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Imperial Dreams

by Tim Gallagher (Atria)

The search for the imperial woodpecker—the largest bird of its kind—takes the editor-in-chief of the Lab of Ornithology’s magazine Living Bird on a dangerous journey through Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental, a remote, mountainous region where Geronimo’s Apaches held out and Pancho Villa fought—but is now controlled by violent drug cartels that intimidate local villagers and destroy the bird’s habitat. Using a map of earlier expeditions given to him by a dying friend, Gallagher and naturalist Martjan Lammertink struggle up and down the rugged terrain as they try to catch sight of the elusive and endangered woodpecker.

The Priests of Our Democracy by Marjorie Heins ’67 (NYU). During the Cold War in the Fifties, several New York City professors were fired for refusing to answer questions about their supposed ties to the Communist Party. Heins, a civil liberties lawyer and founding director of the Free Expression Policy Project, shows how the loyalty purges during the worst years of the Red Scare eventually produced important Supreme Court decisions. “Academic freedom is a special concern of the First Amendment,” she writes, “because genuine education is not only liberating in itself; it is the basis of a successful democracy.”

Mirage by Jenn Reese ’92 (Candlewick). In the second book of the Above World trilogy, the desert may be home to the Equians, a race of horselike humans, but it’s a hellish place for an undersea dweller like Aluna. She and her friends travel to the city of Mirage to warn the Equians about the threat of Karl Strand, the twisted creator of HydroTek, but Strand’s clone, Scorch, has convinced Mirage’s leader to join forces with Strand. The friends must discover how to defeat Scorch at the Thunder Trials, win over the Equians, and save Above World from Strand.

Radical by Michelle Rhee ’92 (HarperCollins). The founder of StudentsFirst and the New Teacher Project tells the story of her attempt to reform the public school system of Washington, D.C. During her controversial term as chancellor, she cut the number of administrators, closed inefficient schools, and fought with the American Teachers’ Union to eliminate tenure in exchange for merit pay. Since her resignation in 2010, she has continued her work to improve education for American children. “As citizens,” she writes, “we must hold our elected officials accountable for making decisions based on the interests of kids, not special interests.”

Who Needs Magic? by Kathy McCullough ’84 (Delacorte). In the sequel to the young adult novel Don’t Expect Magic, Delaney Collins isn’t content with making small wishes come true for just anybody; she really wants to test her full powers as a fairy godmother. But finding the right beneficiary to grant a “major, love-finding, life-changing, happily-ever-after wish” turns out to be a lot harder than she expects. And now she has competition from Ariella, another young fairy godmother, who boasts about the number of wishes she’s granted. Delaney must learn the lesson that there are no magic powers without patience, responsibility, and hard work.


Riffraff by Stephen Cushman ’78 (LSU). In his fourth collection, a professor of English at the University of Virginia finds the value in the quotidian experiences that we often overlook.


Bear Is Broken by Lachlan Smith, MFA ’03 (Grove Atlantic). After Leo Maxwell’s older brother, Teddy, a criminal defense attorney, is shot in front of him, Leo searches San Francisco’s seamy side for the gunman. The more he discovers about his brother’s past, the more questions arise. Teddy had many enemies: his ex-wife, his clients, and members of the police. And Leo’s investigation makes him the next target.

How to Greet Strangers by Joyce Thompson ’70 (Lethe). Archer Barron is a black, gay law school graduate and drag queen suffering from a loss of faith. A reluctant detective, he counts up the ways that an Oakland Santería priestess promised to save his life and ruined it instead—especially since she’s been murdered, and Barron is the prime suspect.

Winter Break by Merry Jones ’70 (Severn House). In the third Harper Jennings mystery, pregnant Iraq war vet and Cornell graduate student Jennings sees a naked man being dragged into the woods by her house, but her mother and the police suggest that she imagined it. Her search for the truth soon puts her in danger.


Fabricated by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman ’89 (Wiley). The new world of 3-D printing is poised to change everything from manufacturing to medicine to the way we cook. A Cornell professor of engineering and a technology analyst see the promise of this new technology, but they also explore potential pitfalls, including the effect on intellectual property laws and the increase in plastic waste.

We Modern People by Anindita Banerjee (Wesleyan). Decades before science fiction received its name in the West, its Russian equivalent formed an integral part of intellectual debates about the new realities of the twentieth century. An associate professor of comparative literature at Cornell explores the history of the genre in its Russian context.

Turning Points in Natural Theology from Bacon to Darwin by Stuart Peterfreund ’66 (Palgrave). The debate on evolution versus intelligent design has its roots in the much older discussion of natural theology. An English professor at Northeastern University focuses on the terms under which the argument changed over the course of 250 years, from Bacon’s Advancement of Learning to Darwin’s Origin of Species.

The Immune System Recovery Plan by Susan Blum ’82 (Scribner). Autoimmune disease affects an estimated 23 million Americans. An assistant clinical professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine examines the root causes of autoimmune diseases and offers four steps to healing and preventing illness.

Korean Art: The Power of Now by Marcelle Joseph ’88 (Thames & Hudson). An independent curator surveys the contemporary Korean art scene, profiling the work of 120 artists, gallery directors, and collectors, as well as highlighting the country’s leading museums.

Sexual Relations in the Oneida Community edited by Anthony Wonderley, PhD ’81 (Richard W. Couper). The utopian Oneida Community openly practiced group marriage, one of the most radical social and sexual experiments in nineteenth-century America. A curator of collections at the Oneida Community Mansion House edits some of the key writings of the commune’s leader, John Humphrey Noyes.

Andrea Vaccaro by Anna K. Tuck-Scala ’87 (Paparo Edizioni). Using archival sources and newly discovered documents, a professor of art at Temple University’s Rome campus aims to re-establish the historical significance of Vaccaro, an important seventeenth-century Neapolitan painter.

Shortcut to Prosperity by Mark Hopkins ’81 (Greenleaf). The founder of Peak Industries and Crescendo Capital Partners shares his roadmap for developing a successful entrepreneurial career.

The Customer Service Survival Kit by Richard S. Gallagher ’76 (AMACOM). An expert on workplace communication demonstrates techniques and phrases for defusing conflicts with difficult customers.

Connecticut Employment Law by Pamela J. Moore ’81 (ALM). This comprehensive handbook on employee relations draws upon the author’s years of experience as a labor and employment attorney.


Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler ’79 (HarperCollins). In Zahler’s third fairy tale novel, Princess Meriel’s brothers have been cursed and turned into swans. With the help of her friends Riona and Liam—a half-witch and her brother—Meriel fights to break the enchantment and save her brothers.

The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng ’79, MS ’84; illustrated by Abigail Halpin (Houghton Mifflin). Fourth-grader Anna Wang loves books and turns to them for companionship. But they can’t help make people like her nor can they erase her embarrassment over her mother’s awkward English.