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

Going Underground: Race, Space, and the Subterranean in the Nineteenth-Century United States

By Lara Langer Cohen, AB’99; Duke University Press, 2023

The metaphor of the underground—an image of clandestine, subversive activity—was popularized in newspaper coverage of the Underground Railroad in the 1840s. Bringing together a variety of 19th-century American texts—Black radical manifestos, anarchist periodicals, sensational city mystery novels, sex-magic manuals, secret society initiation rites—Lara Langer Cohen reveals the layers that the image of the underground contained at the time. This expanded notion of the underground, she suggests, can help us imagine new worldviews and modes of political activity today.

Into the Jungle! A Boy’s Comic Strip History of World War II

By Michael Kugler, PhD’94, and Jimmy Kugler; University Press of Mississippi, 2023

What can we learn from an adolescent’s retelling of World War II? Historian Michael Kugler teases out the influences underlying comics that his father, Jimmy, drew as a small-town Nebraska teen in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Drawing on wartime propaganda, news coverage, radio programming, and movies, Jimmy depicts the Pacific War as a brutal struggle between “Frogs” and “Toads.” Kugler shows how Jimmy developed his voice and rebelled against the moral expectations placed on young people at the time through his unexpected interpretation of history.

American Mermaid

By Julia Langbein, AM’07, PhD’14; Doubleday, 2023

High school English teacher Penelope Schleeman quits her job and moves to Los Angeles to write the screenplay of her best-selling novel, American Mermaid. Julia Langbein’s debut novel alternates between satirical depictions of Penny’s time among Hollywood “somebodies” and excerpts from her book. As Penny struggles to maintain artistic control over her work, the lines between reality and the fictional world she created begin to blur.

Learning to Save the World: Global Health Pedagogies and Fantasies of Transformation in Botswana

By Betsey Behr Brada, AM’05, PhD’11; Cornell University Press, 2023

In the early 2000s, Botswana had the highest prevalence rate of HIV in the world. The US government responded with a program that it claimed provided treatment to tens of thousands—a claim denied by personnel on the ground. Working “as global health’s most ardent critic and its most ambivalent friend,” anthropologist Betsey Behr Brada examines the United States’ involvement in Botswana to understand how global health alters relationships and power dynamics. At the heart of Brada’s work lies an ethical question: Is global health a social justice movement or a guise for neocolonialism?

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

By Andrew Koppelman, AB’79; St. Martin’s Press, 2022

What some Americans understand libertarianism to be—a way of thinking that led to firefighters in South Fulton, Tennessee, watching a house burn after the owner failed to pay his annual fee to the fire department—is a corrupted form of the ideology, argues Andrew Koppelman. A professor of constitutional law, Koppelman aims to show readers what this understanding of libertarianism gets wrong and how moderate libertarianism may be the best means of realizing ideals of both the right and the left.

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