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On the shelf

The Magazine publishes a selection of general-interest books by alumni authors. For additional alumni books, see “In Their Own Words.”

[Book]The Postcolonial Careers of Santha Rama Rau, by Antoinette Burton, AM’84, PhD’90, Duke University Press, 2007. In the early 20th century Santha Rama Rau appeared on the U.S. literary scene as a popular expert on India. Born in 1923 into India’s elite, she attended college in the United States, later publishing books as well as articles in publications like the New Yorker. Her writing provided an “insider’s view” of Indian culture, debunking what she believed to be American misrepresentations. Burton explores Rama Rau as a producer of knowledge about India and the East.

Traveling Home: Sacred Harp Singing and American Pluralism, by Kiri Miller, AB’00, University of Illinois Press, 2007. No harps are used in the making of Sacred [Book]Harp music, despite the genre’s name; instead, large groups of singers, often untrained, gather to sing traditional songs in four-part a cappella. In Traveling Home, Miller follows Sacred Harp music’s path—from its roots in the 19th-century American South to New England, the Midwest, and even Hollywood, where the Oscar-nominated Cold Mountain (2003) featured two Sacred Harp songs on its soundtrack.

Stopwatch Marketing, by John Rosen and AnnaMaria Turano, AB’92, MBA’96, Portfolio, 2008. How long is a customer willing to devote to shopping for an item? The time customers spend in a store, Rosen and Turano say, can provide a business with information about how to market its product. Grouping consumers into four categories—recreational, painstaking, impatient, and reluctant—the authors give suggestions for how to slow a customer’s shopping stopwatch.

A Companion to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, by Matthew C. Altman, PhD’01, Westview Press, 2008. Confused by Kant? The Companion aims to elucidate his arguments by placing Critique in its historical and philosophical context, then concentrating on the book’s three main sections: “The Transcendental Aesthetic,” “The Transcendental Analytic,” and “The Transcendental Dialectic.” Altman also investigates Critique’s major themes, including God, freedom, and immortality.

More Than a Dream: How One School’s Vision is Changing the World, by G. R. Kearney, MBA’07, Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2008. In 1996 Cristo Rey Jesuit High School—a college prep school in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood—opened its doors to the children of Hispanic working-class families. In its early years the school, which was founded by Jesuits, faced economic troubles. An improved financing model and a unique curriculum that accounted for students’ educational deficits, Kearney reports, ultimately turned the school around. A portion of the book’s proceeds go to Cristo Rey.

The Origins of Reasonable Doubt: Theological Roots of the Criminal Trial, by James Q. Whitman, PhD’87, Yale University Press, 2008. The vague legal doctrine “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” has its roots in theology. Developed in the 18th century to protect European Christian jurors’ souls—if a juror experienced doubt but then convicted an innocent defendant, he committed a mortal sin—the principle became a way to reassure worried jurors that their souls were safe, as long as their doubts were not “reasonable.” Today the boundaries of the term have shifted: if enough evidence against a person has been collected, he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, creating what Whitman calls a moral challenge for our justice system.

Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885–1940, by Chad Heap, AM’93, PhD’00, University of Chicago Press, 2008. During Prohibition, well-to-do whites ventured nightly into previously off-limits neighborhoods—initially immigrant and working-class districts, then gay and lesbian nightclubs—for jazz music and a good time. The thrill of these underground artistic and sexual activities was amplified by public moralizing about the practice of “fashionable dissipation.” Heap traces the pastime’s evolution, arguing that slumming changed the landscape of race, sexuality, and class in urban America.

[Book]Children at Play: An American History, by Howard P. Chudacoff, AB’65, AM’67, PhD’69, New York University Press, 2007. Child’s play isn’t easy, says historian Chudacoff. By examining children’s diaries and child-rearing manuals, among other sources, he shows how changes in American children’s activities—from colonial America’s badminton-like game, “battledore and shuttlecock,” to contemporary Little League games—reflect a trend away from independent fun and toward structured, adult-supervised forms of play.