Arts & Culture


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Mrs.: A Novel
Caitlin Macy ’92
Little, Brown, $27

“Look at you in your fur! You were so smart to wear it!” From the opening line of this remarkable recreation of the lives of New York City’s post-Madoff ultra-wealthy, it’s clear that most of the characters will not want for much of anything. Well, anything material. This page-turner of a novel revolves around several moms whose youngsters attend an exclusive preschool harder to get into than Yale. The reader is treated to an anthropologically precise look into the lives of these women and their spouses, whose ambition has put them on a collision course.


The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta
Kushanava Choudhury ’08PhD
Bloomsbury, $28

“Of all the people who came to Ellis Island in the first decades of the twentieth century, more than half went back. They never told us that on our seventh-grade class trip.” So begins Choudhury’s memoir of being one of the returnees—in his case, from an adopted home in New Jersey to his native Calcutta, a chaotic and decaying metropolis whose “strangeness was truly strange.” Having been asked by a psychiatrist “why anyone in their right mind would return,” the veteran journalist sketches out the rich life he and his wife have made there.


The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America
Timothy Snyder, Levin Professor of History
Tim Duggan Books/Crown Penguin Random House, $27

For much of this century, writes historian Snyder, the prevailing belief in Europe and North America revolved around “the politics of inevitability, a sense that the future is just more of the present.” But as racial and economic inequality grew in the United States and Europe, Russia exerted a malevolent influence. A toxic manifestation of “sadopopulism”—in which public policies were designed to hurt, rather than help, the masses—took hold. Inevitability began to crumble into the “politics of eternity”: a 1984-esque realm of eternal crisis and political fiction, in which “progress gives way to doom.” Snyder offers a road map for a different pathway, toward a “politics of responsibility.”


Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations
Amy Chua, the John M. Duff Jr. Professor of Law
Penguin, $28

To group is quintessentially human, but while tribalism can be an inclusive source of “joy and salvation,” it may also exacerbate the “instinct to exclude,” which can be twisted towards “hate mongering by opportunistic power seekers.” In a sobering analysis, Chua argues that curiously, and also tragically, this country’s foreign policy has been “spectacularly blind to the power of tribal politics,” with the failed wars in Vietnam and Iraq the result; “if we want to save our nation, we need to come to grips with [tribalism’s] growing power at home.”


Lincoln and Churchill: Statesmen at War
Lewis E. Lehrman ’60
Stackpole Books, $34.95

“Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill differed in so very many ways,” notes historian Lehrman. But while their statures and personalities were almost polar opposites, both men possessed “the character, stamina, communication skills, and ruthless intensity required for supreme command in war.” In an absorbing look at the development of these two statesmen, Lehrman explores the trials and qualities that made each of these leaders able to marshal an “indomitable will to win, maintained through persistent defeats,” and so to lead their countries through terrible times.


The Stones of Yale
Adam Van Doren, Lecturer, Yale School of Art
David R. Godine, $29.95

“Great buildings inspire. They transform how we think, how we see, how we learn—how we act,” writes artist and lecturer Van Doren. He has spent years capturing the buildings of Yale, from the neo-Gothic to the Brutalist, and interviewing the people who’ve lived in, worked in, and been transformed by them. The result is an unusual Yale biography: a collection of his luminous watercolors, serving as chapter headings of stories told by building residents—from archivist Judith Ann Schiff to football star and sports consultant Calvin Hill ’69—and by the crafters of the stones themselves.

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