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Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution

Riverhead Books
In a diplomatic coup that would change the course of history, a surprising trio persuaded the French to arm the colonists fighting the American Revolution. Challenging the many reverent portraits of the Founding Fathers, Paul reveals that it was a Connecticut merchant, Silas Deane—not Benjamin Franklin—who laid the groundwork for the Franco-American alliance. In the process, Deane hooked up with a French spy, Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, who penned the satires on which The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville were based. Beaumarchais’s ability to secure arms and funding for the American cause hinged on a bizarre blackmail case involving the mysterious, sexually ambiguous Chevalier d’Eon, a spy for Louis XV. This rollicking tale proves that history is shaped as much by obscure figures as by great men and revolutionary ideas.

Sacred Parenting: Jewish Wisdom and Practical Guidance for Your Family’s Early Years

URJ Press
Rabbi Glickman uses sacred writings and the wisdom of ancient and modern rabbis to help parents appreciate the everyday holiness of raising children. Mundane struggles like sleep training are given the rabbinic treatment—“The night was created for no other purpose than sleep,” said Rav Judah—and sublime moments, such as the adoption of a child, are celebrated with poignant prayers. Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time to “shun embraces.” In other words, pry the toddler’s sticky hands from your leg, get a sitter, and go out to lunch with your friends.

Dark Days and Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama

Basic Books
In the usual version of American civil rights history, Martin Luther King Jr. is the noble, nonviolent hero, and Black Power activists like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael are the unruly villains. This misreading of history, says Joseph, ignores Black Power’s intellectual nuance and pragmatism. The movement’s more moderate strains made contributions to education, art, and politics, and paved the way for Barack Obama. But Joseph cautions against viewing the Obama presidency as the culmination of the civil rights movement. Instead it represents the evolution of black politics and offers hope for a democracy that lives up to the ideals it professes.

More Than It Hurts You

Josh Goldin is living the American dream—with a successful career, a beautiful house, and an adoring wife and baby son. Of course, no novel worth its salt would leave such bliss undisturbed. In this one, the crisis is propelled by a phone call that sends Josh to the emergency room, where his son is in intensive care, and his wife is suspected of having a rare disorder in which a mother intentionally harms her child. This complex page-turner wrestles with race, loss of privacy, and the appetite for attention.

David M. Carroll, SMFA65

David Carroll was a child when he fell in love with turtles. Since then the water has become his temple, his calendar, and his scrapbook. For more than thirty years he has chronicled the movement of turtles, the metamorphoses of mayflies, and the trilling of tree frogs, from the first thaw in March to the sleepy chill of November. Completed with the help of a 2006 MacArthur “genius” award, Following the Water is equal parts love poem, prayer, and elegy for a once vibrant ecology threatened by the heavy tread of humans.

“In a very literal sense, I follow the water. It starts in one place and drifts through another. But I also follow it through its different seasons and phases, through rainy and dry periods. In this book, I wanted to go in a different direction than in some of my past books. While I measured turtles and gauged the depths of vernal pools, I wanted to capture my thoughts as they drifted along with the water. I wanted to observe nature in a more abstract and intuitive, rather than empirical, way.

Turtles have a fascination for an awful lot of people. They play quite a role in human mythology, from the Chinese to Native Americans, as a symbol of longevity, of something that supports the world. There’s something about the way they’re related to the earth and the seasons. The species I know best—wood turtles, spotted turtles, and Blanding’s turtles—are especially bound to the landscape. They’re emblematic of the kind of habitat that for some reason appeals to me most strongly. I’m not drawn to the ocean or the mountains. But the wetlands—the light on the water, the plants, the wildlife—are endlessly compelling to me, and turtles move with the cycles of the water.

I have built a kinship with the turtles, and as I see them being driven into smaller and smaller corners of our planet, I feel the loss quite keenly. I’ve watched them for so long that it’s almost as though I’ve lived it. I can’t stand to see how their habitat gets eradicated, marginalized, and trivialized by our society.

When people create conservation areas, they tend to make something that’s more human playground and theme park than a natural reserve that benefits the ecologies themselves. We simplify the habitat so it’s more accessible. I would like young people to have the same experience of nature that I did. I do think it’s important to have places where people can go to experience the natural world. But we’re running out of opportunities to set land aside and exclude access. There are still some wild areas where people wouldn’t go if you didn’t cut out the thickets, change the course of the stream, and build boardwalks for them. Unless something fairly drastic happens to change our behavior, I don’t know that we’re ever going to do any better by the planet.

Also of Note Treasures of the Earth (Yale), by SALEEM H. ALI, A94, mines the social, economic, and environmental consequences of the quest for mineral wealth. Local-interest books are often amateurish snoozers, but MICHAEL BEHRENDT, A77, bucks the trend with his engaging tour of The Architectural Jewels of Rochester, New Hampshire (The History Press). LORRAINE D. EYDE, J53, is coauthor of Responsible Test Use (American Psychological Association), an interdisciplinary collection of case studies designed to promote quality assurance in testing. Wry, relatable, and finely tuned, the poems in A Tiara for the Twentieth Century, by SUZANNE RICHARDSON HARVEY, G76, run the gamut of human experience, from love and birth to war, motherhood, and death. ARNIE KOZAK, A85, explains how the cultivation of awareness through meditation can promote a happier, more purposeful existence in Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness (Wisdom Publications). In Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship (Quaker Press), DONNA McDANIEL, J56, and Vanessa Julye document three centuries of sometimes contradictory Quaker attitudes toward African Americans. The eighteenth book in the Faith Fairchild mystery series, The Body in the Sleigh (William Morrow), by KATHERINE HALL PAGE, J74, sets its murder in a small Maine town at Christmas. In The Forty Years War (Harper), Len Colodny and TOM SHACHTMAN, A63, trace the evolution of neoconservatism from its little-known role in Nixon’s downfall to its famous fruition in George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

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