Arts & Culture


Books Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life
Heather Cass White ’92
(FSG, $25)
“Not everyone has to be a reader,” says White—rather surprising, coming from an English professor. But it’s one of the 22 propositions she lists in a book that is actually an exquisite love song to the “rich inner experience” of reading. Surrendering “with one’s whole attention,” she says, will both expand the pleasure of absorbing words well written and enlarge the reader’s own self-knowledge. Read like a 12-year-old girl, White advises: “Pick up a book and forget who you are.”

Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes
Steven B. Smith, the Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science
(Yale University Press, $28)
Is patriotism, as many on the left side of the political spectrum see it, the “last refuge of a scoundrel” (to quote Samuel Johnson), or is it exemplified by the “America, right or wrong” devotion of the political right? Smith examines the bitterly contentious and uniquely American form that “loyalty to one’s own, one’s people, one’s community, but especially to one’s constitution or political regime” has taken in this country. He shows how we got into our present divide, and he urges us to return to our “deliberative and self-questioning” political and philosophical roots and adopt an “enlightened patriotism.”

My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future
Indra Nooyi ’80MBA
(Portfolio/Penguin, $28) 
And what a life! When Nooyi was growing up in southern India in the 1950s and ’60s, few could have predicted she’d find her way to Yale’s fledgling School of Management and embark on a groundbreaking career that would eventually have her leading PepsiCo, as the first woman of color and first immigrant to head a Fortune 50 company. Part memoir, part operating manual for corporate success, Nooyi’s account also makes a heartfelt and hard-headed case for a “model of sustainable capitalism” that encompasses “paid leave, [workplace] flexibility and predictability, and care.”

Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty  
Anderson Cooper ’89 and Katherine Howe
(HarperCollins, $30)
If you’ve ever wandered by Vanderbilt Hall on Old Campus and wondered about its namesake, this is the book for you. Veteran CNN reporter Cooper is the great-great-great grandson of the shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt; he and historian Howe chronicle a family that amassed fabulous wealth in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They became “American royalty, with titles and palaces to prove it. But the empire would last for less than a hundred years before collapsing under its own weight.”

Chicago’s Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City
Carl Smith ’74PhD
(Grove/Atlantic Inc., $19) 
At about nine in the evening of October 8, 1871, Chicagoans Catherine and Patrick O’Leary were shouted out of bed by a neighbor. “Kate,” Patrick screamed, “the barn is afire!” Two days later, the conflagration (which was not, urban legend notwithstanding, caused by Catherine’s milk cow kicking over a kerosene lantern) had “devastated close to three square miles of cityscape,” writes Northwestern University historian Smith, in a deep dive into the catastrophe and aftermath. The fire left a third of Chicago’s estimated 334,000 residents homeless, and the tumultuous rebuilding effort remains “an open-ended work in progress.”

Land of Cockaigne
Jeffrey Lewis ’66
(Haus Publishing, $22.95)
One day, Walter Rath and his wife, Charley, packed up the fortune he’d made as a Silicon Valley investor and sailed away on the yawl Concordia. The couple weighed anchor in a Maine coast town, Sneeds Harbor. To Walter, the place recalled the Land of Cockaigne, “no work, no worry, no death.” But death came. Stephen, the child they’d raised in Sneeds Harbor, was murdered in the Bronx. They tried to honor Stephen’s memory, bringing a group of troubled teens he and his girlfriend had worked with to visit the Maine town for a couple of weeks. What could possibly go wrong?

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