Roberta Isleib ’75
Fifteen years ago, Roberta Isleib ’75 was a practicing clinical psychologist, an avid mystery reader, and a recent convert to the game of golf. Then a friend suggested that she combine her interests and try her hand at writing a golf novel. Two years later, Isleib produced the first draft of Six Strokes Under, a murder mystery starring a female golfer who must overcome psychological setbacks to achieve her dream of playing on the LPGA tour. Today, Isleib is full-time novelist publishing her 13th mystery, Death with All the Trimmings, under her pen name, Lucy Burdette.
The transition from psychologist to full-time writer was surprisingly easy, she says: “In my work as a therapist, I helped people understand themselves by looking for patterns in their family history, and tracing how these might lead to feeling stuck in the present. A detective story is similar: you start with a problem, and then look for clues so you can figure out the solution.” With a nine-month timeline for producing each book, Isleib is a disciplined writer. “I write a thousand words a day. I learned in my psychology training to set small goals and stick to them, rather than feel overwhelmed by the big picture,” she says. Continue reading
Three books by Princeton alumni were featured in The New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of 2014: A Replacement Life, by Boris Fishman ’01; American Innovations, by Rivka Galchen ’98; On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, by Alice Goffman *10; and Family Life, by Akhil Sharma ’92. Emeritus professor James McPherson also made the list with his biography of Jefferson Davis, Embattled Rebel. Times Book Review editors also named Sharma’s novel as one of the year’s 10 best.
Read more about the authors in the PAW Archives:
Boris Fishman ’01: Immigrant Experiences Inspire a Debut Novel
Fishman, who was born in the former Soviet Union and came to the United States at age 9, told PAW contributor Maria LoBiondo that the immigrant experience has played a key role in his writing. “Outwardly I’m very American, but inwardly I’m Russian,” he said. “The conflict is very rich for writing. Honey for art, but vinegar for life.”
Tiger of the Week: Author Rivka Galchen ’98
Galchen’s fresh, innovative short-story collection earned high marks from reviewers.
Life on the Run
Goffman, a rising star in sociology, chronicled the human costs of America’s penal system after spending her 20s immersed in fieldwork with wanted young men.
Tiger of the Week: Novelist Akhil Sharma ’92
Sharma’s semi-autobiographical second novel was the result of a sometimes painful writing process that took nearly a decade. He wrote about the experience in a personal essay for The New York Times.
For the record: This post has been updated to include Akhil Sharma ’92’s novel Family Life.
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.
Brooke Shields ’87
In her new memoir, There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me, Brooke Shields ’87 details her early career as a famous child actress, her years at Princeton, and the effects of her mother’s decades-long battle with alcoholism.
First put in the spotlight at the age of 11 months in an ad for Ivory soap, Shields describes life on the movie sets of Pretty Baby, The Blue Lagoon, and Endless Love; her marriage to tennis star Andre Agassi; and her decision, as an adult, to remove her mother, Teri, from her longtime role managing her career.
At Princeton, Shields initially was so homesick that she told her mother she had decided to drop out (her mother persuaded her to stay). She also details how photographers pursued her:
The paparazzi tried to sneak onto campus, dressed like what they thought college students looked like, and follow me around. The students were great and they alerted the school and me if anyone saw anybody suspicious. One photographer hid in a vent to photograph me walk to a class; another attempted to bribe a Mathey College freshman to take a camera into the showers and snap me in the nude. They would have been in for a surprise if they tried, because I had taken to showering in a one-piece bathing suit!
Gary Krist ’79
“It is no easy matter to go to heaven by way of New Orleans,” reads the epigraph of Gary Krist ’79’s book Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans. If readers aren’t convinced of this by page one, they certainly will be by the end of the book: Krist delivers a harrowing tale of a debauched, crime-ridden city as it struggles to raise itself from moral decay.
By the late 1890s, New Orleans’ elite had had enough of the city’s violence, prostitution, drinking, and rampant crime. In an effort to curb the influence of the city’s underworld, the government founded the red-light district of Storyville. There, Tom Anderson, once a scrappy kid from a bad neighborhood, reigned as the aristocratic and wildly popular “mayor.” The streets of Anderson’s domain were populated by cosmopolitan madams, eager customers, corrupt police, and a dangerous serial killer known as “the Axman,” as well as jazz musicians Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong. It was on this battleground that New Orleans would wage a war against itself, as underworld and high society fought for dominance.
Library Journal writes that Empire of Sin “proves that truth really is stranger than fiction” while Publishers Weekly applauds Krist for writing a “story more vivid and twist-filled than most crime fiction.” Krist, who also is the author of City of Scoundrels and The White Cascade, says he was drawn to this topic because of “how the social, racial, and moral issues of the times played out” in this unique setting.
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.