Arts & Culture


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Song in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage
Pauli Murray ’65JSD
Liveright Publishing, $22.95

When Pauli Murray was chosen in 2016 as the namesake of one of Yale’s new residential colleges, few knew the remarkable story of this pioneering lawyer, civil rights and women’s rights activist, scholar, essayist, poet, and cleric, who was the first female African American Episcopal priest and counted Eleanor Roosevelt and Thurgood Marshall as good friends. That life is warmly and stirringly recounted in a reissue of Murray’s memoir, originally published two years after her death in 1987.


How to Tell Fate from Destiny and Other Skillful Word Distinctions
Charles Harrington Elster ’81
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $15.99

The author of this charming and useful book has made a career out of literary finesse. In his latest effort to “clarify the mind and general discourse,” the “professional distinctioneer” offers witty, wise advice on the right way to deploy some of the English language’s trickiest words, from a and an to zero, zeros, zeroes. An example: is Elster really the “author”? Or is he simply the “writer”? (See page 298.) Study Elster’s distinctioneering and it will no longer be your fate to be a sloppy writer. Even if you thought it was your destiny.


Them: Why We Hate Each Other—And How to Heal
Ben Sasse ’04PhD
St. Martin’s Press, $28.99

The historian, former college president, and current Republican senator from Nebraska sees a republic in crisis: an America in real danger of dying by suicide—to echo a fear voiced by Abraham Lincoln in 1838. The cause, says Sasse, is “one uncomfortable word. Loneliness.” The book offers a nonpartisan analysis of what’s “ripping us apart,” as well as a refreshingly apolitical way to “restore the bonds of community that give individuals a place in the world.”


Spirals: A Family’s Education in Football
Timothy B. Spears ’80
University of Nebraska Press, $24.95

With the run-up to the Super Bowl in progress, the nation’s gridiron obsession is hard to ignore. Spears, an American studies professor at Middlebury and a decent, if not stellar, offensive lineman at Yale in the mid-1970s, understands the sport’s hold on fans and players alike. In his look at football’s “role in shaping the contours of masculinity” and collegiate life, he also examines the sport’s impact on the three generations of his family who played football—Spears and his dad for Yale, his grandfather for Dartmouth —“hoping to recover a truth that, like a fumbled ball, lies just beyond reach.”


Provocations: Collected Essays
Camille Paglia ’74PhD
Pantheon Books, $40

Since the publication of Paglia’s breathtaking and controversial cultural critique Sexual Personae in 1990, the professional provocateur has made a high-octane career of poking her stilettos at artists, educators, theologians, politicians, and countless others who have roused her considerable intellectual ire. This collection of Paglia’s “greatest hits” from the past quarter century, she writes, will best suit “those who elevate free thought and free speech over all other values.” She takes on Rihanna, Alfred Hitchcock, Donald Trump, John Boswell, Jesus, and many others.


Thirty Love: Conversations about Tennis
Carl Bialik ’01
podcast available at

Most coverage of tennis centers on the players. But when Bialik, a veteran sportswriter, planned this entertaining and informative podcast, he had a different idea. In episodes that are under 30 minutes, Thirty Love highlights “some of the most interesting people in tennis” who are not named Williams, Nadal, or Federer. Instead, Bialik talks to a wide variety of writers, filmmakers, engineers, executives, former players, and fans—about every conceivable aspect of the game.

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