Arts & Culture


Reginald Dwayne Betts ’16JD

W. W. Norton, $26.95

In 1996, Betts, then a 16-year-old honor student in Maryland, was convicted of carjacking. He spent more than eight years in an adult prison, some of it in solitary confinement. There he became a poet. Betts has won many accolades for his work, but “no word exists for the years that we’ve lost to prison.” His latest collection examines the lasting impact of incarceration. In one quartet of poems, he used legal documents filed on behalf of inmates who were jailed because they couldn’t afford bail. The poems express “the tragedy, drama, and injustice of a system that makes people simply a reflection of their bank accounts.”

Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today
James M. Banner Jr. ’57, editor
The New Press, $29.99

When President Nixon faced impeach-ment in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee asked Yale historian C. Vann Woodward and colleagues to produce a comprehensive study of misdeeds by previous chief executives, from George Washington to Lyndon Johnson. Banner, one of the historians in that group, recently formed his own team to bring the Woodward study up to date, or nearly so: the reissued book now includes malfeasance from Nixon’s presidency through Obama’s. Banner hopes the factual record may “help decision makers avoid past mistakes and distinguish between genuine corruption and political and policy disputes.”

Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right Anne Nelson ’76
Bloomsbury, $28

Nelson, a research scholar at Columbia’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies and an award-winning journalist, examines an organization called the Council for National Policy and its efforts to promote what she calls a “harsh combination of plutocracy and theocracy.” The CNP, she writes, moved swiftly into the media desert left after many US journalism outlets collapsed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Nelson argues that its objective has been to promote such claims as that evolution is a sham and that “God agrees . . . that homosexuality should be against the law.”

Elisha Cooper ’93
Orchard Books/Scholastic, $18.99

Morning, a mountain lake. A traveler, a canoe.” So begins a mother’s deliciously imagined paddle down the 300-plus miles of the Hudson, from its Adirondack origins to “a faraway destination” in New York City. “A wild plan. And the question: Can she do this?” Illustrated with Cooper’s glorious watercolors, the read-aloud, large-format book for children—and their parents—gives a pitch-perfect account of the journey: its discoveries, perils, and rewards.

Character: What It Means and Why It Matters
Deborah L. Rhode ’74, ’77JD
Oxford University Press, $29.95

“Anyone writing about character should proceed with caution,” begins Stanford legal scholar Rhode, who then explores this vital human quality with grit, courage, honesty, integrity, and empathy: the performance traits and moral traits that she says form the foundation of character. The book shows how character is shaped and how it plays out in criminal justice and politics. As a counterweight to today’s too-often compromised virtues, Rhode offers “profiles in character” of individuals—including Ida B. Wells, Jane Addams, Albert Schweitzer, and Thurgood Marshall—whose exemplary lives, dedicated to service and social justice, “inspire our highest aspirations.”

Kid Food: The Challenges of Feeding Children in a Highly Processed World
Bettina Elias Siegel ’87

Oxford University Press, $24.95

“When it comes to feeding their kids, most parents start out with the best of intentions,” writes food blogger and policy advocate Siegel. But when it comes to delivering good nutrition in homes, schools, and elsewhere, an “unholy melding of partisan politics and the food industry’s financial interests” has created an “endless game of Whack-a-Mole”—in which moms and dads may feel they “don’t stand a chance.” Siegel provides a deliciously non-preachy explanation of how we got into this situation and how we can fight back.

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