A selection of books, films, and recordings by UChicago alumni.

Slaves for Peanuts: A Story of Conquest, Liberation, and a Crop That Changed History

By Jori Lewis, AB’00, AM’00; The New Press, 2022

Long after European nations officially banned slavery in the territories they colonized, the continent’s demand for peanut oil—used to lubricate machinery during the Industrial Revolution—ensured that slavery and indentured servitude would endure in West Africa well into the 20th century. In Slaves for Peanuts, journalist Jori Lewis taps archival sources from two continents to chronicle a little-known chapter in African history, including stories of enslaved people who took back their freedom.

On Rotation

By Shirlene Obuobi, MD’18; Avon, 2022

The debut novel by cartoonist and cardiology fellow Shirlene Obuobi features a protagonist in the midst of a quarter-life crisis. Ghanaian American medical student Angie Appiah feels pressure from her parents to do everything right, but when she bombs an important exam, gets dumped by her lawyer boyfriend, and falls for a sexy artist, the path to success seems uncertain. Set in Chicago, the coming-of-age story captures the joy and intensity of embarking on a career in medicine.

Horse Racing the Chicago Way: Gambling, Politics, and Organized Crime, 1837–1911

By Steven A. Riess, AM’69, PhD’74; Syracuse University Press, 2022

Even in the 1880s, when the Chicago White Stockings won five National League pennants, the most popular sport in the city was not baseball but horse racing. By the late 19th century, Chicago was second only to New York as a center for thoroughbred racing and off-track gambling. Historian Steven Riess traces the rise and fall of the sport’s popularity and its relationship to big-city politics, social class, syndicate crime, and corruption.

Benefit Street

By Adria Bernardi, AM’89; University of Alabama Press, 2022

Writer and translator Adria Bernardi’s third novel weaves a tapestry of people, cities, and the relationships that hold them together. In the unnamed provincial capital of an unnamed country, a circle of women meet every Tuesday at a local teahouse. They share the details of their everyday lives against the backdrop of an increasingly authoritarian regime and the threat of war and displacement.

Babylost: Racism, Survival, and the Quiet Politics of Infant Mortality, from A to Z

By Monica J. Casper, AB’88; Rutgers University Press, 2022

“Every day, small persons die in their first year of life, often quietly and invisibly,” writes sociologist Monica Casper in the introduction to Babylost. US infant mortality rates are among the highest in the industrialized world—and Black and Native American babies are far more likely than White babies to perish before their first birthdays. Presenting her research along with women’s stories of loss and grief, Casper explores the social and cultural forces shaping this tragedy.

For additional alumni book releases, use the link to the Magazine’s Goodreads bookshelf at