I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, Michelle McNamara ’92 (Harper). In the 1970s and ’80s, a serial rapist and murderer terrorized California and then disappeared, never to be caught or even identified. Decades later, McNamara, a journalist who started the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com and was profiled in the spring 2013 issue of this magazine, set out to find the person she dubbed the Golden State Killer. McNamara died in April 2016 while the book was in progress, but collaborators completed the manuscript, which reflects McNamara’s determination to bring the mysterious criminal to justice. As Stephen King put it, the book “deals with two obsessions, one light and one dark. The Golden State Killer is the dark half; Michelle McNamara’s is the light half.”
Superfans: Into the Heart of Obsessive Sports Fandom, George Dohrmann ’95 (Ballantine Books). Revealing the people behind the face paint, Dohrmann gets to the heart of what drives fans to extreme expressions of love for their teams (and, at times, hatred for their rivals). The Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, now a senior editor at The Athletic, also gets into their heads, exploring the latest research in sports psychology to understand the forces that inspire deep attachment and to consider when things go too far. From Minnesota Vikings football to Portland Timbers soccer, Dohrmann illuminates what makes superfans stand up and cheer.
Ten Stars: The African American Journey of Gary Cooper — Marine General, Diplomat, Businessman and Politician, Kendal Weaver (NewSouth Books). Cooper ’58 is a man of many firsts — the first African American to lead a Marine infantry company in combat, the first black U.S. ambassador to Jamaica. At Notre Dame he was in the ROTC and became the University’s first African American commissioned as a Marine officer. Raised under Jim Crow in Mobile, Alabama, Cooper returned home to become a state legislator and cabinet official. Weaver’s book retraces the trail Cooper blazed.
The Character Gap: How Good Are We? Christian Miller ’04Ph.D. (Oxford University Press). Most people’s actions exist along a spectrum from virtuous to vicious, rather than exhibiting a fixed character. It’s not “who we are,” but rather the varying “where” and “what” of situations that influence our moral choices. The scent of cinnamon buns, for example, has a measurable effect on whether we’ll help someone in need. Miller, a Wake Forest University professor, draws on psychological research to argue for the malleability of human nature and explores how we might use that knowledge to become better people.
The Philosopher’s Flight, Tom Miller ’06MFA (Simon & Schuster). In this debut historical fantasy novel, young Robert Weekes tries to find his place in the female-dominated field of empirical philosophy, whose practitioners can fly. Robert fails to become the first man in the elite flying medics of the U.S. Sigilry Corps’ Rescue and Evacuation Service during World War I. Instead, he enrolls at all-women’s Radcliffe College, where he and disillusioned war hero Danielle Hardin take on the Trenchers, a fanatical anti-philosophy group. BookPage calls The Philosopher’s Flight “wild and soaring . . . as fun a read as you’ll come across.”
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Home & Castle, Thomas Benz ’76 (Snake Nation Press). In a collection of intimate and insightful short stories, Benz explores human nature through a domestic lens. Benz is interested in “the stuff of ordinary life,” but with a twist of fictional originality, reveals it as “remarkable and strange.” His characters experience crises and endure anxieties in their suburban lives, depictions of such universality that one admirer of Benz’s stories wondered, “How did he know that about me?”
Reclaiming the Discarded: Life and Labor on Rio’s Garbage Dump, Kathleen M. Millar ’02 (Duke University Press). Scavengers known as catadores collect discarded materials from Jardim Gramacho. The image of 2,000 people picking through garbage for a living carries connotations about poverty and employment in the modern world, but Millar’s book goes deeper, expanding the conception of the good life through the stories of the catadores and their “formidable social world.” Millar, a Simon Fraser University anthropologist, argues that through their work, the catadores do more than subsist in dire circumstances, they “weave together life and labor, value and waste, and the city and its margins.”
By What Authority? Foundations for Understanding Authority in the Church, Richard R. Gaillardetz ’91Ph.D. (Liturgical Press). “Inspired by Pope Francis’s bold rereading and determined implementation of the teaching of Vatican II,” Gaillardetz, a Boston College theologian, has revised and expanded his account of the role and exercise of authority within the Catholic Church. Considering divine revelation, the role of the pope and bishops, and controversies that arise among the faithful over conflicting interpretations of church teaching, Gaillardetz explores the sources of power that influence Christian belief and practice.
The Thanks You Get, Corey B. Collins ’91 (Dorrance Publishing). In this debut novel, three people become entangled in a search for a long-lost brother. Collins, an attorney in South Florida, explores themes of family and its many definitions, the motivations for human behavior, the presence or absence of coincidence and whether, despite the flaws in our natures, we’re wired to do the right thing.
Spiritual Guides: Pathfinders in the Desert, Fred Dallmayr (University of Notre Dame Press). Our society, Dallmayr contends, suffers from the symptoms of an expanding wasteland of corruption, greed, warmongering, consumerism and environmental degradation. Where can we turn for renewal and meaning? The Packey J. Dee professor emeritus of philosophy and political science finds guidance from Paul Tillich, Raimon Panikkar, Thomas Merton and Pope Francis. What links them? “The view of spiritual life as an itinerarium, a pathway along difficult and often uncharted roads,” out of our cultural wasteland toward a more uplifting destination.
Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction, Sami Schalk ’10MFA (Duke University Press). In fictional fantasy worlds, Schalk argues, surreal representations of “bodyminds” (the mental and the physical entwined) reframe familiar contexts of race, gender and disability. An assistant professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin, Schalk’s work forces scholars of those issues “to reimagine how we understand minds and bodies moving through the world.”
The Angry Christian: A Bible-based Strategy to Care for and Discipline a Valuable Emotion, Bert Ghezzi ’69Ph.D. (Paraclete Press). Anger, Ghezzi argues in this new edition, is part of human nature, not necessarily a bad or sinful emotion. The challenge, according to the longtime speaker, author and religious educator, is to control anger, preventing it from leading to negative consequences and instead using it as an occasion of grace. Properly directed, it can spur us toward a better state of mind, leading to patience, endurance and determination to do the right thing.
As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles, Leslie Budewitz ’84J.D. (Midnight Ink). A merry Christmas season turns dark when a girl, a local ne’er-do-well shunned by her family and suspected of a robbery, turns up dead with a string of lights around her neck. In the fifth Food Lovers’ Village Mystery (featuring ten pages of recipes) from Agatha Award-winning author Budewitz, main character Erin Murphy goes on a mission to find the killer in time to have a happy holiday.
An Angry God, Paul Snyder ’66 (Wicklow Media). After service in World War II, Dan Fleming struggles with the invisible scars he carried home from overseas. Enrolling at Notre Dame, he embarks on a journey through the soul in Snyder’s novel, wrestling with his own demons and larger issues of reconciling a loving God with the evil in the world, the coexistence of religion and war, and the ambiguity of right and wrong.
Jason Kelly is an associate editor of this magazine.