Arts & Culture

Output: January/February 2023

To have your book, CD, app, or other work considered for Output, please send a copy to Arts Editor, Yale Alumni Magazine, PO Box 1905, New Haven CT 06509; or e-mail a copy or link to

Thinking 101: How to Reason Better to Live Better
Woo-Kyoung Ahn, John Hay Whitney Professor of Psychology
(Flatiron Books, $28.99) 
As election denial, COVID conspiracy theories, and other recent events have made clear, human cognition could use some fine-tuning. If you can’t take Ahn’s popular “Thinking” course, the next best thing is to read her book. It examines eight areas of thought, from the allure of fluency to the trouble with delayed gratification. She explains how our biases “can lead us astray,” and offers strategies that “can make the world a better place.”

Nasty, Brutish, and Short:  Adventures in Philosophy with My Kids
Scott Hershovitz ’04JD.
(Penguin Press, $28)
When the author’s two-year-old son Hank screamed from the bathroom that he desperately needed a philosopher, Hershovitz, a law and philosophy professor at the University of Michigan, happily offered his services. “A philosopher is not something that people need,” he admitted. Neither, it turned out, did Hank, who had something stuck in his teeth and needed a “flosser,” a word the boy couldn’t quite pronounce. In this charming book, inspired by conversations with Hank and Rex (Hank’s older brother) that ranged from rights to God, Hershovitz shows how “every kid—every single one—is a philosopher.”

Sugar Street
Jonathan Dee ’84.
(Grove Press, $26)
$168,548: with that precise amount of cash stuffed into “one of those heavy, waxy, interoffice envelopes” and stowed under the passenger seat, the never-named narrator hits the road in an attempt to achieve a “total severance from yesterday.” The money is “ill gotten? I mean, I guess,” he admits. There are no doubt people from his old life looking for him as he settles into a chillingly drawn, decaying cityscape and attempts “to do the impossible thing in this bugged panopticon of a world—step outside it, remove myself from it, cancel every claim on me.” Will he find his “second, empty life?” Read on.

Hitler’s Girl: The British Aristocracy and the Third Reich on the Eve of WWII
Lauren Young ’85.
(Harper, $29.99)
Lecturer in Political Science. When Hitler came to power in the 1930s, he sought to extend his reach by appealing to “the highest ranks of British society,” a number of whom held views similar to his own. Newly opened national archives in England gave Young, an expert on security issues, a chilling view of a “history of collaboration” and an intimate look at one of its most infamous practitioners, Unity Valkyrie Mitford. Born to aristocratic parents, Mitford became a rabid Nazi and the Führer’s confidant, but was never prosecuted for treason. Precisely why remains under archival wraps.

Waging a Good War: A Military History of the Civil Rights Movement, 1954–1968
Thomas E. Ricks ’77.
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30)
The struggle to bring about racial equality may be grounded in the nonviolence of Gandhi, but in trying to understand the successes in the 1950s and 60s, Ricks, an award-winning war correspondent, took the novel perspective of seeing the work of Martin Luther King and his followers “through the prism of its similarity to military operations.” In a perspective-changing look at how training, discipline, planning, and strategy led to successful “campaigns,” Ricks explains how such tactics have informed the Black Lives Matter movement and other continuing efforts.

A Blind Corner: Stories
Caitlin Macy ’92.
(Little, Brown, $27)
Critics have praised Macy’s three novels for their “wise” and “laser-sharp” takes on the modern human condition. She doesn’t disappoint in this collection of seven stories. At their cores, each deals with the unintended consequences of altruistic intentions, and the compromises and contradictions of trying to belong. In one story, “The Little Rats,” Hannah recalls, 30 years later, the uncomfortable exchange-student trip to France when she was in eighth grade in a private school and was “matched up with a poor girl.” Hannah was on financial aid. At one point, she remarks: “You didn’t forget.” Nor will the reader.

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