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Looking for a good read during the holiday break?

From the White House to outer space, books by Northwestern faculty expand our horizons as we take time to unwind and reflect
Books by Northwestern faculty this year covered topics ranging from the White House and the women’s shoe industry to the exploits of 20th-century foreign correspondents and how our brain constructs sound.

Each year, Northwestern faculty write dozens of books that shape the national conversation, push the boundaries of scholarship and engage readers of all kinds. In 2022, they wrote about everything from the White House to outer space, showcasing the University’s expertise on a vast array of subjects.

Northwestern Now has compiled a short list of just a few of this year’s many general interest books by Northwestern faculty.

Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took on a World at War

By Deborah Cohen, Richard W. Leopold Professor of History, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

This book traces the exploits, public and private, of four leading 20th-century foreign correspondents as they crisscross continents, interviewing leaders from Gandhi to Mussolini and shaping what Americans knew about a world in crisis.

“From the moment I opened the first box of letters between these extraordinary reporters, I was hooked,” Cohen said. “In an uncanny way, their struggles are our struggles. They saw the boundaries between inner life and the world collapse, and that’s what many of us have lived, too.”

Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America

By Cody Keenan, Visiting Professor of Political Science, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Cody Keenan, President Obama’s former chief speechwriter, shares his insider account of 10 intense days in June 2015 — from a massacre by a white supremacist in South Carolina to consequential Supreme Court decisions to Obama’s “Amazing Grace” eulogy — offering a window on both the Obama White House and the craft of speechwriting.

“I wrote ‘Grace’ because it’s a story that demanded to be told,” Keenan said. “But I also wrote it for young people like my speechwriting students at Northwestern. I want them to know that politics and public service, while often frustrating, can also be joyous and exhilarating endeavors, worthy vessels for their time and energy that offer the sense of purpose they’ve been seeking.”

The Perfect Fit: Creative Work in the Global Shoe Industry

By Claudio E. Benzecry, Professor of Communication Studies and Sociology, School of Communication

How does something as simple as a shoe go from concept to completion? This book takes readers behind the scenes in the women’s shoe industry, from the craft of designing shoes to their production and distribution.

“While doing research in New York City, South China and South Brazil, I studied the people — especially technicians and fit models, but also designers, agents and production managers — behind what we in the U.S. think of as a seamless process of global commodities production and circulation,” Benzecry said. “In the book, I show the world of small techniques, routines and standards that make it possible for designers to continuously produce new, fashionable objects.”

Of Sound Mind: How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful Sonic World

By Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Communication Sciences and Otolaryngology, School of Communication

Processing sound is one of the brain’s most complex and important tasks, with implications for many core functions. But what exactly happens when we hear a bird’s song, or any other sound? In this book, neurobiologist Nina Kraus takes us inside the hearing brain to provide answers.

“The sound mind engages how we sense, feel, move and think,” Kraus said. “‘Of Sound Mind’ is my love letter to sound, how sound connects us, its biological impact on making us us, and how it affects the world we live in.”

A Site of Struggle: American Art Against Anti-Black Violence

Edited by Janet Dees, Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbaum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Block Museum of Art, featuring contributions by many artists and academics

“This book was produced as a companion to the 2022 exhibition of the same name, which explored how 20th-century American art has been used to protest, process, mourn and memorialize anti-Black violence, using art history to shed light on the deep roots of racial violence in this country,” Dees said. “As a part of the exhibition’s legacy, I hope this publication will continue to be a resource for all of us who are working, in whatever way, to make a safer and more racially equitable society.”

The Nexus: Augmented Thinking for a Complex World

By Julio Ottino, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Dean of the McCormick School of Engineering, and Bruce Mau, designer and educator, McCormick School of Engineering

Finding solutions to the increasingly complex challenges facing the world requires an expansion of creativity, according to Ottino and Mau, who propose that solutions can emerge when different modes of thinking — art, technology, and science — meet complex system tools that make them easier to execute.

“‘The Nexus’ is the result of more than a decade of Ottino-Mau coffee conversations and collaborations,” Ottino said. “We wanted the physical book — a seamless multilayered intersection of words and images — to embody the very concept of ‘the nexus’ that the book is built on. We hope readers will take away inspiration, a desire to understand others’ thinking and an augmented lens to see the world.” 

Burning Down the House: How Libertarian Philosophy Was Corrupted by Delusion and Greed

By Andrew Koppelman, John Paul Stevens Professor of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

In this book, law professor Andrew Koppelman traces the philosophical origins and evolution of libertarianism, arguing that the notion of a minimal state has recently attracted what he calls a “new form of parasite”: dishonest businessmen.

“I wrote this book because there existed no short introduction to libertarianism for the general reader that was not written by enthusiasts,” Koppelman said. “It argues that modern libertarianism began as a corrective to the Depression-era vogue for central economic planning. It showed how individual liberty and free markets could improve life for everyone, especially the poorest. Today it has become a toxic blend of irresponsible anarchism, cruel disdain for the weak and rationalization for environmental catastrophe.” 

The Sky Is for Everyone: Women Astronomers in Their Own Words

Edited by Virginia Trimble and David A. Weintraub, featuring an essay by Vicky Kalogera, Daniel I. Linzer Distinguished University Professor of Physics and Astronomy, McCormick School of Engineering

This book brings together dozens of first-person essays by leading women astronomers from around the world, showing the challenges they have faced and the discoveries they’ve made while shattering the “telescopic glass ceiling.” 

“It was a true honor to be asked for a contribution to this book that includes essays from so many astronomers I have looked up to since my graduate student years,” Kalogera said. “Reading everyone’s stories about where they came from and how they navigated their careers brings mixed emotions and a strong realization of how important it is to be aware of the challenges women had and still often face.”

Cistem Failure and Black Trans Feminism

By Marquis Bey, Assistant Professor of African American Studies, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

In this book, Bey confronts difficult questions about the relationship between race and gender, asking readers to reconsider their assumptions and be open to more expansive definitions of identity.

“This book came from a place of wanting to ask myself, and others, questions about whether we need to be and do the gender category 'cisgender,’” Bey said. “In the book, I want to invite readers into thinking about other ways they might inhabit the world on more loving, open and courageous grounds. If cisgender is a gender category imposed upon us, I want to offer the possibility that we can, and perhaps must, inhabit ourselves differently.”

Clash: Presidents and the Press in Times of Crisis

By Jon Marshall, Associate Professor of Journalism, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications

Former president Donald Trump had a uniquely antagonistic relationship with the media, who he called “the enemy of the people.” However, other presidents have also clashed with reporters. This book explores the history of presidents and the press through 10 administrations.

“I thoroughly enjoyed writing ‘Clash’ because it gave me a chance to share stories about tensions between journalists and presidents stretching back to George Washington,” Marshall said. “This history helps us to understand the political, technological, economic and cultural forces that have shaped the current tumultuous relationship between the White House and the press.”