On the shelf

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.

The Pilgrim Art: Cultures of Porcelain in World History, by Robert Finlay, PhD’73, University of California Press, 2010. In the 14th century cobalt ore was shipped from Persia to China, where it was used to decorate porcelain sold to Muslims in Southeast Asia, India, and Iraq. During these cross-cultural exchanges, artistic symbols and themes—plant forms, seasonal representations, Buddhist emblems such as lotus petals—were transmitted across vast distances. Illuminating 1,000 years of history, Finlay explores the cultural influence of Chinese porcelain.

The Kirov Murder and Soviet History, by Matthew E. Lenoe, AB’88, AM’93, PhD’97, Yale University Press, 2010. Joseph Stalin’s notorious Great Purge of the late 1930s began with the dramatic murder of Sergei Kirov, a Leningrad chief in the Soviet Communist Party.  Historians have long debated the possible involvement of Stalin himself in the murder, with much circumstantial evidence but little definitive proof. In The Kirov Murder, Lenoe translates hundreds of newly available KGB documents related to the murder investigation, inviting readers to reach their own conclusions about the nature of Kirov’s assassination.

Still Broken: Understanding the U.S. Health Care System, by Stephen M. Davidson, PhD’74, Stanford University Press, 2010. Still Broken explains for the non–policy wonk the health-care system’s importance, provides a history of its major flaws, and offers prescriptions on how to solve them. Davidson unpacks the new health-care law, outlining changes such as mandatory insurance and the establishment of minimum coverage standards.

John Paul Stevens: An Independent Life, by Bill Barnhart, MST’69, MBA’81 and Gene Schlickman, Northern Illinois University Press, 2010. Drawing on interviews with the recently retired Supreme Court justice’s family, friends, clerks, and colleagues, this biography of John Paul Stevens, U-High’37, AB’41, presents a detailed portrait of a judge known for reasoned dissent. From his years in Hyde Park through this year’s heated debate over the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision allowing corporations unlimited support of independent political campaign broadcasts, the authors portray Stevens as a bold voice in American public life.

Chicago Catholics and the Struggles within Their Church, by Andrew Greeley, AM’61, PhD’62, Transaction Publishers, 2010. Using statistical analysis and interviews with former Catholics, Greeley argues that the Catholic Church in Chicago is not always in touch with how urban religious communities structure themselves and how they see their faith. He also links the history of the Chicago Catholic Church with broader trends in urban Catholic communities nationwide.

Rewarding Performance: Guiding Principles; Custom Strategies, by Robert J. Greene, MBA’73, Routledge, 2010. Rewarding Performance provides both the underlying basis of how rewards function in the workplace and how best to apply them at all levels of management. Greene illustrates how and why rewards can enhance employee performance, and how to direct the employees towards achieving specific goals.

Reshaping Theory in Contemporary Social Work: Toward a Critical Pluralism in Clinical Practice, edited by William Borden, AM’83, PhD’88, Columbia University Press, 2010. Setting an agenda for the future of social-work theory, Borden draws from fields including cognitive therapy and psychobiology, providing an argument for an integrative approach to social-work practice.

Tobacco, by Arlene Hirschfelder, MAT’71, Greenwood Press, 2010. Surveying one of the greatest heath risks of the 20th century, Hirschfelder explores the history of tobacco in American public life. From the 1950s-era “low tar” marketing of tobacco companies to government regulation of cigarette sales and advertisements, Tobacco encapsulates the divisive nature of a public-health crisis and the machinations of the key players.

The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics: A Math-Free Exploration of the Science that Made Our World, by James Kakalios, SM’82, PhD’85, Gotham Books, 2010. Kakalios breaks down quantum mechanics through the lens of science fiction, invoking Buck Rogers and Dr. Manhattan to describe the physics that underlies our wired (and wireless) existence. He brings quantum concepts down to earth by explaining, for instance, how changes in quantum energy states allow the hands of some clocks to glow in the dark.


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