The Magazine publishes a selection of general-interest books by alumni authors. For additional alumni books, see “In Their Own Words” at magazine.uchicago.edu/books.
Living at Micro Scale: The Unexpected Physics of Being Small, by David B. Dusenbery, PhD’70, Harvard University Press, 2009. Size matters—just ask a bacterium, a rotifer, or any other organism small enough to fit inside this letter o. Dusenbery, a biologist, applies the laws of physics and simple math to show constraints on the design and behaviors of organisms evolving in the micro world. In explaining the historical development of basic concepts, he also shows how science has—and hasn’t—progressed over time.
Louis H. Sullivan and a 19th-Century Poetics of Naturalized Architecture, by Lauren S. Weingarden, PhD’81, Ashgate, 2009. Hailed as the father of American modernism, Louis Sullivan was also criticized for his outmoded, romantic attachment to ornamentation. In her third book on the architect, Weingarden explores Sullivan’s writings and designs to show how they enabled him to articulate architecture as a pictorial and poetic mode of landscape art.
Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug, by Paul Gootenberg, AB’78, PhD’85, University of North Carolina Press, 2009. Gootenberg traces the history of Latin America’s most notorious illegal export—cocaine—from its origins to its rise, prohibition, and emergence at the center of the U.S. war on drugs. His research reveals the roles of local and global actors, from the Peruvian pharmacist who developed the technique to refine cocaine to the international traffickers who manage its distribution.
Making a Way Out of No Way: African American Women and the Second Great Migration, by Lisa Krissoff Boehm, AM’92, University of Mississippi Press, 2009. During the Second Great Migration, 5 million African Americans left the South to pursue economic opportunities in northern and western cities. Boehm, an urban-studies professor, spent seven years gathering new and existing oral histories from women migrants and their children. The resulting volume includes the voices of “the hard-working women who…birthed the black middle class.”
George Steiner at the New Yorker, by George Steiner, AB’48, New Directions, 2009. From 1967 to 1997, cultural critic Steiner produced more than 130 essays and book reviews for the New Yorker, exploring literature from Brecht to Borges and ideas from Chomsky to Chardin. A powerful, prolific, and sometimes controversial writer, Steiner interpreted art, philosophy, books, and historical events for scholars and the general reader alike. This collection gathers 28 of his most memorable New Yorker pieces.
The Philosophers’ Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding, by Robert Zaretsky and John T. Scott, AM’88, PhD’92, Yale University Press, 2009. On the eve of the French Revolution, just six months after they met and became friends, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and David Hume had a very public rift. Their quarrel over philosophical events and ideas gripped much of Europe as the two thinkers waged a war of words through correspondence. This book combines narrative nonfiction with intellectual history to analyze both men, their ideas, and their Enlightenment context.
A Garland of Feminist Reflections: Forty Years of Religious Exploration, by Rita M. Gross, AM’68, PhD’75, University of California Press, 2009. A pioneer in feminist theology, Gross strung this “garland” of works from articles and essays she wrote over three decades as a Buddhist scholar-practitioner. The compilation includes musings on methodology, applied theory, and feminine imagery in Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish theology. It also features an introduction and autobiography by the author, “a Wisconsin farm girl who became a Buddhist theologian when she grew up.”
A Mind Apart: Poems of Melancholy, Madness, and Addiction, edited by Mark S. Bauer, AB’78, Oxford University Press, 2009. Selecting more than 200 works spanning seven centuries, Bauer, a Harvard psychiatry professor and poet, comments on art’s relationship to madness. George Herbert, Sylvia Plath, and Jane Kenyon are among the featured poets whose work reflects mental states from despair to mania. By looking at mental illness through art, Bauer argues, the collection offers a glimpse into the depths of human experience.