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The Way of Boys

William Morrow
Remember that quirky boy in your kindergarten class? The one who categorized all his trucks by color, size, and model number? Or the exuberantly curious kid who couldn’t sit still? They may have grown up to be a Silicon Valley software wiz and a Fortune 500 CEO, but if the same kids entered grade school today, one would be slapped with an Asperger’s diagnosis and the other plied with Ritalin. Normal boy behavior, says Rao, is increasingly pathologized, even by age three. He urges parents, educators, pediatricians, and developmental experts to stop the madness and let boys be boys. Respecting boys’ natural—and yes, sometimes slow and idiosyncratic—development, Rao argues, is the surest way to help them realize their potential.

The Other Half of Life

Alfred A. Knopf
The epic tragedy of the Holocaust produced a seemingly infinite supply of individual dramas. One of these is the story of the ocean liner St. Louis—memorialized in the movie Voyage of the Damned—which in 1939 set sail from Hamburg carrying nearly 950 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. Whitney’s meticulously detailed young adult novel imagines the lives of two young passengers aboard a fictional counterpart, the St. Francis, as it is refused entry in Cuba, the United States, and Canada before being forced back to Europe.

A Manifesto for American Medicine

Sunshine Sentinel Press
The health-care debate’s emphasis on who should pay—the government or private insurers—distracts from the other ills that plague our medical system. This veteran physician answers the policy wonks’ vague calls for “best practices” with concrete solutions. Roberts’ ideas encompass doctors—he champions holistic care, including better history-taking, nutritional counseling, and relentless attention to preventive measures—as well as federal agencies. He takes the FDA to task for ignoring the potentially harmful effects of food dyes and preservatives, and urges Medicare and Medicaid to insist on competitive pricing. Roberts aims throughout to answer a question often put to him: “What happened to doctoring?”His treatise aims to be a step on the road to the profession’s recovery.

Glamour in Six Dimensions: Modernism and the Radiance of Form

Cornell University Press
What do Greta Garbo, cellophane, Virginia Woolf, and Chanel No. 5 have in common? They’re all associated with the elusive trait known as glamour. A concept usually tied to movie stars, fashion, and design, glamour also shaped early twentieth-century language and culture. This fascinating analysis surveys a variety of cultural products that helped define glamour, from the “new and complex chemical language” of Coco Chanel’s revolutionary scent—a bubbly, metallic departure from Victorian florals—to cellophane, which crinkled its way from cigarette wrappers into avant-garde theater and celebrity photographs, “offer[ing] itself as pure surface, as the plastic without depth that gave the modern imagination new ways of seeing the mundane world.” Brown argues that it was writers such as Woolf, Joseph Conrad, and D.H. Lawrence whose experiments with form made glamour a coherent aesthetic that gradually seeped into the modern consciousness.

Invisible China: A Journey Through Ethnic Borderlands

Chicago Review Press
Winston Churchill’s famous description of Russia—a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”—could easily apply to Western perceptions of its neighbor China. Complicating our attempts to understand this vast country is its extraordinary ethnic diversity. If China’s fifty-five ethnic minorities formed their own country, it would be the eleventh largest in the world. Eager to discover a China beyond largely homogeneous Beijing (dominated by the Han majority), the authors set out on a 14,000-mile journey through isolated border regions. The result is both travelogue and ethnography, an adventurer’s map of the windswept Mongolian deserts, the tropical Tonkin Gulf region, and the snowy expanses bordering K2, as well as a sensitive collection of human stories. Armed with fluent Mandarin, Korean, and Uyghur, the authors attend mass with Catholic Kinh fishermen, work the fields with the Mosuo women—one of the world’s few matrilineal societies—and hunt jade with Muslim Uyghur merchants. The rich cast of characters they encounter illustrates the contradictions of the world’s most populous nation.

Can We Afford the Future?

Zed Books
Even though scientific predictions of climate change are widely accepted, the economics behind this global phenomenon still provoke debate. Many economists fear that aggressive climate initiatives will imperil the economy. Ackerman’s concise call to action argues that conventional cost-benefit analysis fails to account for worst-case outcomes. We should instead view climate policy as insurance against an end to life as we know it and an investment in our grandchildren’s future. Massive expenditures on new, low-carbon technologies are a drop in the bucket compared to planetary extinction.

My African Horse Problem

University of Massachusetts Press
Bill Miles fell in love with Hausaland, the remote border region between Nigeria and Niger, as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1970s. As a Fulbright scholar in the 1980s, he also fell in love with Sa’a, the gentle horse that carried him back and forth between the two countries as he conducted his research. As a gesture of trust in the villagers who had come to mean so much to him, he left Sa’a in their care when he returned to the United States. In 2000, Miles received a letter informing him of a dispute over the horse, and he set off with his ten-year-old son, Sam, to resolve it. “I had to come back and show that I took seriously this problem that they were having over something I had left behind,” says Miles. Tender, funny, and earnest, this memoir incorporates Sam’s diary entries about the sometimes dangerous adventure. Sam was heir to the horse, but he also inherits a legacy of love, trust, and respect for the people who have so influenced his father.


Photo: Brad Paris

Stacy Horn, SMFA78

Ghost stories are usually more at home around a campfire than in the lab, but from 1930 to 1980, J.B. Rhine and his wife, Louisa, led a team of Duke University researchers intent on applying the rigors of science to the paranormal. Their work attracted interest from the likes of Albert Einstein, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, and Helen Keller. Even the U.S. military called upon the lab, hoping to cultivate the ultimate weapon of war—ESP. Horn waded through half a century of the lab’s data and correspondence and came to the conclusion that, while hard to pin down, the truth is out there.

“The Rhines were curious about the idea of life after death, but they were scientists, so they wanted to design an unambiguous experiment to test whether people had ways of knowing things other than through the recognized senses. If they could find something about us that operates independently of the body, they reasoned, there could be evidence for life after death. They developed a deck of twenty-five cards with different symbols on them and tested Duke students to see if they could determine what was on the cards. Testers and subjects were separated at first by a screen, then by a room. Eventually the experiment was double blind. It was pretty simple, but the results were complicated. Everything hinged on probability theory—whether or not a subject scored above ‘chance,’ and quite a few did—and I really had to educate myself.

People wrote thousands of letters to the lab asking them to investigate ghost stories. In 1958, Duke scientists looked into a poltergeist case on Long Island. They determined that of the sixty-seven events that occurred in the house, seventeen could not be explained by natural means. That isn’t the same thing as saying there was a poltergeist, but there was definitely something going on. It started with tops of bottles popping off, then centerpieces and pictures flying off the table and walls, and things sliding down the counter when there was nothing to push them. I tracked down almost everyone involved in the case at the time, including the daughter of the skeptical Nassau County detective who investigated it, as well as a respected journalist for Newsday, and no one thought it was a hoax.

Many people hear what they think are ghosts and capture them on recordings. It’s called EVP—electronic voice phenomenon. EVP skeptics say it’s not really people talking; it just sounds like voices. I gave some recordings to audio forensics specialists—people who study recorded sounds to solve crimes—and they concluded that the recordings were of actual voices. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re the voices of the dead.

The only time I was scared was when I was looking into EVP. People put their recordings online, where you can listen to these things. After a while I got really spooked. I looked up at the ceiling and said, “If there are any ghosts up there, don’t talk to me!”

I started out a complete skeptic, and I still am, but I learned that there is something there. ESP and apparitions are one explanation for these phenomena, but there may be others. The results of the tests the Duke lab did for ESP and psychokinesis are valid. There was evidence of an effect—it wasn’t just fraud and sloppily designed experiments. But that doesn’t mean that ESP and ghosts exist.

The Rhines’ whole idea was that there are things about us that are nonphysical, that consciousness may be independent. I don’t know exactly what Rhine and his team uncovered, but they did uncover a clue, and since we don’t know everything there is to know about the universe, it could be an important clue.

You’d assume that with all we know about science now, people would be more skeptical than they were in the lab’s heyday, but the opposite is true. All the polls taken by Harris and Gallup indicate that belief in the paranormal is increasing. And there are just as many great thinkers contemplating this stuff as there were back then. They just don’t call it ‘the paranormal’ anymore—they call it neuroscience, consciousness studies, and alternative realities.

Since researching the book, life has become so much more fun and interesting to me. I go to all these science lectures and learn about fascinating things like quantum mechanics. The irony is that even though the scientific community is hostile to the idea of the paranormal, it was really through the paranormal that I became open to science.”

Also of Note The short stories in Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales (BkMk Press), by ELEANOR BLUESTEIN, J63, are set in a fictional Southeast Asian country decimated by war and perplexed by Americans. Longevity Logic, by ROBERT CHACONA, D75, chews on the not inconsiderable relationship between good oral care and overall health. Mean Streets (University of California), by ANDREW J. DIAMOND, A90, is a social history of Chicago street gangs from the 1919 race riot through the civil rights battles of the 1960s. ANNE FLETCHER, J92, explores the life and work of a pioneering theatrical designer in Rediscovering Mordecai Gorelik: Scene Design and the American Theater (Southern Illinois University). A former Dominican nun and professor emerita of anatomy and cellular biology, JOAN C. KING wrote Cellular Wisdom For Women: An Inner Work Book (Bibliocast), an innovative guide to self-awareness. SCOTT G. KYLE, A89, reveals the secrets of successful investing in The Power Curve: Smart Investing Using Dividends, Options, and the Magic of Compounding (Nautilus Press). Near Misses in Cardiac Surgery (iUniverse) by MILES EDWIN LEE, M65, recounts forty-three true cases in which a potentially fatal diagnostic or therapeutic error underwent quick analysis and correction by Lee’s team. Shakespeare’s Foreign Worlds: National and Transnational Identities in the Elizabethan Age (Cornell), by CAROLE LEVIN, G76, and John Watkins, examines Henry VI, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Merchant of Venice in the context of Renaissance Europe’s newfound geographic, social, and intellectual mobility. JOSELIN LINDER, A98, poses two thousand gleefully depraved personal questions in The Purity Test (St. Martin’s Griffen). JOSE ANTONIO MAZZOTTI, professor of Romance languages, is coeditor of Creole Subjects in the Colonial Americas (University of North Carolina), a collection of essays on immigrants to the New World between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Neoclassical Realism, the State, and Foreign Policy (Cambridge University), coedited by JEFFREY TALIAFERRO, associate professor of political science, is the first systematic survey of neoclassical realist foreign policy, which focuses on the interaction between the international system and the internal dynamics of states. In Life After Violence: A People’s Story of Burundi, PETER UVIN, professor of international humanitarian studies, compares the ideas and aspirations of a war-weary people to the assumptions of international development organizations.

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