The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall
By Mark W. Moffett’79
Basic Books, 2018
Mark W. Moffett’79, an acclaimed biologist described by the writer Margaret Atwood as a “daring eco-adventurer,” wrote this paradigm-shattering investigation of the social adaptations that bind societies.
The Human Swarm draws from findings in anthropology, psychology, and sociology, attempting to get at the root of essential questions humans have had for thousands of years: How do societies develop? How do we keep them going? And, why do they fail?
In his entertaining style, and with a keen ability for communicating scientific ideas to general readers, Moffett points out that most species of animals live in small, tight-knit groups, as humans once did. When an outsider approaches, they recognize the situation immediately and usually go on the attack. But humans exist in communities numbering in the thousands, even millions. How can such vast groups function as societies? For example, why can an American travel to another country, walk into a crowded cafe, and be accepted peacefully by an entirely unfamiliar group of humans? No other animal species seems to have this ability–except for ants.
Moffett writes that the idea for this book first came to him in 2007, when he encountered a kilometers-long battlefield of Argentine ants in a town near San Diego. Two super colonies, composed of billions of ants, defended their turf against each other. He pondered how the individual ants in such vast numbers identify with their respective groups when they appear almost identical. Filled with similar provocative stories about other animal societies, this book also points out that we can learn more about ourselves from how ants build societies than we can from chimps, our closest genetic cousins.
“[Moffett] intrigues by setting human societies in the context of those of the animal kingdom,” writes Publishers Weekly. “This fine work should have broad appeal to anyone curious about human societies, which is basically everyone.”
Moffett, often called “Doctor Bugs,” is a writer, photographer, and regular guest on NPR’s Fresh Air, CBS Sunday Morning, and the Colbert Report (Stephen Colbert calls Moffett “ant man.”) He is a research associate at the Smithsonian, a visiting scholar at Harvard University, and the author of three other books.
Finding Kate: The Unlikely Story of 20th Century Healthcare Advocate Kate Macy Ladd
By Meryl Carmel’74
Open Door Publications, 2018
Meryl Carmel’s Finding Kate gives a voice to the forgotten women of the Gilded Age. As an heiress to the Standard Oil company, Kate Macy Ladd could have spent all of her life in leisure, but she used her money and influence to champion affordable medical treatment and the education of men and women in health professions. She established convalescent homes for medical patients who had trouble affording the care they needed and founded the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, which gives grants to students entering the medical field. The author, a teacher who later pursued a graduate degree in history, discovered in the process of conducting research for this book, that Kate Macy Ladd had employed a nurse to oversee the free women’s convalescent home she established in Peapack, N.J. in 1908. The nurse, H. Estelle Dudley, turned out to be the great-great aunt of Carmel’s Beloit roommate, Millicent Dudley Lake’74.
Vincent Persichetti: Grazioso, Grit, and Gold
By Andrea Olmstead’70
Rowman & Littlefield, 2018
Andrea Olmstead brings together thorough scholarship with contributions by prominent performers for this first critical biography of Vincent Persichetti, an esteemed American composer. Olmstead weaves a captivating narrative of the composer from his early life and musical training, starting with his early career during the 1920s and ’30s through his teaching at Juilliard and his death in 1987. The book sheds light on Persichetti’s personal and professional life, the forces that shaped his musical development, and his far-reaching influence on the modern American composition scene. Olmstead is the author of six books, including a history of The Juilliard School. She has taught music history at Juilliard, the New England Conservatory of Music Preparatory Division, and in the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s graduate program.
Summer of ’69
Candlewick Press, 2019
Todd Strasser, the best-selling author of more than 100 hundred books, based Summer of ’69 on some of his own misadventures and observations during the vibrant, free-loving years of the 1960s. He tells the story of Lucas Baker, a young man whose summer included attending a little music festival called Woodstock, complete with the sex, drugs, and rock-’n’-roll you’d expect. But in addition to the partying, there were also bad trips, infidelity, his parents’ divorce, and the Vietnam War. With 40 years of writing under his belt, Strasser’s voice captures the spirit of a unique generation in a drastically changing world.
Cavall in Camelot
Cavall in Camelot presents Arthurian legend for a pre-teen audience, with a twist: This protagonist is not the leader of the Knights of the Round Table, but his trusty dog, Cavall. The titular pooch leaves the family farm in search of a better life, making a new home in Camelot. A mysterious threat to the kingdom leads Cavall to enlist the help of some new friends, some canine and others of the magical sort. An English literature and creative writing major, Mackaman is an animal lover who volunteers at shelters and dog sits when she can. This is her debut novel.
Between the Seasons
By J. Michael Kearsey’71
Berkshire Snow Music, 2018
This cinematic mix of instrumental music—folk, jazz, country, and world music elements in 13 original compositions—takes its inspiration from the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. J. Michael Kearsey also plays bass with the Reunion Jazz Band, which is slated to perform during Beloit’s 2019 Reunion weekend in June.