Arts & Culture


Old Town Road
Chris Molanphy ’93
(Duke University Press, $19.95)
About the width of a 45-rpm record sleeve and not all that much thicker, this deep dive into the 2018 country-inflected hip-hop megahit “Old Town Road” is part of a series of books on popular songs from Duke University Press. Molanphy gives us plenty about the song itself and its creator, Lil Nas X, but he also uses the song’s story to examine the interplay of genre and race, the role of social media in the song’s success, and—Molanphy’s specialty—the evolution of how songs are measured on the Billboard charts and how the song became the longest-running number-one hit in chart history.

Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style: A Novel
Paul Rudnick ’77
(Simon and Schuster, $28.99
Farrell met Nate—first at freshman orientation at the Yale Dramat, next in the Cross Campus Library, and, soon enough, sparks began to fly. Worlds collide in a love story that follows the fabulously wealthy Farrell Covington and a wannabe writer, Nate Reminger, through their long lives together and apart. “You must save me,” Farrell told Nate. In a sweeping, funny, and moving tale that follows the arc of gay life from 1973 onward, Rudnick shows how two people can save and complete each other. “Which,” as narrator Nate reminds readers throughout the book, “is such a gay thing to say.”

Grace in All Simplicity: Beauty, Truth, and Wonders on the Path to the Higgs Boson and New Laws of Nature
Chris Quigg ’66 and Robert N. Cahn

(Pegasus Books, $32)
According to Voltaire’s irrepressibly optimistic philosopher, Dr. Pangloss, ours is the best of all possible worlds. But why is our physical world—indeed, our known universe—the way it is? Veteran physicists Quigg and Cahn—“traveling light, with no equations, no diagrams, no tables, no pictures”—produce a fascinating and accessible tour of the fundamental principles, particles, and processes that govern heaven and earth, and the “extraordinary people” engaged in this “tantalizing work in progress.”

Berlin: A Novel
Bea Setton ’16
(Penguin, $17)
As this debut novel opens, Daphne Ferber, the 20-something protagonist, has precipitously abandoned London for Berlin, “an easy place to start anew, as everyone seems to have just arrived.” There, Daphne’s folks bankroll her plan to learn German in advance of pursuing a philosophy doctorate, but soon things go disturbingly awry. Projectiles start shattering the windows of the flats she occupies, a stalker haunts her life, and she’s beset by an eating disorder and other forms of mental illness, including compulsive lying.Will she make it? It’s touch and go, but Setton has crafted a character to root for.

On Our Best Behavior: the Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good
Elise Loehnen ’02
(Dial Press/Penguin Random House, $28)
“Sometimes, it’s hard to be a woman,” declared country singer Tammy Wynette. In a compelling exploration of pride, sloth, greed, envy, anger, gluttony, and lust, journalist Loehnen shows how the Church engrained avoidance of these qualities, and how it became “an impressively brilliant tool for ensuring good behavior across millennia.” However, she says, “equating self-control with worthiness” has come at a considerable, if often hidden, cost for women. She demonstrates how to sing a new, easier, and less-limiting song.

The Search: Finding Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World
Bruce Feiler ’87
(Penguin Press, $29)
One of the COVID era’s hallmarks was the “Great Resignation.” But the record number of people—more than a million a week—who left their jobs was, notes Feiler, not simply the result of the pandemic but rather a reflection of a “quit rate” that has been on the increase for two decades. “We’re moving from a means-based economy to a meaning-based economy,” he says. His step-by-step guidebook is designed to help the perplexed—whatever their employment status—to “dig deep,” rediscover their “own scripture of work,” and “write your own damned story.” Call it an “uncareer” Bible.

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