rwanda, where he helped establish the Access Project, which developed effective management strategies for improving health care. In this charming memoir, Ruxin outlines that success and another: Heaven, their Kigali restaurant, purveyor of the “best guacamole in Africa.”

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