Alumni books

(Collage by Helen Gregg)


The Magazine lists a selection of general interest books, films, and albums by alumni. For additional alumni releases, browse the Magazine’s Goodreads bookshelf.

Stuff Every College Student Should Know

Blair Thornburgh, AB’12 Author

In her debut book, Blair Thornburgh shares with the next generation of undergraduates insights gleaned from her four years in the College. Stuff Every College Student Should Know offers practical advice on topics including how to cook with a microwave, how to ask your parents for money, and how to pass a test you forgot to study for. The pocket-sized reference also touches on life after graduation, with tips to guide students through résumé writing and job interviews.

Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording

David Grubbs, AM’91, PhD’05 Author

Until someone invents a time machine, the only way to hear experimental and avant-garde music from the 1960s is via a recording, whether vinyl, magnetic, optical, or digital. Yet many musicians at the time—John Cage most famously—considered sound recordings antithetical to the fleeting, unpredictable, in-the-moment performances they most valued. David Grubbs, a recording artist himself, explores this dilemma and how it is magnified in our age of widely available archival recordings.

Precarious Prescriptions: Contested Histories of Race and Health in North America

Laurie B. Green, PhD’99; John McKiernan-González; and Martin Summers Editors

The complex history of medicine encompasses both world-altering scientific breakthroughs and human rights abuses, the latter often rationalized through racial prejudice. This collection of essays examines the intersections between medicine and race—from the demonization of peyote in native healing to the rise of the “crack baby” as a symbolic cultural bogeyman—and sheds light on the relationship between race as a social construct and race as a personal experience.

The Dollar Trap: How the US Dollar Tightened Its Grip on Global Finance

Eswar S. Prasad, PhD’92 Author

The global financial crisis, growing overseas competition, and political gridlock around US economic policy may appear to be taking a toll on the dollar’s dominance in the international marketplace. But according to economist Eswar Prasad, these pressures have actually bolstered the hegemony of the iconic greenback. In The Dollar Trap, Prasad examines why, despite the emergence of newfangled alternatives like Bitcoin, the dollar-centric system remains too big to fail.

Life Transitions in America

Francesco Duina, AB’91, AM’91 Author

How do Americans perceive major life changes such as having a child or getting married? In Life Transitions in America, Francesco Duina explores this question, illuminating common threads in how American culture understands such passages in general—both as an individual rebirth that primes us to become the best version of our future selves and as a universal, continuous experience that connects our life cycle to those of others.

The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success

Megan McArdle, MBA’01 Author

“Failure can be the best thing that ever happened to you (though it may sometimes feel like the worst),” writes Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View columnist and economics blogger. McArdle argues that treating setbacks as opportunities to learn and improve is essential to advancement in life and work. The Up Side of Down puts our inevitable mistakes into perspective by looking at how organizations like GM, Coca-Cola, and NASA translated failure into success.

Annie Marion Maclean and the Chicago Schools of Sociology, 1894–1934

Mary Jo Deegan, PhD’75 Author

Annie Marion MacLean, PhM 1897, PhD 1900, the first woman to receive a graduate degree in sociology, has been called the “mother of ethnography” for her pioneering research on working women’s issues. Mary Jo Deegan’s book documents MacLean’s life and work, including her leadership in sociology at the University, her involvement in creating a community of women at Hull House, and her activism on issues such as feminism, labor, immigration, and race.