Author Archives: Jennifer Shyue

Do We Have a Right to More Than One Child? Conly ’75 Says No

Sarah Conly ’75

Sarah Conly ’75

The argument driving Sarah Conly ’75’s latest book is stated unambiguously in its first sentence: “I’m going to argue here that we don’t have a right to more than one biological child.” In her new book, Conly makes clear that she feels it would be morally permissible to pass government legislation restricting how many children a couple can have.

Those inhabiting the planet today have a moral obligation to future generations, Conly asserts in One Child: Do We Have a Right to More? Given the environmental degradation occurring as a result of a growing global population — it increased sevenfold during the 19th and 20th centuries, from 1 billion in 1825 to 7 billion in 2011 — shrinking the world’s population is urgently important, she believes. Some would argue that state regulation would infringe on one’s right to choose how to live, but Conly argues that what people have a right to do is limited by how much harm it will cause others, including people who have yet to be born. Everyone has a right to procreate, she writes, but that right is not a right to procreate as many times as desired. Continue reading

An Uncensored Look into the Pentagon’s Brain

Annie Jacobsen ’89

Annie Jacobsen ’89

For nearly 60 years, the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has been a hub of innovations generated by some of the country’s top scientific minds. The agency’s best-known inventions include the Internet, GPS, and drones. In The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency, Annie Jacobsen ’89 examines questions about the implications of DARPA’s work.

Housed in the Pentagon until 1972, what is known as the “Pentagon’s Brain” now has its headquarters in a nondescript glass and steel building in Arlington, Va. Within the walls of that unmarked building, work is being done that is “10 to 20 years ahead of the technology in the public domain,” all of it in secret, Jacobsen writes. One example is the development, beginning in the 1960s, of the technology that in 2001 brought drones to the battlefield for the first time. By 2014, more than 80 countries had military-grade drones, underscoring the need for DARPA’s secrecy, she writes. Jacobsen, who conducted 71 interviews with insiders and relied on private documents and declassified memos to write the book, asks if DARPA’s activities help safeguard democracy or encourage America’s willingness to plunge into war. Continue reading

Agus ’87’s Pens Guide to Harnessing the Advances of the ‘Lucky Years’

David Agus ’87

David Agus ’87

Health care isn’t a right; it’s a responsibility. That’s one of the premises of The Lucky Years by oncologist David Agus ’87. What Agus calls “the lucky years” is the era we live in now, the first time “we have at our disposal all the information we need to design our own health.” Thanks to a wealth of technology and data available, those living in developed countries have the potential to live longer than ever. But with those advances comes the potential for confusion and misinformation.

Drawing on his experience as a physician and a biomedical researcher, Agus writes about everything from genetic testing to mobile apps, helping readers navigate the sometimes contradictory information about new technologies and debunking misconceptions, such as the necessity of surgery to cure appendicitis. (In 2015, he writes, studies showed that 70 percent of appendicitis patients who took antibiotics did not need surgery.) He also addresses advances in cancer treatment, such as the benefits and perils of sequencing tumors to reveal gene variants that can be targeted with drugs. Continue reading

Fast ’70 Explores the Links Between Shame and Violence

Jonathan Fast ’70

In Beyond Bullying: Breaking the Cycle of Shame, Bullying, and Violence, Jonathan Fast ’70 explains that some researchers trace the roots of all criminal violence back to shame. Many agree that shame is an inborn emotion — one that once served an evolutionary purpose and continues to be a teaching tool, but that nowadays often has complex, even violent consequences.

Fast explores the idea that “the lion’s share of human misery is the result of shame that is misdirected, unidentified, or unacknowledged.” He adds, “We avoid naming shame and retreat from discussing it, as Harry Potter’s friends avoid mentioning Voldemort.” He argues that beyond its usual associations with childhood, shame remains a large part of adult life, even if it is no longer recognized explicitly as such. Continue reading

Masello ’74’s Novel Combines World War II, Einstein, and the Supernatural

Robert Masello ’74

Robert Masello ’74

It is 1944, and World War II is still roiling Europe. Lucas Athan, the hero of Robert Masello ’74’s novel The Einstein Prophecy, has just returned to his post as an art history professor at Princeton after a stint as an army lieutenant. Sometimes it almost feels as if he never left — and then he remembers the black patch that now covers the spot where his left eye used to be, before he lost it in an accident on his last army mission.

The Egyptian sarcophagus he was sent to recover is at Princeton for study, and Lucas starts to suspect that there might be more to it than initially appears. Archaeologist Simone Rashid arrives with cryptic warnings about the sarcophagus, which she claims to have discovered with her father. Then strange events involving Albert Einstein, who is Lucas’ neighbor, begin to occur. As Lucas and Simone work together to untangle the mystery, it becomes clear that their work has landed them in a struggle between good and unmitigated evil. Continue reading

Rieff ’78 Examines the Roadblocks to Ending Global Hunger

David Rieff ’78

David Rieff ’78

In 2000, the prices of food staples such as wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans had fallen to a record low. Some experts assumed the trend would continue, and access to inexpensive food for the three billion people who survive on less than two dollars a day would drastically improve.

However, “they could not have been more wrong,” David Rieff ’78 writes in The Reproach of Hunger. By 2008, the global food crisis was in full bloom — the price of wheat, for example, had risen by 130 percent. This spelled disaster for the many for whom food staples are often not just one part of a varied diet but the only buffer between survival and starvation. Though more than enough food is produced to feed everyone on the planet, food prices continue to swing to record-breaking highs and lows, thanks to factors such as climate change and the use of crops for livestock feed and fuel instead of food, writes Rieff, who spent six years reporting the book. Continue reading

Helping Readers Understand the Labyrinth of Social Security Benefits

Philip Moeller ’68

Philip Moeller ’68

A guide to navigating your Social Security benefits may not sound like scintillating reading, but Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Philip Moeller ’68, and Paul Solman rocketed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list a few weeks after its publication.

The book helps people figure out if they are taking advantage of all the benefits to which they are entitled. “You have been forking over payroll taxes your entire working life; you deserve to get what you paid for; and it’s the law,” the authors write. Continue reading

The Princetoniana Committee: Keepers of Traditions Old and New

ptoniana-jacketsIf you’ve ever noticed the quotations rendered in large block letters on the walls of Frist Campus Center, watched a freshman Pre-rade and Step Sing, or viewed the Reunion and beer jacket exhibits in Maclean House, then you’ve experienced the handiwork of the Princetoniana Committee.

“The Princetoniana Committee is focused around the history and traditions of Princeton, familiarizing people with those and constructing traditions as they go along,” said former committee chair Gregg Lange ’70. “One reason we do that … is to give people a sense of belonging, a sense of import, and a sense of context to what they’re doing and why.”

More than archivists, members of the Princetoniana Committee are actively contributing to the University’s traditions. Just 11 years ago, the committee inaugurated the Pre-rade as a way to welcome freshmen to the Princeton community. A few years later, the committee added a Step Sing on the steps of Blair Arch after the Pre-rade as a way to ensure that freshmen knew the words to “Old Nassau.”

According to current chair Sev Onyshkevych ’83, the Princetoniana Committee was founded in 1981 after the death of Frederic Fox ’39, who was the University’s recording secretary for 17 years and earned the title “Keeper of Princetoniana.” Fox’s classmate Hugh (“Bud”) Wynne established the committee under the Alumni Council as a way to continue Fox’s work in preserving Princeton traditions.

“What one person did, we now have a committee of 40 doing,” Onyshkevych said. Continue reading

Einstein and the Nazi Scientist Who Hated Him

Bruce Hillman ’69

Bruce Hillman ’69

Germany in the first half of the 20th century often is associated with the Nazi movement that ultimately ravaged the country. In the world of physics, however, it had become a battleground for opposing schools of thought: One side embraced experimental physics, which was based on the work of Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton and driven by the scientific method; the other believed in theoretical physics, which revolved around theories that sometimes were untested experimentally and was grounded in the work of Albert Einstein.

For Philipp Lenard, the recipient of the 1905 Nobel Prize for physics and an adviser to Adolf Hitler, the conflict between experimental and theoretical physics was personified in his hatred for Einstein. In The Man Who Stalked Einstein: How Nazi Scientist Philipp Lenard Changed the Course of History, Bruce Hillman ’69 and co-authors Birgit Ertl-Wagner and Bernd C. Wagner recount the events that led to Einstein’s rise, his rivalry with Lenard, and his eventual self-exile from his homeland, bringing to life the “smoldering, personal cold war” between the two men. The book’s publication coincides with the 60th anniversary of Einstein’s death. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Sarah Sherman ’08, Studying Earth From Space

Sarah Sherman ’08 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dutch Slager)

Sarah Sherman ’08 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dutch Slager)

When the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite launched smoothly on Jan. 31, Sarah Sherman ’08 had cause to celebrate. As the mission’s launch-phase lead at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Caltech-managed NASA center in Pasadena, Calif., Sherman was in charge of putting procedures and contingency plans into place, as well as executing dress rehearsals of the launch.

SMAP uses the radar and radiometer it has on board to gather soil moisture data, which can be used to monitor droughts, predict floods, and improve weather forecasts, among other things. Sherman is now doing operations for the satellite, which involves being on console as a systems chair and overseeing the 90-day commissioning phase that precedes the beginning of the three-year science, or data-collection, phase.

Perhaps that seems like a lot of responsibility for someone who hasn’t yet hit 30. In reality, however, Sherman has been working on SMAP for almost seven years, since the summer after she graduated from Princeton. Before that, she worked in the summers of 2006 and 2007 as a Caltech research fellow analyzing wind models of Titan and developing control algorithms to steer a hot air balloon in its atmosphere. Her next project will be as a mechanical engineer on the Sample Caching System of the Mars 2020 Rover. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Actor, Musician Valerie Vigoda ’87

Valerie Vigoda in 'Ernest Shackleton Loves Me' (photo by Jeff Carpenter for ACT Theatre, Seattle)

Valerie Vigoda ’87 in ‘Ernest Shackleton Loves Me’ (Jeff Carpenter for ACT Theatre, Seattle)

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, which stars Valerie Vigoda ’87 and is now playing at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, has an unusual premise: Kat, a blue-haired video game composer and single mother, has been when for 36 hours when Ernest Shackleton, a polar explorer famous for keeping his entire crew of 27 men alive for nine months after their ship Endurance sank in Antarctica, travels across time to reach her. Vigoda, who sings and plays her Viper electric violin as Kat, also co-wrote the music and lyrics for the show with her husband and partner Brendan Millburn.

“I’m passionate about all the work that I do and that I have collaborated on for the past many years,” she said. “But for me, this might be the one I’m most passionate about.”

Part of the reason is the nature of the story. Ever since she saw a museum exhibit about Shackleton’s harrowing adventures in Antarctica, Vigoda has been “sort of obsessed” with the explorer, she said. For her, the musical is “a combination of this inspiring story and the resonance of this modern character.”

Unlike Kat, Vigoda did not have blue hair or tattoos before she slipped into her role. She now embraces the head turns when she walks into a space. In addition to the musical, Vigoda is working on a solo album called Just Getting Good, which was fully funded through Kickstarter in the fall. Continue reading

Names in the News: Allen ’93 Nominated for PEN Award; Scheide ’36, McPhee ’53 on N.J. Hall of Fame Ballot; More

Danielle Allen ’93 (Laura Rose)

Danielle Allen ’93 (Laura Rose)

Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, by DANIELLE ALLEN ’93, has been named a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. Our Declaration is a line-by-line commentary on the Declaration of Independence and an analysis of its contents. The ultimate winner of the award, which is available for nonfiction books of “notable literary merit and critical perspective” published in 2013 or 2014, will receive a prize of $10,000.

In a podcast for the scientific journal Nature, astrophysics professor NETA BAHCALL speaks to Kerri Smith about having her and her husband John Bahcall’s wedding rings travel to the Hubble Space Telescope. John Bahcall, who played a major role in the launch and maintenance of the Hubble, died in 2005. In 2009, astronaut John Grunsfeld traveled to Hubble for its final servicing mission, and he brought with him the couple’s rings as a way of honoring John Bahcall’s important contributions to the Hubble project. Continue reading

Names in the News: Wage ’12 on Altruism, Crossword Champ Feyer ’99, and More

MATT WAGE ’12 was featured in Nicholas Kristof’s opinion column in The New York Times as the titular “Trader Who Donates Half His Pay.” Wage, who was a philosophy major at Princeton and a student of moral philosopher Peter Singer, is now an arbitrage trader who donates half his income to charity. Wage’s efforts are an example of “effective altruism,” a movement championed by Singer that encourages people to consider all the ways they can make a positive difference and choose the one with maximum impact.

Emeritus professor TONI MORRISON is the subject of a New York Times Magazine profile that starts in the century-old barn that is now the studio where Morrison recorded the audiobooks for her latest novel, God Help the Child, and delves into her life and vision as an editor and writer.

At the 38th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, DAN FEYER ’99 took first place after beating his opponent and fellow crossword champion Tyler Hinman by a half-second. Both Feyer and Hinman had previously won five consecutive titles at the tournament, which was founded in 1978 by New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz.  Continue reading

Mourning — and Celebrating — Abraham Lincoln’s Death

Martha Hodes *91

Martha Hodes *91

The president literally stopped the show when he walked into Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary, had arrived late to that night’s performance; the comedy Our American Cousin already had begun. As they took their seats in the dress circle, the actors onstage paused and the audience cheered. Lincoln bowed. Around 10:15 p.m., as Lincoln laughed at a line in the play, John Wilkes Booth shot him in the back of the head. The next morning, Lincoln was dead.

The nation’s seemingly universal reaction to the first presidential assassination is well documented in contemporary newspapers, in the formal expressions of condolences that followed, and in memoirs published in later decades. In Mourning Lincoln, Martha Hodes *91 asks: What were the “raw reactions” of people on the street, with their families, and by themselves when they heard the news? Some felt that “North and South are weeping together” but others thought the news was “glorious,” Hodes writes. She also explores how the aftermath of the assassination ultimately shaped the legacy of the Civil War. Continue reading

Names in the News: Cruz ’92 Announces Presidential Run, Author Lee Discusses His Work, and More

Sen. Ted Cruz ’92 (U.S. Senate portrait)

Sen. Ted Cruz ’92 (U.S. Senate portrait)

Shortly after midnight on Monday, Texas senator TED CRUZ ’92 announced on Twitter that he is running for president in 2016. He delivered a formal speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. on Monday and is the first candidate to officially enter the race. In an op-ed for CNN, professor of history and public affairs JULIAN ZELIZER analyzed Cruz’s chances by comparing his campaign to that of Barry Goldwater, the Republican senator from Arizona who ran against Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Johnson became president after defeating Goldwater, whose extremism “scared off” voters in solidly Republican states and helped Johnson win a landslide victory. MARC FISHER ’80 of The Washington Post also wrote about Cruz in a feature story that includes a look at the candidate’s Princeton years.

Creative writing professor CHANG-RAE LEE spoke at the annual Bookworm Literary Festival in Beijing, where he discussed his latest novel, On Such a Full Sea, with Edward Wong of the New York Times’ Sinosphere Blog. Lee answers questions about the dystopian nature of the novel, which is set in a future where Baltimore has become B-Mor, a city of transplanted Chinese laborers; his research trip to a factory in Shenzhen, China; and the roles that environmental issues and immigration play in his narrative. Continue reading

Two Princetonians and a Motorcycle, Along the White Nile

John Hopkins ’60

John Hopkins ’60

It is 1961, and John Hopkins ’60 and Joe McPhillips ’58 have just returned from Peru. After responding to the letter of a fellow Ivy Club alumnus who has invited those traveling to Kenya to stay with him, Hopkins and McPhillips decide to board a ship to Naples and from there travel through Europe to Africa. In Munich, they buy a white BMW motorcycle they christen “The White Nile” for the African river they will follow during their journey. Hopkins’ The White Nile Diaries retraces the two friends’ long ago adventures and offers a glimpse into a time when Africa was a tantalizing adventure for some young men.

The book intersperses accounts of the pair’s sojourns in each country with letters from their host in Kenya. Along the way, Hopkins and McPhillips are set upon by a group of armed men seeking revenge for violence in Tunisia and are shot at by Libyan soldiers as they try to slip unnoticed across the border with their undocumented motorcycle. They experience the 120-degree dry heat of the Sahara, the inside of a jail cell in Libya, and the wonders of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Like a North American Che Guevara and Alberto Granado, Hopkins and McPhillips travel 6,000 miles and arrive at Impala Farm, which turns out to be very different from what they expected. Continue reading

Names in the News: Sewell ’86 on Selma Today, Touring China with Hessler ’92, and More

Rep. Terri Sewell ’86, third from right, took part in the March 7 Selma commemoration with President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Rep. Terri Sewell ’86, third from right, took part in the March 7 Selma commemoration with President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In a piece for the Washington Post, style writer Krissah Thompson followed Rep. TERRI SEWELL ’86, D-Ala., to her hometown of Selma. Sewell and her family and friends reflected on the city’s historic significance and the way Selma has faltered in the years since Sewell graduated as a debate champion from the city’s fully integrated public high school — now effectively resegregated and without the celebrated debate team. “We need to live Selma and know that the assaults of the past are here again,” Sewell said during an address delivered at Selma’s Brown Chapel A.M.E. “Old battles are here again.”

Author PETER HESSLER ’92 wrote in The New Yorker about his experience traveling on a publicity tour in Beijing with the Chinese censor of his books. The story goes on to consider more broadly his experience as an American author writing about China, and the role of his Chinese translators — whose censorship, he says, is a sort of “defensive” censorship intended to circumvent entirely any negative attention from officials. Of recent articles that are critical of American writers who accept manuscript changes so that they can publish in China, Hessler writes, “The articles tend to take a narrowly Western perspective. … This was one reason I went on the tour — I figured that the best way to understand censorship is to spend a week with your censor.”

For 15 years, Sepp Blatter has been president of FIFA, the international governing body of soccer. Now, as FIFA’s reputation continues to spiral downward, Blatter faces a number of potential challengers in the next election. One of them is Prince ALI BIN AL HUSSEIN ’99 of Jordan. In an interview with The New York Times, Prince Ali called for more transparency, more collaborative decision-making, and more financial accountability to FIFA’s member nations. Continue reading

For Busy Adults, a Hands-on Approach to Becoming More Creative

Danny Gregory ’82

Danny Gregory ’82

Who has time for art these days? “You don’t have a second to catch your breath. To smell the roses or the coffee. Your life is getting more and more full and crazy,” Danny Gregory ’82 writes in Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to Be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are. Gregory believes that art can make people “saner and happier,” and help them be present and really see the beautiful things they already have. He offers pages filled with striking illustrations, accompanied by instructions for drawing activities that readers can do in a few minutes every day.

Readers learn how to make “art with a small ‘a’,” starting on the first day by drawing the contours of their breakfast. Next, Gregory encourages them to draw their medicine cabinets, their reflections in the coffee pot, their napping children, passing strangers, and animals in a zoo. There are activities to do during traffic jams, at the doctor’s office, and with groups of friends. Ultimately, Gregory writes, “Creativity can become a habit that fits into your life, like Pilates or flossing, only a lot more fulfilling.” Continue reading

Names in the News: Smith To Head Swarthmore, Singer ’97 on the Rise of Robots, and More

Princeton Dean Valerie Smith will be Swarthmore’s next president. (Brian Wilson/Office of Communications)

Princeton Dean Valerie Smith will be Swarthmore’s next president. (Brian Wilson/Office of Communications)

Dean of the College VALERIE SMITH was named the 15th president of Swarthmore College on Feb. 21. She will be Swarthmore’s first African American president, as well as its second female president. At Princeton, Smith was also the founding director of the Center for American Studies and is currently the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature and a professor of English and African American Studies. She will begin her duties at Swarthmore on July 1. In a Philadephia Inquirer interview, Gil Kemp, chair of Swarthmore’s board of trustees, said of Smith, “I think this is a marvelous fit … Her awareness of our distinctive competence, focus on academic rigor, commitment to the common good — it’s a marvelous confluence.”

In an op-ed for CNN.com, New America Foundation Strategist and Senior Fellow PETER W. SINGER ’97 writes about the rise of the robot in modern warfare. As robots become increasingly more automated, he explains, debates over their place in battle have become more complicated. He concludes, however, that “one thing is clear: Like the present, the future of war will be robotic.”

Former Tennessee senator BILL FRIST ’74 and former Georgia representative JIM MARSHALL ’72 penned a Washington Post op-ed about their suggested reforms to the Veterans Health Administration. Their piece coincided with the release of a report by the Fixing Veterans Health Care task force, of which Frist and Marshall are co-chairs. Continue reading

David Treuer ’92’s Novel Explores Secrets and Desire in World War II-era America

David Treuer ’92

David Treuer ’92

It is August 1942. Frankie Washburn has left his life as a Princeton student to return to the Pines, his family’s rustic Minnesota home on an Indian reservation, one last time before he joins the Air Force. Waiting for him are his parents; the Indian caretaker he spent childhood summers quietly shadowing; Billy, a longtime friend who has become something much more intimate; and the news that a German prisoner-of-war has escaped from the camp across the river.

The search for the German soldier culminates in a shocking act of violence with consequences that will shape the characters’ lives. In Prudence, David Treuer ’92 pushes the boundaries of gender, race, and sexual orientation to tell a story of loss and desire in World War II-era America. Nobel Prize-winning author and professor emeritus Toni Morrison calls the novel “a wondrous and mesmerizing narrative — intricate, seductive, and wholly gratifying.” Continue reading

Slavery in Jamaica and the Antebellum South Brought to Life in A Tale of Two Plantations

Richard S. Dunn *52 *55

Richard S. Dunn *52 *55

Historian Richard S. Dunn *52 *55 has spent the last 40 years constructing a portrait of the final decades of slavery. In A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, Dunn draws a richly compelling history of the lives of three generations of slaves at the Mesopotamia sugar estate in Jamaica and the Mount Airy plantation in Virginia.

“Slavery caused terrible suffering to the black people in both regions,” Dunn writes, “but in strikingly dissimilar ways.” At Mesopotamia, Dunn found, life was marked by deadly work regimens, rampant disease, and dependence on the slave trade for new laborers. At Mount Airy, families often were broken up as “surplus” slaves were sold or moved to other work sites. More than 200 of the estate’s slaves were sent 800 miles away, Dunn found in his study of the papers left behind by the owners. Dunn provides a detailed account of the lives of two enslaved women: field hand Sarah Affir from Mesopotamia and Winney Grimshaw at Mount Airy. Continue reading

Zelizer Re-examines President Johnson and the “Great Society”

Professor Julian Zelizer

Professor Julian Zelizer

In the three years between November 1963, when he became president, and November 1966, when the Democratic Party was routed in the midterm elections, Lyndon Johnson pushed through Congress the legislative accomplishments of the “Great Society:” the Civil Rights Act, the War on Poverty program, Medicare and Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, and the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.

Previous assessments of Johnson’s presidency have attributed his success to a receptive Congress and his force of personality, buttressed by his 6-foot-4-inch stature and his use of “the Treatment,” which history and public affairs professor Julian Zelizer describes as “physically and verbally bullying, cajoling, lobbying, and threatening.”

9781594204340_large_The_Fierce_Urgency_of_NowIn The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society, Zelizer questions that view. He examines the crucial role Congress played in passing and eventually blocking initiatives driven by the president, as well as the larger political climate that was conducive to change-making legislation. He argues that “the work of grassroots activists and changes in the power structure of Congress enabled a liberal president to fulfill his grand legislative ambition — the creation of a second New Deal that would complete the work of Franklin Roosevelt.”

Kirkus Reviews calls The Fierce Urgency of Now “a smart, provocative study.” Alan Krueger, a Princeton professor of economics and public policy and former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, writes, “Zelizer’s book is a valuable antidote to all those who say we just need Barack Obama to be more like Lyndon Johnson to get things done in Washington.”

Reexamining the Life of Civil War General Stonewall Jackson

S.C. Gwynne ’74

S.C. Gwynne ’74

When Thomas J. Jackson began his Civil War career, he was known among his students at the Virginia Military Institute as the college’s worst teacher, a literalist when it came to following military orders, and an implausible star in the Mexican-American War. He also was a confirmed Unionist who hated the very idea of the tremendous conflict that secession would bring. Despite his aversion to war, the man known as Stonewall Jackson became one of the greatest Southern heroes of the Civil War.

As S.C. Gwynne ’74 writes in Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson, in a war that “made a specialty of such changes,” Jackson’s transformation stands out. With the same vivid prose that marked his previous book, Pulitzer Prize finalist Empire of the Summer Moon, Gwynne offers a fresh perspective on the life of the man who, 14 months after the start of the war, had become the most famous military figure in the Western world.

Continue reading

Forty-five Years After Its Publication, John Brooks ’42’s Business Book Is a Hit

John Brooks ’42

John Brooks ’42

An impassioned endorsement from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has put a long-forgotten business book by John Brooks ’42 on the bestseller lists.

Gates called Business Adventures, which came out in 1969, “the best business book I’ve ever read” in a blog post in July. He also mentioned that the book initially was loaned to him by fellow business titan Warren Buffett. Business Adventures is a collection of essays on topics ranging from the Ford Edsel to the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain. Brooks, who died in 1993, wrote the pieces for The New Yorker, where he was a staff writer.

The book had been out of print, but publishers rushed to re-issue it. It since has made The New York Times best-seller list.
Continue reading

The Brandywine: An Intimate Portrait, by W. Barksdale Maynard ’88

W. Barksdale Maynard ’88

W. Barksdale Maynard ’88

The author: W. Barksdale Maynard ’88, a lecturer at Princeton, has previously published six books, including Woodrow Wilson: Princeton to the Presidency, Princeton: America’s Campus, and the award-winning Walden Pond: A History.

The book: The Brandywine River winds from southeastern Pennsylvania into Delaware and carries with it a rich story. Maynard offers a sweeping narrative of the river and the men and women who shaped the region’s culture and history. They include the du Ponts, who made their fortune there, and Andrew Wyeth, whose paintings captured the people and natural landscape of the region.

MaynardOpening lines: “It comes down from the Welsh Mountains and twists its way through some of the prettiest countryside in the middle states before gushing along a rocky gorge at Wilmington and meeting tidewater. The quintessential Piedmont stream, running lively over the rocks, the Brandywine finally loses itself into the flat and featureless Christina River, which joins the Delaware Bay.” Continue reading

Goldstein *77 Imagines Plato Today

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein *77 (Steven Pinker)

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein *77 (Steven Pinker)

Plato at the Googleplex, by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein *77 (Pantheon)

The author: Goldstein is a novelist and philosopher who has been the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” award, recognized as the Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association, and elected to the Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also is the author of six novels, two studies, and a number of short stories and essays.

The book: What would happen if Plato were to reappear in the 21st century as an author on a nation-wide book tour? What would he say about crowd-sourcing at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.? About child-rearing during a panel conversation with a “tiger mom” and a Freudian psychoanalyst? Or about personal identity and free will while getting a brain scan in the cognitive neuroscience lab of a prestigious university? Plato explores these topics with people he meets on the book tour in modern-day Platonic dialogues that Publishers’ Weekly called “entertaining and accessible.” Goldstein weaves passages from Plato’s actual writings into the conversations and provides an exploration of Plato’s ideas. Continue reading